I. The War We Fight
We are in a war—a war against our flesh. The struggle to resist sin can be unbearable at times. Paul himself exclaims, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Ro 7.15). How can we overcome habitual sin in our life? First and foremost, our power only comes through Jesus Christ. Within that power though, we must learn to be alert.
II. God’s Divine Escape Route
Alertness is often the first prevention against sin in a believer’s life. In I Corinthians 10.13, Paul states, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” When temptation comes to lure us into sin, God has promised to provide an escape. However, if we are not alert and ready for proper response, the temptation drags us away into sin.
III. Knowing God: The First Key to Remaining Alert
So how do we do this? How do we be alert to God’s divine escape route? First, know God. The more we know God intimately, the more sensitive we are to his Spirit and can discern when he is warning us from a certain path. We will never know what to be alert to if we do not know God. His Word must be poured over and pondered, meditated upon incessantly. Psalm 119.11 states, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” And in Psalm 1 the man meditates on God’s law instead of joining with sinners: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” The more we study and meditate on God’s Word, the more we will know Him intimately. This intimate relationship with God helps us to be more sensitive to his Spirit—thus recognizing temptation when it arrives.
IV. Knowing Yourself: The Second Key to Remaining Alert
A correct understanding of God’s Word will lead us to a more intimate relationship with him. While cultivating this relationship, we must also remain alert to ourselves. Think about sin in your own life. What time of the day are they most often occurring? What habits contextualize the specific sin you struggle with each day? Be alert to yourself and your surroundings. Alertness requires that you are aware of situations that could lead to sin. But being aware is not enough—alertness goes the extra step and quickly responds to the situation by changing directions. Furthermore, knowing yourself requires that you admit and acknowledge your inability to flee sin. Being alert means you are aware of your own inability—forcing yourself to rely wholly upon the only one who has the power to sustain you in times of great temptation. Ask God to grant you grace that you may be more aware and alert of yourself and give you the initiative you need to change directions when temptation lurks around the corner.
Michael C. Lyons, Editor of Faith Outreach, Character Council, Cincinnati, Ohio