How do I stop sinning?
Five steps to help you defeat sin and keep in step with the Spirit.
No one robs a bank because they want to go to prison. Prison is just the consequence pointing to a poor decision. Maybe if law-breakers considered prison first, fewer banks would be robbed.
Bank-robbers or not, the same is true for us. You won’t go to prison for lying, cussing, verbal cruelty, premarital sex, or parental disrespect, but the concept is no different. If only we, as God’s law-breakers, considered first the outcome of our poor decisions, we’d make fewer of them. If we considered first the pricey cost of our sin, we’d be more likely to resist temptation.
But how about if we don’t? What about those decisions we cannot reverse? How do we stop the sin? Is it too late to keep in step with God’s Spirit? Is there a point when we’ve drifted too far? Never.
With God’s help and direction from His Word, we can always step our way back from sin to surrender.
Step 1: Hate the sin
Typically, it’s not until after we experience sin’s consequence, we actually want to stop it. For example...
- Our smoking habit leads to cancer
- Our dishonesty hurts a friend
- Our procrastination leads to a failed exam
Sin’s consequences can start out minimal. However, if left unaddressed it will grow to far worse. We have to want to change, to hate the sin, before we will ever be utterly freed from it.
Don’t be fooled. We cannot justify our sin and gratify our desires, while simultaneously walking in the Spirit. And yet, without a despicable consequence, we are privy to hold onto unrighteousness. Sadly for some, it takes tragedy or loss to awaken their souls to seek God for help; to not only listen to our Teacher’s Word but live it out.
Step 2: Locate the source of sin
To hate sin because of its consequence (going to prison, for example) isn’t hating sin at all. It’s like trapping a house mouse but not addressing its nest. More mice will arrive from where the first came just like sin multiplies when we allow its source to remain.
This is exactly why we must locate sin’s start. It’s not external (as much as we wish to place blame). Sin is innate. It’s something we're born with. Our heart is the rodents’ nest. From the heart comes the likes of pride, hate, and selfishness. Unless we ask God to come in and take our sin by Christ’s Power, the sin will infest our lives like unwanted mice.
Step 3: Invite the exterminator
Jesus, in His kindness, allows sin’s consequence in order to keep us from greater sin. He teaches us that life in sin is not really life at all and God is more than fair. We know because He sent Jesus to experience every temptation, and He gave us a Spirit to remind us: God’s Power is unwavering.
There must come a point when we are so fed up with sin, not just its external consequence but its deep roots within, before we will authentically seek to be changed.
We must admit it, submit it, and receive what God’s saying. Hand it over.
Be filled with Jesus instead.
Step 4: Fill the emptiness with good
Eliminating any sin from your life leaves a vacancy where it’s been. You can bet the impostor, devious and devouring, would love to fill the space with something equally as evil.
Thankfully, Jesus is well aware of our enemies (Satan, sin, and ourselves). He knew our attempt to overcome sin might feel like we are going backwards - even as we walk with Him. Thankfully, God gives us His Word to combat discouragement in those times we want to give up. Galatians 5:16 tells us how to redeem what sin stole with Good.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Let’s camp here a minute:
The best way to understand this verse is to read what it doesn’t say. Galatians 5:16 doesn’t say, "Do not gratify the desires of the flesh, and then you will walk by the Spirit."
Read it again. You might even make a note. Because our power to step lies in the great difference.
Step 5: Resist like Jesus
The power to change doesn’t rest on you or me. Our role is simply to keep close to the Spirit. Seeing as sin cannot exist in the presence of our Holy God, He fights the desires which lead us to poor decisions. The invitation isn’t “try harder.” It’s not, “be tougher,” either. The invitation is “Come.” It’s “Stay close.”
Our need for a Savior is exactly why Jesus became our sin-replacement. He came before us to overcome sin, and He left the Bible to us, to show us how He did.
Jesus relied on God’s Word, and He didn’t make excuses. Jesus denied every temptation and followed through completely. And guess what?
You are the reason He did it.
The Spirit of Christ wants to walk with you.
Start by memorizing and meditating on God’s word to: Think Rightly: Romans 12:1,2; Be Empowered: Colossians 1:29; and Rely on Christ: Proverbs 3:5,6