After the Days of Unleavened Bread, we went back to eating leaven. But what about staying unleavened spiritually? We rightly allowed physical leaven back into our homes in our lives, but how effective have we been in keeping spiritual leaven, keeping sin out of our homes and out of our lives? God's spirit was poured out on Pentecost, and the New Testament Church of God began. This is a how-to sermon on overcoming sin by utilizing God's spirit of power to give you the strength to overcome.
[Mark Welch] And here we are on the day of Pentecost. We counted 50 days from the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread and we're here together in one accord. That's one big Honda. I had to do something a little corny because Mr. Myers isn't here and you're so used to that. So anyway, now after the Days of Unleavened Bread, we went back to eating leaven I assume you did. I've had an ice cream sandwich, I've had a doughnut or two, I've had some bread. There probably isn't anyone here who hasn't eaten some physical leaven since the last day of Unleavened Bread.
But what about staying unleavened spiritually? I rather doubt that there's anyone among us who hasn't also sinned in the last 40 some days, at least in the spirit of the law. We rightly allowed physical leaven back into our homes in our lives, but how effective have we been in keeping spiritual leaven, keeping sin out of our homes and out of our lives? God's Spirit was poured out on Pentecost as we know, as has been mentioned, the New Testament Church of God began. God's Spirit is a Spirit, “not of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Today, I'd like to give you some help in focusing your life spiritually for the rest of your lives. This is a how-to sermon on overcoming sin. And it's all about utilizing God's Spirit of power to give you the strength to overcome. So I thought, Mr. Phelps sermonette tied in very nicely with what I'm going to be talking about. In Revelation 2 and 3, the instruction and frankly the warning regarding overcoming is very clear. We are expected to overcome and overcoming sin in our lives is certainly one of the major focuses that we all need to have as we see the day of Christ of His return approaching.
In Revelation, Christ says, "To he who overcomes will I grant to sit with Me on My throne." Also, in the book of Revelation, in talking to the Church of God, He says, "He who overcomes will eat from the tree of life." He says, "He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death." He says, "He who overcomes will be given hidden manna and a new name. He who overcomes will be given power over the nation's and will rule and reign with Christ. He who overcomes will be clothed in white garments. And he who overcomes will be a pillar in the temple of God."
So how great are you at overcoming sin in your life? Could you possibly be better? Well, I would hope that we would all say yes. I'm sure we could do better. We have some room for growth. Today, I'd like to give you seven steps to overcoming sin with a final vitally important eighth step to conclude the process of overcoming sin. So this is the perfect plan. Seven plus one the perfect plan, right? I'm not naive enough to think that we'll all never sin after this sermon. We've heard lots of sermons before on overcoming on lots of different subjects, but hopefully, this will be of some help. And I think it's certainly appropriate for today, the day of Pentecost because God's Spirit is a Spirit that will give us power to overcome.
And as Mr. Phelps mentioned, if we stir up the Spirit of God, then we are going to be growing in grace, we're going to be doing much, much better in God's sight. So let's launch right into this because before church about 15 minutes or so, before church, I thought of having an announcement made requiring everyone to go get Starbucks coffee so that we can all make it through this final service. Well, we didn't do that so I hope you'll be able to stay focused.
So the first step in overcoming is to pray daily for spiritual strength to overcome. It's something that we should be praying about daily that God would give us the strength to overcome, to put sin out of our lives, to use the power of His Spirit to, again, grow spiritually to overcome the sin that so easily besets us. So it's rather basic, isn't it, this first step to pray daily for spiritual strength. But as Mr. Phelps pointed out, sometimes we do let down. If we've been in the church 10 years, or 20 years, or 30 years, or 40 years, or 50 years, or perhaps even 60 years, it may be a little easy to be a bit weary in well-doing.
Prayer is well-doing. Prayer is important. Prayer is vital. It's something that we all need to be doing on a daily basis, but it's also something we can begin to take for granted somewhat and we can slack off a bit. And we may not be as vigilant, we may not be as diligent as we ought to be. So my first step is to encourage all of us to daily pray for spiritual strength to overcome along with other things. We should be praying for one another obviously. There are many, many things that we can pray for.
