The Sin You Can't Quit

Examining our misconceptions about habitual sin—and how to truly break it.

"If you’re not willing to stop sinning, you shouldn’t even call yourself a Christian.”

“The answer to habitual sin is to just stop it.”

“If you’re stuck in habitual sin, you should question whether or not you’re really saved.”

Christians manage to say a whole lot of stupid stuff when it comes to the subject of habitual sin. I bet you’ve heard some of those same ideas before. And I bet, just maybe, they freaked you out. That’s kind of the point, of course—to try and scare you into changing behavior.

But let’s take those item by item.

"If you’re not willing to stop sinning, you shouldn’t even call yourself a Christian."

There’s a few problems here. First, Christians don’t claim to be sinless—quite the contrary, in fact! 1 John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we lie and the truth is not in us.”

Second, if you actually talk to a person struggling with a habitual sin, what you’re almost certain to find is that they are very willing to stop sinning—they just don’t know how to do it. I work with a whole lot of people stuck in habitual sin, and, consistently, they hate the thing, they don’t want to do the thing, they’ve tried all kinds of stuff to not do the thing, and nothing has worked. Willingness is not the problem.

That brings us to the second idea.

"The answer to habitual sin is to just stop it."

Only someone who has never faced down something impossible would say this. I don’t know about you, but my sinfulness is too big for me. ... It’s almost like I need a savior.

Paul—you know, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament—had the same experience: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:19,24)

Paul’s answer to this was that he needed Jesus Christ to change him, that his willpower wasn’t enough. He wrote about this in the book of Galatians, when he chastised the people there for trying to live the Christian life “by human effort” (Galatians 3:3).

One of the ways Jesus changes us is to give us wisdom about what’s driving us to that sin in the first place. For example, maybe for some people, their sin of habit is pornography—and they feel really guilty about it. But very few of them have ever thought and prayed on the question, “What’s driving me to look at this in the first place?” A big motivator for some is that they use pornography as a stress release. Well, now, if we want to move past this habitual sin, we’d need to learn how to live a lower-stress life and learn what godly, healthy stress relievers look like. But we’d never come to that point if we’d clenched our teeth and decided to “just stop it” in our own strength. What is the root issue of your sin of habit?

"If you’re stuck in habitual sin, you should question whether or not you’re really saved."

No, no you shouldn’t. Here’s what the Bible says: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). If you’ve said, “Jesus, I’m a sinner, and I’m asking you forgive me and take control of my life and heart,” you’re as saved as saved can be.

As I said at the beginning, there are a lot of Christians who say dumb stuff on this topic, and, as we say in the South, bless their hearts. Some of them, I am certain, mean well. They do. They know sin is bad—and it is. They know God doesn’t want us to sin—and He doesn’t.

But these Christians are confused about how we move past a sin. The truth, as we were just saying, is that we do so piece by piece, bit by bit, with wisdom guiding the journey. Human willpower and gritted teeth alone don’t lead to changed lives.

The main thing that our well-meaning brothers and sisters are confused about, though, is the nature of God’s forgiveness. The truth is, it just doesn’t run out.

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Jesus said if your brother wrongs you the same way seven times in a single day, you should forgive him (Luke 17:4). Further, you should be prepared to forgive the same person 70 times seven times (Matthew 18:22). And the Bible tells us our forgiveness of others is to mirror God’s forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32).

What all this means is that God has an impossibly high ability to forgive us. Which is good, because we have an impossibly high ability to sin. And isn’t that exactly what the Bible says? “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20).

If you’re struggling with habitual sin, first, welcome to being human and a Christian. We’ve all been there. Second, relax for a minute. God’s not going to let you go. Take a deep breath and be still. Then, start asking God for wisdom. Seek out some older Christians who aren’t uptight about the subject. Seek the Lord on what’s driving the sin areas in your life. And step by step, address those behind-the-scenes problems; you will begin to see God change your life right in front of you.

Jed Brewer is the director of productions for Mission USA and blogs frequently.

Top Comments

Richard Braden

1

Richard Braden commented…

I agree - I am one of those people who has to work at becoming holy. Born with a Mental Health problem, grew up on the streets, a difficulty in learning and many other life long challenges. Every area of my life needs work and over the years, one by one, the sinful habits begin to break. I am amazed at how merciful our God is through Christ. I have had to get up time and time again but each year I noticed how far Christ had brought me through His Spirit strengthening me and working in my inner being. For those who struggle with sin habit challenges, don't give up - every day you're alive is an opportunity to become more like Christ.

89,406

Jamey commented…

With all due respect, there is not one verse in the Bible that supports your comment. John 14:6 in fact tells us that Jesus is the only way to the Father. There has never been a Catholic Priest nor any other denomination's who has paid the price Jesus did ... they do not qualify ... ONLY Jesus.

