The Only Two Steps You Need to Overcome Sin

sin-struggleI work with teenagers, which means I get asked a lot of questions.

“How far is too far?”

“South Park isn’t all that bad, is it?”

“Am I old enough to date?”

And the big one:

“How do I stop sinning?”

I’ve been a Christian for almost ten years now.  And from all of my time spent in the bible, all of the thousands of sermons I’ve heard, and the countless books I’ve read, I have managed to condense all of the teaching on the subject of overcoming sin into two simple guidelines.

Want to overcome sin in your life once and for all?

Here’s how.

1.    Stop looking for steps to overcoming sin 

We often think that there is some secret we have not yet learned, some rule that has not yet been given, some work that has not yet been performed, that is the key to unlocking victorious living.  When we look for something new, we take our eyes off of what has already been done.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  That means the work has already been done.  Jesus isn’t going to come back and do something extra to help you.  It isn’t necessary.  Grace is more than sufficient for all of our needs.  Everything we could ever need was paid for on the cross.

Which leads us to step two.

2.    Stop sinning

It might sound too good to be true, but it really is that simple.  Just stop sinning.

Do you remember what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery?

“Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

As far as He was concerned, she was more than capable of ending her sinful lifestyle.  And she didn’t even have the Holy Spirit living within her.  How much more capable should you be?

The fact is, every time you or I sin it’s because we made a conscientious decision to do so.  Sure, the devil may have dangled the carrot in front of us, but you choose to reach for it.  And guess what?  God already told us how to overcome satan:

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

We also need to stop blaming our “sinful nature.”  After all, God said the sinful nature has already been dealt with:

“Know this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6)

That means there isn’t a little guy inside of you forcing you against your will to do a bunch of things you don’t want to do.  We like to think that there is, so that we are able to sidestep any personal responsibility for our actions.  But that little guy inside you who supposed to be pulling all of the strings?  The bible says he was crucified.  That means dead.  Isn’t that a relief?  Your sinful nature has been killed off.

So… you can’t blame the devil… you can’t blame the sinful nature… I guess that just leaves you.

You already have everything you need to overcome sin in your life.  There isn’t some special formula you need to discover to rid yourself of sin once and for all.  There also isn’t something important you need to do.  All you need to do is accept that Christ’s work was sufficient, and choose to live it out.

When we claim that we need something new or something more to overcome sin in our life, our words betray our lack of faith.  Grace is a complete work; there is nothing more to do.  And when we say otherwise, what we are really saying is that we don’t really believe that Jesus was able to free us.  When we make excuses, what we are really saying is that Jesus wasn’t enough.

So there you have it.  The only two steps you will ever need to overcome sin in your life.

  1. Stop looking for steps to overcoming sin
  2. Stop sinning

You already have the power.  You have already been given the authority.  Right now, you have the ability to stop sinning once and for all.  That’s what God said.  Just believe that He meant what He said, and start living it.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

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(My newest book, UNFAIR ADVANTAGE, is now available in paperback or for Kindle!)

The Oscar Speech I’ll Someday Give

Academy-Awards-photo-1-ArkoffThe Academy Awards have come and gone, and Oscar buzz has generally died down, except for John Travolta’s brilliant contribution to YouTube, which has spawned a multitude of parodies.

I’ve been thinking about what it takes to win one of those golden figurines, and coupled with some of my own creative ideas and aspirations, I decided to jot down a few notes on what I would say if I was one day standing on that stage.

Take a look.

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My goodness! Thank you so much! I’m so surprised to be standing up here right now.  I mean, there were so many great films this year… There was Will Ferrell in Anchorman 4: The X-Rated Re-Release. I didn’t see it, but I heard it was disgusting.  And Sean Penn, I’m surprised your movie about how Republicans are the devil even though God doesn’t exist didn’t win.  It seemed like a shoe-in.  After all, this is the Academy Awards.

Thank you everyone so much.  First and foremost, I’d like to thank God for getting me here.  Everything I have in life is a direct result of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Everything I do is to bring glory to the name of Jesus, so this is His award, not mine.  He comes up with the ideas, He tells me what to do; I’m just the errand boy.

And for all of you watching at home, know that anything is possible.  You do not have to compromise your beliefs to do great things.  If you stick with God, you will do mighty things.  It is a guarantee.

I’d also like to thank my beautiful wife.  Cheyne, thank you for always believing in me!  I remember walking through Central Park with you in 2011, and on that fateful morning you convinced me that it was okay for me to follow my dreams.  If it weren’t for your overwhelming confidence in me over the last fifteen years, I’d probably be stuck in a cubicle somewhere, doing something I didn’t care about, and wasting all of the amazing talents God has placed in me.  Thank you for bringing me here.

