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How can I break the cycle of habitual sin?

One of the problems with sin is that the more we think about the sin the more we find we are tempted to do it! See Romans 7:7-13.

The Bible teaches that the more we focus our attention on the sin – the more the sinful nature in us will want to do it again! That means even focusing our minds on it as we try to turn from it can provide an opportunity for sin in us to spark our desire to do it! That is not a good situation but one which is quite common to many of us as we struggle against sin. Indeed the apostle Paul goes on to say:

When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21b-25(NIV)

The only way that we can be rescued from this law of sin and death is through faith in the sacrifice Jesus Christ has made for us – paying in our place – that’s one of the central arguments of the book of Romans.

But what do we do going forward?

Well there are some key steps we need to take in our thinking because as Paul says the battle is between our mind and our body’s sinful desires:

  • Ascertain – recognise the behaviour as a problem that needs to be dealt with
  • Name – state the behaviour as wrong. Consciously label it “wrong” in your mind
  • Shame – realise how this behaviour makes the heart of God sad and furious
  • Refuse to entertain – consciously decide not to give it any room in your thoughts any longer.

As Job said - I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. Job 31:1 (NIV).

Each step is important but the last step is a very significant decision that must be made by us every day.
When we come to the Lord in faith He will help us to want to please and honour Him more than feeding our sinful desires – but at the same time we have to want to fill our minds with Him and go His way. We have to choose to think about Him more than other things! So instead of focusing our minds on sin – allowing ourselves to think of ways to gratify the sinful nature we must focus our minds on our Lord!

He desires that we should experience His love as a living reality every day. So if we are to grow in His love we will need to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the one who leads us in the Christian faith (see Hebrews 12:1-12). We will need to fill our minds with His love for us and meditate on all that God says is good (see Philippians 4:8-9). When tempted we need to come to the Lord in prayer and don't forget that he is interceding for us (see Hebrews 7:25).

As we look to Jesus as our Lord we remember that our bodies are not our own to do with as we please – but Jesus has bought us with His precious blood (see 1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Because of His amazing love for us the right response for us to make is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices – offering ourselves in worship and service to the Lord (see Romans 12:1-2). As it says in Galatians 5:16 ... live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (NIV)

It’s a great privilege to be able to serve the Lord with our bodies – if it weren’t for Christ’s death and resurrection we would still be in slavery to sin – but the wonder of the gospel of Christ is that He has freed us from slavery to sin and enabled us to choose to serve Him! And as we fix our minds on Him He shows us the way to go and leads us on the right path.

So please make a choice: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith! Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)