Develop Your Spiritual Senses

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Many want to avoid sin but don't know where to begin. By understanding the process of how sin occurs, you can better avoid it in your life.

Have you ever wondered why you sin? Have you ever noticed a pattern in the choices you make and the things you do? The Bible provides information vital to help you break destructive habits and develop Godlike character.

God created wonderful laws-laws that can guide the lives of people and that are in effect even if those people are unaware of them. For example, the law of gravity exists, even though most of us do not understand it.

The same is true of laws that reveal the pattern of sin in a Christian's life. There is a way of thinking and behavior that leads to sin. It is clearly described in the Bible and pertains to all of humanity. It applies to Christians, and a clear understanding of that pattern can help every Christian overcome and avoid sin.

Four transgressions

Following are examples of the sins of four biblical personalities whose lives repeated a pattern of developing sin. As you recognize these patterns in the pages of God's Word, reflect on your personal struggles with sin and recall how you have been ensnared by the same processes.

* The first example, in Genesis:3:6, involves one of our first human parents. Eve saw the forbidden fruit. Then, after she decided that she desired the wisdom it promised at any cost, she partook of the fruit. The penalty for her unwise choice is described in verse 16.

* The second example, in Joshua:7:21, involves Achan, who coveted physical possessions. After lusting after certain items, he took them and hid them in his tent. His penalty is described in verse 25.

* The third example, in Acts:8:18-19, involves Simon the sorcerer, who witnessed God using the ministry of His Church to impart the Holy Spirit to believers. After desiring what he perceived to be a secret power, he offered an apostle money to participate in the process. His penalty is described in verses 20-23.

* The fourth example, in 2 Samuel:11:2-4, involves David. In this account we see the pattern of sin as no respecter of persons; indeed, it involved a servant of God. David saw a beautiful woman bathing. After letting his thoughts dwell on what he saw, he sent for her and sinned with her. Fortunately David repented, but the penalty for his transgression is described in 2 Samuel:12:10-14.

We can identify four parts in the pattern of sin: sensing, desire, action and incurring a penalty.

The process begins with the human senses and can quickly develop into lust. Sins of lust often lead to sins of action, and sin in any form accrues a penalty.

What can we learn from this?

Have you repented?

The foundation to overcoming sin is repentance. When King David finally faced the fact of his transgression, he repented before God (2 Samuel:12:13). Although God did allow David to suffer a serious physical penalty, the loss of a son, He commuted the death penalty. David's repentance is beautifully and movingly described in Psalm 51.

The prophet Ezekiel quoted God (Ezekiel:33:10-11) to show how much our Creator desires to impart life and takes no pleasure in exacting the death penalty for sin. Christ described the rejoicing in heaven (Luke:15:7, 10) when a sinner repents.

Jesus Christ also described the difference between self-righteous prayers and humble repentance (Luke:18:9-14). Jesus' decision not to condemn a sinner included the admonition not to repeat the sin (John:8:10-11).

A Christian should be eternally thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and God's throne of mercy. A Christian should accept the responsibility of understanding sin and the way it develops.

What do your actions speak?

When the people of His day heard Christ preaching, many believed in Him (John:8:30-31). He told them to continue in His Word if they wanted to be His disciples.

Christ taught that Christianity is so much more than religious talk (Matthew:7:21-23). Actually, by affecting a religious-sounding tone and cadence when we speak, we can deceive ourselves (James:1:26).

A wise Christian is described as a doer, not just a hearer (Matthew:7:24-27). Jesus taught that our actions will help determine the service opportunities in His future Kingdom (Matthew:25:21).

In a society that encourages people to reject God and His ordained laws of life, Christians must exercise vigilance over their actions. But oftentimes Christians are well aware of their shortcomings and frustrated about how to change their behavior.

By remembering that desires lead directly to actions, Christians can change their behavior by focusing on the desires that can precede a problem.

What do you want?

Jesus Christ taught that lust is a secret sin of the heart (Matthew:5:27-28). He knew that inappropriate desires can lead to wrong actions.

Some people foolishly conclude that, since they sin inwardly, they might as well let go of their inhibitions and sin outwardly. What a person in this frame of mind does not realize is that he is advancing down the path toward greater anguish.

Instead of surrendering to lusts and letting them lead to ungodly action, a Christian must fight the battle at a fundamental level. And the battle can be fierce.

