Summary: Methods that are used to restrain sin in our lives.

Restraining Sinful Behavior

Rom. 7:12-25


* Living a holy life is an ambition of everyone who is genuinely born again.

* The desire to live a godly life is stronger in some Christians than in others.

* Most of us have had and still have the experience of Romans 7. …Doing what we shouldn’t and not doing what we should.

* We have all made futile attempts to “behave ourselves” (control behavior)

* It has been my observation that a Christians behavior can be controlled by a number of different means.

* Not all Christians achieve a holy life by the same means.

Illus – There is more than one method to get to Niagara Falls.

- By car… from here it will take about 14 hours

- Motorcycle…it will probably take a little longer due to the weather

- Boat… it will take even longer to go by way of a boar

- Air… this would be the quickest way to get there

- Walk… this would be the slowest way

- My point is that there is more than one way to reach destination. …different routes and different modes of transportation.

Controlling Children’s behavior.

Quote – “You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up.”

Joke - If You’ll be Quiet

It was a hectic day of running errands with my wife and son. As if the stress weren’t enough, four-year-old Christopher insisted on asking questions about everything, told me how to drive better, and sang every song he knew.

Finally, fed up with the incessant chatter, I made him an offer: "Christopher, if you’ll be quiet for just a few minutes, I’ll give you a quarter." It worked.

But when we stopped for lunch, I unknowingly began to harp on him. "Christopher, sit up straight ... don’t spill your drink ... don’t talk with your mouth full."

Finally he said seriously, "Dad, if you’ll be quiet for just a few minutes, I’ll give you a quarter."


* With children we use both negative and positive reinforcement.

- We us consequences or rewards to control their behavior.

- We threaten with consequences or we promise a reward.

NOTE = Rewarding good is not a bribe… A bribe is when you pay someone to do wrong… a reward is when you give someone something for doing what is right.

* In OT, if a child would not respond to consequences of wrong behavior imposed by his parents, the only recourse was stoning him/her to death. Deut. 21:18-21

* Heb. 12 – God’s way of restraining sinful behavior… God’s discipline of His children, …He speaks first, then He spanks if no response.

* Notice in Hebrews 12 how God speaks to his children first, then if they don’t respond He takes action.

Heb 12:5-6 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

* Throughout the NT we find scripture reminding us of the rewards we will receive for doing good and the consequences we will receive for doing evil.

* First I would like for you to consider with me…

I. Christian Extremes Concerning Sin

A) Sinless perfection!

1. The exhortation of Scripture denies sinless perfection I John 1:8-10

* Some Christians believe they have achieved sinless perfection.

- They feel so high and holy. …Usually look down the nose at those who don’t live like they do.

* Scripture is clear that we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are sinless.

1Jn 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

- Here in v. 8 the word "sin" is singular in number and is used without the definite article which points to the fact that the sinful nature is referred to, not acts of sin.

- The Christian who believes his sinful nature has been completely eradicated is deceiving himself.

- v. 10 – Wuest Expanded Translation – "If we say that we have not sinned and are not now in such a state that we could sin, a liar we are making Him, and His Word is not in us."

* The truth is that we as Christians do sin.

2. The example of Paul denies sinless perfection Philippians 3:12-13

* Paul was not perfect. He speaks of not reaching the final stage of his sanctification. He had progressed in spiritual development, but not to absolute perfection.

Php 3:12-13 "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before"

* In Romans Paul speaks of his own personal experience as a Christian.

Rom 7:14-19 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (15) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. (16) If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. (17) Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (19) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

* The second extreme is…

B) Sin all you want!

* Other believers have surrendered to the flesh!

* “We are going to sin anyway,…why not sin all the more?” Grace covers the multitude of sins anyway. …”His grace is greater than all our sin!”

* Rom. 5:19 - 6:1 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

(Rom 6:2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

* Those who follow this extreme "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness" or a license to sin.

* I want you to think with me this morning about several methods that are used to restrain sin in our lives.

II. Common restrainers of sin

A) Conscience - Romans 2:12-15

Webster - “ the faculty, power, or inward principle which decides as to the character of one’s own actions, purposes, and affections, warning against and condemning that which is wrong, and approving and prompting to that which is right;”

* called -- the "voice of conscience" or "voice within".

* That inborn sense of right and wrong.

* In William Shakespeare’s Richard III:

“My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain.”

Warren Wiersbe – “Wherever you go, you find people with an inner sense of right and wrong; and this inner judge, the Bible calls “conscience.” You find among all cultures a sense of sin, a fear of judgment, and an attempt to atone for sins and appease whatever gods are feared.”

* Limited in it’s restraint of human behavior.

* Some say, “Let conscience be your guide!” – this can be dangerous.

* Was a day when conscience wouldn’t let a woman reveal anything above the knee.

