killing mice and conquering sin

Killing Mice and Conquering Sin

A recent home invasion by mice reminded me of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the most effective strategy for resisting temptation and conquering sin.

Two months after I became the victim of a home invasion of mice, I still feel uneasy in my own home. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night, convinced I hear the sinister intruders desecrating my sanctuary. Every few days, I discover evidence of their attempt to pilfer my belongings and my skin crawls with a feeling of contamination, as though their hideousness still permeates the air I breathe. Though small and seemingly harmless, the dreadful invaders—mere mice—are alarmingly destructive, consuming a shocking amount of produce from my pantry and mutilating the measures my husband put in place to keep them out of my kitchen. 

On a bright, sunny morning, the crispness of the late summer air invigorates me toward early productivity in the kitchen. As I open the drawer to retrieve a baking pan, my motivation to bake muffins evaporates. Each muffin cup holds a disgusting kernel (or five) of mouse poop. I gag, stifle a scream, and shake with fury. 

Desperate to rid our home of this mouse mob ASAP, we consulted professionals. They wisely explained that a trap that instantly kills one of these uninvited guests might seem successful at first, but it doesn’t really solve our dilemma. Instead, we must first find where the mice enter our home and seal the entry point to prevent more rodent encounters. Then we can cleanse our home of any intruders left inside and know we’re secured against future invasion. 

Like the mice in our home, sin is destructive and out of place in the heart of a Christian. As members of God’s family, our affections should mirror his. God hates sin (e.g. Proverbs 6:16–19). Do we? Do we take sin seriously? What does hatred of sin look like practically?  

Paul’s language in Colossians 3:5–6 indicates the seriousness of sin: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” Paul instructs us to “put our sin to death”—to kill it. If we hate sin as God does, we must take severe measures to conquer it. 

The first step in overcoming our mouse problem was to look for their entry points. This strategy can be helpful in overcoming sin too. The night before Jesus’ fatal trial, he knew his disciples—especially Peter—would be tempted to disown him. He instructed them to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). 

We can’t overcome sin on our own strength, so we must pray for God’s help to stay alert by identifying “entry points”—situations or things that tempt us to sin—and seal them. Practically, this might mean canceling a streaming service if it tempts us to disobey God, employing software on our devices to limit our screen time, or choosing not to socialize with friends who lead us into tempting situations or conversations. 

When our three children were all under six years old, I escaped the overwhelming demands of motherhood by reading fiction novels for hours at a time instead of caring for my children or going to bed at a decent hour to get the rest I needed. For most people, reading fiction is not a sin, but it was an act of disobedience for me at that time because it caused me to neglect the work God gave me to do. The only way I could resist the temptation to read instead of diligently caring for my children—the only way to seal the entry point to this sin—was to put my books into a box in the closet and relinquish my library membership.   

We naturally resist taking active steps toward killing sin because sin appeals to our selfish desires. But the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:29–30 further emphasize the seriousness of sin and the importance of diligently killing it: ”If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” 

Jesus didn’t actually expect us to cut off our body parts to prevent sin. He used hyperbole (a form of exaggeration) to drive home the importance of doing whatever we can to kill sin. But as he demonstrates throughout the rest of his sermon in Matthew 5, living sinless lives—upholding God’s law—is impossible by our own efforts. 

This devastating truth is crucial to understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ—the very heart of the Christian life. Unlike my mouse problem, which requires my own diligent labor over time, Jesus dealt with our sin problem on our behalf (Matthew 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Simply trusting in him solves our sin problem. He promises that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). 

Despite the persistence of sin and our failed efforts in eliminating it from our lives, we get to confidently stand before God as righteous ones because of Jesus, the master sin exterminator. Because of the empowering of his Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25–27), we can resist temptation by sealing sin’s entry points. Because of Christ, we can conquer sin.

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