I’ve met many Christians in my ministry that still struggle with staving off sin. They think holiness is the battle to stop sinning. I get question after question on how to stop it. Everyone was looking for a magic bullet to live a holy life.
It doesn’t help that preachers fixate on scriptures like not being perfect like our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48) or the entangling sin (Hebrews 12:1). One of my personal favorite scriptures about sin comes from John and talks about how Jesus is just and forgives us if we sin (1 John 1:9). The context of that verse talks about the momentary sins that trip us but don’t bring us down.
To be sure, holiness has a lot to do with sin. Sin falls short of God’s plan for our lives. He has high standards that he expects us to follow. He calls us to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44). There is a responsibility to not be steeped in continuous sin.
But the Christian who only worries about fighting every day to not sin is like a horse with blinders on. It’s hard to see the whole picture of Holiness when you focus only on one part. It’s quite discouraging to try to stop sinning on your own.
That’s why the Holy Spirit is placed in us at salvation. One of his activities is to teach us how to be holy. He is the one who addresses sin in us. And we don’t have to become sinless on our own, because the Holy Spirit empowers us to live a holy life.
But only working on becoming holy through sinless living fulfills half of the mission. There’s more to holiness than sin. In Christian theology, there are at least two kinds of sin. Sins of commission are sins that we willingly and knowingly committed against God. Sins of omission are sins we didn’t even realize we committed until they are brought to our attention.
In the same way, the quest to stop sinning is like the sins of omission. If we only worried about that, we could be committing heinous crimes against God. Along with not sinning is the desire to please God in all things.
We do please God by not sinning, but there’s so much more to it. For instance, Paul tells us to think about good and God-pleasing things (Philippians 4:8). Take, for example, Romans 12:1-2. There are some commands such as renewing our minds and being transformed rather than conforming to this world.
But beyond these things, God expects us to be tested and approved for through victory, present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, discern God’s will, and do everything that is good and pleasing.
So the other side that Christians don’t think of as often is to please God with everything we think, say, and do. As the Holy Spirit cleans up our character and we are obedient to him, we will think, speak, and act in ways that please God.
If only we could focus as much of our attention on things that please God instead of just worrying about sin in our lives, we may find a new freedom in Christ. Jesus died to set us free from sin. We are dead to sin.
We give temptation and sin way too much power over us. I love the image of poking a dead animal. There is no reaction. When sin and temptation come our way, there is no reaction. That’s what it means to be dead to sin.
While part of our identity in Christ is that we are dead to sin, the other side is to make our Father proud. Because of his grace, we can please God. Even if we sin for a moment, asking forgiveness and walking again with Christ pleases God.
So for the warrior who is constantly slaying the dragon of sin, there’s a maiden to rescue. Find out what pleases the Lord and do it with all your heart. You may find that you focus so much on pleasing the Lord that it becomes a little easier to stop caving in to temptation and sin.
We can do both. We can avoid temptation and not allow the devil to prey on her weaknesses. We can shore up those lines and keep sin at bay. We can also glorify God with her speech and her actions, constantly thinking about him, his glory, presence, and how to please him.
Before we met Christ we used our minds to find new, awful ways to sit against God. Why can’t we use that same ingenuity, imagination, and intelligence to find new ways to glorify God with every fiber of our being?
So here’s to the task at hand. We must know what pleases God. He tells us in his Word and his , Spirit also tells us. Then we need to do that with everything in us. Make the fun of the adventure discovering how to put a smile on God’s face every day.
What are some ways you know you can please God today and this week? Leave a comment and share your experiences in the holy pleasure of God over your life.