* Rom. 2 - Gentiles - Guided and governed by conscience

Rom 2:14-15 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: (15) Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

* Illus- OT. – Genesis- Before Law (10 commandments) – when you only have conscience,… no civil law, no 10 commandments to restrain behavior, the result is Noah’s day.

Gen 6:5-6 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (6) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

* To some degree, conscience is a restrainer of sinful behavior.

B) Social Pressure

* Peer pressure – Can be a powerful motivation for bad behavior or good behavior.

* Today, there is an emphasis on finding a mentor, someone who can positively influence a person for good…. A “big brother” to influence a child to stay on the right path in life.

* Social pressure does help control some of the evil behavior in society.

* People don’t want the reputation of a thief, murderer, or a criminal so they restrain themselves

* Social pressure puts it’s demands of conforming upon us.

* Most Christians care about what other Christians think of them, so they don’t get involved in some wrong or questionable things as a result.

* In criminology, Social Control Theory proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces the inclination to indulge in behavior recognized as antisocial.

* It is social pressure that keeps some Christians from doing things that are wrong.

-- Not that they are motivated by God’s word or God’s Spirit not to do something, …they just don’t want to be social outcasts.

* To some degree, social pressure is a means of restraining sinful behavior.

C) God’s Law Exodus 20:3-17

* God initially gave His law to Israel to help order their society.

* Thou shalt not steal, …commit adultery, …bear false witness,… covet

* God said if they would follow His law they would be holy and unique.

* Matthew Henry – “God has many ways of speaking to the children of men (Job_33:14); once, yea twice - by his Spirit, by conscience, by providences, by his voice, all which we ought carefully to attend to; but he never spoke, at any time, upon any occasion, as he spoke the ten commandments, which therefore we ought to hear with the more earnest heed. They were not only spoken audibly (so he owned the Redeemer by a voice from heaven, Mat_3:17), but with a great deal of dreadful pomp. This law God had given to man before (it was written in his heart by nature); but sin had so defaced that writing that it was necessary, in this manner, to revive the knowledge of it.”

* God’s law serves more than one function.

a- It reveals our sin to us. It defines sin for us.

Rom 7:12-13 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (13) Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Ex. Like a mirror, that reveals our flaws, BUT does nothing to fix flaws!

- It lets us see our face is dirty, but can do nothing to cleanse our face!

b- It is our schoolmaster (Galatians), that leads us to Jesus.

c- It was also given as a restrainer of sin.

* Limited in it’s restraining power.

* It is an external restraint… works from the outside in, not from inside out.

D) Civil Law Rom. 13:1-4

* Civil law is not the best restrainer of evil,… nor is it a perfect restrainer but it does have an impact on our lives.

Joke – "A man comes up to the Mexican border on his bicycle. He’s got two large bags over his shoulders. The guard stops him and says, "What’s in the bags?" "Sand," answers the man.

The guard says, "We’ll just see about that. Get off the bike." The guard takes the bags and rips them apart; he empties them out and finds nothing in them but sand. He detains the man overnight and has the sand analyzed, only to discover that there is nothing but pure sand in the bags. The guard releases the man, puts the sand into new bags, hefts them onto the man’s shoulders, and lets him cross the border.

A week later, the same thing happens. The guard asks, "What have you got?" "Sand," says the man.

The guard does his thorough examination and discovers that the bags contain nothing but sand. He gives the sand back to the man, and the man crosses the border on his bicycle. This sequence of events is repeated every day for years.

One day, years later, after the guard has retired, he happens to run into the "sand" man in a cantina in Mexico.

"Hey, Buddy," says the guard, "I know you have been smuggling something all these years. It’s driving me crazy. It’s all I think about… I can’t sleep. Just between you and me, what are you smuggling?"

The man sips his beer and says, "Bicycles."


* Civil laws are good and they are required, but they are not always effective at restraining sinful behavior.

* Civil law forbids us from stealing… works for most of us!...but not all.

* Civil law doesn’t allow us to shot someone… works for most of us…but not all.

* It is limited in it’s restraint,… but it is a deterrent to evil.

* Rom 13:1-4 1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

* The punishment for crime today is minimal and this makes civil law less effective in it’s restraint of sinful behavior.

* Also the delay of punishment minimizes the effectiveness of civil law.

Ecc 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

* Today, there simply is not that much fear of being caught and suffering the consequences of a crime.

E) God’s Word Psalm 119:9-11

* One preacher said, "God’s word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s word."

* Psalm 119:9-11 9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

* Illus. - Jesus had the word of God hidden in his heart and He used it against Satan to keep from sinning. Jesus said three times, "It is written…"

* God’s word is a restrainer of sin in our lives.

* The more time we spend in God’s Word the more it cleanses us.

