There’s no question about it. You are going to sin today.
Here’s the real question.
What are you going to do about it?
My son asked me a good question the other day. His soccer game was about to start and we were talking strategy.
“But dad, what do we do if the other team comes up with something that messes our plan up?”
That’s when I explained to him that any good strategy always takes into consideration what should happen if that strategy falls apart.
You should always have a strategy to avoid sin. You should have a plan for what to stay away from and how to do it. But Satan is pretty good at messing up that plan. Even if Satan left us all alone, we would still find a way to mess things up all by ourselves. One way or another, weaknesses in both your strategy and your flesh will be exposed. You will sin. What then?
You can cover it up by comparing yourself to others who you figure are much worse off than you are. You can say along with the Pharisee in Luke 18, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I’m not gay. I’m not an adulterer. I don’t do drugs. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” And you’ll start to feel pretty good about yourself. Maybe even real good. Good enough even to forget that you have a sin problem.
When you forget that you have a sin problem, you also forget about the One who came to remedy that problem. Sure, you’ll talk about Jesus a lot. You may even pray to him and sing about him. But he’ll always just be your buddy and never your Savior. Only sinners need a Savior, remember?
That’s the problem with self-righteousness. It’s always based on your standard of righteousness and your standard always has something to do with how much better you are than someone else. But no matter how much better you are than the rest of the world, you’re still not good enough to meet God’s standard. Jesus told us what that standard is.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 6:48 (ESV)
If you feel like you’ve somehow met that standard on your own, please stop reading now and go ask God to have mercy on your soul.
Self-righteousness isn’t the only way to react to the sin that will inevitably come your way. You can embrace your sin. You can even build an identity around it. And all the while you’ll tell yourself that you’re just being real. So when you stay up all night looking at pornography, you don’t really have a lust problem. You’re just being authentic. And in your own self-righteous way, you’ll thank God that you are not like other men who are, well, self-righteous.
While you’re busy being so authentic, you’ll forget something. Sin is never authentic. At it’s core, sin is always built on a lie. We saw it in the first sin where Satan convinced Eve to question God’s command (Genesis 3:1). And you see it today when a man believes the lie that there is somehow more fulfillment in having sex with his secretary than with his wife. It is impossible to live an authentic life that is at the same time devoted to sin.
Real authenticity means that you come to grips with your sin. You acknowledge it. But instead of building your own little kingdom around it or covering it up, you confess it to Jesus and ask him to help you to make war against it.
Following Christ is an act of spiritual violence. It involves continually putting to death the sin that you would rather cover up or embrace.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. Colossians 3:5-7 (ESV)
A strategy is important. But it is only as good as its reaction when things start to unravel.
Before one of his fights, reporters were asking Mike Tyson about his opponent. They wanted to know how Mike would respond to the other fighter’s speed. They wanted to know Mike’s plan for winning the fight. That’s when Mike Tyson rattled off this gem.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
You will get punched in the mouth today.
Please don’t pretend that you’re not getting hit.
And please don’t build your identity around the fact that you get hit a lot.
By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, fight back.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:12-13 (ESV)