In Matthew 6, Jesus Christ gave us a sample prayer, told us to pray in a certain manner. Matthew 6:9 Matthew 6:9After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
American King James Version×, Christ said, "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,” our sins, “as we forgive those who sin against us," or are in debt to us. Yes, those who have sinned against us. "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." That's the one that I really would like to focus on a moment.
We do need to be praying that God will be with us. Certainly, God doesn't lead us into temptation. This isn't the greatest translation really because God is not the one who tempts us, we all know that Satan the devil is the great tempter. Satan is the one that wants to tempt us to sin. Now God allows Satan to test us so we are tested certainly by God and God allows that but He doesn't tempt us to sin, but Satan certainly does.
So we should be praying, “Deliver me from temptation, from the temptation of Satan the devil, deliver me from this temptation that will surely come,” we can count on it. Satan is a roaring lion, he is seeking whom he may devour. So it is something we should be praying regularly. “Father, please deliver me from temptation, give me the strength to overcome, to say no, to do the right thing.” God's Spirit will lead us to pray faithfully, and fervently. But again, as the sermonette mentioned, we must stir up the Spirit of God in us. We must yield to God's Holy Spirit, and allow God's Spirit to give us the strength that we need. So let's be sure that we're praying for one another, but we're also praying for strength to overcome, to resist Satan the devil, and to be delivered from temptation. That's the first step.
The second step to overcoming, putting sin out of our lives is to read and study God's Word daily, for spiritual strength to overcome. So again, that was mentioned in the sermonette, read and study God's Word daily for spiritual strength. Again, it's God's Holy Spirit. And in Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version×here it says, "The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." A two-edged sword is very dangerous, isn't it? Sharp on both sides, very sharp. And if someone's wielding a two-edged sword, and they're after you, you better be able to resist in a certain way. Well, in this case, of course, God wants us to use this tool of studying His Word to help us grow and overcome. So the Word of God is living and powerful, it's sharper than any two-edged sword, it says it gets right down into the nitty-gritty of our hearts and minds. It shows us how we tick so to speak and helps us understand why we do the things that we do. So it's important to study God's Word. God's Word will give us understanding to help us make the right choices.
Let's go to Hebrews 5 for a moment. Hebrews 5, where it talks about how we are to become spiritually mature. Those of us in God's Church who have been here for a while we ought to been growing, we ought to be overcoming, we're to be producing the fruit of God's Spirit abundantly in our lives, and therefore we should be able to teach God's Word.
Let's see that in Hebrews 5:12 Hebrews 5:12For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
American King James Version×. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God." He says, "And you have come to need milk and not solid food for everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age,” those who are spiritually mature, those who have been applying themselves, who have been praying and studying and drawing near to God, allowing God to guide us and direct us. Becoming spiritually mature that is, those who by reason of use people who have put to use what they've read, what they've studied, what they know to be true in God's Word, they put it to use. They know it works. They know God's way really does work, they've seen it happen in their own lives.
It says, "They have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." So we should be able to know what's right and good in God's sight. We should know what God's will is, in our lives, for the most part, because we've studied His Word and we know what He stands for. So we should know His will and the basic terms, we should know what His will is for us. He doesn't tell us every single decision that He chose as principles that will help us make good and sound decisions so that we will choose to do the right. So we ought to be teachers.
In 2 Timothy 2, if we'll go there for a moment. It's right before the book of Hebrews, we find 2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
American King James Version×. 2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
American King James Version×, here it says, "Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed." We are to be diligent God should see that we are students of His Word, that we are students of His Bible that we open it daily, that we study it, that it's important to us. That we're trying to write His laws in our hearts and in our minds. So we take seriously being able to discern the Word of God. "So be diligent to present yourselves approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Not someone who is easily buffeted by the winds of doctrine that sometimes we hear things that come out, new things that someone thinks we ought to understand or know or believe.
When we truly know the Word of God well, we won't be deceived by it. So we are expected to be diligent in studying the Word of God. One way we present ourselves to God and receive His approval is by being diligent, by being faithful. We are approved, when God sees that we take seriously studying His Word. So that is a huge step to overcoming, studying the Bible, and drawing strength from this Word of God that's sharper than any two-edged sword. It's one of the most powerful spiritual weapons of course that we could ever use.