- The more time in it, the more our mind is renewed and our lives are transformed.

F) God’s Spirit Rom. 8:1-4

Rom 8:1-4 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

M. Henry – “The law could neither justify nor sanctify, neither free us from the guilt nor from the power of sin, having not the promises either of pardon or grace. The law made nothing perfect: It was weak. Some attempt the law made towards these blessed ends, but, alas! it was weak, it could not accomplish them: yet that weakness was not through any defect in the law, but through the flesh, through the corruption of human nature, by which we became incapable either of being justified or sanctified by the law. We had become unable to keep the law, and, in case of failure, the law, as a covenant of works, made no provision, and so left us as it found us. The law could never take away sin, Heb_10:4.

Rom 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

* When we live by God’s power, we can soar, because we are not living in our own strength!

Illus > Law of gravity is constant,… constantly pulling us down to the earth.

-- But the law of gravity can be overcome by a greater law -- the law of aerodynamics.

-- We can live on a higher plane by a power that is not our own – God’s Spirit.

Lessons For Life

1) The ability to be sinless is not automatic, nor is it achievable.

* Paul - was pressing forward towards perfection, yet he acknowledges that he had not already attained, neither was already perfect, Phil 3:12 “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”

* 1Jn 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

* If sinlessness or perfection were achievable, then why are there repeated admonitions in NT for us not to sin. “Flee youthful lusts”,… 2Co 7:1 - “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God”

1Co 10:14 - “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” I Cor. 6:18 – “Flee Fornication..”

* We still have a sinful nature, even after we are saved. It is not eradicated! …Not completely destroyed.

* The flesh still wars against the spirit!

2) The freedom to sin all you want is not granted in Scripture.

* Romans 6:1

* Grace does not mean that God overlooks our sin and let’s us sin all we want to.

* Paul never taught that since you are saved and going to heaven; you can live like you want to.

* He was accused of teaching that heresy, but he was not guilty of it.

3) Sheer determination “not to sin” is inadequate to control our sinful nature.

* Root of our problem is the heart --

- you can’t refine, reform, or rehabilitate the old nature!

- it’s broken and can’t be repaired by you and I.

- It has to be put to death.

- We have to learn to live a crucified life. Gal. 2:20

- Die to self!

* Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

* We must learn to deal with the root problem which is the heart.

* ILLUSTRATION:(from a book read years ago)

Jack returned home from work one afternoon to find his two story house being flooded. It wasn’t raining and there was no local flooding in the area, yet there was water in the living room, dining room, bathroom, and kitchen. Jack immediately runs to the broom closet and begins to sweep as much of the water out as he can. Not making any headway, Jack grabs a mob and bucket and begins to mop furiously to get the water out of his house. The water continues rise so Jack goes to Walmart and buys a bigger mop and bucket. He returns home and again labors for hours trying to rid the house of water. Jack returns to walmart and purchases more mops and more buckets, inviting his friends over to help him mop up all the water. Soon Jack realizes that this is a job for an “industrial” mop. So Jack returns from shopping with the biggest mop he can find and attempts to dry his house out. But the water is too much… the problem is too large. Well, it just so happens that there is a course being given at the local college titled “Mopping For Success”. It’s a course that teaches you how to mop properly and effectively. Jack takes the course, makes an ‘A’ in the class and excitedly returns to his home ready to defeat this problem of water in his house. Nothing seems to work. Suddenly, a thought enters into Jack’s mind. “Where is all this water coming from?” What is the source of all this water. Jack walks over to his stairway and sees water is running down from upstairs. He splashes his way upstairs and sees water coming out from underneath the upstairs bathroom door. Opening the door, Jack discovers the source of his water problem. The bathtub faucet has been left on and the water is running over the edge of the tub. Jack turns the water off, pulls the plug from the drain in the bathtub and then begins to successfully mop up and dry up all the water in his house.

* Some people are more determined and more successful than others when it comes to mopping up their messes.

4) The most effective means of restraining sin is the power of the Holy Spirit.

* Gal 5:16-18 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

* Paul says if you want to win the battle against the flesh all you have to do is learn how to walk in the power of God’s Spirit.

- Live under the control of the Holy Spirit

- Rely on His power, not your determination

* Yes, there is more than one way to get to a destination …car, boat, plane, bike, walk

* More than one way to restrain sin,,… conscience, social pressure, 10 commandments, Civil law, God’s Word, all play a part, but MOST EFFECTIVE is God’s Spirit.


* There is more than one way to achieve a godly life but the most effective means is learning how to walk in the Spirit.

* There may be many ways to restrain sin in our lives but there is only one way to be saved! -Jesus

* This morning I have been speaking to you about sanctification, not salvation.

* There are a number of things that can be used to help us achieve sanctification, but there is only one way to get to heaven….the blood of the Lamb of God