How to guard against falling into sin

By Greg Laurie

Have you ever felt as though you’ve let God down or that you’ve failed God? Maybe you’ve fallen away from him and think he never can forgive you.

The Bible tells us about one of the most infamous failures in history. It was, in fact, a failure in the life of a follower of Jesus. It’s a story of both failure and forgiveness. It’s a story of how God restored a man named Simon Peter who had fallen short.

When Jesus chose Simon Peter to be his disciple, he knew that he would fail. He even knew that when he gave Simon a new name, Peter, which means “rock,” that Simon would spend quite awhile growing into that name.

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Simon was impetuous. He was impulsive and hotheaded. So, to call him a rock, which speaks of stability, would seem like a joke. But in time he became a rock.

In the same way, when Jesus looks at us, he sees us for what we can become, not just what we are. We look at ourselves and see our flaws, inconsistencies and shortcomings, but God looks at us and sees raw potential. He sees what he can make us into.

In the same way, the other disciples simply saw an impulsive man. But Jesus saw a rock.

Simon didn’t always behave like a rock, and the steps that led to his downfall should serve as a warning to even the most mature believers. Peter had walked with the Lord intimately for three-plus years, under the personal direction and instruction of Jesus himself. No one could have been closer to Jesus than Peter was. Yet he failed miserably.

Sometimes we think we can reach a spiritual plateau where we won’t be vulnerable to falling anymore. But that simply isn’t true.

The apostle Paul, after years of walking with the Lord, said, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12 NKJV). He was saying that he had so far to go.

When I was a young Christian and talked with someone who had known the Lord for 15 years, I thought, “15 years! What are you like when you’ve known the Lord for 15 years? You must be like a saint, just a walking Bible. Imagine 15 years!”

Well, I’ve been a Christian for much longer than 15 years, and I can tell you that the more I grow, the more I realize how far I really have to go.

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Some people claim that it’s possible to reach a state of sinless perfection. I’d like to spend an afternoon with them on the freeways of Southern California and see how sinlessly perfect they are.

I’ve known people who have walked with the Lord for a while, and I’ve seen them fall to the most blatant, obvious sins. They lowered their guard and thought it wouldn’t happen to them.

We need to pay careful attention, because the Bible says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT).

David, the great psalmist known as the man after God’s own heart, walked intimately with God for 20 years. Then he fell into the sin of adultery and murder and tried to cover it up. How could this be?

I’ll tell you how it could be. No matter how long you’ve known the Lord, no matter how much of the Bible you’ve memorized, no matter how gifted you are, no matter how well you’re known as someone of great prayer, you always will have the vulnerability to fall.

You must always keep your guard up. There never comes a moment in your life, no matter how long you’ve known the Lord, that you can lower your guard.

Peter was a man who walked with God, but he fell.

His denial, however, was not merely a spontaneous response to unexpected danger or embarrassment. He already had laid the groundwork for desertion. He already had taken clear steps toward denying Christ before he entered the high priest’s courtyard and warmed himself at the enemy’s fire.

In the same way, no one suddenly backslides. The steps may be secret, but they exist. When someone we know falls away from the Lord, we think, “How could that be? They seemed to be doing so well.”

The steps may have been happening in secret, but clearly, they were being taken. Every moment of every day, we are either building up our spiritual character, or we are weakening it. We must always watch out.

Peter’s first step down was self-confidence. Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me” (Matthew 26:34 NLT).

But Peter replied, “No! … Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” (verse 35 NLT).

In speaking these words, Peter not only revealed unfounded confidence in himself, but he also directly contradicted the Lord’s prediction that he would deny him that night along with the other disciples.

In other words, Peter was saying, “Lord, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t care if you say that we’ll all deny you. I won’t deny you. Though others will, I won’t.”

Perhaps this is one of the most infamous failures in human history. But it is also the story of restoration and forgiveness. It’s both the story of the weakness of the flesh and of the power of the grace of God.

At the end of his life in one of his letters, Peter wrote about the bitter lesson he had learned. He told his fellow believers, “So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17–18 NLT).

If you concentrate your energies on growing in the grace and knowledge of God, you won’t fall away because you will be moving forward. The best way not to fall away is to grow. The best way not to go backward is to go forward. The best defense is a good offense. If you move forward, then you won’t have to worry about falling away.

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