Pastor's Ponderings - Bulletin Boards
Question: "How can I know if something is a sin?". GotQuestions.org
Answer: There are two issues involved in this question, the things
that the Bible specifically mentions and declares to be sin and those the Bible
does not directly address. Scriptural www.gotquestions.org%2Flist-of-sins.html" target="_blank">lists of various sins include Proverbs 6:16-19, Galatians
5:19-21, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. There can be no doubt that these passages
present the activities as sinful, things God does not approve of. Murder,
adultery, lying, stealing, etc. - there is no doubt the Bible presents such
things as sin. The more difficult issue is in determining what is sinful in
areas that the Bible does not directly address. When the Bible does not cover a
certain subject, we have some general principles in His Word to guide us.
First, when there is no specific scriptural reference, it is good to ask not
whether a certain thing is wrong, but, rather, if it is definitely good. The
Bible says, for example, that we are to "make the most of every opportunity"
(Colossians 4:5). Our few days here on earth are so short and precious in
relation to eternity that we ought never to waste time on selfish things, but
to use it only on "what is helpful for building others up according to their
needs" (Ephesians 4:29).
A good test is to determine whether we can honestly, in good conscience, ask
God to bless and use the particular activity for His own good purposes. "So
whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1
Corinthians 10:31). If there is room for doubt as to whether it pleases
God, then it is best to give it up. "Everything that does not come from faith
is sin" (Romans 14:23). We need to remember that our bodies, as well as
our souls, have been redeemed and belong to God. "Do you not know that your
body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from
God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with
your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This great truth should have a real bearing
on what we do and where we go.
In addition, we must evaluate our actions not only in relation to God, but also
in relation to their effect on our family, our friends, and other people in
general. Even if a particular thing may not hurt us personally, if it harmfully
influences or affects someone else, it is a sin. "It is better not to eat meat
or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall....We
who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please
ourselves" (Romans 14:21; 15:1).
Finally, remember that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and nothing else
can be allowed to take priority over our conformity to His will. No habit or
recreation or ambition can be allowed to have undue control over our lives;
only Christ has that authority. "Everything is permissible for me - but not
everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me - but I will not be
mastered by anything" (1 Corinthians 6:12). "And whatever you do, whether
in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God
the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
Question: "How can I overcome a habitual sin?" Good stuff from a trusted source!
Answer: The first thing to consider in how to overcome habitual sin is
to note the change, or transformation, that takes place when a person is saved.
The Bible describes the natural man as "dead in sin and trespasses" (Ephesians
2:1). As a result of Adam's fall into sin, man is born spiritually dead. In
this state of spiritual death, man is unable and unwilling to follow and obey
God and habitual sin naturally follows. Natural man sees the things of God as
foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14) and is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7).
When a person is saved, a transformation takes place. The apostle Paul refers
to this as the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). From the moment we place
our faith in Christ, we are in the process of sanctification.
The process of sanctification is that by which those who are in Christ are
conformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Sanctification in this life will never be fully complete, which means that
believers will always struggle with remaining sin. Paul describes this battle
with sin in Romans 7:15-25. In that passage he notes that, even though he
desires to do what is good in the eyes of God, he often does what is evil
instead. He does the evil he doesn't want to do and fails to do the good that
he wants to do. In this, he is describing every Christian's struggle with sin.
James says we all sin in many ways (James 3:2). Experience tells us that we
struggle differently with sin, perhaps one sin being more of a tripping point
for one believer than another. For some it might be anger whereas for others it
is gossip or lying. We might refer to a sin that is particularly difficult for
us to overcome as a "besetting" sin or a "habitual" sin. These
besetting sins are often, but not exclusively, habits that we developed during
our lives as unbelievers and require more grace and discipline to overcome.
Part of the process of overcoming these habitual, or besetting, sins is in
recognizing the transformation that has indeed taken place within the believer.
Paul writes, "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God
in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). When Paul says, "Consider yourselves dead
to sin," he is telling us to remember that, in coming to Christ, the power of
sin has been broken in our lives. He uses the metaphor of slavery to make this
point. We were at one time slaves to sin, but now we are slaves to
righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). At the cross the power of sin was broken,
and, in becoming Christians, we are set free from sin's mastery over us.
Therefore, when a Christian sins, it is no longer out of the necessity of his
nature, but because he has willfully submitted himself to sin's dominion
The next part of the process is recognizing our inability to overcome habitual
sin and our need to rely on the power of God's Holy Spirit, who dwells within
us. Back to Romans 7. Paul says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me,
that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the
ability to carry it out" (Romans 7:18). The Christian's struggle against
sin is one in which our ability does not match our desire. That is why we need
the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul later says, "If the Spirit of him who raised
Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead
will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you"
(Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit, through God's Word (John 17:17),
works sanctification in the people of God. Habitual sin is overcome as we
submit ourselves to God and refuse the temptations of the flesh (James 4:7–8).
