Most humans have five physical senses that help us survive and avoid physical harm. To avoid spiritual harm, we need to develop spiritual senses as sensitive as the physical senses.
Sin brings both physical and spiritual pain to us and to everyone around us. Therefore it seems reasonable that an understanding of the process of how sin occurs might help us develop spiritual senses to avoid it in our lives.
There are definite patterns of thinking and behavior that lead to sin. As we recognize these patterns, we can reflect on our personal struggles with sin and ask ourselves if we have been snared by these same patterns.
Achan and David
Consider the example of Achan in Joshua 7:21. He coveted physical possessions. After lusting after certain items, he took them and hid them in his tent. His penalty is described in verse 25.
A second example is in 2 Samuel 11:2-4. Since this involves King David, a servant of the Lord, we can come to understand that it does not matter how great your office of service is, sin is always at the door.
The king 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 sin is described in 2 Samuel 12:10-14.
A Four-Part Pattern
We can identify four parts in the pattern of these two sins:
First there is sensing, and we are all hit with sensual sights and sounds all day long. The talent to be learned is to notice immediately when your spiritual armor has been pierced, so to speak. Then change the subject or the channel or the thing you are doing. Do not deal with your disappointment. Just switch as automatically as you would swat a mosquito.
Next there is desire. That comes if you do not switch quickly enough. Desire is very persuasive and soon turns to a craving if we do not deal with it.
The third part is action. By the time we get to part three, we can only stop ourselves if we know that the Father is going to be terribly disappointed with our actions. But human nature tries not to think about God at a time like that.
The last part is the penalty.
What can we learn from this process?
Let's start with the penalty phase. The foundation to overcoming sin is repentance. When King David finally faced the fact of his transgression, he repented (2 Samuel 12:13). Even so, God let David suffer a serious physical penalty, the loss of a son.
And David was not the only one who suffered. David's chief advisor was a man named Ahithophel. We would say today that Ahithophel was David's chief of staff.
But did you know that Ahithophel was Bathsheba's grandfather? Bathsheba's father was Eliam, and Eliam was the son of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 23:34 and 2 Samuel 11:3). He knew that the king had taken his granddaughter in adultery and suspected that the king had Uriah killed in battle on purpose!
Now you can see why Ahithophel sided with Prince Absalom in an attempt to overthrow David's government. Ahithophel told Absalom how to defeat David in battle and urged him to act right now, but Absalom took the advice of another advisor instead of Ahithophel. Ahithophel knew that Absalom was going to lose and everyone with Absalom would be killed for treason. He had sided with the young prince, so he hung himself.
So did David's sin hurt anyone but him? You bet it did. And nobody knows what went on in the heart of Bathsheba! David had to repent of a lot more than adultery. (David's reaction to Ahithophel's betrayal is in Psalm 55.)
Now let's look at the action phase of this equation. Most of us who are Christians are painfully aware of our shortcomings and frustrated about how to change our behavior. If David had just lusted and done nothing with Bathsheba, only he would have incurred the death penalty. Then when he had repented, only he and God would be hurt by the unlawful desire.
What kinds of information are we letting into our mind? What do we 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 conversations are we listening to? Do we realize that pornography is addictive and inhibits a person's ability to have a real relationship?
Every one of us gets hit with temptations all day long and even Jesus had to take some hits. Remember the temptation in the wilderness? After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, the Bible says "He was hungry."
Now that is an understatement. He probably was near the point of no return where His health would be broken permanently. Still He could remember the way hot, fresh-baked bread smelled, and Satan used that to tempt Him to turn the stones into bread. But His answer to the devil was, in effect, "I belong to God, and He will feed Me when He is ready."
We see here that fasting helped Christ resist Satan's temptations. Fasting is a tool we can use to refocus our priorities.
Time to Flinch and Turn Away
All we need to do is learn to flinch when we are hit with a temptation and turn away from the temptation before it turns into desire. If we don't stop the cycle at temptation, we have one more chance—at desire. Once action has been taken, somebody is going to get hurt, even though we repent with many tears.
We have committed our lives to the quest for the Kingdom! We need to have spiritual eyesight to see that Kingdom. UN