Satan works diligently to influence people to harbor lusts that lead to habits of disobedience (Ephesians:2:2-3). Consider the four examples mentioned earlier and notice that lust can take many forms.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan stirred up Eve's desire to the point that she defied her Creator. He attacked God's credibility with Eve to promote, within her, doubt about the Creator and to influence her to elevate herself. She felt a need to trust in her own wisdom to become self-sufficient. As lust consumed her, she trampled on God's simple instruction (2 Corinthians:11:3).

After the miracle at the battle of Jericho, Satan stirred up Achan's desire for physical possessions. Satan, who understands the coveting of merchandise (Ezekiel:28:14-16), influences people to love money and stray from the faith(1 Timothy:6:10). Christ warned about the cares of the world and the deceit of riches (Matthew:13:22).

Obvious intentions

Shortly after the martyrdom of Stephen, Satan enlisted a famous sorcerer in Samaria to gain prominence within God's Church. Although Philip baptized this man, his nefarious intentions became obvious to Peter. Satan influenced Simon the sorcerer to try to buy the power and authority God had granted to His apostles. Simon's attitude of promoting self within the service of the Church of God originated with the fallen being who had tried to overthrow God's throne thousands of years earlier (Isaiah:14:12-14).

When Satan saw the chance to influence David, he took special delight, since his favorite targets are chosen vessels who possess God's Spirit. Satan detected a weakness in David's character, and, when David lusted sexually after Bathsheba, his sinful desires led him to sinful actions.

Lust has a multitude of entry points. Self-sufficiency, wisdom, possessions, money, security, prestige, power, acceptance and sex are just a few.

Every Christian will fight the battle. Every Christian must face and conquer wrong desires. By remembering that sensations dwelt upon can lead directly to desire, a Christian can stop and focus on factors feeding such appetites.

What do you see?

In the four earlier examples, the process leading to sin was affected by visual information. The pattern of sin began with the five physical senses.

God created mankind with the ability to absorb tremendous amounts of information. A small child learns by using the senses, which are the doorway to the human heart and mind.

Since all five senses are valuable tools for learning, all five are also susceptible to Satan's influence. Our two primary means of gathering information-hearing and sight-are also two main targets of Satan.

Notice what Christ said about the importance of the eye: "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness" (Matthew:6:22-23).

We must analyze and realize how we use our senses. What kinds of information are we letting into our mind? We need to know for certain that Satan is trying to entice us through our senses.

What do our eyes see on television and in movies? What are our eyes transmitting to our mind from books and magazines? What exactly are we observing on the computer screen? What do our ears pick up from radio or compact discs? What types of conversation are we listening to?

Sin begins with the senses, and Satan will put tremendous pressure on our senses. But notice that Christ endured the same pressure.

Jesus' perfect example

Christ faced Satan's temptation without sinning (Hebrews:4:15). Satan focused on some of Christ's physical senses during the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew:4:1-11). In a similar way, in the process of conversion we grow toward the spiritual maturity of Jesus Christ (Ephesians:4:13). Notice the temptation and Christ's victory.

The temptation exploited the sense of smell and taste. After fasting 40 days and nights, Jesus was susceptible to the mind's ability to recall aroma and flavor, but He stressed-in His answer to His adversary-the value of spiritual nourishment to sustain His life.

Spiritual senses

In our reading of the temptation of Christ, we understand that fasting helped Him resist Satan. Fasting is a tool that helps a Christian concentrate on spiritual issues. Effective fasting includes prayer, Bible study and meditation.

Fasting is a tool that we can use to refocus our priorities. As we humble ourselves before God, we see our need for the power of God, and our desire for spiritual fruit grows.

When God strengthens us through His Spirit, we attempt and accomplish spiritual actions. The resulting spiritual behavior springs from spiritual desires. Spiritual desires are brought about by spiritual sensing.

The Bible records the faithful actions of some people (Hebrews 11) who wanted the blessings promised by God. These faithful followers of God focused on God's promises (verse 13).

Jesus Christ spoke a short parable about the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew:13:44). The man in this parable sold all his possessions to invest his life in the Kingdom. Why would he take such a course of action? Because he experienced great joy and desire for the Kingdom. Why did he strongly desire it? Because with his Spirit-led mind he found the way to God's Kingdom.

If we joyfully desire it, we will invest our lives in the quest for the Kingdom of God. If we spiritually perceive it in an effort to find it, we will possess the necessary, joyful desire. The question is, are we seeing it?

We need to exercise our senses in a godly way and find the treasure of the Kingdom of God.

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