Beating sin in 2021 and beyond

The news confirming the sexual allegations against Ravi Zacharias have been incredibly sad for me to read. For over 15 years, six days a week, I’ve listened to his podcasts during my workouts and been an enthusiastic student of his and a supporter of RZIM.  

Robin Schumacher
Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

Rather than comment further on that matter, I’d like for you and I to focus on our own personal holiness for the new year. What follows are some suggestions on beating sin not only in 2021, but for as long as the Lord decides to keep us in this life.  

Eat right

It’s so easy to kid yourself when it comes to your diet.

I’ve been a very disciplined eater and fitness enthusiast for decades, yet today I am 10-12lbs over my preferred weight. I tell myself it’s because I’ve gotten older, my blood sugar is acting weird, etc. All of which, by the way, are true.

But those things aren’t my problem.

The problem is the couple of cheat meals I give myself during the weekend have now pretty much become cheat days. The problem is I’ve started giving myself daily indulgences that don’t fit in with a self-controlled and healthy eating plan. The problem is I’ve been using food as a comfort, a reward for tough things I’ve engaged in during the week.

This past week, I stopped doing all that, returned to my normal regimented diet, and surprise surprise, I’ve started to lose weight.

Make no mistake, like your physical eating plan, your personal holiness is directly tied to your spiritual diet. Little by little you’ll become either more or less sanctified depending on the things you consistently ‘eat’.

The TV shows / movies, music, books, and other media you take in either build up your new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) or feed the fallen nature, give the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27), enslave us (Rom. 6:16) and ruin us.

Make a plan now to eat right when it comes to your soul. Start with spending daily time in an excellent study Bible (e.g. MacArthur Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, etc.), listening to solid Bible teachers during your exercise times, and reading works aimed at making you more like Christ such as J. C. Ryle’s book Holiness, instead of constantly immersing yourself in worldly media.     

Play right

I’ve been a software executive for a number of companies throughout my career, all of which have caused me to travel quite a bit. Many times, I’ve been asked to go out in the evening with colleagues to dinners and other activities.

I’ve always politely declined.

Oh, I might put in a quick appearance at company events, make speedy rounds to greet everyone, etc. But after that, I ended up in the same place: in my room, alone, with Chinese delivery (garlic chicken and steamed pot stickers), and a movie or book.

Because of that, I’ve been called unfriendly, aloof, not a team player, etc., by some of my co-workers, and even told such behavior would hold back my career. I decided early on not to listen to any of that.

The thing is, too many of my teammates have fallen into bad situations during these evening outings, sometimes resulting in their termination. Personally, I have zero desire to put myself in environments where something similar could happen to me.

How about you? Do you play right, spiritual speaking? Do you purposely avoid circumstances that could pull you in the wrong direction and instead seek out settings that are more in keeping with who you are in Christ?    

Realize there will always be a competition for you in this life. The great theologian John Owen notes, “Sin sets itself against every act of holiness. Let not a man think that he makes progress in holiness unless he walks over the bellies of his lusts.” 

Love right

A couple came over to our home one evening years ago. They were engaged, he was a seminary student, and she recently found out he was addicted to pornography.

Because of that, she broke off their engagement. Now he had a decision to make: which did he love more? Her or his sin?

When it comes to beating sin, any sin, it all comes down to one thing: You must love something else more than you love your sin.

During a cease-fire summit held for two warring factions, one side was asked when it would all end. Their spokesman said, “When they love their children more than they love the thought of our demise.”

Our love for all the physical goodness that God provides (e.g. our families, well-being, etc.) as well as a love and deep gratitude for all that Jesus has done, and continues to do, for us should put the brakes on any sin we currently have penciled into our calendars.

John MacArthur puts it like this: “Simply stated, spiritual growth is an abandonment to the will of God…. So, we glorify God by loving Him enough to obey Him.  And as we live a life of obedience, that is an ever-maturing Christian life.”

An illuminating habit

I’ve been a Christian for decades, but am only now getting a glimpse into a theological truth that makes me tremble a bit. It’s come from rereading and meditating on two of Jonathan Edwards works, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections and The End for Which God Created the World.

Edward’s first book is all about the litmus test for determining true saving faith, which is the bearing of good, moral fruit in the life of a believer. The second makes a case for God’s glory being the reason that God created the world and us.

In the second book, Edwards links both works together when he says: “And certainly, the most excellent actual knowledge and will that can be in the creature, is the knowledge and the love of God. And the most true excellent knowledge of God, is the knowledge of his glory or moral excellence; and the most excellent exercise of the will consists in esteem and love, and a delight in his glory.”

Paul succinctly says the same thing when he writes, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

The personal application for me has been to now ask myself in every situation: Am what I doing/thinking/saying/watching/reading/loving glorifying God or is it dishonoring Him?

I’d encourage you to start practicing the same thing; it is an incredibly helpful and illuminating habit. On its own, it’s a good way to beat sin in 2021 and beyond.   

Along with that, ask yourself what Scripture verse currently describes your life. Is it something like Numbers 32:23, "be sure your sin will find you out" or is it more in line with John 15:8: "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples"?   

My hope for all of us is the latter. On that note, I’d like to conclude by offering a prayer for you and me that makes use of Colossians 1:9-12. It is simply that: “you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all perseverance and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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