140 Comments

Richard Braden

1

Richard Braden commented…

I agree - I am one of those people who has to work at becoming holy. Born with a Mental Health problem, grew up on the streets, a difficulty in learning and many other life long challenges. Every area of my life needs work and over the years, one by one, the sinful habits begin to break. I am amazed at how merciful our God is through Christ. I have had to get up time and time again but each year I noticed how far Christ had brought me through His Spirit strengthening me and working in my inner being. For those who struggle with sin habit challenges, don't give up - every day you're alive is an opportunity to become more like Christ.

Moses Ibn Emmanuel

1

Moses Ibn Emmanuel commented…

I'm really grateful for this information, because I was a victim of habitual sin, but by God grace I'm taking a good stap forward in Jesus name.

Angelle Ann

1

Angelle Ann commented…

This article actually helped me ,I have something in my life I want to stop ,Jesus knows. After reading some of the comments I can see why so many never reach out for help..my sin won't send me to hell I however really need to get it out of my life, it's not even about hell .it's about something much more deeper than that it's something I know I have to quit in order for something else to occur

Robert Johnson

1

Robert Johnson commented…

God bless you.
What is amazing is how many Christians here believe that they have nothing they need forgiveness for .WHEN GOD SAYS ALL HAVE SINNED..WHO IS ALL? all is all ..all is everyone here ..everyone here continues to sin every day 365 days a year ..there is something everyone of do that is sin ..im 53 married 32 yrs been a Christian 30plus years and there is not one day i didnt need grace ..i still need grace ..and God lnows the difference between a struggle and a good time to me and any Christian sin is never a good time a sin we ALL struggle with is a BURDENSOME THING ..ITS A HORRIBLE THING and i pray God forgive all of you who have sinned so greatly as to condemn in judgment in error .WE NEVER GET IT RIGHT WE WILL ALWAYS NEED GRACE DAILY .
Some here think they have it together ..they think that they dont sin ..they are so good that they only needed jesus grace the day they were saved ....
We need jesus work every second bc we all fail we all fall we all never get it we all never make it on our own ,we all have one thing something no it may not be this or that its a quiet little thing nobody knows about and its so quiet that some may not even consider a need for grace its just a look a glance a thought a recollection or maybe a reflection or its a sneer or as simple as the thought its them not me and im not under construction anymore God has finally got me there because it doesnt matter IF YOU DID A MILLION TIMES OR YOU DID IT ONLY ONE TIME ITS SIN AND WE ALL HAVE IT DAILY IN OUR LIVES ..sin to a Christian is never getting a way with anything. .sin to a Christian is a grievous horrible burdensome thing people struggle all their lives with ..or sometimes its so little so small you dont struggle at all ..i ask what one are you..the one who continues to struggle with the burden living in repentance or are you the one who isnt....? I been a Christian for over 30 yrs and i still daily fail him .....thought- if its the first time or 7times infinity. .if its nothing or its something it is still undone .. and not yet there ..the covering is needed and its not counting.
Peace and rest in it ..bc we all daily need it till we are like him!

Job De La Cruz

1

Job De La Cruz commented…

you are wrong in when saying "1 John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we lie and the truth is not in us.” "... 1 sin can lead to hell fire. Jesus said to be perfect as our heavenly father in heaven is. Matthew 5:48 "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.". The verse from verse 1 John refers to claiming to have never sinned. A born again believer has sinned in his/her past. However that doesn't mean we are to stay in sin now. Hebrews 10:26 covers one losing his/her salvation for example. Youtube God's Truth And Deliverance for correct doctrine. We are to be perfect, without sin, to pick up our crosses and crucify our flesh. GOD said in the old testament when talking to satan that Job was perfect. Job 1:8 says "And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"

PLEASE STOP LEADING OTHERS ASTRAY. THERE BLOOD WILL BE ON YOUR HANDS IF YOU DO NOT REPENT. YOU HAVE BEEN WARN AND ARE IN DANGER YOURSELF AS WELL AS ENDANGERING OTHERS OF DAMNATION. PLEASE REPENT AND SEEK CHRIST'S FORGIVENESS. CATHOLICISM IS ALSO THE HARLOT CHURCH. THERE IS EVIL DOCTRINE LIKE IDOLATRY (PRAYING TO THE VIRGIN MARY/ VIRGIN MARY STATUES FOR EXAMPLE). MARY DIDN'T EVEN STAY A VIRGIN AFTER JESUS WAS BORN. JESUS HAD HALF SIBLINGS. THE BIBLE SAYS IN MATTHEW 1:25 "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."

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