Every sin is based on and grows out of an attitude of heart and sprouts from a thought. Some of these attitudes are: selfishness, self-righteousness, fear, greed, lack of love, hypocrisy, etc. There are many, and the seeds are resident in every human heart. They just need the right circumstances to grow. These attitudes can manifest in different actions at different times and in different people.

The first principle of overcoming is – Recognize in ourselves that what we are thinking or doing is sin. We are blind to our own shortcomings, so God uses those around us as mirrors to show us ourselves. When we see something in someone else that offends us, most likely we are doing something ourselves that grows out of that same sin attitude. It may not be an identical action, but the seed of it is based in the same attitude. Our first response when we are offended should be, “Lord show me what I am doing that is based in that attitude.” Believe me, that is a prayer God loves to answer. It means you are serious about following Jesus and becoming an overcomer.

When I first started my Christian walk, I asked God to show me what I was doing that was offending people. I could see the offense in their faces, but I had no idea what I had done or said that they didn’t like. I began to have little dreams of ordinary situations. When I woke I would say, “Okay, God, what was wrong with that?” As I thought about the situation, I would begin to see the interchange from the other person’s point of view. Oh, boy! I would have been offended, too, had I been on the receiving end of my actions or words! I was embarrassed and appalled. I cried out to God to deliver me from myself.

In college, sarcasm and the cutting remark were trendy (still are). I became a master of “zing them before they can zing you or get them worse.” After graduation I met my future husband. One day he informed me that this was not a very attractive trait. I was surprised, but it sensitized me to the feelings of others, and I began to notice the pain it caused when others made cutting remarks to each other. There must be a grain of truth in a cut, at least in the recipient’s mind, or it isn’t a cut. Deliberately exploiting another’s pain for a laugh is not a loving thing to do. I began to work to reverse a skill I had worked hard to establish.

I have known and read of people who were instantly and permanently delivered from besetting sin. In my case it has been a line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept walk. When I finally recognize how I am offending and confess it and own it as sin, MY sin, God begins to deliver me. Taking offense is also a sin, but that’s for another discussion.

The second principle is – Work to overcome the sin. At first, we say or do IT (whatever IT is). As soon as we recognize what we have done, we should confess, repent and ask for cleansing. After a while, we begin to recognize IT while in the process. Immediately, stop, confess, repent, ask for cleansing. Slowly we begin to recognize what’s happening earlier in the process and can stop. Eventually, we see where we are going before we actually start. This is a breakthrough! We have overcome THAT thing. Don’t become complacent and feel that you have arrived. You will be tested again later in the same area to see if you still remember your lesson. The Christian walk is not a matter of “Will I fall into sin?” We WILL! The question is, “What do I do now?” Get up! Try again! The only failure is refusing to try (again and again and again).

The third principle is – Seek to fill the vacancy with something positive. Nature abhors a vacuum. The place where the sin stood needs to be filled with something else, or the sin will return even more powerful than before. We cannot possibly overcome anything without the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness. Faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified [overcome] the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25 (KJV). As we struggle to overcome sin and flesh and become more like Jesus, the Holy Spirit works in us to grow his fruit in our lives.

I had a habit of saying, “I know,” when anyone would make a comment or tell me something. Then I realized it was a very know-it-all thing to say. I resolved not to say that any more. Life continued as before until I realized I couldn’t just NOT say, “I know.” I needed something to take its place. After considerable thought I decided to say, “That’s true.” This affirms the other person’s knowledge and doesn’t make me sound so arrogant. It helped me understand this principle of ‘fill the vacancy.’

The fourth principle is – Rejoice in all things. Philippians 4:4 tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” It doesn’t say rejoice when you feel good, or when things are going your way. It tells us to rejoice in all circumstances. When we have made Jesus Lord of our lives and purposed to live for him, he undertakes to establish us in his righteousness. God cannot look upon sin. When we come to Jesus, he covers us with his blood. Thereafter, God sees only his blood, and his righteousness is imputed to us. Underneath the blood there is still sin and flesh that needs to be taken care of. The Holy Spirit comes in and begins his work of cleaning us up.

As we see our sin, truly repent, and confess it, then we need to ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and grow in us the fruit of the Spirit. At salvation God puts a hedge around us (Job 1:10) that only allows his will to be done in our lives. The things that come to us thereafter will be used to show us what we need to see and work on in our efforts to overcome. His purpose is not to hurt, destroy, or even diminish us, but to bring us into the holy and righteous image of Jesus. Is that not our hearts’ desire also? Then whatever comes, we should receive it as from the hand of God for our betterment. If we truly believe that he has our best interests at heart, how can we not rejoice that the Lord of all creation has an interest in bringing us, his sons (male and female), into Glory!! He is preparing the bride (all of us–female and male) for the marriage of his son. There can be no spot or wrinkle in the Bride, so embrace the pain that comes as the flesh dies. We cannot kill it ourselves, but flesh cannot enter the Glory, and the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He will not operate on us without our consent. He is the Great Physician removing the cancer of sin and flesh from our lives. Let us rejoice in each instance of deliverance and healing.

The fifth principle is – Praise God for everything. In the midst of all his troubles, David tells us, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1. When the trials and chastisements come, and they will if we are truly seeking God, that is the time we most need to turn to God for comfort, strength and deliverance. Then we must put on “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Isaiah 61:3. As we begin to offer the sacrifice (it is a sacrifice when we really don’t feel like doing it) of praise Hebrews 13:15 to God, his power is released to deliver us out of our difficulties, most of which we have caused ourselves. Praising God is an act of our wills that is not dependent on feelings.

God inhabits the praises of his people. If we want him to come and live in us, we must be willing to prepare a suitable habitation for him. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:16-18. These many trials are bringing us into Glory! How can we not praise and worship him for each and every one of them!

Amen and amen!

December 28, 2006