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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.

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

Patrick

2

Patrick commented…

All due respect, it may be true about being forgiven in spite of continuing in sin. I hope it is. However I also have to respect the notion that perhaps not, it may depend on the sin and individual circumstances. Living a double life is not good in any manner.

While asking for forgiveness knowing all the time that you plan to sin again, how genuine is the request for forgiveness. I've done that and it left me feeling worse and my sins only got worse. Asking God to forgive, and by the way "forgive my plans to continue sinning", is not true repentance. Do not be deceived. Jesus told the adulteress to go, "and sin no more".

Due to crying out to the Lord in shame, realizing his forgiveness, and fear of hell, I think I have changed. This after often doubting my ability to ever do-so. I was touched by the Holy Spirit and now despise even the thought of sinning like before. I gave up 25 years of incredible love and sex with a women that I adored. I was living a double life and I knew it was very wrong in spite of how good it was.
I now know I am one of Gods sheep in a world full of wolves (the devil). I recognize his voice and he protects me. He gave his life for me and I have little doubt of my salvation now.
You can stop. You just need to understand the reason behind your sins. Sin is evil plain and simple and meant to destroy you. You don't need your sin like you think you do, but no amount of willpower will ever defeat it. What you do need is the armor of God to fight it and he will show you a better way where you no longer want it. In fact you will soon hate it, and joy in that you and God have defeated it together.

85,167

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.

129 Comments

85,167

Guildpaint commented…

Unless you confess your sins to a Catholic Priest you will never over come them

85,167

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.

Patrick

2

Patrick commented…

All due respect, it may be true about being forgiven in spite of continuing in sin. I hope it is. However I also have to respect the notion that perhaps not, it may depend on the sin and individual circumstances. Living a double life is not good in any manner.

While asking for forgiveness knowing all the time that you plan to sin again, how genuine is the request for forgiveness. I've done that and it left me feeling worse and my sins only got worse. Asking God to forgive, and by the way "forgive my plans to continue sinning", is not true repentance. Do not be deceived. Jesus told the adulteress to go, "and sin no more".

Due to crying out to the Lord in shame, realizing his forgiveness, and fear of hell, I think I have changed. This after often doubting my ability to ever do-so. I was touched by the Holy Spirit and now despise even the thought of sinning like before. I gave up 25 years of incredible love and sex with a women that I adored. I was living a double life and I knew it was very wrong in spite of how good it was.
I now know I am one of Gods sheep in a world full of wolves (the devil). I recognize his voice and he protects me. He gave his life for me and I have little doubt of my salvation now.
You can stop. You just need to understand the reason behind your sins. Sin is evil plain and simple and meant to destroy you. You don't need your sin like you think you do, but no amount of willpower will ever defeat it. What you do need is the armor of God to fight it and he will show you a better way where you no longer want it. In fact you will soon hate it, and joy in that you and God have defeated it together.

Joe Geranio

1

Joe Geranio commented…

The best verse in my opinion is Romans 5 vs. 18-25 and Romans 6 1-2. As one man Adam made us all sinners, the Adamic nature is always with us. Here is the Good part, but Jesus on the flip side of what i just said about Adam made us rightouess for all time. Yes, past , present and future sins. Now, If you really love Jesus you wont add to what sins you already have? Or if we do it just adds more guilt, but Faith points to no condemnation as a BELIEVER. You can't add one thing to the finished work on the Cross. It is finished.

Brandy Lastly

1

Brandy Lastly commented…

Thank you for this article, I felt so much love from God after reading this. I have been dealing with this issue for about 30 years and I'm only 32! But I definitely needed to breath and relax and know that God is not mad at me or frustrated with me!

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