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.
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 Genesis 3:6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×, 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 Joshua 7:21When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the middle of my tent, and the silver under it.
American King James Version×, 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 Acts 8:18-19 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×, 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 2 Samuel 11:2-4 2 And it came to pass in an evening, that David arose from off his bed, and walked on the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look on.
3 And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in to him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned to her house.
American King James Version×, 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 2 Samuel 12:10-14 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house; because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus said the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house, and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13 And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said to David, The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However„ because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.
American King James Version×.
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 2 Samuel 12:13And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said to David, The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
American King James Version×). 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 Ezekiel 33:10-11 10 Therefore, O you son of man, speak to the house of Israel; Thus you speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be on us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
11 Say to them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
American King James Version×) 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 Luke 15:7I say to you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
American King James Version×, 10) when a sinner repents.
Jesus Christ also described the difference between self-righteous prayers and humble repentance (Luke 18:9-14 Luke 18:9-14 9 And he spoke this parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
American King James Version×). Jesus’ decision not to condemn a sinner included the admonition not to repeat the sin (John 8:10-11 John 8:10-11 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said to her, Woman, where are those your accusers? has no man condemned you? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.
American King James Version×).
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 John 8:30-31 30 As he spoke these words, many believed on him.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;
American King James Version×). 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 Matthew 7:21-23 21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
American King James Version×). Actually, by affecting a religious-sounding tone and cadence when we speak, we can deceive ourselves (James 1:26 James 1:26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
American King James Version×).
A wise Christian is described as a doer, not just a hearer (Matthew 7:24-27 Matthew 7:24-27 24 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house on a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on a rock.
26 And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house on the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
American King James Version×). Jesus taught that our actions will help determine the service opportunities in His future Kingdom (Matthew 25:21 Matthew 25:21His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
American King James Version×).
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 Matthew 5:27-28 27 You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery:
28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
American King James Version×). 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 Ephesians 2:2-3 2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
American King James Version×). 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 2 Corinthians 11:3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
American King James Version×).
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 Ezekiel 28:14-16 14 You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire.
15 You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you.
16 By the multitude of your merchandise they have filled the middle of you with violence, and you have sinned: therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy you, O covering cherub, from the middle of the stones of fire.
American King James Version×), influences people to love money and stray from the faith(1 Timothy 6:10 1 Timothy 6:10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
American King James Version×). Christ warned about the cares of the world and the deceit of riches (Matthew 13:22 Matthew 13:22He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
American King James Version×).
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 Isaiah 14:12-14 12 How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
American King James Version×).
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 Matthew 6:22-23 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!
American King James Version×).
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 Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
American King James Version×). Satan focused on some of Christ’s physical senses during the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. 8 Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. 10 Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. 11 Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
American King James Version×). In a similar way, in the process of conversion we grow toward the spiritual maturity of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13 Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×). 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.
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 Matthew 13:44Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.
American King James Version×). 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.