How These Four Words Could Keep You From Sin Today


The following excerpt from David Powlison’s forthcoming Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken (August 2017) illustrates why he is one of the most helpful, down-to-earth counselors of wisdom for the Christian life:

What one thing about God in Christ speaks directly into today’s trouble?

Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t take in all of truth in one massive Bible transfusion. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just one vital truth in the moment of trial and then seek your God, you’d be different. Bible verses aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption.

When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices.

When you actually remember, you actually change.

In fact, remembering is the first change.

Powlison gives a simple example:

God says many times,

“I am with you.”

Those are his exact words. . . .

What if you are facing a temptation to some immorality?

For starters, nothing is private; no secrets are possible.

“I am with you.”

“I . . . am . . . with . . . you.”

Say it ten different ways.

Say it back to him, the way Psalm 23:4 does:

“You are with me.”

Slow it down.

Speed it up.

Say it out loud.

You’ll probably find that you immediately need to say more:

“You are with me. Help me. Make me know that. Have mercy on me. Don’t forsake me. I need you. Make me understand.”

You will find that the competing, lying, tempting voices become more obvious. They are sly and argumentative. They will try to drown out God’s reality. They will scoff at what God says. They will scoff at you. They will seek to allure you or overpower you to plunge you into a dark parallel universe that has no God.

To the degree that you remember that your Lord is with you and you seek him, then those other voices will sound devious, tawdry, and hostile to your welfare. How did they ever sound so appealing? The contrast, the battle of wills, the conflict between good and evil will be more evident. Your immediate choice—which voice will I listen to?—will become stark.

Remembering what’s true does not chalk up automatic victory. But we do secretive things only when we’re kidding ourselves. Every time you remember that you are out in public, then you live an out-in-public life. “I am with you” means you’re always out in the open.

Even if you sin by high-handed choice, you will still be in broad daylight before God’s searching eyes. He’s still here. You can open your eyes, listen, and turn around in order to find help. He who loves you says, “I am with you” to awaken and encourage you.

What if you face a different struggle today? What if you feel overwhelmed with aloneness and fear, buried under your hurt, abandoned and betrayed by people?

“I am with you.”

“I am with you.”

“I am with you.”

Again, when you really hear that and take it to heart, you know you are not alone. You are safe. Someone’s manipulative and violent lust violated you; the steadfast love of God never betrays you.

Or what if you’re overwhelmed by the grime of past failures? You feel guilty, shameful, unacceptable and ask,

“How could God ever accept me?”

He responds,

“I am with you.”

God is not shocked by the ugliness of your real-time evils. He came to give his life for the “foremost” sinner (as Paul twice calls himself—1 Tim. 1:15-16). Christ truly forgives. Truly.

Whatever your struggle, “I am with you” changes the terrain of battle. You start to see the fork in the road. There is a way of life. Your choices count, and you can choose life. A good road runs uphill toward the light, where previously you only knew to stumble over the edge into the abyss.

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