Titus 2:11, 12 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,”
Over 20 years ago Nancy Reagan rather famously responded to a question about what she would say to today’s teenagers to help them stay away from drugs. She said, “Just say no.” Some criticized her, of course, for a simplistic answer to a difficult problem; but actually that’s not a bad start in reference to any sin problem. But you need more than just “no” ; you also need “grows”. Let me offer a few “grows” to help us overcome against the temptations we face as Christians.
Don’t say “yes” the first time. This advice would be primarily for young people who still haven’t said yes to some very dangerous things. Young people, you’re going to face some really alluring temptations in your life: sex, drugs, drink, gambling, and much more. And when Satan throws these temptations your way, he’ll usually also throw in, “Go ahead, just once. What will it hurt?” In a word, “Plenty.” Just once sometimes leads to pregnancy, death by drugs, or someone killed from drunk driving. But even more than this, ask any adult in the congregation (ANY adult), doing something just once is the doorway to doing it again and again. Temptations are far less powerful, if you never say yes the first time and give it the chance to get its claw into you. It is a preemptive strike” and enormous advantage “against sin.
Cultivate good thoughts. Jesus taught us, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19). We are told in Scripture that we need to think differently than the world (Rom. 12:2 & Php. 4:8). Your thought-life is terribly important, if you are really serious about overcoming temptations and difficulties in your life. Our thoughts are the origins of our sins or our righteousness. Feed our minds with goodness, and our words and actions will be good. Feed our minds with greed, lust, contempt, and jealousy, and our words and deeds will result in sin. We can change the “channel” of our thoughts and change the course of our lives.
Cultivate good substitutes. Paul taught, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24). So much sin is a matter of habit that needs to be replaced to be overcome. This takes a little forethought, but it is really effective. Find better words than the coarse ones, when things don’t go so well. Find better ways to spend spare time than ways that are worldly and spiritually harmful. Find better ways to solve problems with spouse or children or neighbors than harsh words, angry tempers, or cold shoulders.
Cultivate good associates. Paul taught, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Because we are social creatures, we are often influenced for good or ill by those that we spend the most time with—family, friends, neighbors. Don’t let them lead you away from God. And by the way, be aware of another influential associate, our TVs. Are they good or bad influences? And this is the very reason why spending time with Christian friends is so crucial!
Lastly, cultivate good motivations. Want a decent “motivations” list for doing right? Staying out of Hell. It’s good for me here and now! Faithful obedience leads to Heaven. Love for the Savior. Thankfulness for all that we have received. Appreciation for the new “clean slate” that we’ve been given. Understanding the seriousness of the covenant that we’ve been given. Or understanding the full impact of what Paul said, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).
Do more than just say “No”, “grow”.