Chapter 2 – Separated by Sin
I have met a large number of men in recent years through my association with a rescue mission who have been struggling with addiction. It has been my experience that the majority of them have little problem confessing that they have a problem with evil desires that reside within them. Most will also freely confess that they have tried many times unsuccessfully to overcome their addiction. I believe that men who have been held captive by cravings for alcohol and drugs are quicker to recognize and acknowledge their captivity to sin than those who have never struggled with these issues.
It is more difficult to bring men who are not enslaved by some sin that society finds abhorrent to admit that they too have a sin problem. Yet all men suffer from the same problem. We are all the offspring of Adam. We are all born in the condition where no good thing dwells in our flesh. As mentioned earlier, some men simply channel their selfish desires and fleshly appetites into some form that society does not condemn. Many give themselves to the pursuit of material gain, or to a pursuit of entertainment and a life of ease and pleasure. In God’s sight all of these things constitute sin.
Some men also have become ensnared to addictions that are more easily hidden from society than alcoholism and drug addiction. A vast number of men are enslaved to an appetite for sexual stimulation. This is an area that was once a source of great shame and frustration in my own life.
As a young boy around the age of thirteen I had my first encounter with pornography. I had gone over to a friend’s house. This friend had older brothers, and he took me into a room in the house that his brothers used to hang out. On the walls were pictures of naked women taken from the pages of some pornographic magazine. My flesh was immediately enticed. I did not ask for these desires to be present within me. They were simply there.
Having once experienced the physical stimulation of viewing such pictures, my body and mind desired to repeat the experience. I knew that doing so was sin, for I had for many years been raised in church, and I had a sincere conversion experience when I was ten years old, followed by the act of baptism in the church my family attended.
Becoming a Christian, however, does not mean that the sinful desires of the flesh go away. These appetites will be present with us for as long as we inhabit these bodies of flesh, but we can come to a place where they no longer rule over us. We can enter into a place of victory over the flesh, its passions and desires.
As a young man growing up in the church there were many things that the ministers and teachers of the church failed to teach me. I believe this was largely due to their own lack of understanding of the dynamics of spiritual warfare, and the absence of a clear conception of the process of ruling over the flesh. I heard many things that were contradictory and confusing.
Some ministers proclaim the false message that when a person becomes a Christian they will no longer sin, or even desire to do so. They usually build such a doctrine upon one or two isolated Scriptures pulled out of their proper context, and entirely misunderstood. Following is one such verse.
I John 3:9
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
This seems like a very cut and dried statement. Some ministers use this verse to tell their congregation that if they are sinning it is proof that they have not been born of God and are therefore not members of the body of Christ. A perusal of Scripture will reveal that this is simply not true. Men and women do not cease struggling with sinful desires when they are born again of the Spirit of Christ. Nor do they always walk in victory over sin. The apostle Paul in writing to the churches spoke much on the need to rule over the sin within our being. He even testified the following regarding himself.
I Corinthians 9:27
I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
No, the desire to sin, and the passions and appetites of the flesh, do not go away when a person comes to Christ. They must still be faced, but God has given us a way through Christ to walk victoriously over these things. In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul gives us this further insight into our struggle.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another…
It is obvious from these words that becoming a Christian does not bring an end to our struggle with evil desires that reside in our flesh. But it does provide all that is necessary to begin walking victoriously over these evil appetites. Failing to overcome the desires of the flesh does not imply that a person is not a Christian. It simply reveals that they have not yet become spiritually mature. They are still fleshly in some area, or areas, of their life.
There was a city called Corinth that was a part of the Roman Empire in the days of the early church. The apostles Paul and Apollos both preached there. A large number of the citizens of this city came to faith in Christ, and experienced spiritual birth. This was a very wicked city, filled with idols and sensuality. The pagan temples employed prostitutes to engage in sexual activity with the devotees of the various gods and goddesses.
The apostle Paul had to strongly rebuke the members of this church because they had been united to Christ, but had not separated themselves from the lusts and desires of the flesh. Some Christians were still going to these pagan temples and having sexual relations with prostitutes. The apostle admonished them in the following way.