So we should focus on Scriptures as well… when we study the Bible that will address our spiritual weaknesses. If you're like me, you know what your spiritual weaknesses are, at least some of them you have a good idea where you are weak, what tempts you the most. So if you haven't done an exhaustive, intense study on your weaknesses, that would be something that would be very wise for you to do. What does the Bible say about your weakness? Whether it's gossip, whether it's lust, whether it's anger, whatever it is that easily besets you, that tempts you. Where you're weakest, do an exhaustive study in the Word of God look at every Scripture on the topic, and that will help you overcome that weakness. So I would encourage you to do that. Analyze and examine yourself, be truthful with yourself, where are you weakest? Where does Satan try to tempt you the most? God's Spirit again will lead you to understand His Word if you'll do your part if you'll study it. So that is the second step to overcoming.
The third step is to practice meditation daily for spiritual strength to overcome. So we pray daily, we study the Bible daily, we meditate daily. Meditating doesn't really take a lot of extra time, that's what we do as we go about life. As we go through life, we have many, many decisions that we have to make, so we should be meditating on how would God want me to make this decision? What would he want me to do? What would be the best decision to make under these circumstances? Meditate on these things.
And Mr. Phelps also mentioned Philippians 4:8-9 Philippians 4:8-9  Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
 Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
American King James Version×. I have that in my… this is the main Scripture that I have for this point. "Meditate on these things whatsoever things are right, whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are pure, lovely things that are a good report, things that are virtuous." Those are the things that we should meditate upon doing good for other people growing, and overcoming and doing the right thing. These are the things that we should focus upon and meditate upon.
We should ask ourselves, how will this proposed action that I'm thinking about doing, how will it really help the situation? Or could it possibly hurt? And we have to also think it through fully, what will be the consequences of a particular decision? Now, it's been mentioned that we had a good camp out, the father-son campout. I guess you heard that I adopted a son, little Kenny. Some of you may have heard that, but anyway, I also told a story while I was there, about consequential reasoning. Because when I was at Ambassador College, a forum was given about how college students often don't have very good consequential reasoning. They don't think about the consequences of what they're about to do they just seem to do it. They don't really think it through well.
So I gave this story about a cousin of mine. He's a year older than I am and I was probably 11, he was maybe 12. We were in our yard in Ohio, grew up in northwestern Ohio. Out in the front, we have a huge cottonwood tree and my cousin sees this squirrel on the side of the tree. So he has this bright idea that he's going to grab it. So it's a big cottonwood tree and it was on the other side and he was able to sneak up. Now think about the consequences of what he's about to do. Now you look at a squirrel and you think a squirrel is small. I mean, this was a big guy, he was pretty good sized. A lot bigger than I was at that age.
This is a tiny little squirrel, cute, fuzzy little tail. A little deceptive, frankly, because when he grabbed that squirrel, guess what it did? Yeah, it bit him and his thumb was about five times larger instantly. It was amazing to me that squirrel just sunk its teeth into his thumb, it became huge, like, in seconds, and it wouldn't let go. It would not let go. He had to choke it to death. They had to cut the head off, send it into Ohio State University, they had to do the rabies thing, he had to get shots, not a good thing.
So had he thought of the consequences before he grabbed that squirrel, no, he no doubt would have caused himself a whole lot less pain than what he went through the next 10 days or so. But it does make a good story for me to tell. I appreciate him doing that. I tell you what, I was never tempted to grab a squirrel after that. I see them all the time, they come on the back deck of our house. And squirrels typically, you know, they don't attack you. I've even kind of cornered them and they'll jump off of a deck 40 feet to the ground. And it doesn't even faze and they'll just run away. They won't typically attack you but he grabbed it, that was not wise.
So meditate on the consequences as well of whatever it is you might be considering doing. Think about it a little bit at least before you're hasty. So the third point is practice meditation daily for spiritual strength to overcome because God's Spirit will give you discernment. It is a Spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. It will give you sound mindedness. So think about it, use a little bit of wisdom, meditate on things and seek greater understanding.
