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How can I control sinful impulses ?

Impulse control is never easy . All of us struggle with overcoming sinful impulses . James says , “ Each one is tempted when , by his own evil desire , he is dragged away and enticed ” ( James 1:14 ). Part of the human condition is to feel impulses , and part of the Christian life is to control them .
Impulse control has been a struggle for us since the fall . Eve saw that the fruit was “ desirable ” ( Genesis 3:6 ), and she chose to take it rather than control her impulse . Today , we still struggle . Often , impulses seem so strong as to overpower all scruples , commitments , and common sense . We feel that giving in is our only option . We have impulses to make frivolous purchases , to overeat , to have illicit sex , and to do many other things we know we shouldn ’ t .
It seems that Samson had quite a bit of trouble with impulse control . He is the perfect illustration of the proverb , “ Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control ” ( Proverbs 25:28 ). Samson saw a Philistine woman he wanted to marry , and he married her , despite his parents ’ objections ( Judges 14:1-2 ); the marriage lasted a week . He found honey , and he ate it , even though , in the process , he had to break a vow and ceremonially defile himself ( Judges 14:8-9 ). And , of course , he could never say “ no ” to Delilah ( Judges 16 ). Ironically , Samson is best known for his great physical strength . It goes to prove that the flesh is no ally in the battle against the flesh . It is a spiritual battle that must be won spiritually .
Second Corinthians 5:17 says , “ Therefore , if anyone is in Christ , he is a new creation ; the old has gone , the new has come !” As believers , we are new . We are no longer bound to our sinful natures ( Romans 6:17-18 ), but we are in the process of sanctification . The coming of the new usually takes time and discipline . Even mature believers struggle with impulse control ( Romans 7:18-25 ), but the Bible provides ample hope that we can overcome .
Praise the Lord , the Spirit produces self-control in those yielded to Him ( Galatians 5:23 )! We have been given the spirit of self-discipline ( 2 Timothy 1:7 ). First Peter 1:13 and 15 exhort us to “ prepare [ our ] minds for action ; be self-controlled ; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed . . . . But just as He who called you is holy , so be holy in all you do .” Our self-control is not simply an exercise of volition ; we must rely on the grace of Jesus . Knowing that we have been called by God , we work to control our impulses from a foundation of love for God .
We also work from a foundation of truth . When we know the truth , we can more easily dismiss impulses that seek to lead us into falsehood ( John 8:32 ). Because we have the mind of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 2:16 ), when a sinful impulse comes into our minds , we can recognize that it is not of Him and summarily dismiss it . The impulse comes from the sin nature , to which we are no longer slaves ( see Romans 6 ). We can act on 2 Corinthians 10:5 and take our thoughts captive . When we know the truth – that we have been declared holy ( Romans 5:1-2 ), that we have the mind of Christ , and that we have the power of the Holy Spirit – we are better able to challenge our thoughts and choose our actions .
The Bible calls us “ overcomers ” by faith ( 1 John 5:4 ). We are not at the mercy of our impulses . We can control them through the power of God in us ( Ephesians 3:20 ). As we learn to say “ no ” to our sinful impulses , we may experience pain and a sense of deprivation , yet we trust the promise of Hebrews 12:11 that we will eventually reap “ a harvest of righteousness and peace .”
In the struggle to control impulses , many people derive benefit from accountability partners or counselors . Sometimes , impulse control is made more difficult due to underlying anxiety or some type of brain abnormality . Overcoming an impulse involves both knowing God ’ s truth and using the functional tools of behavior modification . Regardless of the exact methods we employ to control our impulses , we say with Paul , “ I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus ” ( Philippians 3:14 ).
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