When I have to confess something to the Lord or apologize to someone else, I tend to want to explain the reasons I did what I did, as if that somehow justifies my wrong response.
The very first people committing the very first sin did the same thing.
One day I was totally arrested by this thought:
My sin is not someone else’s fault.
Wait – aren’t they responsible for what they did? Don’t other people sometimes deliberately try to get us to sin?
Sure. And they’re answerable for their own actions.
But what does God tell His children?
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)
When we give account of ourselves to God, we won’t be able to point the finger at anyone else.
I used to take refuge in the King James version of 1 Corinthians 13:5, especially in that word easily in the phrase “love…is not easily provoked.” And then a trusted pastor told us that the word “easily” isn’t in the original text. If you look up the Strong’s numbers for this verse, which link to the Greek or Hebrew words and their translations – there is no link for “easily.” Many other translations leave it out.
So I can’t use that as an excuse: “I tried to resist, you know, and did for a while, but really, it was just too much. Anyone would have reacted that way at that point.”
No, God has promised “a way of escape” in each temptation. Too often I am looking for a reason to give in rather than a way to get out of temptation.
We all fall and fail every day. What are we to do?
1. Accept responsibility. Acknowledge what we did wrong and own up to it. (And if I can interject this here, we also need to teach our children to do this. Yes, we understand that they act out when they’re tired, hungry, etc., and we attend to those issues first. But when they do something deliberately wrong, we need to avoid making excuses for them and teach them to own up to what they did.)
2. Confess it to the Lord.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13, ESV
I’ve been told that to “confess” means “to say the same thing as.” In other words, call it what the Bible says it is. I didn’t tell a little fib: I lied. I wasn’t just a little out of sorts: I was selfish and irritable and unkind.
3. Rest in His promise of forgiveness.
4. Confess it to anyone else involved. A trusted former pastor once said that the circle of confession needs to be as wide as the circle of the sin. If I spoke harshly to someone in private, I need to go back to that person, apologize, and ask their forgiveness. If someone embezzles funds, well, that’s a much wider circle.
5. Make restitution if necessary. If something was stolen or property was destroyed or damaged, we’re responsible to to return, replace, or pay for it. If someone’s reputation was damaged, we do what we can to acknowledge our own blame and clear the other person.
6. Mortify (kill) the sin. I admit this is a concept I struggle with, because if you “kill” something, then you don’t expect to have trouble with it the very next day – or hour. But Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (ESV; the KJV uses the word “mortify”). A helpful explanation is here, but an idea that helps me don’t give it life support. Do all you can to undermine it, to weaken it, rather than to give it any impetus. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13;14, ESV).
7. Seek victory. Pray and seek God’s Word for His help in overcoming sin. Perhaps memorize applicable Scriptures or copy them and put them on a card in a prominent place as a reminder.
8. Plan ahead when possible. The young man in Proverbs 7 who got taken in by the wrong kind of woman was where he should not have been in in the first place (v. 7-9). We might need to avoid certain places. If we’re going into a situation where there might be trouble, we can make a plan of action: for instance, if I have a tendency for gluttony and a lack or control around food, before the company Christmas party I can plan exactly how much I’ll allow myself, perhaps eat a little beforehand so I am not hungry, seek to talk to people instead of prowling around the refreshments.
9. Look for the way of escape that God’s Word promises. So often when we’re thinking about doing something that, deep down, we know we shouldn’t, a “still, small voice” will be trying to talk sense to us and talk us out of it all the time we’re trying to justify it. We need to ask the Lord to help us, but we also need to take action and flee.
10. Yield to God. Give Him “the right of way.”
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13).
11. Follow the right way. The same verse that talks about “fleeing youthful lusts” goes on to tell us to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” (2 Timothy 2:22). We need to concentrate as much or more on doing as on don’ting. Erwin Lutzer said in How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit that if someone tells you not to think of the number 8, all of a sudden that’s all you can think about. The best way to deal with a wrong thought is to replace it with another thought. We tend to follow what we focus on.
12. Behold Him.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. II Corinthians 3:18
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15
Our sanctification as well as our salvation rests on the finished work of Christ. We don’t become any more or less saved or more or less loved when we sin. But sin keeps our relationship from the full fellowship we would otherwise enjoy, hinders our testimony, dishonors the Lord, and so many other things. God expects for His children to grow in Him. So when we do sin, we need to confess it and rest in the love of a Father who is more than ready to forgive.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8
*I’ve been addressing people who are already born again and have become children of God. Forgiveness of sin and grace to overcome it is only possible when we have that relationship with God. If you’ve never believed on Christ as savior, please read more here.