It seems like every time I turn around a new book is being published or a sermon being preached on, "The Seven Steps to...", or "Four Ways to Overcome...", or "The Three Keys to...". I wish it were that easy. I wish there were some three step formula for solving all my problems, for living a victorious life, or for overcoming certain temptations that plague me. Yet, at the same time, the Bible is full of steps, ways, paths, keys, and rules that we can follow in coming to Christ for salvation and in living in this promised abundant life. For example, when my daughter was in kindergarten she learned the ABC's to salvation. A) "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23). B) "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." (Acts 16:31). C) "Confess your sins and God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:19) What I want to talk to you about this month is something that the Lord has impressed on me to give heed and attention to in my own life in order to have an overcoming, victorious walk and triumph over sin. There are three things imparticular that He showed me. I want to share them with you. I am in no way suggesting that this is all that you have to do though. Even when we discover certain steps and keys from God's Word, we still have to rightly divide the Word, we still have to put the whole Word into practice in our lives, and we can't pick and choose nor neglect any part of it. If you'll remember, Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount with, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." (Matthew 7:24) Which sayings was He talking about? Which ones were we to follow that would make us like wise men built on a rock? All of them; every verse, every command given in the three chapters that it took to record His sermon. All of them applied to our lives will make us wise and give us a sure foundation that will stand when the storms of life come our way and threaten to destroy us.
The first of the three things that the Lord told me to give attention to in my life was, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) The Greek word for study means- diligent, endeavor, to exert oneself, to hasten to do a thing. When you look at this word in Webster's dictionary, it deals with application, applying yourself to something. If I am "diligent", if I "endeavor", if I "apply myself" to doing those things that meet with God's approval, doing those things that please Him, I will live a victorious life over sin. My desire and striving toward having His approval on my life will keep me from sin, because I know it's sin that God disapproves of. If you're busy studying how you can please God, you won't have time to be busy doing things that you shouldn't and engaging in wrong activities and sinful practices. If you are endeavoring to please God, then you will find out through His Word what He approves of and disapproves of and then diligently pursue and apply yourself to whatever it is that you have to do in order to please Him. The bottom line is, I want to please God, I want His approval on my life, I don't want to be ashamed before Him, I want to hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant.", so I am going to give my whole attention to doing those things that will cause Him to be pleased. Joseph is a good example of this. When faced with the temptation to sin with Potiphar's wife, his response was, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9b) What Joseph was saying was, "This does not meet with God's approval, He would be displeased and disapprove, therefore, I will not do it." Joseph was a man who "studied" to show himself approved to God, no matter where he was or what situation he found himself in. He always sought to honor God, give Him the glory, and do what was pleasing in God's sight. Do you want God's approval on your life? Do you want Him to be pleased with what you do? Is it important to you to please Him? Then "studying to show yourself approved to God" is the way this will happen.
As we discuss the subject of "studying to show ourselves approved unto God", there is really more to it. It has a twofold meaning. One, is what we have already talked about- devoting my attention, energies, time, and resources to doing those things that please God rather than self. The second one is a little different. As you look at the word 'approved' in the Greek, it doesn't mean to have God's stamp of favor on you for doing the right thing. It means- tried. It is also used of coins and metals being cast into a furnace and seeing if they are a good (or approved) metal. The Amplified Bible reads- "Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth." (Gives a whole new meaning to it.) So, what does it mean? Unfortunately, life is not a picnic; it has it's ups and downs, it's storms, it's dark periods, it's trials, and tribulations. In the life of a believer there are many times of trials and testing. Look at Joseph again. In Psalms it says of Joseph, "Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him." (Psalms 105:19) Until Joseph saw the fulfillment of the word that the Lord had given him, he was tried and tested. You and I are tried and tested. The Bible says, "That we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22) Since testing and trials are a fact of life for the believer, the question is, "How are you going to handle them?" Are you going to be diligent (study) to handle them in a way that is pleasing to the Lord? Or are you going to murmur, complain, get into unbelief, self pity, and bitterness? When we go through times of testing and we handle them with grace and faith, we are approved of God; He knows that our "metal" is good. This is what makes a "workman who needeth not to be ashamed." Joseph is still a good example of this. He was hated by his brothers, they wanted to kill him but sold him into slavery instead, lived as a slave, tempted by his master's wife, refused her and was falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit, and spent time as an innocent man in prison. Joseph received God's approval, he was not ashamed before God because he handled his situation in a manner that pleased God- with faith. "And Joseph said unto them, 'Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good'." (Genesis 50:19,20)
Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Their metal was certainly tested...in a literal furnace. We have no doubt that these three "studied to show themselves approved to God". How do we know that? Did they bow when the trumpet was blown? No, their love, devotion, and desire to please and serve God kept them from it even though they knew that their own lives were in jeopardy. A person who studies to show himself approved unto God is one who wants to pass every test (no matter how difficult, how intense, or how long) in a way that God would be pleased with and glorified in. This is what these three Hebrews did. They didn't face the furnace with fear; they faced it with faith. They faced it with an attitude of confidence in their God. That's the key. That's what God is looking for in allowing you to go through your 'fiery furnace', "Will you trust Me? Will you hold fast your confidence in Me and My faithfulness no matter what?" When we do this- desire to please God in every situation of life- then we will walk in victory.