A fourth principle, so we're talking about praying daily, studying the Bible daily, meditating daily. And I do this actually as I go throughout my whole day and I try to praise God throughout the day, thank God for all that He's been doing in my life. And we're partners, you know, as we go throughout the day, and that's, I believe, how all of us should live. Meditate on these things constantly and think about these things, what would God have me do? What would Jesus Christ do under these circumstances? So every day, pray, study, meditate.
Number four, fast daily. Wait, not daily, you don't have to fast daily. But the fourth step to overcoming sin is to fast regularly for spiritual strength to overcome. Now I believe that fasting is oftentimes a very neglected power tool. It is a spiritual power tool that will reap wonderful dividends if we can discipline ourselves to do it, to fast.
When Satan tempted Christ, it was after Christ had fasted how long? Forty days and 40 nights. I'm not suggesting we try that. Forty days and 40 nights, Jesus Christ fasted. But Satan was about to tempt Christ and Jesus knew He needed to be prepared. He needed to be ready, I'm sure that He thought a great deal about how Satan wanted to destroy Him, how Satan is the adversary. Satan also wants to destroy us, but Christ, of course, was a huge target. If he could have gotten Jesus Christ to sin, then we'd all be in a heap of trouble. So that didn't happen of course Christ was faithful, He quoted Scriptures, He stood strong. The power of God's Spirit was strong in Jesus Christ and He was without sin.
You may remember also in the book of Matthew in chapter 17, that there was an instance where a father had a son who had a demon, he had an evil spirit. And the disciples were not able to cast out the demon. He took the son to the disciples, they were not able to cast out the demon so he went to Christ. And Christ, said, "Oh, faithless generation if you really had faith, you would have been able to do this yourselves. But I'll take care of it because this only happens through prayer and fasting." Remember that only by prayer and fasting. So that tells us that there is great power in prayer, and also in fasting.
Prayer comes a lot easier for us than fasting does. And it's obvious that it's meant and other times, than the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement, we're commanded to fast, that's the day that we all fast. Christ said that after He died, that His disciples would fast and He wasn't talking about just the Day of Atonement. And the Bible is pretty clear that we should be fasting regularly, whatever that is. You get to decide what is regular, is it once a month? Is it twice a month is it every other month? I don't know. But it is something that we should all consider and ask ourselves, could we do better?
If you fasted 50 times last year, I don't know if you would do much better than that. I don't know how many people fasted that many times a year. But if you only fasted twice last year, perhaps you could step that up. I'm sure I could step up the times I fasted. So it is something for us all to consider on this Day of Pentecost. God's Spirit will help you fast, I know it seems worse than it really is, right? Fasting seems really difficult and hard, but when you actually do it, it's not nearly as bad as you thought it was going to be.
So I would encourage you to get your calendar out and schedule some times to fast in the next few months. Schedule sometimes to fast. And what do you normally do when you fast? What does a person normally do? He doesn't sleep all day, right? No, he prays, he reads his Bible, studies his Bible and he meditates. He might sleep a little more, possibly but he uses his time effectively drawing near to God. That's what fasting is all about is drawing near to God so that we can please Him and become more and more like Him. That is a very, very powerful spiritual tool.
And remember, some things don't happen except by prayer and fasting. So if you're really serious about growing spiritually, and I assume that you are because you're here today. To me, that tells me you're at least somewhat serious about all this. Get a little more serious and fast a little more often. And I'm sure that you'll be more pleasing to God when you do that, put Him first in your life. "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
All right, let's go on to a fifth step, fifth step. I know you probably didn't like that one that well. Look, I get it. It's not that easy but it can be done and it should be done. And we shouldn't make excuses for not doing it. Number five, step number five, flee temptation and to some degree, you will automatically overcome if you just flee temptation, get out of there. Don't hang around when you're being tempted. You know, maybe that's just in your mind, you know, you're being tempted in your head, you got to get your mind off of those things that are tempting you and switch gears and think on something else. Again, think on what is pure, what is right, what is good, what is lovely. If you're tempted to sin, that's not good, that's not lovely, that's not a virtue, that's not a good report. Don't think on those things. Get those things out of your head. Stop thinking on those things. Flee temptation and you will automatically overcome to a point, you will find strength to overcome as well if you just flee. There's a certain strength that comes like you know, you're doing the right thing you're going in a different direction, you're not cuddling up to that temptation.
