Guide to Goodness

Winning the Spiritual Battle

Having completed our study on the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we will spend the next few weeks on a topic our culture says doesn’t exist – sin.  It is an unpopular word because we subscribe to an “if it feels good, do it” philosophy.  Because we don’t talk openly and often about sin, we are less aware of what it is and how destructive it is to us living our best life.   Sin is death.  Sin keeps us from living in the Spirit, accepting our gifts, and bearing good fruit.

God hates death. He is a God of life and of resurrection.  

He hates sin, which brings about spiritual death; he hates physical illness, which brings about bodily death; he hates corruption, which brings about societal death.  He battles these things even today. Jesus heals blind eyes and deaf ears and crippled limbs; he illuminates darkened minds; he liberates imprisoned souls. His ministry is a ministry of life, of the triumph of life over death. We live and breathe in a culture that has forgotten the seriousness of sin.  Most of us let ourselves off the hook for our moral failings.  We compare ourselves to others who we perceive are “worse” than us, rather than comparing ourselves to God who is perfect. 

How do you see yourself and your sin?  Do you ever find yourself saying, it’s just how I am, like cursing when I’m angry, or I’m not hurting anyone, like when I get road rage when some jerk cuts me off, or when I gossip, not about everyone but just that one person…?  

They are small sins, right?  These actions don’t make me a bad person, right?  Or this is part of what it means to be human?  You might ask what’s the big deal and why do we need to focus on these things?  We do, though, need to focus on these actions because small sins become habitual sins and habitual sins, or vice, leads us to deadly sin.  In fact, all sins are offshoots of the seven deadly sins.  And none of us are immune to sin, even if we think we are. 

We have become weak in our moral choices because we have removed keywords such as sin, repentance, responsibility, truth and lie, and right and wrong from our vocabulary.  Without these words and concepts, we do lose the ability to actually distinguish what is right from wrong.  This creates confusion and we are unable to answer important life questions such as Why am I here?  Who am I? What is my purpose?  How can I be happy? This precludes us from getting to the root of the problem, which is our need for a savior.  

Is there a link between unbelief and the sinful state of the human soul?  Does sin breed unbelief?  There is ample biblical and anecdotal evidence that it does.  When Adam and Eve sinned, in an instant, they turned from God and avoided Him.  Add a little more sin, and it’s only a short step for us to deny God.  All of this to avoid accountability for our sin.  We foolishly assume that since we cannot see God that He cannot see us and our misdeeds.  This is morally deficient reasoning, and the fool ends up fooling only himself as God is present everywhere, in everything and everyone He created. 

The Desert Fathers, who aspired to see the sacred in each moment, also strove to understand the causes and remedies of human sin and were the first to categorize temptations as the “deadly sins.”  For almost as long as humans have been in existence, we have struggled with temptation and sin. A true sense of sin must start from the reality that human beings were created good and in harmony with our Creator, who desired also to be acknowledged as Our Father.  The Original Sin of our first parents—based on a terrible lie told to them by Satan—distorted human nature and impaired human freedom.  Unmasking the many and varied lies that the Enemy tells enables us to fight temptation more effectively. Recognizing the wonderful truth of God’s plan for us will give us direction and strength to take an active role in the spiritual battle.

What is sin? 

A sin is a human act, that is, a deliberate thought, word, deed, desire, or omission contrary to right reason, and therefore contrary to God.  In the Catholic Church, sins are identified as two basic types:  mortal sins that imperil your soul and venial sins, which are less serious breaches of God’s law.  In a nutshell, sin is anything contrary to God or any action that separates us from God.  This really sheds light on what Saint Julian of Norwich observed, “When God sees sin, He sees pain in us.”  

What is vice?

A vice is a habit of sin.  It is a morally bad habit which stands in contrast with virtue, which is a morally good habit.  And sin, which is a vicious act, is contrasted with a virtuous act, that is, a morally good act.

What is virtue?

Virtue is the habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.  The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.  Virtue is a habit of the will. It takes time and practice to develop a good habit.  Virtue takes practice.  

If we want to win the spiritual battle, become saints. and get to heaven, we must live a virtuous life.   An important place to start is by knowing your primary vice, or sin.  By knowing this, you can get to work and go to battle to conquer it by practicing certain virtues that will counter those bad habits and instill good ones to replace them.

The SinWhat does it mean?What does God Say?Swap the Sin with VirtueWhat can I do?
Pride Loving and esteeming oneself above others and above God; the root of all other sin.“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).Humility or Selflessness. recognizing that skills, talents, and all good qualities are gifts from God.Be humble. You need God and others. Pray and serve.
Envy Resenting others for their possessions or gifts. Jealousy towards another’s happiness.“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2).Kindness. Wishing the best for others; brotherly love.Be thankful. Thank God every day for what you have and don’t have.
Anger Acting in hostility or desiring revenge. Uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath.“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)Meekness. Acting with patience, mercy, and charity when resolving conflicts.Be patient. Moderate your emotions, take deep breaths before reacting.
SlothDenying God’s will for the sake of comfort; avoiding physical or spiritual work. Laziness, lack of effort. “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway” (Proverbs 15:19).Diligence. Following God’s will, even if it means sacrificing comfort. Be diligent. Have a schedule, don’t let your life revolve around resting and comfort.
Greed Desiring material things to excess, placing too much importance on possessions. “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19).Generosity. Giving of time, talents, and gifts freely; realizing that no material thing is more important than God.Be generous. Donate something you like but don’t need to the poor.
GluttonyConsuming to an unhealthy excess. To over-indulge, especially in food and alcohol.“For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:21).Temperance. Taking all things in moderation and to the point of goodnessBe moderate. Exercise regularly, avoid excess in eating and drinking.
LustConsidering others as mere objects of sexual desire.  “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28)Chastity. Properly ordering physical appetites to one’s vocation.Be pure. Guard your heart. Give yourself a project, exercise when you are bored. 
Choose virtue over sin.

Over the next few weeks, we will do a deeper dive into the cure or antidote for each deadly sin.  I take a lot of comfort knowing that through God’s love and mercy, He provided a way out of sin.  In our sins we are completely helpless, but Jesus shows us the way and helps us live a virtuous life.  By confessing our sins and accepting His forgiveness, we are free.

Once we understand this in our heart, that we can never repay God for the gifts he has given us, that His mercy and compassion are endless, we are overwhelmed with gratitude and the joy of knowing how loved we are.

God saw all that He made, and it was very good. 

Genesis 1:31

When we give ourselves over to the goodness of God, we understand that we are promised protection from our ultimate enemy which is sin and death.  If we can grasp this truth, it will change the way we live and experience God’s love.  So often we try and apply to our bodies His promises of protection for our souls, and we are disappointed.  Because we have the divine within us, we are saints, and we are holy, but through our thoughts and actions that we become sinners.  Let’s strive to live as saints, live a virtuous life, and win the spiritual battle!

Smitten with Winning the Spiritual Battle,

Cynthia

4 thoughts on “Winning the Spiritual Battle”

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