The second area that the Lord spoke to me about was, "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes." (Psalms 101:3) If I am going to live a victorious life over sin, then I am going to have to be careful about what I allow myself to see; namely sit and watch. It is important that you don't look at things that will become implanted in your mind. If it gets in your mind and you don't cast it down but entertain it, then it can lead to sin. Why do you think pornography is so deadly? If you watch it, it will leave an impression that is hard to get rid of. Before you know it, because of it, you will begin to engage in practices that are deadly to your soul. Job recognized the importance of being careful about what you look at. This lead to a downfall in David's life. "And it came to pass in an evening tide, that David arose from his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon." (2 Samuel 11:2) Sometimes you'll come upon something unexpected that takes you unaware. This was the case with David. He had no idea when he walked out on his roof that he would see a woman bathing. Sure, there are some things that you have no control over, but then there are some things that you do. David did not have to watch her. He could have turned around and gone back inside. He could have removed this scene from his eyes, but he didn't and as a result, he wound up falling into lust which led to sin- the sin of adultery and murder. One avenue of temptation is through our eyes. The Book of First John talks about the "lust of the eyes". (1 John 2:16) Jesus was tempted through in the area of the eyes also. "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8,9) The devil was telling Jesus that he would give him everything that he "saw" if He would worship him. There is a direct relationship between what you see and sin. Your eyes are the doorway to lust. "And when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin." (James 1:15) Job also understood what part the eyes play in acting out sin. This is why he said, "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?" (Job 31:1) He knew that if you looked, your flesh would begin to want what it saw. What he was sayings is- I'm not going to think about doing anything that I shouldn't with a maiden. I'm not even going to be tempted by it because I'm not going to allow myself to be put in that type of situation because I have made an agreement, or promise, to my eyes not to look at anything that would cause me to sin. If you don't look in sins direction, you won't want it.
The third thing the Lord has dealt with me about is- my hearing. I need to also be careful about what I listen to. Hearing plays a vital role in walking in victory. Think about how important your hearing was to your receiving Christ as Savior. It was through the "foolishness of preaching" (1 Cor. 1:21) that you were saved. The Bible also tells us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing at the Word of God." (Romans 10:17) Just as good things come to our lives through hearing, so do other things, even things that are wrong, harmful, hurtful, sinful, and detrimental to salvation. What was the reason why the children of Israel did not go into the Promised Land? Their unbelief. Why didn't they believe? What caused them to have unbelief? The report of the spies who went into the land of Canaan. All but Joshua and Caleb brought back an evil report. They told the people that the giants in the land were too strong for them and they would be killed. Take time to read the account for yourself (Numbers 13). These men brought a "slander and evil report upon the land." (Numbers 13:36,37) The people listened and believed what they said. They should have guarded their hearing and not listened. They should have listened to what God said instead.
How many times have you been discouraged by something that someone said? How many times have you let what someone else said affect and govern your actions? If you listen to fearful, negative things, you'll become fearful and negative. If you listen to criticism, you'll become critical. If you listen to profanity, before you know it, it will jump right out of your own mouth.
When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha, He sent His angels to deliver Lot and his family from the destruction. Look at Lot a moment during that scene. (Genesis 19) When the angels got to Lot's house several things happened. The men of the city went to Lot's home and demanded that he send out the strangers (angels) so they could have relations with them. Lot offered to send his virgin daughters out instead. When it actually came time to leave, Lot was hesitant, finally the angels had to drag him to safety. They gave the family a warning not to look back. Of course, Lot's wife did and she became a pillar of salt. Once they reached the mountains, Lot got drunk (not once but twice) and each time he was involved in incest with his daughters. What a picture of a man's life! Why did he respond to this whole situation the way he did? Why didn't he handle it in a godly manner? Why did the angels have to drag him out even though he knew he was going to be destroyed? I believe the key is found in 2 Peter 2:7,8- "And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)." It says here that in "seeing and hearing" his soul was vexed day in and day out. Lot watched their ungodly practices. Sodomy, homosexuality, sexual perversions, indecent and immoral acts were all around him. Unnatural practices took place in front of him. He heard their dirty jokes, their blasphemies, their profanities ringing in his ears in the marketplace. After you listen to something, or watch it long enough you get desensitized to it. It no longer has the effect on you that it once did. It has become common place. You stop calling sin, "Sin". You begin to compromise- your standards, your morals, your convictions, and the Word of God. This is dangerous because you can become hardened to the point where you are not repentant over sin any more. With sin in your life, you'll never be victorious but defeated.
I believe if we will give attention to the three things that we have talked about, we will live a victorious life over sin. If my desire is to please God and meet with His approval, then I am not going to sin. If I will not watch those things that will cause me to lust, then lust will not be conceived in my life and will not be able to produce sin. If I guard my hearing by not listening to anything that is negative or evil, but fill my hearing with those things that produce faith, then faith always gets the victory. "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them." (Proverbs 20:12) So, study to let what you hear and what you see please the One who made you.
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