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Sin (of all kinds) is terrible.  Sin hurts other people…and ourselves.  Maybe you’ve been trying to quit in some area but haven’t had much success.  I have advice for you.  Don’t stop sinning…start living better!

Sin starts with a thought.  The thought is called temptation.  Some psychologists have said that tempting thoughts only stay with us for 5-7 minutes at a time.  Avoiding sin would mean not allowing those thoughts to move you toward sinful behavior.

But, have you ever tried to stop thinking about something?  It’s basically impossible.  The more you think about not thinking about something, the more you think about it!  The trick is to replace thoughts in your mind with better thoughts that lead to better actions.

Here are some tips:

1.) Be Prepared – Vision: You don’t have tempting thoughts ALL of the time.  Use time away from the battle to prepare your mind.  Develop a vision for your life without sin.  For instance, if you’re regularly tempted to look at pornography you might think about the relationships you value that would be hurt by that decision, or the ministry opportunities that would be limited by that decision.  Why do you care about those relationships/opportunities?  What do you want them to be like?  Write down those things so you have them with you the next time a tempting thought comes along.

2.) Be Prepared – Ammunition: You’ll also want some ammunition to counter the tempting thoughts when they come.  The Bible is full of the ammunition you need. The key here is to be able to assert your identity as a child of God when you’re tempted to believe otherwise.  My favorite verse for this is Romans 3:21-22, which says that the righteousness of God through Jesus is a gift for all who believe.  I am the righteousness of God…not a sinner!

3.) Go to Battle: Here comes the tempting thought!  This time, rather than trying NOT to think it, bring out your vision and your ammunition.  You’ve got 5-7 mins of material, so put it to work.  Visualize the relational and ministry accomplishments that are in your heart.  Speak out loud and meditate on your Scriptural identity.  This process is actually training your mind.  Before long you won’t just be NOT sinning, you’ll be living for something better!

4.) Drop Shame: Shame is that feeling like something is wrong with you.  Let me set the record straight.  Nothing is wrong with you just because you have tempting thoughts.  The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way.  When you’re being tempted, you’re being like Jesus.  Don’t choose to believe that you have a problem because you keep feeling tempted to sin.  Rather, focus on your righteous identity from tip #2.

5.) Make a call: I’ve got a guy in my life that I can call at any hour.  If I’m losing the tempting thoughts battle, he’s told me to call him up so he can help talk through a better vision and who I really am.  Honestly, sometimes just the thought of calling him is all I need to help me win.  I bet you have a friend like this in your life.  Go ahead and get permission so you know they will be there for you when you need them.

“Throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.  Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.  You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness – righteous, holy and true” Ephesians 4:22-24

Let’s hear from you: What has worked for you to overcome tempting thoughts?