Do you wonder why you are not changing? Have you repented of a sin, only to repeat the same sin? Here are the steps to conquering sin PERMANENTLY.
IN LAST month's article — WHAT Is SIN? — we learned that God inspired different words in the original texts to emphasize different Kinds of sin. All mistakes, errors and failures are sin. But by using different words to identify the different kinds of errors, God helps us to know our enemy. Our society and our personal human nature stand condemned by God's definitions of sin. As we saw in the last article, society is set up to TEMPT human nature — and we yield too often! That is, we miss the mark (Hebrew word chattah). We saw that vanity of personal appearance, bragging on children, general senseless frivolity is aven — that is, nothingness and vanity! We saw that modern art and music is greatly "twisted" — bent, wrested and perverted from its true use! — avon. We found that "sneakiness," treachery (Hebrew ma'al) included word-breaking, disloyalty, petty thieving, etc. We saw then how clearly, how unmistakably the Bible pictures, brands, and condemns sin.
Know Your Enemy
These two articles are intended to help you personally to locate, spot, pinpoint the sin in your life — and root it out! Your enemy — sin — has a real target: You. "Yea, on you its desire [is set], but you should rule over it" (See A Distinctive Translation of Genesis by J. Watts and Revised Standard translation of Genesis 4:7). If you do not "master" sin Now — while you have the chance — you will end up a reprobate: a person who "cannot cease from sin"! (II Pet. 2:13-15.) Sin of course is not a person or personality. Sin is a force, a power. Sin is that part of your human nature which pulls you DOWN, makes you want to go the WRONG WAY, which makes you want to give up, quit. In short, sin is what makes us the carnal, miserable wretches we are. To win this battle over your human nature — your sin — you must clearly see what sin is. You must know your enemy, to defeat him.
Track men and athletes are familiar with the excruciating, stabbing pains of "shin splints." God is familiar with the stabbing, excruciating pains of sin! We who are Christians must also become familiar with the sins in our own lives. Let's discover a few more facets and kinds of sin — both national and personal — which God identifies in the Bible before we give the answer to sin. Last time we mentioned only sins which were "not necessarily intentional." But the Bible does talk about intentional sin — since all human beings and nations DO SIN INTENTIONALLY, some time or other in life. The Hebrew zimmah means meditated wickedness, a plan for evil, especially with sins of unchastity, incest, rape. Many such sinners (people plotting crime, sexual criminals) roam our streets today. We don't call them sinners; we call them homicidal maniacs, psychopaths, or unfortunate, or sometimes misunderstood. The ugly episode of the concubine (Judges 20) is termed zimmah (King James "lewdness") in Judges 20:6. Our nation is filled with sexual looseness and lewdness — for which we must be punished! (Read Jeremiah 13, especially Verse 27 where "lewdness" is zimmah.) Our NATIONAL lewdness will mean our VERY DESTRUCTION! (See how frequently the word "lewdness" [zimmah in Hebrew} is used through the middle chapters of Ezekiel.)
A Worldwide Sin
God is going to intervene soon — because of sin — and shake this earth! All nations and probably all individuals too are guilty of REVOLT, REBELLION! To break away from, to change allegiance, to fall away, apostatize, REBEL is the definition of the Hebrew pasha' — another word translated sin in the King James translation. God says our teachers have committed pasha' in Isaiah 43:27: "Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me." Furthermore, Jeremiah shows in Chapter 2, Verse 8 that the priests and pastors have also rebelled. "The priests said not, 'Where is the Lord?' and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed [revolted, pasha') against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit." The leaders, teachers, and educators of this world HAVE REBELLED! And rebellion never goes unpunished (See Prov. 16:25 in Moffatt, and Prov. 17:11). Make sure that rebellion is not a part of your personal life!
Sin Is Personal
Sin is not only national and worldwide, it is individual and personal. Can you control your rashness, your temper? The sin of going astray (especially through temper or rashness) is serious, once requiring the blood of a sin offering: Leviticus 4:13-14 and Numbers 15:27-29. You must be constantly on guard against this sin of piercing, or breaking through the limits of self-control and decency. This sin of GOING ASTRAY through ignorance or temperamental rashness is called shagag in Hebrew, and requires the blood of Jesus Christ to wash you clean. Even David fell victim to this sin: "Before I was afflicted I went astray [shagag]: but now have I kept thy word" (Ps. 119:67). David also overcame, as the phrase "now have I kept thy word" shows!