In James 4:7-8 James 4:7-8  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
American King James Version×, it talks about how to “resist Satan and he will flee from you.” But you do have to resist him, “resist Satan and he will flee from you.” So if you go in one direction, he's going to go in the other one. You know, if you're resisting him and fleeing from him, then he's going to also flee from you. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” And He will give you strength to overcome, you'll be stirring up the Spirit of God within you. So resist Satan.
In 1 Corinthians 6, let's go there. I'm sure we're familiar… many of us anyway are familiar with this verse. It's about sexual immorality. 1 Corinthians 6:18 1 Corinthians 6:18Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body.
American King James Version×, "Flee sexual immorality." That's what it tells us to do. It says flee it. But how often do people refuse to flee sexual immorality instead, you know, they're tempted, they want to do something immoral. They're not fleeing it, they're drawing ever closer to it, how can you expect someone to overcome that if you're not learning to do what the Bible says. The Bible says, "Flee sexual immorality."
Let's do what the Bible says and start fleeing sexual immorality. And this world doesn't help a whole lot does it? In fact, it's getting worse and worse when it comes to sexual type things, you know, everywhere we turn we're reminded of this sort of thing. "So flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
So God's Spirit does dwell in a converted member of God's Church. Someone who is repented, someone who has been baptized, who has had hands laid upon them, have received the Spirit of God. If they have the Spirit of God dwelling in them they're Christ's, called out ones, set apart, sanctified, and sealed for the resurrection for eternal life. "So do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" So clearly, people in Corinth were being tempted about sexual immorality. In fact, Corinth was known for its sexual immorality to “Corinthianize” was all about sexual immorality.
So he's clearly talking to God's people, sometimes God's people are tempted to do these types of things, aren't they? Of course, they are, we're human, we're fleshly. The Scripture says, flee this sort of thing, flee sexual immorality, and realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and God's Spirit will give you strength. And remember you are not your own, you've been bought with a price and that is the shed blood of your Savior, my Savior Jesus Christ. Christ laid His life down, so we could be forgiven for these sins that we are tempted to commit.
"For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." So we should strive to become pure, pure in thought, pure in action. So let's be careful to flee sexual immorality. The Scripture also says in 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×, that we're to flee from idolatry of all sorts. Anything that gets between you and worshiping God in a pure way, is in a sense an idol. It's become more important to you than God. It could be… look, if you're wasting a ton of time, doing things, whatever it might be, you have to evaluate that, you know, you're a free moral agent, you get to decide. No one dictates this for you, you get to decide.
So, again, we are to flee these things that are tempting to us. Don't grab ahold of the squirrel, avoid a squirrel. You know, that's in a sense what we're doing when we cuddle up to those things, we bring them into our bosom, so to speak. We're grabbing a squirrel. A squirrel that will bite us really hard and it's going to hurt and we're going to pay a price for it and yet, we do it repeatedly sometimes. Now that's really stupid but that is the human condition at times. Sometimes we can become addicted to things and we know they're harmful for us, and yet, we keep going back. That's a stronghold. We'll talk about that in a few minutes. We have to fight against those strongholds that Satan sets up in our hearts, and in our minds, and in our life.
So, 2 Timothy 2, let's go there for a moment. 2 Timothy 2:22 2 Timothy 2:22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
American King James Version×, here it says in verse 22, and Paul is instructing Timothy, a young minister in the faith. He says "Flee also youthful lusts," flee them, okay? Youthful lust. Sometimes we take our youthful lusts into our old age, right I'm afraid, you know, we're guilty of that. We take our youthful lust into our old age, we never deal with it, we never grow up, we never put it out. No, it continues to hurt us as we grow older.
The Bible says "Flee youthful lust; but pursue righteousness, pursue faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." So as Mr. Phelps mentioned also, the fellowship that we have, don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together, glean strength from one another, help each other, encourage one another. Pursue righteousness together, that's what God wants all of us to do, pursue righteousness together. And again, don't grab any squirrels, stay away from the squirrels.
