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I would also add that even as Christians we still have sinful motives, and so we need to check our desires by the word of God. If it goes against one of God's commands then it can't be from God.
We need to examine our motives. As a sinful being, we need to be true to the Word of God. We need to ask ourselves, does it serve the flesh, is it the lust of the eyes, does it glorify God? If we truly want God's perfect will for our lives, we have to dig deep down in our being to know if this is part of our destiny. Many times we trip ourselves because we do not regard the steps we need to take to check our spirits. Instead we just go impulsively ahead without regard for the consequences. This is where we mess up. We should really be prepared to answer the question at every turn, what would Jesus do? By having this mind set up, we are always plugged in to the Holy Spirit that will guide you to the truth and the straight and narrow.
John 15:7 is the best answer I know. Jesus tells His followers (His disciples) that we receive what we desire when we abide in Him. The key is "abiding in Him." Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. John 1:1 - John 1:14 When we follow His Word, we "abide in Him." We also want to ask in faith and not doubt. James 1:5 - James 1:8 If what you desire doesn't line up with the Word of God, it is not a desire from Him. You will not receive whatever you desire. Believe me, you wouldn't want to. You must ask trusting, believing, in faith, and according to His Word.
1. Compare your thoughts to the Scripture. If it is against the Scripture, it is either coming from the flesh, or from evil spirits. 2. How to tell where a bad thought is coming from? Ask God to guide you. He promised to give you wisdom: "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upgraideth not." He will show you.
The Psalmist prayed A prayer in Psalm 119 : Order my steps oh Lord according to your word and let no iniquity overcome me. I believe every Christian should say this prayer all the time because of the myriad of temptations we are confronted with everyday. But more importantly, searching out the Word on daily basis will help us know the heart of God and be dead to the flesh.
This is very simple. A sin occurs only if we act against what God has ordered us not to do. Those orders came in the form of 10 commandments and other laws given to the Jewish people through Moses (Exodus 20:1-17) and other prophets. If we act against the law of the land then we commit an illegal act but it is not a sin unless that illegal act also happens to violate God's laws. For example, homosexuality used to be a sin as well as an illegal act because most Western laws used to be derived from God's laws, the Bible. Today it is not only not an illegal act but encouraged as a desirable human behavioural act in the eyes of society. However it is still a sin because humans cannot change God's laws however much they want to try. That is why the current efforts by some churches to make homosexual behaviour as normal and acceptable under the banner of 'God loves sinners' is a total confusion of the issue sin. It is true God loves sinners because they are His creation but He that does not mean he accept our 'sin'. The churches have confused this issue because they have substituted society and legal values with God's laws when passing this ruling. So the simple guidance criteria is that in order to know whether we are committing a sin or not by our actions simply look at what God has asked us to do or not to do. It does not end there. When Jesus arrived on earth He saw how the Pharisees, Scribes and Priests were exploiting the God's people by pretending to act according to His commandments but not true to His intentions. That is why Jesus clarified the 'sin' status even further by bringing in the 'desires' element. In the Beatitudes Jesus gave examples as to how we can commit a sin simply by desiring to do an act even if we have not committed the act. He told us "You have heard that it is said 'Do not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28)". In this way He addresses the very thought that lead us to commit the acts. So simply, if we even desire an evil thought then we have committed a 'sin'. As you can see it is very difficult to keep away from sins by our efforts. That is why we cannot save ourselves without His grace. Yes God loves the sinners but not the sins they commit.
Paul says there are two distinct persons to us, in us. A sinful nature and our other nature from being reborn as a sinless Christian. He explains this at length in Romans 7:14-25 (NASB). Our fleshly nature (the old sinful man/woman) is as Michael describes above and our 'new man/woman' who only wants the things of our Lord. We have Jesus' Spirit living in/with us since we became Christians and the Spirit will guide us in righteousness and warn us when we are tempted to go astray. Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians 10:13, 'No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.' (again the NASB). We have the power of God Himself to protect us and His gift of a way to resist temptation and walk away. Doing this we feed our Godly nature as reborn Christians and defeat our fleshly, sinful nature. The Spirit will tell us whether our desires are from God so we don't have to waste time pondering whether a thought comes from our Lord or if we are being tempted by Satan. We have more than enough help when we put on the full armor of God and become imitators of Jesus,the only man who led a sinless life. Read Ephesians 6:10-20 to learn all about His armor. I will provide it here but its fun to follow up on Scripture to see if a concept or idea is written more than once. ' Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.', (NIV). In Christ Jesus, Michael
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