Who can overcome sin?
“I can do everything in Christ Jesus who strengthens me” (Phil.4:13). We can overcome all sins in our life by the grace of God. What does the term ‘Sin’ mean? “Sin is “a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law” (Saint Augustine). It is an offense against God in disobedience to his love. It wounds human nature and injures human solidarity. Christ in his passion fully revealed the seriousness of sin and overcame it with his mercy.” According to St. Augustine, “Sin is the will to keep or to get what one can freely leave alone that justice forbids.” “Sin is not a desire for naturally evil things but an abandonment of better things. And this itself is evil, not that nature which the sinner uses evilly.” ( Griffiths J. P, Lying: an Augustinian Theology of Duplicity, Brazos Press, Oregan, 2004, P.57.) The word of God defines sin very clearly and also magisterial teaching describes, explains, defines with clarity. “… sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another” (CCC 387).
St. Augustine says that there are two causes for human to commit sin. According to St. Augustine, “We sin from two causes: either from not seeing what we ought to do, or else from not doing what we have already seen we ought to do. Of these two, the first is ignorance of the evil; the second, weakness. We must surely fight against both; but we shall as surely be defeated unless we are divinely helped, not only to see what we ought to do, but also, as sound judgment increases, to make our love of righteousness victor over our love of those things because of which—either by desiring to possess them or by fearing to lose them—we fall, open-eyed, into known sin. In this latter case, we are not only sinners—which we are even when we sin through ignorance—but also lawbreakers: for we do not do what we should, and we do what we know already we should not. Accordingly, we should pray for pardon if we have sinned, as we do when we say, "Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors." But we should also pray that God should guide us away from sin, and this we do when we say, "Lead us not into temptation"— and we should make our petitions to Him of whom it is said in the psalm, "The Lord is my light and my salvation"; that, as Light, he may take away our ignorance, as Salvation, our weakness”(Albert C Outler (Trans), Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love, Whitaker House, Pennsylvania, 2018, p. 55).
The following categories of people can overcome sin in their life.
1. Those who belong to God
All people are called and invited to be with God because they belong to God. “All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God's will may be fulfilled”( Vatican II, LG 13). Those who are convinced that they are God’s own people can overcome sin. “They also belong to Christ, because they were regenerated in the Church by faith and by baptism, so that they are Christ's in newness of life and work, in order that in Christ, all things may be made subject to God, and finally God will be all in all.”( Vatican II, AG 21). Therefore, Book of Wisdom says, “but we will not sin, because we know that you acknowledge us as yours” (Wisdom 15:2).
2. Those who trust in God.
We can trust God as we trust in our best friends. “God addresses us as friends and communicates in many ways to us at many times. We should respond as friends and believe Him, trust Him completely, learn to understand Him better and better, and accept His will without reservation” ( Youcat 20). All those who trust in God are always humble and free from pride. ““Every mountain and hill shall be made low”, Isaiah again exhorts. The mountains and hills that must be made low are pride, arrogance, insolence. Where there is pride, where there is insolence, where there is arrogance, the Lord cannot enter because that heart is full of pride, of insolence, of arrogance. For this reason, we must allay this pride. We must take on attitudes of meekness and humility, without reproach, to listen, to speak with meekness … Then we are asked to eliminate all obstacles that we set against our union with the Lord: “the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” — says Isaiah — “and all flesh shall see it together” (40:4-5). These actions, however, must be performed with joy, because they are designed in preparation for the coming of Jesus. At home, when we await the visit of a dear person, we prepare everything with care and gladness. In the same way, we want to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord: to await him each day attentively, so as to be filled by his grace when he comes ”( www.vatican.va, Angelus, Pope Francis, Second Sunday of Advent, 10th December, 2017). And also Bible says, “And those who work with me will not sin” (Sirach 24:22).
3. Those who think seriously about the end of their life.
“Death is the end of earthly life … remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfilment. Fulfilment is attained through the gift of eternal life ”(CCC1007). “In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore, the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul's: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ.” He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ: My earthly desire has been crucified; . . . there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father. I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die. I am not dying; I am entering life” (CCC 1011). St. Philip Neri says, “Death scares only those who are still in a state of sin, not those who, like St. Paul, desire to die and be with Christ, or lament with Job that their days are prolonged, much as they long to depart” ( R. E. Guiley, The Quotable Saint, Checkmark Books, New York, 2002, p.50). They are God fearing and will never hurt God even by a small sin. “… It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him…” (CCC 1423). “In all you do, remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin” (Sirach 7:36).
4. Those who treasure the Word of God in their heart.
These people are always conscious of God. “I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin” (Psalm 119:11). Justin Martyr writes about the power in the Word of God thus: “Henceforth, you Greeks, come and partake of incomparable wisdom, and be instructed by the Divine Word, and acquaint yourselves with the King immortal; and do not recognize those men as heroes who slaughter whole nations. For our own Ruler, the Divine Word, who even now constantly aids us, does not desire strength of body and beauty of feature, nor yet the high spirit of earth's nobility, but a pure soul, fortified by holiness, and the watchwords of our King, holy actions, for through the Word power passes into the soul. O trumpet of peace to the soul that is at war! O weapon that puts to flight terrible passions! O instruction that quenches the innate fire of the soul! The Word exercises an influence which does not make poets: it does not equip philosophers nor skilled orators, but by its instruction it makes mortals immortal, mortals gods; and from the earth transports them to the realms above Olympus. Come, be taught; become as I am, for I, too, was as you are. These have conquered me—the divinity of the instruction, and the power of the Word: for as a skilled serpent-charmer lures the terrible reptile from his den and causes it to flee, so the Word drives the fearful passions of our sensual nature from the very recesses of the soul; first driving forth lust, through which every ill is begotten-hatreds, strife, envy, emulations, anger, and such like. Lust being once banished, the soul becomes calm and serene. And being set free from the ills in which it was sunk up to the neck, it returns to Him who made it. For it is fit that it be restored to that state whence it departed, whence every soul was or is” (https://archive.org/stream/EarlyChristianChurchFathersEcf01 (This website is a tributary of the American Library Association, Chicago).
5. Those who are born of God.
All creation come into existence by the will of God. All those who recognize their origin from God try to honour him through their life without offending Him through sin. St Thomas Aquinas says that everything that exists is through the will of God. "The will of God gave to all creatures their substance: but perfect birth gave the Son a nature derived from a substance impassable and unborn. All things created are such as God willed them to be; but the Son, born of God, subsists in the perfect likeness of God"( St. Thomas Aquinas – Summa Theologica, Pt. I, Q. 41, Art. 2). These do not depend on themselves but are led by the Spirit of God. They receive divine protection of the Son of God. “We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God Protects them, and evil one does not touch them” (1Jn. 5:18).
6. Those who are decisive.
They have surrendered their own God given free minad and free will to the Will of God. Tertullian says, “The vicious action comes from each individual free-will. ‘Behold,’ says God, ‘I have set before you good and evil.’ Choose that which is good: if you cannot, it is because you will not—for that you can if you will He has shown, because He has proposed each to your free-will” (Peter Holmes, The Sacred Writings of Tertullian, Volume 2, Altenmunster, Loschberg, 2009, p. 379) . “If you choose, you can keep the Commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice” (Sirach 15:15). St. Augustine also says about human free will thus: “God has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards.” (Augustine of Hippo, On Grace and Free Will, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016, 2(1).