Our reason, enlightened by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, stands in the way of sin gaining mastery over us through our desires.
Any training – physical, mental, or spiritual – is characterized at first by failure. We fail more often than we succeed. But if we persevere, we gradually see progress till we are succeeding more often than failing. This is true as we seek to put to death particular sins. At first it seems we are making no progress, so we become discouraged and think, What’s the use?! I can never overcome that sin. That is exactly what Satan wants us to think. It is at this point that we must exercise perseverance. We keep wanting instant success, but holiness doesn’t come that way. Our sinful habits are not broken overnight. Follow-through is required to make any change in our lives, and follow-through requires perseverance.
As an obedient believer, you are to stand firm in the strength of the Lord, to be sober in spirit, and to remain alert in order to resist the schemes of the devil. However, in all areas of your walk as a believer, you are incapable in your own strength and insufficient in your own resources to overcome the wiles and temptations of Satan. Therefore, you must put on the full armor of God to be an overwhelming conqueror in your continuing spiritual battle.
Imagination is a God-given gift; but if it is fed dirt by the eye, it will be dirty. All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. Therefore what feeds the imagination is of maximum importance in the pursuit of kingdom righteousness (Phil. 4:8).
We should not assume that, because God promises to provide a way out of temptation, we have no role in our own rescue. God always provides a way of escape, but He may also require great effort from us. We take advantage of the way of escape God provides by exerting every resource He gives us to fight the enemy… To increase our faith and strengthen our character, God more often allows us to escape temptation by using the means of grace always available to us: conscientiously seeking God’s power and instruction through prayer, meditation on His Word, and the counsel of mature Christians are never passive endeavors.
Nothing sets a Christian so much out of the devil’s reach than humility.
In heaven we shall appear, not in armor, but in robes of glory. But here these are to be worn night and day; we must talk, work and sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.
Once we understand the nature of the enemy, we must put on the proper armament. For this let us picture the old warrior Paul in his own spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-17).
1. He has worn his war belt so long that it is sweat through and salt-stained and comfortable like an old horse’s bridle, and it holds everything perfectly in place. The “belt of truth,” God’s truth, has girt him tight for years, so that it permeates his life and truth reigns within. He is armed with the clear eyes of a clear conscience. He can face anything.
2. His torso is sheathed with a battle-tarnished breastplate. It is crisscrossed with great lateral grooves from slicing sword blows and dented from enemy artillery. The “breastplate of righteousness” has preserved his vitals intact. His holy life has rendered his heart impervious to the spiritual assaults of Satan.
3. His gnarled legs are comfortable in his ancient war boots. He has stood his ground on several continents. The boots are the “gospel of peace,” the peace with God that comes through faith in him, and the resultant peace of God – the sense of well-being in wholeness – shalom. He stands in peace, and being rooted in peace he cannot be moved.
4. Paul’s great shield terrifies the eyes, for the broken shafts and the many charred holes reveal him to be the victor of many fierce battles. He has held the “shield of faith” as he repeatedly believed God’s Word and so extinguished every fiery dart of doubt and sensuality and materialism. None have touched him.
5. On his old gray head he wears a helmet which has seen better days. Great dents mar its symmetry; reminders of furtive blows dealt him by the enemy. The “helmet of salvation,” the confidence of knowing that he is saved and will be saved, has allowed him to stand tall against the most vicious assaults. His imperial confidence gives him a regal bearing.
6. Then there is his sword. He was equal to a hundred when his sword flashed. The “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” the ultimate offensive weapon, cut through everything – armor, flesh, glistening bone, and running marrow – even the soul (cf. Heb. 4:12).
These are the weapons: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God – and any believer who resists with these will put the Devil and his armies to flight! This is not arrogance. This is the truth! You and I can withstand the Devil if we wear the armor God provides. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
Although these abstinences give some pain to the body, yet they so lessen the power of bodily appetites and passions, and so increase our taste of spiritual joys, that even these severities of religion, when practiced with discretion, add much to the comfortable enjoyment of our lives.
A spiritual war, however, cannot be successfully fought with fleshly weapons. Therefore, the weapons in Paul’s arsenal were not those of human ingenuity, human ideology, or human methodology. Human reason, wisdom, plans, strategies, organizations, skill, eloquence, marketing, religious showmanship, philosophical or psychological speculation, ritualism, pragmatisms, or mysticism are all ineffective weapons against the forces of the kingdom of darkness, the “powers…world forces of this darkness…[and] spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). They cannot rescue sinners from the “domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13) or transform believers into Christ’s likeness. Such weapons gain only superficial, temporary, and deceptive victories at best.
To labor to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of the success of sin, is the beginning to this warfare.
We are not to stand on the adversary’s ground by any attitude or disobedience. In so doing we give him a certain power over us which, while God will restrain in great mercy and kindness, He will not fully remove until we get fully on holy ground. We must therefore be armed with the breastplate of righteousness as well as the shield of faith, if we would successfully resist the prince of darkness and the principalities in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
If the primary thing keeping you from sinning is the fear of getting caught or the prospect of shame or of being exposed as immoral, you don’t stand much of a chance. Oh, these might work for a while. You might find enough strength to resist for the time being. But the relentless assault of temptation will eventually wear you down and the power of resistance will gradually erode until you give in, tired, frustrated, bitter, angry with God, doubting if a life of obedience will ever bring the satisfaction your soul so deeply craves.
The biblical motivation to (avoid sin) is that we are no longer sinners by nature, and that sin goes against the new nature that God has given us.