How are you dealing with sin in your life? Is it even a concern for you? Is it a lessening concern? As I reflect on this I can help but think of John Owen’s wise words, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you”. I have seen people fall into the most dire situations because they were not prepared to kill sin; the necessary plucking and cutting off was to ‘inconvenient’ for them. In God’s grace however, He restrains sin, he provides us with escapes (1 Cor 10:13).
I can’t even imagine what heinous sins I could have fallen into if it were not for God’s restraint in my life [I can’t imagine, and neither can you since, our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful above all things Jer 17:9)]. My concern in this post however is to look at what some different restrains to sin are and what they may tell us about where we are.
Jesus spoke of love for Him as being a restraint from sin, “If you love me you will obey what I command you” (John 14:15), and what more noble restrain on my heart’s sin could there be, then that I love my Saviour too much to sin against Him.
Romans 3:18 touches on another restrain, and that is the ‘fear of God’, in this passage the lack of this quality causes people to sin. This ‘fear’ though is a display of wisdom on our part (Proverbs 9:10).
The above two restrains are good restrains, we see them exemplified by godly people in Scripture (Exodus 1:21 for example). However some other restrains, while they are good and we praise God for them, should concern us when they are restraining our sin more often, and the above less often…
God sometimes restrains our sins by using our own self-love since no one has not loved themselves (Eph 5:29) Possibly God restrains your sin through the fear of physical consequences, this is not really the fear of God it’s just the fear that something may go wrong as a result of the ‘wages of sin’ which is death (Romans 6:23). You have a fear of catching a disease perhaps, or maybe getting physically injured, or losing your home, or certain conveniences. This should be a high alert time for you, if this is restraining your more and more.
Worse though than the fear of physical injury is the fear of society, and by that I mean the expectation of family and friends, “What if they found out about this?” you think to yourself. What I find so scary about this is that it could become a situation where pride actually prevents you from sinning, so in essence, a sin is keeping you from other sins. You don’t care about the smiles and frowns of God, you care more about the smiles and frowns of other people; the only thing that keeps you from rushing headlong into sin is the fear that people may think less of you if you are caught. Government is also graciously used by God to restrain sin at this level (Romans 13:5)
It may be that the final warning bells that go off is when it is not even fear of man that restrains you any longer, but when it is merely that you lack the means to sin. Consider the people ruled by Nimrod in Genesis 11:1-9, if it were not for God confusing their languages they would have continued to commit their sin, thus they were deprived of the means. Or consider the people of Sodom, when they were about to take Lot, and the angel blinded their eyes, it was merely that the means, the ability to perform their sin due to some limiting factor, had been removed. This may take the form of a lack of money, and lack of mobility, a lack of opportunity etc. Dear Friend if this is what restrains your sin most of the time, I should think you have reason to be concerned!
It may well be that the thing that restrains our sin is indicative of our spiritual well-being. Notice how the first two restraints are God-focused (love for God and fear of God), but the latter two mentioned are man-focused (myself and other people). We need to always be fighting sin with the utmost tenacity, but if you have progressed down this slope, at first it was love to God that restrained you, and then fear, then you saw yourself siding into fear of man and love of self, and now you see that the only thing that restrains you from a particular sin is the lack of the means, what do you think will come next? The slope doesn’t end there, if you don’t kill sin conceived in the heart, it will bring forth fruit (James 1). What characterizes more your fight against sin? If you find yourself near the bottom of the slope, seek help from the body of Christ, your elders or an older Christian in your fellowship (James 5:16), but don’t let sin deceive you into thinking you can be a lone ranger and survive this fallen world.
Christ is the answer to all sin problems, Him and His righteousness, speak to someone who will point you to Him.