I’d also like to thank my beautiful boys.  Jack, Paul, George, Ringo, William, Benjamin, and DANNY!  And my girls: Susie, Amanda, Beverly, Kimberly, Juanita, Apple Blossom, and Moon Unit Jr.  Believe in yourselves, but more importantly, believe in your God.  Together, you are destined to change the world.  Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.

Finally, I’d like to thank every single person in this room.  Many of you have tried to use your success, fame, and fortune to make the world a better place.  You’ve taken up humanitarian causes, invested in clean water, education, and medicine for those less fortunate than you (which let’s face it, is basically everyone not in this room).  You’ve taught English to children, built houses, and given your time, wealth, and energy to leaving the world better than how you found it.

And yet, why have you done all of these amazing things?  Surely it’s not out of the goodness of your hearts.  If mankind were inherently good, those sorts of things wouldn’t be necessary or uncommon.  No, we do these good works because we recognize that man is not good.  Look at the terrible things man has done throughout history.  Look at the world we live in today.  In fact, every person in this room will admit that half of our country is working toward evil.  Whether it’s promoting abortion or its counterpart, the so-called “war on women,” we all think that we’re all completely evil.

So we do these good things in an attempt to assuage the darkness we know is within.  And let me tell you.  No amount of good things, no amount of noble deeds, no amount of orphanages or hospitals or houses or schools we build will ever change the fact that we are all inherently sinful.  The only thing that can change that is direct intervention by God alone. 

So stop trying to get to heaven on your own terms.  Stop trying to earn your own salvation.  Stop resisting what you already know to be true.  Ask God to invade your life.  Receive the free gift of salvation.  And let Jesus Christ completely transform you.

Thank you again, and if any of you want to call me a bigot after the show, I’ll be in the lobby.  Thank you!

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Do you think I’ll get that all in before the music starts playing?  Best Animated Short probably doesn’t get that much time to speak.  I supposed I’ll have to aim higher, like for Best Film or somethin’.

Every Biblical Example of God Making Christians Sick

sneezeSince becoming a Christian over nine years ago, I have noticed that the church is in the middle of tremendous conflict.  One camp of Christians says God is the Healer, while the other says God might occasionally make you sick, in order to teach you humility, suffering, dedication, or some other esoteric lesson.

So I have searched the scriptures, hoping to find biblical examples that would prove which side of the aisle God falls on.  And after years of research, I present to you every New Testament example where God made a Christian sick:

1.

So there you have it.  This list includes every time God injured one of His own children.  It’s a fairly short list, so feel free to memorize it.  It may come in handy someday.

[ your turn: God may not make Christians sick, but He sure does like to heal them.  Post your favorite healing story in the comments below! ]

A Biblical Lesson from Disney’s Frozen

Disney's FrozenToward the beginning of the Disney movie Frozen, an unconscious Anna is rushed to Grand Pabbie the Troll King after being accidentally struck in the head by her sister Elsa’s cryokinetic powers.  After his initial inspection, the Troll King says to the King and Queen,

You are lucky it wasn’t her heart.  The heart is not so easily changed, but the head can be persuaded.

As soon as he said that, I immediately thought to myself, “Someone’s gonna get zapped in the heart.”  Sure enough, fifty-seven minutes later someone got it right to the heart.

Now as much as I’d like to attribute this keen foresight to my uber-prophetic abilities concerning all things cinematic, that is not the case.  I simply utilized a dramatic principle called “Chekhov’s Gun.”

This principle basically states that every part of a story must be absolutely necessary and irreplaceable.  Everything that can be eliminated from a story should be.  As Anton Chekhov said, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story.  If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.  If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

I knew someone was getting zapped in the heart because if that weren’t the case, they wouldn’t have wasted precious time writing that line into the story, recording the audio, and animating that scene into the movie.

Chekhov’s Gun is an important tool that is used by authors around the world to more effectively communicate their stories.  A storyteller wouldn’t include something (or someone) in his narrative if it weren’t absolutely necessary to the plot.

And God is the greatest Storyteller of ‘em all.  He is the Originator of Life, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, the Creator of the Universe and Existence itself, and the story He is telling is that of our salvation.  And in this divine narrative that He has been declaring for thousands upon thousands of years, He included you.  He wrote you in, with all of your passions and talents and qualities and quirks.  He considered your role irreplaceable, and determined that no other person on the entire planet could play your part better than you.

It’s no mistake that you’re here.  How on earth could it be?  Of all the different time periods in human history, God destined you to live now.  He created you to be who you are.  And He planned for you to do things that only you can do.

Now’s your time to shine.  A heavenly crowd is waiting on the edge of their seats.  The curtains are about to open.  So get with the Director, learn the part you were born to play, take the stage, and do what you were created to do.  Change the world.

[ Your turn: There are plenty of other examples of Chekhov’s Gun.  Name a few of your favorites… oh, and NO SPOILER ALERTS.” ]