"I Can't Overcome This Sinful Habit!" (part one)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Humans are, by nature, creatures of habit.  In many cases, this is a good thing. I'm glad I don't have to re-learn how to brush my teeth every day. It would be a real pain to have to read a manual on driving every time I step into my car. Praise God for the gift of habit!

However, our habitual nature becomes a detriment when sin enters the picture. The human heart has a way of turning all kinds of activities - including activities that are not inherently wrong - into sinful habits that control us and enslave us and harm ourselves and others. Common sinful habits include alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual addictions (mainly pornography), gambling, compulsive lying, overeating, oversleeping, outbursts of anger, self-inflicted pain, sports obsession, video game obsession, long hours in front of the TV, social media obsession, an out-of-control imagination...the list could go on and on....

Most likely, at least one of the items in that list has been a particular struggle for you. Maybe you think you have your sinful habit under control, but the fact that it’s a habit means that you’re under its control. Call it what it is: Enslavement. Bondage to sin. And because most addictions are related to the body, the chains are strong and extremely tangled and can seem impossible to shake off.

Is it even possible to overcome this addiction? Absolutely - if you know Christ you’re a new creation! You’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit! Temptation will continue for the rest of your life, but you can stop the habit. “God is faithful…with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape” (I Cor. 10:13).

So how can I overcome my sinful habit? What should I do when I keep repeating the same sin? 
It won’t be simple, it won’t be easy – but here's some good news: the most significant work has already been done…by Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Nothing you have done is so bad that you can’t be forgiven by Christ. Some of the greatest heroes of our faith - Moses, David, and Paul – were former murderers! God can forgive you, too. But don't make the mistake of trying to earn God’s forgiveness. Don't think, “If I can just get this wicked activity out of my life and visit with God every Sunday morning…do a few good deeds here and there…maybe then God will accept me.” Being a Christian is much more than going to church and being a good person. It is becoming a child of God through the work of Jesus in your place on the cross. Receive Him, and you can be forgiven no matter what you’ve done.

Mark it down - You are not going to break free from your sinful habit without the gospel.

Forgiven children of God will be tempted by sin and will give in at times. But they are always convicted and cannot remain comfortable in sin. The Spirit of God will reprove us until we are back on the right path. "The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…. If you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Heb. 12:6-8). If you’re caught in an addiction, but you haven’t given up and you want to defeat your sin for God’s glory, my prayer is that you can find some real hope and some real help in the gospel.

Here's something you need to be aware of, right up front: You are not going to break free from your sinful habit without God’s Word. We are made holy by God’s truth – His Word is truth (John 17:17). In order for lasting change to happen, your entire being – mind, will, and emotions – must be affected by God's truth.

Sin, at its core, is deceptive. Satan is the “father of lies” – he’s very good at deceiving you in the moment of temptation. Every time you sin, it is because you have temporarily rejected a promise of God and believed a lie of Satan. Consider some of these common lies about your sinful habit:
·         Just one more time won’t hurt.
·         You’re in control – you can stop anytime you want to.
·         It’s not a big deal if you sin – God will forgive you, right?
·         It won’t really be that harmful if you’re careful.
·         How can something that feels so good be wrong?
·         God’s way is miserable. The way of sin is fun. Why should you miss out?
·         It’s too embarrassing to seek help from a fellow Christian.
·         You’re all alone – nobody else struggles with your sin.
·         You’ve blown it already – God won’t forgive you.
·         You’re in it too deepit’s too late to change.
·         There is no way of escapeyou will give in sooner or later.
·         It’s someone else’s fault that you struggle with this.
·         It’s God’s fault that you struggle with this.
·         God wouldn’t let you struggle with this so much if He really loved you.

My friend, don’t believe these lies! Believe the truth of God. He has given us very great and precious promises in Christ, so that we can escape the corruption of the world (2 Peter 1:4).

In our next post, we'll consider how our minds must be affected by the truth of God's Word in order to overcome sinful habits...


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