Recently I decided to go one month without coffee. Just to make sure I could. I didn’t think it would be hard. I don’t drink a lot of coffee, but I do enjoy it. I have one cup in the morning as I do Bible study—literally one, not a cauldron-sized mug that can fit a gallon of joe. The smell, the taste, the warmth—it’s a wonderful treat. But I indulge in moderation.
During that month, however, I was dumbfounded by how much I thought about coffee. Before dropping off to sleep at night, I would have a pang of regret thinking of the beverage-less study awaiting in the morning. I would pass Coffee Creek Road just a few miles from our house and think, Mmm—that sounds delicious.
I don’t believe coffee is sin, although it could be. But this experience did get me thinking about how powerful sin can be.
In Romans 6:14, the Apostle Paul made this profound statement: “[S]in shall not have dominion over you.”
Sin is an extensive, spreading, multiplying, malignant cancer in our world. It pours out from the mind of Satan, from the minds of others and from our very own thoughts. This insidious, evil power dominates everything, everywhere, every day. And you have the duty and the mission to stand against it. You are called not just to a battle but to a lifelong war against sin. In your mind, you must not only smash the chains of sin, but escape its entire dominion.
If you cut a sin from your life, and yet you still find yourself yearning for it, that sin still has a type of “dominion” over you. You have denied yourself from gratifying that wrong desire. But you still have to fight off that yearning to see, hear, think or do something wrong.
It is to be expected that a longtime habit will take time to die off. But that yearning is a type of dominion. It is something that must be healed in your mind, whether it takes days or years.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof,” verse 12 says.
Herbert W. Armstrong expounded on this issue in the March 1979 Good News: “Listen, my children in the living Christ! Do you really want to smoke—want to have birthday parties—want to go along with this world in its ways? Is that what you really want to do? Do you have to use self-resistance, self-discipline and willpower to prevent going along in this world’s ways?”
I’m sure smoking and birthday parties hold little temptation for longtime members of God’s Church. But there are likely other areas in your life where the world’s ways do hold some appeal. Areas where you have to exercise self-resistance, self-discipline and willpower to keep them in check. And again, there are areas where—as with coffee—a moderate amount in itself is not a sin. But there is a principle worth contemplating here.
Consider Mr. Armstrong’s insights in this article. He challenged us to compare our attitude to God’s attitude.
“Does God really want to sin, but, because He has power of resistance, He uses willpower and does not allow Himself to sin?” he asked. He answered: “Can you realize that sin is absolutely abhorrent to God? God does not want to sin! He has no such desire! He hates sin! He is not tempted to sin!
“God loves and desires righteousness and holiness. That’s what He loves, desires and does!”
This is God’s attitude. How does it compare to yours and mine? The pull we feel from worldly things is actually a measure of the world’s hold on us—and, in a sense, of sin’s dominion over us!
How did Mr. Armstrong follow up after asking if you have to exercise self-discipline to resist sin? He wrote this: “If so, you have not yet been really conquered by the all-loving God! If so, you do not yet have the mind of Christ or His attitude or approach to problems or questions! If so, you’d better begin trembling at the Word of God!” Strong words, those!
God doesn’t want us hungering and thirsting for the world, having to exercise willpower to avoid giving in to those yearnings. He wants us hungering and thirsting for righteousness and holiness! (Matthew 5:6). “You can’t have both attitudes!” Mr. Armstrong concluded. “You have one or the other! Which is it?”
This may seem daunting: It feels hard enough to shake off the shackles of a persistent sin you have been struggling with, let alone to fully conquer the temptation as well. But you have an ally.
Ask God to help you eliminate even the desire for sin. Plead with Him to change your thinking and your desires, to make them just like His own. Strive to become more and more like God, to the point where sin has absolutely no dominion over you! Go to war every day like a resistance fighter who believes in his cause, and God will give you the power to overcome temptation, to conquer sins left and right, and to experience a change in your life that is nothing short of revolutionary.