I have sinned before. Of course, that is no big news—so have you. The thing we should seek to understand is this: how do you stop yourself from sinning. I have an answer for you: get off the spider-web.
My sons adopt garden spiders each summer. These stylish arachnids sport a cool lightning-bolt pattern across their backs and sew a zipper-like stich up the middle of their web. My boys drop grasshoppers onto the webs of those spiders and watch them grow until their abdomens are as large as a quarter.
When a bug lands on the web, this is what happens:
- The victim feels stuck and gets tangled further while trying to fight that feeling.
- The spider senses the movement, injects venom into the victim, and wraps it up tightly.
- In time, the spider sucks the life out of the victim and throws the carcass away.
<h2>Emotions are a tangled web </h2>
God does not lure you into sin (James 1:13), but just during the normal course of life, you will stumble onto a dangerous spider-web of emotion. If you do not get off the emotional web, you will be wrapped up in sin and eventually have your life sucked out of you. We are tempted when our own desires draw us in (James 1:14). Your desire is the first warning sign of danger.
Emotions can alert you to imminent destruction. For example, you find out that someone lied about you. Immediately, you feel hurt. Welcome to the emotional web. If you hang onto this hurt feeling, you will be wrapped up in anger or perhaps despair. The more you dwell on it, the more tangled you will get in the emotion which gives the sin spider its cue to move in for the kill (James 1:15). Once you are injected with hatred toward the person who lied about you, you will be so wrapped up you will not realize how trapped you are. If you do not get off that web somehow, such things will suck the life out of you.
- Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
- Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.
- Sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
Sexual sin starts with an emotion. Theft starts with a desire. Abusive people would never have been so hurtful if they had gotten off the tangled web of emotion. Murders, rapists, robbers, gossipers, divorcers, molesters, and every other sinner could have spared themselves if they had stopped the emotions before things spun out of control.
<h2>How do you stop yourself from sinning?</h2>
Cain was the first murderer. He sinned the same way his mom sinned in the garden: by dwelling on the desire. When Cain first got onto the emotional web, the Lord gave him a word of warning. He asked Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” (Genesis 4:6). Cain was so wrapped up in his hostility toward his brother that he did not answer the Lord. Perhaps he did not even hear Him.
Cain did not start that day with the intention of being the world’s first murderer. The day started off normally enough and Cain had decided to go to church (bring an offering to the Lord). While he was supposed to be worshipping God, something happened with his brother that hurt his feelings. Cain got wrapped up in his emotions and tried to deal with it by talking to his brother. Instead, he killed him.
Do whatever it takes to get yourself off the emotional web. Hurt feelings? Get rid of them. Sexual arousal toward someone who is not your spouse? Stop it. Pitying yourself and why you do not have what others have? Dump those feelings. Stress? Worry? Fear? Panic attacks?
<h2>Get off the emotional web!</h2>
Emotions are not a bad thing. God designed you to feel. Many emotions are healthy; some are warning signs. When you get snagged with negative emotions, pause for a moment and find out what the godly emotion should be. Are you mad? Perhaps you should have compassion on the person who has offended you. Do you feel like taking something that is not yours? Think of those who have less than you do and find a way to give—let a feeling of generosity sweep you off the web of selfishness.
When you land on the emotional web, the sin spider is poised to pounce on you. Get off quickly. Jesus has paid the price to set you free from any self-destructive impulse. Forgive, apologize, give, serve, and enjoy the freedom of good emotions which lead to God-honoring actions.