Intermediate Edition

II. Avoiding Sin and Being Holy


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Chapter 37  Part II

Avoiding Sin and Being Holy

The Bible does not merely tell us not to sin. It also helps us not to do so by giving sound instructions and alternatives to sin. In conjunction with this, the Bible calls us to be holy – i.e. to live pure lives, set apart from all that is ungodly.

Avoiding Sin

See also:

Take care in avoiding sin

[Paul, to believers:] Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall.   1 Corinthians 10:12 CEV

Ask God for help to avoid sin . . .

[David, to God:] Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me. Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion.   Psalms 19:13 NET

. . . For God and Jesus Christ are willing and able to help us withstand temptation

[Paul, to believers:] No temptation has overtaken you that is unusual for human beings. But God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. Instead, along with the temptation he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to endure it.   1 Corinthians 10:13 ISV

For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one [Christ] who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 16Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.   Hebrews 4:15-16 NET

Use God’s word to avoid sin

[A psalmist, to God:] How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your instructions! … 11In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.   Psalms 119:9, 11 NET

Avoid sinful desires

[Peter, to believers:] Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and exiles to keep on abstaining from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.   1 Peter 2:11 ISV

Get rid of sinful influences

[Jesus, speaking figuratively:] If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into fiery hell.   Matthew 18:8-9 NET

These instructions are not meant to be taken literally. They are hyperbole, emphasizing that one should do whatever is needed to get rid of sinful influences and avoid sin.

Hate evil and sin

[Wisdom personified:] To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and twisted speech.   Proverbs 8:13 GW

Alternatives to Sin

Instead of living by the sinful nature, live by the Holy Spirit

[Paul, to believers:] He [God] condemned sin in the flesh 4so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.   Romans 8:3b-5 ISV

Our human nature (“the flesh”) is essentially sinful. But God has given his Holy Spirit to believers. As such, we are to live by God’s Holy Spirit. This involves: being both alert to and responsive to the Spirit’s promptings; and being reliant on his power, to enable and transform us. In conjunction with this, our minds should be focused on “things of the Spirit” (v. 5).

Instead of living as a slave to sin, live as a slave to righteousness and God

[Paul, to believers:] Just as you once offered the parts of your body as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater disobedience, so now, in the same way, you must offer the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness that leads to sanctification.22But now that you have been freed from sin and have become God’s slaves, the benefit you reap is sanctification, and the result is eternal life.   Romans 6:19b, 22 ISV

One of the most effective preventative measures against sinning is to be preoccupied with doing good – as is the case when one lives as a slave to righteousness and God.

Be Holy

To be holy involves being separated from corruptive influences and totally dedicated to God. As such it includes moral purity and obedience to God. The ongoing process of becoming increasingly holy is largely facilitated by God, but in accordance believers are called upon to be holy. (See also the introductory comment on God Makes His People Holy.)

Be holy as God is holy

[Peter, to believers:] As obedient children, do not be shaped by the desires that you once had in your ignorance. 15Instead, just as the one who called you is holy, be holy in every aspect of your life. 16For it is written, “You must be holy, because I am holy.”   1 Peter 1:14-16 ISV

If we are to be God’s people, acceptable to him, we need to be holy because: God is holy and so does not accept anything that is not holy. Therefore we should aspire to be holy, like God.

Be set apart for God

[God, to the Israelites:] Therefore separate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.   Leviticus 20:7 ISV

The lambs were eaten by the Israelites who had returned from exile and by all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of the non-Jews in the land to worship the Lord God of Israel.   Ezra 6:21 GW

Do not conform to this world

Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.   Romans 12:2 NET

In the NT the “world” often refers to the system of values, attitudes and behavior commonplace in society – along with the people and social structures that conform to this system. This system is largely antagonistic towards or dismissive of God. As such, the “world” is essentially evil, and so it is imperative that believers do not conform to it.

Do not live as other people do

[Paul, to believers:] So I tell you and encourage you in the Lord’s name not to live any longer like other people in the world. Their minds are set on worthless things.   Ephesians 4:17 GW

Avoid bad company

[David:] I do not keep company with worthless people; I have nothing to do with hypocrites. 5I hate the company of the evil and avoid the wicked.   Psalms 26:4-5 GNT

Pray for persecuted Christians