Do You Deny Sinful Tendencies?
“I FIND, then, this law in my case: that when I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.”—Romans 7:21-23.
It took humility for the apostle Paul to admit the above. Yet, by his doing so, he helped to prevent his imperfect tendencies from overcoming him.
It is similar with true Christians today. When we came to an accurate knowledge of Bible truth, we made necessary changes in our life-style, conforming to Jehovah’s standards. Sinful tendencies remain, though, “because the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Genesis 8:21) Are we honest enough to admit to ourselves the specific tendencies that exert pressure on us? Or do we deny that we have them, perhaps concluding, ‘These may be problem areas for others but not for me’?
Such self-deception can be fatal. A Bible-based illustration may help us to appreciate the need to acknowledge our sinful tendencies and to keep them in check.
Why Denial Is Deadly
In Bible times many cities were protected by walls. The gates—frequently made of wood—were a relatively vulnerable part of a city’s inner wall; therefore, they were most vigorously defended. The inhabitants constructed only as many gates as necessary for the traffic during peacetime. Wooden gates were often covered with metal, to resist damage from fire. Towers were built into the walls so that watchmen posted on them could see approaching enemies at a distance.
Now think: What would happen if the inhabitants of a city denied the vulnerability of the city’s gates and so did not provide adequate protection? Enemy soldiers would have easy access to the city, leading to its defeat.
So it is with us. Jehovah knows our individual points of vulnerability. “There is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” (Hebrews 4:13) Satan too may have observed some sinful tendency in us, be it toward distorting the truth, quickness of temper, interest in sexual immorality, materialism, pride, or something else. If we deny that we have sinful tendencies, we make ourselves all the more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks on our faith. (1 Peter 5:8) We may be overcome as wrong desires push beyond mere tendencies and give birth to sin. (James 1:14, 15) We need to be like Paul, honestly acknowledging any ‘gates of wood’ that may exist.
It would be futile to identify wrong leanings but then to do nothing about them. This would be like a man who looks at himself in the mirror, notes areas in need of attention, and walks away without making needed corrections. (James 1:23-25) Yes, we need to take action in protecting ourselves from being overtaken by sinful tendencies. How can we do this?
Often, in Bible times, smaller towns, or “dependent towns,” were unwalled. (Numbers 21:25, 32; Judges 1:27; 1 Chronicles 18:1; Jeremiah 49:2) Inhabitants of these towns could flee to a walled city in the event of enemy attack. Fortified cities thus served as a refuge for the people in the surrounding area.
The Bible describes Jehovah God as a tower, a refuge, a wall to whom we can run for protection. (Proverbs 18:10; Zechariah 2:4, 5) So Jehovah is the prime defense of his servants. Incessant prayer to him is very necessary. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Another aid is the Bible. Using God’s Word, we do well to make a special study of those areas in which we are weak. We may also set aside for repeated examination Bible-based articles that deal with our individual ‘gates of wood.’
Also, like watchmen in a tower, we can see the enemy from a distance, as it were, and act accordingly. How? By avoiding circumstances in which we may face temptation or pressure. For example, a person working toward moderation in drinking alcoholic beverages will wisely choose to avoid places where access to these beverages is common or is even encouraged.
All of this requires effort. However, if the apostle Paul had to ‘pummel his body’ in order to resist imperfect leanings, do we not also need to put forth effort? Such conscious attention to our sinful tendencies will reflect that we are following the apostle Peter’s direction: “Do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.”—1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Peter 3:14.
Acknowledge and Act
Do not become discouraged if, despite your efforts, all your imperfect tendencies do not disappear. As long as we are imperfect, wrong leanings will to some degree always be present, as was true in Paul’s case. But we need to keep working to suppress these, to keep them from giving birth to sin.
Be conscious, however, of the difference between accepting the reality of imperfection and tolerating it. That might be illustrated by a man who has within his chest a weak heart. He should face this reality by attempting to keep his heart in as good a condition as he can hope to. He does not reason that since his literal heart is weak, he may as well cast off all restraint and live however he pleases.
Know, then, that our strength does not lie in blindly denying sinful tendencies but in acknowledging them and taking action against these. So do not be afraid to admit to yourself and to Jehovah areas wherein you are easily tempted and pressured. You need not like yourself less for doing so, nor will Jehovah’s love for you diminish. In fact, as you draw closer to God in earnest concern for his approval, he will draw even closer to you.—James 4:8.
[Picture on page 31]
This model of Megiddo illustrates the fortified gates and protective walls of ancient cities
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.