Another part of the process of overcoming habitual sin is to change the habits that
facilitate it. We have to adopt the attitude of Joseph who, when tempted by
Potiphar's wife to come to bed with her, left the room so quickly that he left
his cloak in her hands (Genesis 39:15). We simply must make every effort to run
from the things that tempt us to sin, including access to food if we are given
to overeating, and access to pornography if we are tempted to sexual sin. Jesus
tells us to cut off our hand or pluck out our eye if they "offend" us
(Matthew 5:29–30). This means removing from our lives the things that
tempt us to sin even when those are things we enjoy. In short, we have to
change the habits that lead to habitual sin.
Finally, we need to immerse ourselves in the truth of the gospel. The gospel is
not only the means by which we are saved, but it is also the means by which we
are sanctified (Romans 16:25). If we think we are saved by grace, but
sanctified by our own efforts, we fall into error (Galatians 3:1–3).
Sanctification is as much a work of God as justification. The promise we have
from Scripture is that He who began a good work in us will complete it on the
last day (Philippians 1:6).
Question: "What do I need to do to hear, 'Well done, good and faithful servant' when I arrive in heaven?"
Answer: In Jesus' www.gotquestions.org%2Fparable-talents.html" target="_blank">parable of the talents, the Lord tells of two faithful
servants who used what they had been given to increase the master's wealth.
When the master returned from a long absence, he rewarded his two faithful
servants and said to each of them, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You
have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21, 23). Every Christian
longs to hear those words from Jesus' lips someday in heaven.
We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we are saved "to do
good works" (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus spoke of laying up treasures in heaven
(Matthew 6:20), and His parable of the talents hints at www.gotquestions.org%2Fheavenly-crowns.html" target="_blank">various rewards for those who faithfully serve Him in
To hear those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant," from Jesus, first
make sure you are saved. The unbelieving will never hear those words, for
"without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). And recognize
that Jesus is not only your Savior; He is also your Lord (see Luke 6:46).
"Serve the LORD with gladness!" (Psalm 100:2, ESV).
Here are some ideas on ways you can www.gotquestions.org%2Fserving-God.html" target="_blank">serve the Lord:
1. Share the www.gotquestions.org%2Fgospel-message.html" target="_blank">gospel. The Lord Jesus desires us to make disciples,
teaching others of the nature and character of God and sharing the meaning of
His death and resurrection (Matthew 28:18-20).
2. Help the disadvantaged. In the story of www.gotquestions.org%2Frich-man-and-Lazarus.html" target="_blank">the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31, the
rich man is condemned because he doesn't help Lazarus and because he trusts in
his wealth too much. Don't put self-gratification before the needs of others.
First John 3:17 says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees a
brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be
in that person?"
3. www.gotquestions.org%2Funforgiveness.html" target="_blank">Forgive others of their offenses. This isn't the same
as reconciliation or trust, but it means you renounce vengeance. The Lord Jesus
modeled forgiveness: "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not
retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself
to [the Father] who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23).
4. View your position of authority as an opportunity to help the people under
you, and view your position of subservience as an opportunity to submit to your
authority, just as Jesus submitted to the Father's authority. Either way, you
can be Christlike, because Jesus was both master and servant to different
people. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law
of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
5. Seek to know the character of God better through www.gotquestions.org%2Fchurch-attendance.html" target="_blank">church fellowship, listening to sermons, studying the
Bible, praying, and chronicling how He seems to have been involved in your
6. Recognize that every advantageous position you're in is because of God, the
Source of every blessing: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming
down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17).
7. Be willing to be unpopular, displaying rare courage like www.gotquestions.org%2Fparable-Good-Samaritan.html" target="_blank">the Good Samaritan in Jesus' parable (Luke 10:30–37).
Do what the Bible says is right, always. "We must obey God rather than men"
(Acts 5:29, ESV).
8. In introspective moral judgment (evaluating your own character), look at the
character of Jesus as a measure rather than rationalize your questionable
actions and attitudes. Show www.gotquestions.org%2FBible-humility.html" target="_blank">humility.
It all comes down to this: love God more than anything, and love others
sincerely (Mark 12:30–31). At the judgment seat of Christ, those who are
faithful to the Lord who saved them will hear those words, "Well done, good and
faithful servant." No true servant of the Lord could ask for more.
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