Let’s review our three “magical” tricks for beating the sins that tempt us so badly (you might want to read the previous section if you haven’t already).
1. Remove the sin
2. Renew your thinking
3. Replace the sin with something good
It’s as easy as changing your socks.
You think I’m kidding, right? I am…sort of. Think about it. If your socks stink, what do you do?
1. You remove them.
2. You determine not to wear stinky socks any more, then look over a new pair to make sure they are clean.
3. You put the new pair on instead of the old ones.
The method is simple, although the application may be difficult. Fortunately, we are given some examples of how to use these steps in combating our sin. We find several of them all bunched up in the fourth chapter of Ephesians.
First up – lying.
HOW TO DEFEAT LYING
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25 NKJV)
Do you know anyone whom you just don’t believe? Every time they tell you about something that happened to them, you “take it with a grain of salt.” Everything is either embellished or flat untrue.
People lie to make themselves look good. People lie to save money (like cheating on taxes). People lie to get their way. It can become a vicious cycle.
Maybe you have this problem. How do you stop it? Follow the three-step magical plan.
1st step – stop lying
Say nothing if necessary! The Bible makes it pretty clear that God wants us to be known for the truth.
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him . . . a lying tongue . . . A false witness who speaks lies . . .(Proverbs 6:16-19)
Notice that two of the seven things that God hates specifically refer to lying. It would be a good idea to put an immediate end to it.
2nd step – Renew your thinking – why do you lie?
Remember what we discussed in the previous section—there is a reason that we sin. Why do you lie? Are you trying to make yourself look good or is pride influencing you to hide something? Do you understand that you are destroying your testimony for God?
Inevitably someone will bring up Rahab, who fibbed about hiding the spies in Jericho and was blessed for it. However, let’s not allow that distract us from our own faults. After all, how many times have our lies saved someone’s life?
3rd step – Replace lying with the truth
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment. (James 5:12)
I do not believe this is a command to never give an oath. Rather, James’ point seems to be that people should be assured that what we speak is the absolute truth. They should not have to wonder.
Now let’s consider the issue of anger.
HOW TO DEFEAT ANGER
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26)
We cannot necessarily help being angry. It is an emotion that rises to the surface and can even prompt us to do good things. The problem is when we lose self control. So, as we discuss “anger,” let’s think of it as the uncontrolled response to anger. What do we do about it?
Step 1 – Remove anger
Of course, it is impossible to just quit being angry. However, you do have control over what you do with your anger. Sometimes it is best to physically remove yourself from a situation in which you may find yourself out of control.
Step 2 – Renew your thinking
Think about why you are angry. Is it because you are overemphasizing your own importance? Are you being selfish? Notice the end of verse twenty-six: “nor give place to the devil.” When you allow your anger to hang on and control you, you give the enemy a foothold in your life. Is that what you want?
Step 3 – Replace anger with forgiveness
If you focus only on removing the anger, it will always hang with you. That’s why it is necessary to replace it with forgiveness. Of course, you probably will not feel like it. That’s ok. We don’t have direct control over our feelings. We do, however, have control over our actions, which will in turn impact our feelings.
Instead of lashing out with retaliation (I know, it’s much more satisfying), try to reach out with acts of kindness. You’ll hate it…at first. But you will go your way knowing that you did the right thing. Besides that, you will have spared yourself the humiliation of later having to apologize for something you did.
Oh, by the way…the other person just might respond back to you with kindness. Then you’ll feel good.
HOW TO DEFEAT STEALING
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
You may think that you’re not a thief so this does not concern you. But have you ever taken anything that does not belong to you? How about your employer’s time? How about your tithes or taxes? What about that time the cashier rang up the order wrong and you didn’t say anything?
Step 1 – Remove stealing – just stop doing it!
I think we’re getting the point here. Just stop it!
Step 2 – Renew your thinking about stealing
Why do you steal? Maybe you think it doesn’t matter because the person from whom you stole has more than enough and you need it more.
Let me share with you a good reason that stealing is wrong:
Two things I request of You (deprive me them not before I die): remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.
When you steal something, you announce to the world that your God cannot take care of you. It shows that you are not happy with what He has allowed you to have. That alone is reason to refrain from stealing.
Step 3 – Replace stealing with giving
What do you do instead of stealing? According to Ephesians 4:28, you work, then you give! There is something about giving that satisfies you in a way that stealing cannot.
Are you getting the idea here? Further along in Ephesians 4, verses 29-30 deal with speech. Remove corrupt speech, understand its danger, and replace it with speech that edifies. Verses 31-32 speak of hatred. Remove it, then change your thinking by understanding that Christ had every reason to hate us, but loved us instead. Then force yourself to act with kindness and forgiveness.
We could deal with just about every sin known to man using these three steps. Maybe the sins mentioned in Ephesians 4 are not ones that cause you problems. However, if you are still breathing I’d wager that you have a problem with something. Whatever it is, follow God’s steps to removing it from your life.
Here they are once again:
Remove the sin.
Renew your thinking.
Replace the sin with something good.
I think you’ll find that these three “R’s” may be just as practical as the other important “R’s”: reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. They sure will help you to live in a way that is more pleasing to God.
This is the twenty-first article in the series “The Battle for Your Mind.” Click here to see the previous article.
Click to see the final article in this series: “The Battle for Your Soul: It is Finished!”