Let's go on to a sixth step in overcoming, that is confess your faults one to another and gain strength to overcome through the help of others. Now, initially, we confess to God, of course, you know, we confess our sins to God first and foremost. And that's the first thing we obviously need to do is admit that we are a sinner, that we've slipped up, that we messed up, that we've eaten some spiritual leaven. That we've done something that's wrong, that's not proper and right in God's sight. So we have to admit that, we have to confess our sins to God first.
And then it does say that we should confess to one another. Now, that doesn't mean indiscriminate type of… it's not just talking about your sins to anybody and everyone, you know, anyone that happens to be nearby. It's talking about a trusted faithful friend, someone that you know that you can use as an accountability partner to some degree. It's good to get some help from another person who has flesh on because that… I mean, reading the Bible, praying, studying, all that is great, it's wonderful. We need to do it. But if we can find a trusted friend that will also help us grow, it really does help. It does work.
Let's go to James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
American King James Version×. James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
American King James Version×, "Confess your trespasses, your sins to one another and pray for one another." So if you have a good trusted friend, and you can pray for them, and they can pray for you more in greater depth, you know, that will help. That's what the Bible says, "Confess your trespasses to one another." Maybe it's your mate, you know, you're close to your wife or your husband. These are things that you can certainly talk about and help each other with.
But also someone else, perhaps a trusted close friend, “pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Now, this is in the context of healing as well. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." It's in the context of being anointed for your sicknesses, going to the elders and having them pray for us. So we should pray for one another. Again, we're all in this together, so let's try to help each other as best we possibly can. You know, there's a program in the world it's called the 12 Step Program. It works for alcoholics, it works for other types of addictions. They really do work because the 12 steps are based on sound biblical principles. That's why they work because they're sound biblical principles.
They may not talk about God, but they do admit that "I'm Mark. I'm an alcoholic, I need help." And then they help one another and they follow these steps and it actually has changed a lot of people's lives. It does work. My father was an alcoholic, he went to Alcoholics Anonymous, and he was dry for 30 plus years. He started drinking in his '80s again, which baffles us. But anyway, you know, he did not drink for more than 30 years. It really helped him a lot in dealing with his alcoholism. So it does work, it does help if we will use these things and utilize them for our benefit.
In 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×, it says, "If we confess our sins…" now it's talking about confessing our sins to God. "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we will just admit that we have sinned if we will go to Him. Sometimes that's the hardest part is admitting that you sin, admitting that you need to change, that you do need to overcome, that you do need to grow in certain areas.
You might have to go to God and say, "Look, I grabbed the squirrel the other day, and it really hurt. I don't want to ever grab that squirrel again. You know, please help me, help me overcome this addiction, this stronghold that I'm battling with." God's Spirit is the bond that we have with our converted friends. God's Spirit is powerful here today because God's Spirit dwells in us. It's a powerful bond, it's a bond of love that they sung about in the song for special music. Use that bond, that spirit of love, that closeness to help one another grow and overcome spiritually. It really is something we could probably do a better job with. Finding that close, trusted friend that is closer than a brother like Jonathan and David, and how they worked together.
Let's go on to a seventh step. Number seven, make no provision for the flesh. Make no provision for the flesh and you will automatically overcome. If you're not making provision, part of that is fleeing temptation. You know, we already talked about that part of it. Fleeing temptation, that's certainly huge when it comes to making no provision for the flesh.
Now, I think my cousin who grabbed that squirrel, I think it was largely because of his ego. Now he called himself Daniel Boone. No, he was a trapper, he was a hunter. I think he had a huge ego and he thought he can grab that squirrel and he did. That's why we thought it probably had rabies because usually, squirrels don't let you grab them. But anyway, I think he had a big ego and he thought, "I believe I can grab that squirrel." And sure enough, pride comes before a fall. So make no provision for the flesh.
Romans 13, let's go there. Romans 13:11 Romans 13:11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
American King James Version×, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep." Now, this was written 2000 years ago and I believe it was true. It was high time for those people to awake out of their slumber and out of their sleep. I believe it's even more true today for all of us. We are nearer to Christ's return where things are becoming worse and worse in the world today. "Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far as spent, the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife, not in envy."
Do we ever see any strife or envy among us today? Is that ever an issue, ever a problem? Yes, honestly, it's been a problem. But we need to put that out, no more strife, no more envy, no more of this pettiness that we too often see. "Let us walk properly and put on the Lord Jesus Christ," verse 14, "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lust." Do nothing that would provide for the flesh. Do you know what the bestselling Sports Illustrated issue is?
