Your Besetting Sin

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus...." - Hebrews 12:1-2

In the life of every individual, there is a "besetting" sin that can tower like a mountain between the individual and God. This is "the sin which doth so easily beset us", and it differs according to the person. What is a besetting sin to one person may not trouble another at all. Sometimes this sin, or persistently assailing evil, is quite obvious to others, while in other cases it is hidden in the heart and known only to the individual and God. In either case, it is perplexing and harassing, and, if allowed to linger and grow, it may end in tragic moral failure. Practically every believer wrestles with an habitually assaulting sin, even those whose service to Christ is of outstanding quality.

Examples of this are Moses, with his explosive temper, and David, with his weakness for women. These devoted men of God walked humbly and persistently in the will of God, but when they grew weak in faith and weary in their warfare against evil, their besetting sin reared up its ugly head to challenge them. Fortunately, they both knew that the only way to run from God is to run to Him, and when they fell, they cried out for His help. We might say that our besetting sin can either drive us closer to God, if we go to Him for help when we need it, or drive us away from God, if we yield to its desires.

There is a way which, if carefully followed, will bring us complete victory over the besetting, soul-trying sin. The first step in overcoming this evil must be the desire to live a perfect and holy life before God. It may sound strange, but there are those who pray to God for help to overcome the impurity which hotly pursues them, and, at the same time, deep in their hearts they cherish and do not desire to give it up. There is a relief which the conscience can feel, and a pious feeling may come, when one prays for deliverance from sin, even if he does not wholeheartedly desire to be set free. This insincere praying can continue for years. I know a number of people who stay under some evil practice; yet, they offer continually their insincere prayers for deliverance. The trouble is, their real prayer is not the one from their lips, but the one coming from the deepest desire of their heart. They comfort themselves by praying for deliverance, when, in truth, deliverance is not their real desire at all. The prayer they should offer is that God might help them to surrender completely their hearts and take away their secret desire for evil. Reader, if you are in this number of undelivered saints, please believe me when I tell you that you will never be delivered until this step is taken. And if you are not willing to take this step, you may as well stop reading this tract and leave it for someone else.

One's smaller sins are spoken of as "weights". These are little things which do not appear to be dangerous to one's soul; yet, they hinder one's progress in God. One's besetting sin is fed by these smaller errors. If we rid ourselves of them, God will rescue us from the other. The sinner who is convicted of sin is first stripped of his weights, and then is purged by the Holy Ghost from the frightful "sin which doth so easily beset".

Just as the sinner enters the kingdom of God by first laying aside weights, or smaller sins, and then is cleansed from his besetting sin, so the backsliding saint returns to his "vomit." First he grows slack in faith and begins to partake again of the little "no-harms". These smaller sins then produce sustenance for the besetting sin to reappear. The believer may resist and control the "weights" for a while, but once the besetting sin reappears, the believer finds himself in a struggle for his soul again.

Once the backslider returns so far into sin as to partake again of his besetting sin, he is in dangerous territory; that is, he is in the blasphemer's neighborhood. Now, whether he blasphemes or not depends largely upon the circumstances which led him into this foul territory. In each case, final judgment can only belong to God. But this is a perilous predicament in which to be, regardless as to how one arrives there, for only a small percentage of those who have backslidden so far as to wallow again in the mire of their besetting sin ever come back to Christ. Many in this situation have tried, and found that they "cannot cease from sin". Jude, in his letter, described such backslidden brothers as "trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots"(v.12). The Apostle Peter described such persons thus: "These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.... For if after they have escaped the pollutions of this world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is returned to his own vomit again; and the sow is returned to her wallowing in the mire" (2Pet.2:17, 20-22).

I have found few, if any, among the saints of God who have not returned to at least a few of their former, smaller sins, or weights of hindrances. This tract may be read by one who has never erred so much as to partake of his besetting sin, but who, nevertheless, "has sinned and come short of the glory of God", so far as are concerned the "weights" which quietly steal our joy and peace and "choke the word" out of our hearts. How sad it is, however, when one permits the old ways of ungodliness to grow until he is turned over by God to "the sin that so easily besets". We have this sobering counsel from John: "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death. I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not unto death" (1Jn.5:16-17). My friend, the desire to repent from any error is a gift from God. One who feels no conviction for sin, small or great, is abiding already in God's disfavor. David told the truth when he said the man whom God chastens is blessed (Ps.94:12).

I must say here that there is a place in God for all who have His Spirit to live where sin is not practiced at all. This state of holiness is known as consecration, or entire sanctification. Such believers as these are designated by Jesus as "wise virgins", and by Paul as "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing", and by John as "the bride of the Lamb". No, the bride of Christ is not the church as a whole, but only that part of the church which keeps itself pure. "The same", said Jesus, "shall be clothed with white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Rev.3:5).

Jesus, you recall, used the Scriptures to battle the devil during his temptations in the wilderness and on a pinnacle of the temple. I am sure we can find no better weapon today than "it is written". The scriptures, along with praying and fasting, form the first line of defense in holding back that terrible sin which is attacking on all sides of your earthly pilgrimage.

Now suppose, for instance, your besetting sin is a tendency to hate someone, perhaps someone who has wronged you. Reader, if I am talking to you now, are you sure you have reached the place where, by prayer and submission to God, you really desire the complete victory over this evil, which has been the chief cause of your failing God, time and again? Your first step might be to go visit this person and talk things over. But you say, "I can't go." Why? Your besetting sin won't let you. That's it. Do you know that God has thousands in His church in this condition? Yes, He does. And every one of them on his way to hell. You don't want to go with them, do you? If you don't, get on your knees right now and ask God to take this sin out of your heart. Remember, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also" (1Jn.4:20-21).

Well, one might say, "this person whom I hate is not my brother. He is my enemy." Then we shall have to find another scripture. "But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you" (Lk.6:27). Again our Lord condemns this sin of hate by saying, "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Mt.5:46-48). So it is with every major spiritual problem we may face. The scriptures condemn it, then tell us where to go for help to get rid of it. May God help each one of us to overcome with joy the "weights" of little errors and "the sin which doth so easily beset us". "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

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