It is always fascinating for me to be with someone who has had a recent life threatening experience. Sometimes it may be an accident, but most often it's someone who has had a heart attack or by-pass surgery or some other terribly frightening moment in life.
There's always some evidence of God's providence involved in their story.
My observation is that all heart attack victims who live to tell the story are alike.
First of all, they are knowledgeable.
They know exactly what led up to their heart attack. They know all about the factors that contribute to a heart attack, all about the risks involved, all about what it takes to avoid another heart attack.
Secondly, they are changed.
They are committed to people like they have never been before. Family and friends take on a new dimension. Knowing God becomes the highest priority ever. Children become the most important people in the world.
Thirdly, they are committed.
They are committed to never having another heart attack. Things they never paid attention to before like diet and exercise and stress relief now become the center piece of their lives.
They become evangelists for PREVENTIVE MEDICINE.
And well they should!
But what about spiritual heart attacks?
What about the devastation of sin in our lives, the attitudes and actions of the soul that often lead to the destruction of the body?
If the threat of physical death brings us to a commitment to preventive medicine, why doesn't the threat of spiritual loss bring us to PREVENTIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS?
By preventive righteousness I mean the knowledge and practice of trusting God to avoid sin in our lives.
Sin is so devastating in our lives that we must take the same kind of radical steps to prevent it as we take to prevent physical trauma.
We are learning this from Abraham as we see his marriage to Sarah and the impact sin had on it.
Our aim is to learn from Abraham and Sarah so we don't have to make the mistakes they made. We are seeing this from Abraham's sin in Genesis 12:10.
One of the things we are learning is what to do when we come back from sin to God.
What do we do when we have sinned and now need to find our way back to God?
There are three R's that give us the answer, and we have looked at two of them in the last few weeks.
First, we must return to where we last left God when we went off on our own (Genesis 13:1-4). Second, we must remember our past sin will impact our present life. Abraham helped Lot get rich, and now their men were fighting over the grazing areas needed to feed their herds.
This is going to lead to deep pain for both Lot and Abraham, all of which could have been preventable had he never gone to Egypt.
This is what leads me to the practices of preventive righteousness.
We begin with an action we must take and make the focus of our lives as long as we live.
Act to Prevent Sin from
Controlling Your Life.
To help you understand how you can make progress toward doing this, I want to give you one core principle. From this we move to four insights we must have and six decisions we must make. That's enough to keep you busy for a while!
You Must Know What God Has Done
Before You Can Do What God Wants Done
I want to give you some insights into how to prevent sin from gaining mastery over you.
SIN IS NO LONGER YOUR KING AND MASTER.
By God's grace, you have been identified with Christ on His cross and delivered from the reign of sin as your king and master. Now you have a choice, although it seems so overwhelming because you seem so powerless. Think according to this reality.
SIN BEGINS AS A THOUGHT IN THE HEAD.
Sin never comes forth as a fully developed baby. There is a gestation period for sin, even as there is for a baby. If the thought is never entertained, the baby will never be conceived. Therefore, pay attention to the way you think. All of us think in ways that give sin mastery over us and don't even know it. We think anger thoughts or pride thoughts or fear thoughts or any of a number of other kinds of thoughts without even knowing it.
Pay attention to the thoughts you think.
SIN MOVES TO THE HEART AS A DESIRE.
Once sin settles in the mind, it moves as rapidly as it can to the heart as a desire. It moves from dream to desire, to longing, to something I must do or I must have. All of my values are being pushed aside in such a situation, and I am being hurried along by a current of lust. Thus, if sin breaks loose from my mind, I must pay attention to my feelings. When sin breaks loose from my mind it is like a blood clot breaking loose from my leg and moving to my heart. I am headed for a heart attack unless I do something about it.
SIN EXPRESSES ITSELF THROUGH MY HANDS AS AN ACT.
If I do not stop it, once sin moves to my heart it is only a matter of time before it acts through my hands.
How do we prevent this?
Here are some decisions I have made. There are many better approaches, I'm sure, but this has helped me.
I present them to you in a series of decisions we need to make.
REALIZE I CAN SIN.
I can sin and I can sin in some very serious ways.
NOTE THE SINS YOU ARE MOST PRONE TO COMMIT.
What are you most likely to do? What are your strongest driving desires?
Each of these drives takes on a particular sin form, and you must note what form such desires take when you act on them in your life.
DETERMINE THAT YOU WILL NOT COMMIT THESE SINS.
Erect an altar and proclaim the name of the Lord. Make a private commitment to God and some kind of an accountable commitment to your mate or some other trusted friends who share the same values you have.
DEVELOP DISCIPLINES TO RESIST SIN.
The vital disciplines are prayer and the Word + accountability with others who know and love you.
REMEMBER SIN IS MORE THAN SKIN DEEP.
Too often we think of sin as behavior. Behavior is surface.
Sin is soul.
It is not enough to deal only with behavior. We must recognize the root of sin. Behavior is fruit: sins. Sin is root: energy, force, power. We sin because something is more important to us than God.
We sin because something is more satisfying for us than God. We sin because something is more powerful in us than God.
I WILL NOT FIGHT THE SIN BATTLE ALONE.
I will rely on the Holy Spirit. I will involve others with me in the battle with sin. In a recent time of discussion with Christian leaders who have fallen, one after another fallen leaders told me that the two key realities of their lives were that they had failed in pursuing daily time with God and they were never in any true form of accountability.
Let's do this.
Let's, every time we do something to practice preventive medicine, also do something to practice preventive righteousness. For example, every time we eat something low fat, let's take a few minutes just to worship the Lord in prayer or praise. Not necessarily in the same moment nor even overtly. Perhaps on the way back to the office or walking down the hall or brushing our teeth just to think words of praise and thanksgiving and dependence. Or every time we jog or workout, take some time to cleanse our souls be confessing sin and thanking God for His patience with us. Or let's get rid of stress by giving our fears or our concerns or our angers to the Lord.
Not only might we live longer; we'll certainly live better!