I Corinthians 6:15-20
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, “The two will become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
That Paul is speaking to Christians who have been born again of the Spirit of Christ is apparent from the words here. Paul declares that he is speaking to members of the body of Christ. He is speaking to those who are temples of the Holy Spirit. Only those who are Christians can be described in this way. Yet these Christians were sinning. That a person is troubled by some besetting sin, or has fallen into some addictive behavior, is not evidence then that they are lost, and separated from the life of Christ. Many people are lost, and acting sinfully is something they cannot avoid. But there are those in the church who are what Paul describes as “carnal Christians.” The word carnal means fleshly.
I Corinthians 3:1-3
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
When Paul asks them whether they are not acting “like mere men,” he is speaking of them acting as if they have never been born of the Spirit of God, but are still Adamic men, no different than those who are foreigners to the life of Christ. It is possible for a Christian to walk in sin, but it is not the will of God that they do so. Yahweh has made every provision for His children to overcome every desire and passion of the flesh.
I was not presented these truths as a young man growing up in the church. When I found within myself a desire to view pornography, and entertain lustful fantasies, I became troubled with thoughts that I might not be a Christian. These thoughts tormented me for many years. Many nights I would lay awake wondering whether I would be cast into hell and separated forever from the presence of God. I had been told that Christians don’t sin, and I knew I was sinning.
I know now that God allowed me to experience these torments that I might press in to know the truth of the matter, and that I might be able to instruct others regarding the truth. I am therefore glad that Yahweh did not spare me these experiences.
There have been a few occasions when men at the rescue mission have suggested that I was not qualified to address their problems with alcohol and drugs, since these things have never been an issue in my life. I have never been drunk, nor have I ever taken illegal drugs. I have, however, struggled with addictive desires in many areas. Sexual lust, covetousness, and an appetite for foods that are unhealthy have all been areas in which I have found myself tempted and failing time and again. Yet God has shown me that victory is possible in every area, and I am now walking as an overcomer in these things.
Sexual lust was perhaps one of the strongest and most shameful of the addictive desires that plagued me. From the time of my first exposure to pornography, I found the desire would not go away, and instead grew to become an obsessive thing. When I was sixteen years old I took my first job, working at a small, family owned grocery store. At the store there was a magazine rack where several different pornographic magazines were sold.
At the age of sixteen I could not purchase pornography, nor would I have openly done so. I had been raised in the church, and I knew that this constituted a great sin. I therefore began taking magazines off of the rack and sneaking them out behind the store to view them. Later I began stashing the magazines out back, and I would return after work and retrieve them and take them home where I would hide them in my room.
Such behavior is identical to that of many men and women who become addicted to illegal drugs. They are ashamed of their habit when in the presence of family, or others who do not participate in such things. They will also resort to stealing to provide that which their flesh desires. Their life becomes one of subterfuge and deception, and worries of being found out, and brought to open shame often trouble their minds, even as it did my own.
Viewing pornography was a love/hate experience for me. My flesh craved it, yet the immediate aftereffect was a feeling of guilt and shame, and a knowledge that my sin had brought a separation between myself and God. This separation from God is what troubled me the most. I felt like I could not pray to God after having viewed pornography, and usually I waited until the next morning to confess my sin and ask God to forgive me.
This experience of separation from God is normal for those who engage in sin. The first occasion of sin, that of Adam and Eve in the Garden, reveals the effect it has upon mankind. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned we read the following.
They heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. Then Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
Our sin causes us to feel exposed and naked before God. We know that He sees all things, and He is aware of what we have been doing. Our natural reaction is to run away from that which exposes our failings. Fear becomes a part of our life, and we lack the confidence to enter into the presence of God. Sin and the concept of separation from God are inextricably woven together. Sin always brings a break in the fellowship that Yahweh desires to have with mankind. This separation produces other harmful consequences.
If we return to the record of man’s first sin, and we begin to see that which is revealed in the parables contained therein, we can discern more about sin and its relationship to separation from God. The words of the serpent as he enticed the woman are filled with insights of profound importance.
