The ongoing battle against avoiding sin

Although believers are victorious in Messiah, the reality of living for him is a real conflict every day.

Although believers are victorious in Messiah, the reality of living for him is a real conflict every day.

Matthew 5:29 – “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.

Yeshua is speaking here of the extreme vigilance with which we must guard our spiritual lives. While this example is exaggerated for emphasis, it demonstrates a spiritual principle that is a typical theme in God’s Word.

For example, in Proverbs, the father is advising his son on the dangers of being lured into complacency or led astray by the woman of bad character:

Proverbs 5:3-8 – Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, in the end she’s as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps head straight for Sheol. She doesn’t consider the path of life; she doesn’t know that her ways are unstable. So now, sons, listen to me, and don’t turn away from the words from my mouth. Keep your way far from her. Don’t go near the door of her house.

In the ongoing narrative of the opening chapters of Proverbs, the father then continues to urge his sons to avoid this type of woman.

Proverbs 7:24-27 – Now, sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words from my mouth. Don’t let your heart turn aside to her ways; don’t stray onto her paths. For she has brought many down to death; her victims are countless. Her house is the road to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.

This same warning is for their own good. It is a warning to remain faithful to Yahweh and to not be led astray by the deceptive nature of sin. In the Proverbs, this worldly sin is characterized by the woman of bad character.

The apostle Paul also warns believers of avoiding sinful practices, but he characterizes sin as the flesh.

Romans 8:12-14 – So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.

While Yeshua emphasized the avoidance of sin by removing body parts, Paul goes a step further and says the deeds of the body must be completely put to death in order for the spiritual life to thrive.

These are all different ways of saying the same thing: we must not be seduced by the attractiveness of sin (characterized by the woman). The first step is to avoid those ways all together. However, if we have begun down that road, we must immediately deprive ourselves of any aspect of our lives that has become compromised (exemplified by cutting off a hand or gouging out an eye). If that option has been surpassed, then we must completely “put to death the deeds of the body.” What all of these ideas are conveying is just how destructive sinful lifestyles are, and the seriousness with which sin must be dealt with in the believer’s life.

Many believers look at Paul’s statement of dying to the flesh as being descriptive of the repentant sinner coming to Messiah; the one-time commitment to die to oneself and live the new life in Messiah. However, this statement, as exhibited throughout the Scripture, is a metaphor for an ongoing and continual vigilance by which the believer must separate themself from the sin that is present each and every day. This is not a one-time event but a constant battle that every believer in Yahweh must maintain.

Paul says the believer has the ability through the Spirit of God to overcome these challenges, and to be led by the Spirit, and not by the flesh, is the true hallmark of those who are children of God. Vigilance in this battle means relying on God’s strength to overcome the woman of bad character or the flesh, what the apostle John calls “the world,” all of which can be overcome by our faith in Messiah.

1 John 5:3-5 – For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God?

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