Abstinence from all worldly lusts is a hard thing to achieve for every believer this day in time, especially in our world of sex, idolatry, covetousness, and other sins, but is it possible or even realistic for the average, everyday Christian to ascertain?
Honestly though, I believe it takes more than just an average, everyday approach to this subject as well.
It can be attained but not with perfection. We are only human, therefore, we can try on our own with all the mere human strength we can summon up within ourselves, but in essence, it is only through the power of God which reaches far beyond what we could ever possibly do that can deliver us from the evil pull, temptation, and bondage of sin.
Do you know why abstinence is so difficult to achieve? It's because there's a wicked devil behind it all, who has his evil cronies working for him within the universe. They all have ranks and levels of evil influence within the world and so they tempt us nonstop! That's kinda my own version and understanding of Ephesians 6:12.
Every Christian is warned in scripture of three of the basic ways in which we sin, found in 1 John 2:16, which says that, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
This truly explains why we, even as Christians, experience a great pull towards evil things, towards temptations which cause us to sin, and can keep us in constant bondage that sin itself has over us, unless we become delivered from it. Abstinence is so difficult to achieve because we are still living in our fleshly bodies, which remains with us until that glad day when we will be caught up in glory to receive our newly redeemed bodies!
What is a sin anyway? Well, Merriam-Webster's definition of sin states that " Sin is an offense against religious or moral law, an often serious short-coming or fault, transgression of the law of God, a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God. In other words, we commit an offense or a fault against God." Sin has been around since the fall of man when Satan tempted Eve, known as "original sin".
Indeed, everyone sins. Here's what the Bible says regarding our sin and how we have transgressed against Him in our sins:
Sure, most believers think abstinence is a good idea to to do and to keep oneself away from these various sins, but sadly, many will not even strain or exert themselves too much into doing away with any particular one of them.
When you become a Christian, you are not only told that you should do away with all sin in your life, but inwardly, you also begin to change your thoughts, your habits, actions, and behaviors as God is molding you and making your more Christ-like.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are past away; behold, all things are become new." You see, abstinence is not just a good idea, or a great thing to do for the Christian believer, it IS the only way to help you to control your physical impulses and to separate yourself from the world, the devil and his evil devices-- even from your own evil heart. Yes, Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us of that too, when he said that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" Indeed, only the Lord knows it!
Abstinence from sin requires that we study, learn, heed, and obey His Word, His commandments, live holy lives, and that we separate ourselves (being sanctified) from the world in all that we think, say, and do in our daily walk with Him. The Scriptures give instructions on how we are to live a pure and holy life before God, and how we are to keep and maintain our vessel for the Lord. Consider these verses as you learn the value of abstinence from all sin in your own life:
---> 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 tells us, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That everyone should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defile his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified."
---> 2 John 1:6 also says, "And this is love, that we walk after His commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it."
---> John 14:15 reminds every Christian, " If ye love Me; keep My commandments."
---> 1 Peter 1:14-16 exhorts us, "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He which hath called you is holy; so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, 'Be ye holy, for I am holy.'"
---> Romans 12:2 also says, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Finally,
---> Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus clearly stated here, when asked, "Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." This also means abstinence on any and everything that is not included here.
That's a tall order, wouldn't you say? Yes, but Christ calls us to draw near to Him, just as He told His disciples to do in Matthew 11:28-30, when He said, " Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
It's very true that once you've developed a consistent negative (or positive) pattern or a bad habit, it's tough to change or overcome on your own efforts, or at least I've found that to be true personally for various bad habits or patterns I've acquired over the years and finding the need to change them.
Take gambling for instance; if you've gone to the casinos on many occasions and possibly have hit a good jackpot, earning a lot of money from it, you'll most likely return over and over again just to see if you can outdo whatever it is you've won before. Or, if you have experienced a loss, you may possibly want to head back to the tables again to recuperate whatever it is you lost, or surpass the amount you lost before.
You can turn any activity into a consistent pattern, habit, or lifestyle which in turn creates an addiction for that thing. This can be applied to that of consistent shopping, overeating, abusing alcohol, drugs, sex, cursing, and so on. These manifestations of the flesh call for action before they are ever started. They require abstinence!
Anything can become a habit if you allow it to. Later on after some time has passed, this creates life problems for you (or whomever is involved), and the sin of idolatry steps in because you end up placing that thing, habit, or situation in front of God, which becomes an idol to you. You see, sin begets more sin. That's just its nature.