A related word, shagah, means to WANDER IN MIND, either from drunkenness or from just plain being carried away by foolishness. Do you "get carried away" eating? Some of you reading this article are enormously overweight; you need to change — stop getting carried away. Sad to say, some of you readers also get carried away by too much alcohol! This is GLUTTONY! The Bible demands self-control and moderation (true "temperance") in all things (Gal. 5:23; Phil. 4:5). Another very common sin included under shagah is just exactly what the word says: MIND WANDERING. An uncontrolled, wandering mind (even without the help of alcohol) produces forgetfulness and daydreaming. Do you often forget when you should remember? Some forgetting of course is innocent. But forgetting can also be A SIN! Sometimes we forget because we want to forget — to remember is unpleasant. Stop forgetting! If you have to — as many of God's ministers do — carry a notebook or three-by-five cards with you at all times. Jot down things you MUST remember: important appointments, vocabulary words, a grocery list, daily duties, etc. Make it a habit to check your card or notebook every day. Moreover, too many of us allow our minds to wander, daydreaming! Do you realize that God condemns daydreaming? Daydreaming is a sin! Are you letting your children get into this ugly habit? If you allow them to stay awake, lying in bed for long periods of time, they will pick up this vicious trait. Letting the mind just "flit off" into a never-never land of make-believe and dreams is a vicious, mind-and-character-destroying sin! Watch for this malfunction (sickness) of the brain in both yourself and your children.
Falsity and Sham
How open and honest are you? Openness, innocence, and straightforwardness are earmarks of conversion. The direct opposite qualities — treachery, slipperiness, DECEIT and SHAM (Hebrew bagad) — are earmarks of carnality and sin. Bagad, often translated perverseness, is a form of treachery, slippery dealing — what we sometimes call double dealing. Business today is filled with double dealers, slippery salesmen, deceitful advertisements and sales "pitches," falsified claims for phony products. God condemns slippery, crooked business in Proverbs 11:3, 6. And what of you? Do you once in a while — as wives — use just a little deceit to convince your husband? And you husbands, do you once in a while exaggerate to impress the men at the office, the wife, the family? Stretching the facts is a form of deceit and sham — slipperiness. And all deceit, all slipperiness is sin!
The New Testament Speaks
Just as there are differences in Hebrew synonyms for sin, so also the New Testament shows various aspects of sin by using different words. Interestingly enough, the most common word for "sin" in the New Testament is hamartia, meaning exactly the same as Hebrew chattah — MISS THE MARK, The English word sin translates hamartia in the great Bible definition of sin, I John 3:4. It was this sin that "entered the world" with Adam. See Romans 5.
Many of you talkative women, you who pass on information, are condemned by the Bible, Titus 2:7-8 shows what you ought to practice. "In all things showing yourselves a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech [not gossip and senseless talk], that cannot be condemned." The same verse shows that carnal people will set the opposite example in their speech: "That he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no EVIL THING to say of you." This "evil thing" is GOSSIP. The Greek word for evil thing is phaulos meaning evil or empty thing, something without basis. Isn't that exactly what gossip is? It is easy to speak senseless things and to gossip. If you allow yourself to fall into this easy trap of back yard scuttlebutt, you are guilty of phados — sin. Check yourself next time you pass on information. Gossip is phaulos — evil, empty sin!
Active and Passive Sin
For those who would like to study more — possibly with a concordance or an interlinear — you will be interested in the two Greek words for evil or sin: kakia and poneria. Kakia is sin, but it is the passive type. Kakia does not try to destroy others; in other words it is passive, it is lacking, it is no good, good for nothing. Passive sin is FAILING to do what you know is right. On the other hand, poneria is actively, aggressively bad — it is destruction on the march. Satan is called "the evil one" in Greek — the "one of poneria." Satan is aggressively evil — seeking to destroy everyone. Search yourself! You'll probably see some passive evil, and worse yet some active evil! Errors of omission and errors of commission — both must be rooted out!
Last but Not Least
One last thing before we attack sin. Are you one of those all-too-frequent "members" who holds your own opinion — contrary to the Church? Do you think Mr. Armstrong "just doesn't understand" I Do you think some others of God's ministers are "just a little bit off"? Do you feel your explanation of Scripture is MORE CORRECT than God's Church's? Do you dare "judge" the authority God Himself placed over you? Do you disagree with the Feast locations — the handling of tithes — the poor fund — the selection of Spokesman Club officers? MANY OF YOU DO! You are holding on to your own opinion — you are opinionated! YOU are stubborn and bullheaded! And worst of all, you're wrong — you're DEAD WRONG! YOU ARE MISSING THE MARK! And that's sin! You're guilty of chattah and hamartia. Why don't you give up your opinion — surrender your will to God — before God has to shake YOU? May God help those of you who in some form or another pit yourselves against God and His Church to repent and CHANGE.
Now we're ready for the attack! Actually, if you read these two articles on sin, and if you got the point, you are already well on your way to changing! You see, the first step in conquering sin is TO SEE sin. You must know your enemy. You must pray, study the Bible, listen to sermons whenever possible, and strive to see YOUR sins. If you do not see them, how can you fight them? Paul said he would not have known (understood) sin, unless the law revealed what it was (Rom. 7:7). If you do not think you have any sins, or have not seen a new sin for a long time, you are self-righteous. Ask God to show you how you look to Him — and He'll do it! That's the first step. But there are two more steps.