[Mark Welch] Do you know what the best… Yes, this gentleman down here. The swimsuit edition. Even he knows. It's all right. I knew it too. Yes, it's the swimsuit edition. Now, why would that be for a sports magazine? I mean, what does that have to do with sports? That is the number one best selling issue. Look if you want to overcome sexual immorality, hanging on to that Sports Illustrated issue for very long… Now that's like that hot coal that you need to get rid of. Now, that's providing to the flesh. You know, anything that would possibly tempt you, whatever it might be, whatever temptation you might have, just say no.
Learn to say no, that was really a good slogan. I think that was Nancy Reagan, wasn't it? “Just say no” say no to drugs, say no to everything that separates you from God and draws you closer to sinning against him. So make no provision for the flesh that will instantly help you if you stop doing that if you don't cozy up to sin. And if you just say no to those things that can harm you.
And then in 2 Corinthians 10, which goes along very well with this. 2 Corinthians 10:3 2 Corinthians 10:3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
American King James Version×, here it says, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh." You and I are fleshly, we're in the flesh today, we walk in the flesh, but we ought not to war according to the flesh, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” they're not fleshly, “but they're mighty in God for pulling down strongholds."
Okay. A stronghold is something that you or Satan the devil has set up in your life. Maybe together, you've done it. Working together with Satan the devil, that's not wise. Satan wants to set up strongholds addictions in your life, whether it be pornography. Pornography is a huge problem in the world. It's a big problem in the Church too. It's very fleshly and we are flesh, so it's going to be tempting. That can be a stronghold. So that's something that we have to fight against, we have to resist that, we have to avoid it, we have to go the other way.
And God's Spirit is powerful enough to allow that to happen. You don't have to be a slave to your addictions. You know what the Bible says, The servants to whom we obey… Romans 6:16 Romans 6:16Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?
American King James Version×, "We are servants to whom we obey." If we obey Satan, you know, Satan is the one that says, "Thou shalt look at pornography." He's the one that tells you to do that, that's not God. Satan is the one. And you have become a servant if you are serving him, and what he wants in your life. That's a stronghold if you've allowed that to go on and on and on.
I mean, I know a fellow in the Grand Rapids Michigan church, this was like 30 something years ago, and he was probably in his 50s or 60s. And he confided in me that he had a porn problem, you know, way back then. It's many, many years ago. And he'd already been struggling for years and about 20 years later, he was in his 70s, he called me up, I was living in Oklahoma at the time and he said, "Mark, I just wanted you to know that I finally overcome this. You know, it seems like God has just taken it away." But he had to resist that, he had to fight that all those years. You may have to do that, you may have to continue to fight it, you may not overcome it instantly, it may be a struggle that lasts a long time.
It would be nice if I could tell you that all you have to do is resist and it's gone. You may have to resist it over and over because if you're weak, you're not going to resist it fully, you know, you won't resist it fully and it will keep coming back. Only with God's strength and power, only by prayer and fasting. If you really want to get over an addiction, fast every week, show God you're serious. Show Him that His way of life means that much to you, that you will humble yourself and you will sacrifice eating and drinking so that you can be a greater servant in His hands. So you can be a tool that He can use, that He might be glorified.
You know, think it through, think about the consequences. Do you want to be sitting there 20 years from now during a Feast of Pentecost service, and you have the same problem 20 years from now that you have today. Is that what you want? Of course, you don't want that so let's fight back, let's resist Satan, he will flee from us. But we have to be serious about it, we have to really apply it, and live by it. So make no provision for the flesh. You will find spiritual strength to overcome if you begin to practice that.
And let me read a little bit further here. Verse 5, "Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity." Okay, every thought that is evil, that's wrong, if you will imprison that thought, imprison it, take it captive. Don't dwell on it any longer. It's over here, it's imprisoned, it has no hold on you. Don't go there, don't think about it, put your mind on other things. Go do something. Be active as was already mentioned, do something active.
"Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." You know, Christ did not dwell on those things. Satan was trying to put a thought in… And you know, to me it's quite telling that in the book of Luke, it says that "Satan was getting nowhere with Jesus Christ so he left him, hoping to come back at an opportune time." So what does that tell you? If Satan doesn't make inroads with you today, he will try next week. He will try when you stop praying, when you stop studying the Word of God when you're not meditating on His truth and ways of life like you should, and he'll come back when you're weakest and that's when he'll get inroads.
So don't allow that to happen continually, daily, apply these steps, all of these principles apply them. They're not rocket science, you know, they're not that difficult. There is simplicity in Christ think about these steps they're not that hard. They can be implemented in your life, it can make a difference. "Bring every thought into captivity and to the obedience of your Savior, Jesus Christ” who is perfect, who never sinned, “and be ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." It's like get the plank out of your own eye, then you'll be able to help someone who has a speck in their eye. Get the plank out of your own eye first.
So remember, brethren, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, I believe that. Christ will strengthen you, He will give you the help you need by the power of God's Holy Spirit. "Walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh." That's what the Scripture says, "If you will walk in the spirit, you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
And then our eighth and final point that kind of ties it all in together is forgive others and rely on the goodness of God to lead you to repentance. Because frankly, even if you seriously attempted to apply these first seven steps, it's likely that you will sin again. Even if you seriously apply all seven of these steps that we've talked about today, you're going to fall short because you are flesh and sometimes you are weak, and sometimes you're very weak. But when you have seriously attempted to apply the first seven steps to overcoming sin and you still fall short, know that the goodness of God will lead you to repentance, and God will then grant repentance. If you're striving to obey God and your heart is good, you're weak, you slip up, God will grant you forgiveness. God will forgive you. He will grant you repentance.
In Matthew 6:14-15 Matthew 6:14-15  For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
 But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
American King James Version×, it says, "If you forgive others their sins and trespasses, then God will likewise forgive you." But you have to forgive others and sometimes we're not willing to forgive others and that's a sin. When you're not willing to forgive others, that is a sinful act. God says we need to forgive one another. And we're going to be forgiven in the same manner that we learn to forgive others. And remember, Romans 2:4 Romans 2:4Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
American King James Version×"The goodness of God is what leads you to repentance."
So if you're seeking God's goodness, God loves you, and you're trying your very best, at least you're trying to do your very best. I don't think I've ever done my best. I've tried to do my best but I think I've fallen short. I've never done my very best, or I would be better. I haven't. Let's try to do our very best, let's try and know that God will grant us repentance when we fall short.
Show God your heart by your actions. You know, God looks on the heart, He wants to see what type of heart we have. Do we have a heart for God? Do we have a heart for Christ? Are we committed? Fight the good fight, Paul talks about that. He says there's a crown of life laid up for us, you just need to fight the good fight. Don't be discouraged by anything you've heard today. This was not meant to be a discouraging sermon. This is to be an encouraging sermon.
Again, we're all in this together, we're fighting the same battles, not a single one of us is perfect here. But we serve an awesome God, we serve a very loving forgiving God, but He is a God of justice. And God does want us to keep His commandments. The world tells us the law has been done away. Christ says "Think not that I've come to do away with the law, or the prophets." You know, the prophecies will be fulfilled in your word, the book of Revelation, Daniel, these things are going to come to pass. How soon? We don't know, but they will come to pass. And we need to be ready, and we need to draw nearer and ever closer to God.
So, brethren, it is by the awesome and the almighty power of God through His Spirit, that we are given power to overcome sin and put it out of our lives. I mean, this ties in so well with the days of Unleavened Bread, doesn't it? We need God's Holy Spirit in order to do this, in order to come out of the days of Unleavened Bread, and put this all into action, we need the Spirit of God. These Holy Days fit together like hand in glove. They're beautiful.
Let us all put into practice these eight steps that we've talked about today in regards to overcoming sin in our lives. Having God's Spirit and stirring it up daily is vital to overcoming sin. We can't allow a day to go by without stirring up God's Spirit. We must not quench the Spirit of God, it's for our own good. It's like, again, stop grabbing those squirrels. Don't grab a squirrel, it's really stupid, it's harmful. Remember, "With God, all things are possible.” And you can do all things through Christ who does strengthen you by the power of His mighty Spirit.