This is why God has rules and instructions in His Word for the believer. We must heed the call to abstinence from these types of activities that harm us. If you are a believer and follower of Christ, then you'll sense the guilt and shame from the Holy Spirit inside you, warning and convicting you of these activities as they affect your body, mind, and soul as well as your Christian testimony to others.
He knows how we are and how our bodies and minds work; therefore, He protects and restricts us from partaking in certain sinful acts and behaviors because they damage us inwardly and outwardly.
Here's what it says to us in Psalm 103:13-18, where the Psalmist writes, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He rememereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandment to do them."
The pull that sin may have on you or your loved ones can be a strong one--a binding one, and cannot be overcome on your own. What happens many times, is that we commit one of these (any) acts of sin; we then ask God to forgive us (which He does), but then we keep going back and forth to it over and over again! It's like merry-go-round with God, and He's not happy with it at all! I know, because I've been there too.
It's painful because we want to please God in all things, and to keep ourselves pure and free from evil; however, somehow Satan seems to get the best of us and we fail once again, not getting the victory in our lives. In this regard, abstinence is not easy.
This one is a real stickler: a royal pain and a headache to try to overcome for most Christians. I too must confess that I had a major problem with this sin many years ago as a younger person; but through God's mercy and grace, He delivered me out of this sin and bondage.
Whenever we think of abstinence, our minds usually automatically go to that of sexual immorality or impurity. Why indeed do we think more of this one than other sins?
Sexual immorality can take on the form of many types of sexual sins, such as those of fornication, adultery, beastiality, watching pornography, homosexuality, transgender sex, masturbation, bisexuality, pedophilia (sex with children), necrophilia (sex with a dead corpse), and all other forms of sexual perversion. Idolatry is even considered part of this sin because our focus and primary goal is to please our own bodies--our own lusts; therefore, creating an idol of ourselves.
Also, don't forget what Jesus said in regards to lusting after someone in their heart! Here it reminds us in Matthew 5:27-28, where He said, "Ye have heard that it was said of old time 'Thou shalt not commit adultery': But I say unto you, 'That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committeth adultery already with her in his heart." Here you see that the physical sin is manifested outwardly against the body because of the lustful thought of the act of adultery which proceed beforehand.
Have you ever heard of preachers and the Bible warning us of sexual immorality and running or fleeing from it? Perhaps abstinence from sexual sins seem impossible to attain because it is so easy to lose control where this is concerned. So understanding why we must flee or run from this type of sin is so important to understand.
You see, God created our bodies to procreate when the time comes to do so, and in the right situations (as sexual partners within the marriage bond, of course), and so there is a pull in us, almost as if it were a magnet, towards sensual things; towards sensuality and the sexual act (when manipulated in some form to do so). We virtually cannot stop it on our own many times. Our will is not that strong to control it since it is part of our natural and physical makeup, and so many times we fall into sexual sins because of this.
Sexual sins affect our bodies both inwardly and outwardly. A few passages of scripture will clarify this in saying:
Abstinence can indeed be attained by:
---> Reading, studying, and applying God's Word in your life. When you obey His commands as you avoid sin at all costs, trying not to even put yourself into the position to be tempted of it; it is possible to have victory over every sin.
---> Abstinence is easier when you can hold every thought captive first before dwelling on it for far too long, especially if you know it will lead you to sin. Here's how to do that:
---> Staying away from the bad company and/or the people who influence or persuade you into the sin you want to get away from. Abstinence is attainable when you purify your surroundings and the environment which tempted you, or that drew you into committing those sinful acts in the first place.
---> Praying to the Lord for His guidance and wisdom so that when you are led into temptation to sin by the devil, the Holy Spirit is there with you to keep and guard you from it. Moreover;
---> Attend a bible-believing church or place of worship which will bring you to other bible-believing Christians who can help you to learn and apply biblical truths and principles while living a life of abstinence from those sins which tempt you.
In conclusion, I cannot leave this discussion without reminding you as a believer and follower of Christ, that in your quest for abstinence of all sin, you cannot do this on your own accord or in your frail human will, but only through the name and blood of Jesus, and by His mighty power!
You must leave your stubborn will at the foot of the cross and give your burdens over to the Lord so that He can take them. No doubt, sin is strong and will always be with you as long as you are still living in your physical body. However, God is molding you and changing you more and more everyday so that you will be more like Christ.
Abstinence goes hand-in-hand with putting on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18 gives the instructions, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world; against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit; and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
'Tis true, dear Christian, "abstinence" leads you away from sin; but makes the heart grow fonder, towards God.