The Second Step
Here is a simple — sounding, but difficult-to-perform point. Pay close attention. You may be missing this vital key! "HATE the evil, and love the good" (Amos 5:15). The Bible commands you to hate — to loathe — YOUR SINS! There is one great reason that sin is difficult to hate — the carnal mind LOVES sin! "We all had our conduct 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" (Eph. 2:3). Here is the point: LUSTS are pleasant, appealing, strongly pulling desires — desires which are illegal! These strong, illegal pulls and desires of the human mind are exactly what the human mind wants! The human mind, by nature, LOVES its lusts! The carnal human mind HATES God's way — hates to give up its lusts! Can you see this terrible tendency in yourself? Can you realize your mind wants its way — not God's? If SO, you CAN overcome. But how? It is simple. God HATES sin. Notice Proverbs 6:16: "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him." Read the rest of the vases of Chapter 6 for yourself. God here reveals His HATRED against sin. Slowly but surely, you too can receive (through God's Spirit) true hatred of sin. When you really hate sin, you will begin to overcome! Ask for God's Spirit! Ask for God's mind — ask for help, to HATE. Another aid in the direction of hating sin is something you can do for yourself. Did you realize the entire Old Testament history is a chronicle of the results of sin? Read, meditate, THINK DEEPLY on the sufferings and failures of Old Testament men and women who sinned. MEDITATE on the results of your personal sins. Picture yourself locked out of God's Kingdom — thrust into oblivion. Think about the Lake of Fire, about eternal failure, about DEATH! Your sins will KILL YOU if you do not change. Receiving God's own help through His Holy Spirit, meditating on the results of your sins, will make you an overcomer.
The Third Step
REPENT! II Corinthians 7:10 shows that there are two kinds of sorrow: one worldly, one Godly. Worldly sorrow is what Saul demonstrated in I Samuel 15, when he begged Samuel to pardon his sin and pray for him. Reading Saul's words would make you think he was really repentant. But the fruits showed otherwise. Godly sorrow — which Saul did not have — does work a change — repentance! How can you have godly sorrow? You must become more concerned about God and His Work than yourself! You must draw so close to God that you really care what God thinks and feels about you. Make no mistake: your sins do affect God your Father. God is not an insensitive monster, but a kind, loving and deeply interested Parent — a Parent who grieves over His errant children. If you understand Gods parenthood, if you are this close to God, you will be able to truly repent TO GOD, when you sin. You will be ashamed of yourself, for what you have done to God personally, to Gods love, to God's ways, to His outstretched helping hand. Yes, Godly sorrow — sorrow strong enough to make you change — is sorrow to God, not just sorrow for "having messed yourself up." Worldly sorrow is sorrow all right — maybe to the point of bitter tears — but it is sorrow for having failed yourself. You are sorry because you have not lived up to the "image" you have of yourself. You are sorry because this mistake does not exalt you. It tarnishes your picture — it spoils your self-esteem, it lowers you in your own mind. That is selfish, worldly sorrow.
For Failure, Take This
If you are trying to overcome, but not succeeding, then try this. Analyze the reason you are trying to overcome. Is it purely selfish, in the same way as worldly sorrow described above? Do you want to overcome so that you may put yourself forward? So that you will rise in the eyes of others? So that you will be advanced? So that you may "get ahead"? So that your position will be raised? If so, your motive for overcoming is CARNAL! The carnal mind wants to "get ahead" (walking "after the flesh"). The Godly mind (walking "after the Spirit," Romans 8) wants to serve others. Analyze yourself — honestly now! For what reason do you want to get rid of sin? If it is just for yourself, and not for the Work, you probably are not overcoming. CHANGE your motive for overcoming, pray for the desire to serve others. When you really achieve a desire to serve others, you will realize why you need to Overcome. You will have an unselfish goal for changing. Seeing other peoples' sufferings and needs will give you a desire to change for their sakes, to help them! YOU PILL BEGIN TO OVERCOME!
The New Building
As you begin to overcome, it will help you to strive for a new habit. Let's put it this way: "Be not overcome of [the habit of] evil, but overcome evil with [the habit of) good" (Rom. 12:21). Sin is the thing we usually do, Sin is hard to root out because it is customary, usual, pleasant, easy, habitual. Build a new habit. Make yourself do the opposite of sin. MAKE yourself practice the right way several times, even if "you do not need to." Repeat the good habit several times in a row overlearn! To pick a simple example as an illustration, take smiling. Suppose you are a "frowny" person, can't make yourself smile. Well 'then, once you find a good reason for smiling — and you do actually smile once — then make yourself SMILE AGAIN. Smile several times in succession. Instead of practicing your old habit of constantly frowning, search for reasons, excuses, opportunities to smile. Smile at yourself. Smile at others. Smile just because it's a good feeling to do differently than your old sinful way. Smile, smile, SMILE! Pretty soon, smiling will be easy. Work at, build the habit of righteousness! (Connect this with Hebrews 5:14 — note the word "exercised.")
Will You CEASE?
The answer to sin is... STOP! Sin grows constantly worse. Sin goes from bad to worse, from worse to wretched, and from wretched to absolute filth and abomination! The Hebrew word ray — translated sin many times in the Old Testament — means exactly that: rot, filth, DUNG! God hates sin so much He calls it manure and sewage! That's how bad our sins are. Will we cease? "Forasmuch then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh HAS CEASED FROM SIN; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God" (I Pet. 4:1, 2). My earnest prayer for you brethren — and the prayer of all of God's ministers — is that you too will cease from sin!