The serpent said to the woman… “God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
There is truth mixed in with the words of the deceiver. The most deceptive lies always contain an element of truth. The serpent was speaking truth when he said that eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would grant Eve the ability to be “like God” in a way she had not formerly known. This area was in the ability to know good and evil for herself, apart from hearing from God.
Of all the creatures that Yahweh created, including the angels and mankind, He did not grant to any the authority to know good and evil, right and wrong, apart from Him. In order to know what was good and evil, all creatures had to hear from God. Only God had the authority to determine what was good and evil. For the creation to continue in harmony, and endless life, it needed only to abide in God, receiving the knowledge of God’s will, and walking in obedience to it.
Life for the first man and woman was very simple. They had been created for God’s pleasure, and their highest fulfillment and happiness would be in accomplishing that for which they were created. God spoke to the man and woman and told them what was good, and what was evil. He told them that it was good for them to be fruitful and multiply. It was good for them to tend the garden that He had placed them in. It was good for them to rule over the beasts. It was evil for them to eat of the fruit that was forbidden.
Although mankind had not received the Spirit of Christ to indwell their being at that time, they were walking in the initial stages of what God desired for them. He has always desired that mankind should receive the knowledge of good and evil, the direction for their actions, and even the very words they are to speak, from Him. Receiving the knowledge of good and evil from God keeps man ever dependent upon God, and ever abiding in Him. We dare not lose our connection to Him if we are to do that which is pleasing to Him in all circumstances.
Satan offered to the woman the ability to know good and evil apart from communication with God. He told her that if she ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, she would become like God and be able to know good and evil herself.
When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of this tree, they gained the ability to look inside of themselves and determine good and evil, right and wrong. They truly became “like God” in having this ability. However, it was not an ability God wanted mankind to possess. The inevitable consequence of mankind looking inside of themselves to discern good and evil is that they would no longer look to Him for this knowledge. They would become separated from God.
As soon as the man and woman ate of this fruit, separation occurred. They had embarked on a path where they would begin to determine what was right and wrong by their own innate ability gained through an act of disobedience. Rather than seeking the face of God every time they were faced with a decision, or desired to know what they should be doing, they looked inside of themselves and found the answer. (This subject is discussed in greater depth in the book SABBATH.)
God planned from before the foundation of the earth that man should become complete and mature as He placed His Spirit within man’s body. Man was destined to be a temple, and a dwelling place for the Spirit of God. Yahshua spoke of this desire of God in the following words.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.
God formerly sent His Spirit to abide WITH mankind. This was the experience of Abraham, of Moses, of the prophets and priests of the Old Covenant. God had envisioned a day when man would enter into a fuller communion with Himself. It was never His desire for mankind to walk independently of Him. Yet, He allowed the man and woman to choose this course, and in doing so He has allowed mankind to understand the great folly and tragedy of becoming separated from their Creator.
This separation always leads to a loss of light and life. This separation always ends in darkness and death. Why is this so? It is because all light of the truth, and all life is found in God. The apostle John spoke of the Son of God in this way:
John 1:4, 9
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men… There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
Yahshua confessed the following:
“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
All light and life are in God, for light and life are His very nature.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Sin is a turning away from God to do our own will. We often find ourselves sinning when some desire of the flesh makes its will known, and we set our entire being to accomplish this desire. When a desire is contrary to Yahweh’s will for us, then inevitably we must turn away from Him. In turning away from the source of light and life, we find that darkness and death become our portion.
Understanding the nature of sin, and of man’s plight in this way, we can begin to make some application to the problem of overcoming addictive desires. The world’s solutions only treat the symptoms of addiction. They never get to the root of the problem, and therefore they offer no real cure. The only real answer to the problem of addictive behavior is to restore light and life to our beings. Since all light and life are found in God, the solution to addictive behavior by necessity mandates that we be restored to God. When the life of God becomes resident in our being once more, we are able to put the desires of the flesh to death, and to walk according to the will of the Father.