How To Not Sin

I learned long ago (probably from John Piper but I don’t remember for sure) that no one sins out of duty. No one says, “I really don’t want to sin, but I know that I should so I’m going to do it whether I want to or not.” No, we sin because we want to. We sin because we think that it will make us happy. Now sin never keeps its promise. Sin always over promises and under delivers. It promises happiness and satisfaction but always leaves us broken and empty.

But in the moment of temptation, how do we defeat the promise of sin? It won’t be through rules or just saying no or will power or determination. I know that those won’t work not just because of the Bible’s teaching but also because of my own experience. I’ve tried all those and found them ultimately to be failures.

Like Moses in Hebrews 11, I have to have a better treasure. I have to have a better promise. I have to fix the eyes of my heart  on the promises of Christ. They satisfy. They never fail or disappoint. They don’t leave you with regrets.

Dane Ortlund’s book on Jonathan Edwards’ understanding of the Christian life has a great picture of the different ways one can seek to stop sinning and obey God. He draws on The Odyssey by Homer and its story of the sirens’ song that is so beautiful that sailors passing by in their boats would jump into the water, dashing themselves on the rocks, to try to get close to the beauty. This is the picture of the promise of sin. It’s promise is alluring but when we pursue it, we crash and burn. “Sin is the enchanting song that kills.”

In order to fight against this song, Ulysses has his men plug their ears as they row by and strap him to the mast so that he can hear the song without endangering himself. This is a picture of the rules that we use to tie ourselves down with to keep us from sinning. Notice that Ulysses still wants to hear the song just like we still want to sin. But knowing the consequences of jumping ship and pursuing the song, he takes step to keep him from what he really wants. That might work to keep us on a boat but it won’t keep our heart from pursuing sin and crashing on the rocks of reality.

Then there’s Jason (and the Argonauts). When he sails by he does something completely different than the men who jump overboard in pursuit of the siren or Ulysses who ties himself up. “Jason brings with him a harp player whose music is so lovely, even more beautiful than the sirens’ song, that the sirens’ enticement is emptied of its power.” Jason found something more beautiful. He found something that his soul wanted more than sin. He found a better treasure.

Jesus promises that in him is true life, lasting satisfaction, and eternal joy. Don’t trade in a fleeting pleasure and miss out on a far greater one.

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