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Christian Counseling: What to Do with Our Sin Nature and Temptations

We all have sinned and possess a nature that desires to do what is wrong and/or what it wants (Rom 3:23; 5:12 and 7: 14-20). It is not the sum of who we are, but it is powerful enough to override what our minds tell us to do and enslave us; that is, until we are freed by having a faith relationship in Jesus and become self-disciplined.

Mostly, it seems we Christians are instructed to avoid all sin and flee all temptation because apart from the work of God we can do nothing to change, modify or control that unruly nature. To be clear, we cannot make right that nature sufficient that we can reconcile with God by our own efforts alone. It is the relationship that heals. But after coming to Him, is there anything He expects us to do about our sin nature? Is fleeing the only proper way to handle temptations?

Sinful behavior can be modified or humanly eliminated, such as those who recover from alcoholism, an angry temper, fits of jealousy, or those who mature in caring less about self and more about the welfare of others, being more patient, kind, generous, and the like. We cannot rightly say people without God can’t change for the better, although that does not result in spiritual forgiveness or reconciliation with God.

More importantly, Scripture supports our lifelong continued involvement with our sin nature and accompanying temptations, despite truths that we should avoid sin, flee temptations, draw close to and depend on God, and reckon ourselves dead to sin. Clearly, there are times to engage in the latter behaviors, but there are times we should struggle with our sin nature and seek self-control (fruit of the Spirit), as well as stand up to and face temptations.

After Jesus’ baptism he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Mat 4:1). He didn’t avoid or flee temptation, but went to it, faced it and overcame it. The human part of Jesus who could be tempted showed the Father He could stand the testing and was ready for the work ahead. As Jesus, God tests us for the purpose of his knowledge and ours to determine things, such as if we are ready to do His work. Success gives us confidence that sin does not reign in us and God is powerful in us. Facing our sin nature and temptations helps us know what we are made of and what areas we need to work on in ourselves.

If we have rendered ourselves dead to sin, we should not fear temptations or sins, but should respect the power and influence of them. If we know ourselves, our vulnerabilities to specific sins and temptations, we do not need to only avoid and flee them. Facing them with self-knowledge, conditions and with the support of others helps us to realize the power of God, grow ourselves, and render impotent the force of desire within our sin nature, which is how self-control is learned. You can’t learn self-control by avoiding. Self-control over food, for example, is not about making sure there are no “goodies” in the house, but that in their presence you have the freedom and power to say “No!”

This approach frees us for the “great commission” to “go into all the world” and face sinners on their own turf without worry about whether or not we are going to fall. That’s what Jesus did; went to where drunkards, prostitutes and tax collectors hung out. He went to where temptations breathe and invite the weak and undisciplined to give way. Avoiding those people, places and temptations is not the leading of the Spirit, unless those who know themselves well enough believe they would fall, in which case they are not ready to go into all the world, yet.

Do you really know your sin nature? Are you confident in the Spirit within you and yourself to have sufficient self-control to face and overcome temptations?

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