I have schlepped a lot of luggage all around the country, traveling with our four children. We often had to ask the kids to lighten their suitcases because too much baggage weighed us down and made us miserable. This analogy is a lot like the Christian life when it comes to previous spiritual baggage.
After being saved, we often wonder why we continue to bring our old sinful baggage into our new lives.
Before we trusted in Jesus Christ, we were slaves of sin (Rom. 6:17) and experts in sinful habits and character. Yet even after we are saved by faith through God’s grace (Eph. 2:8) and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13–14), to overcome the power of sin (Rom. 6:18) there, remain deeply embedded sins and sinful habits.
Just like over-stuffed luggage, unless we remove these habitual or “besetting” sins, they will continue to weigh us down toward evil choices.
Examples of Habitual Sins
There are many examples of habitual (or besetting) sins, including focusing our life on:
- Pride (everything is about me)
- Power (everything is about control)
- Position (everything is about success)
- Or prosperity (everything is about getting money)
But sometimes our habitual sins aren’t these big-picture idols; they are specific areas of sin that we struggle with over-and-over:
- Addictions (of any kind)
- Sexual immorality (of any kind)
- Or even holding onto false worldviews
The chances are that the Holy Spirit is convicting you about your particular sins, and you want to change.
Set Apart More and More
Freedom from deeply ingrained sins is possible but requires significant effort.
God expects every Christian to be righteous and holy (Eph. 4:22, 24), and he gives us everything we need to do that. This process of becoming more like Jesus is called “sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:1-8): the “setting apart” of our lives more and more for God and not sin.
But this sanctification is progressive. Meaning we will never be ultimately like Jesus in this life; it is ongoing until we die.
We Choose It
As Christians, we do not sin because we are still “slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:1-7). The cross defeated sin forever. Now when we sin, we knowingly choose to sin.
Sinning continually does not relieve us of responsibility but makes the sin all the worse. We must take personal responsibility for our transgressions because we have the tools to overcome them. And here are seven ways to overcome these habitual sins.
1. Asking: Am I Truly A Christian?
The first step in overcoming habitual, besetting sins is to critically examine ourselves to determine if we are genuinely saved (2 Cor. 13:5).
How can we know this? One way is by asking yourself this question: “While no Christian is sinless (1 John 1:8-10), am I continually striving to be more Christ-like?”
All of us have weaknesses and can fall into sin, even if we don’t want to (Rom. 7:15). But when we sin, the Spirit convicts us of sin with such godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:10-11) that we hate our sin, confess it, and ask forgiveness (Ps. 103:12, 1 John 1:9).
But if someone continually practices habitual sinning and doesn’t repent and keep turning to God, they are not born of God (1 John 3:9) and will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
True repentance means not only a heart that is broken “for” sin but also “from” sin. If you are not turning to Christ and away from your sin: do that for the first time by truly putting your full trust in Christ and begin following him with your whole heart.
2. Confront Yourself
As a Christian, we must start our change process by confronting ourselves truthfully (Luke 6:39-45, Ps. 139:23-24). Ask yourself:
- “What are my besetting sins and vulnerabilities to Satan’s attacks?”
- “What are the circumstances of when, where, how, and with whom I commit my habitual sins?”
Do you usually drink with the same old friends? Are you consistently prideful, greedy, jealous, always angry, or anxious? Do you seek out inappropriate internet content after 11:00 p.m.? Do you speak badly about others whenever you’re on Facebook? You’ll never find full freedom until you’re able to honestly put your finger on what and how you’re struggling.
3. What To Avoid
Defeating a habit requires lifestyle changes. We cannot allow any opportunity for sin in our lives (Rom. 13:14). So, we need to take the questions we answered above and act on them by answering:
- “What are the times, places, situations, and people that I need to avoid because they tempt me?”
Write these down and commit to how you will avoid them. Be ready to have others involved in keeping you accountable to your commitments of avoiding evil behavior.
Our spiritual health requires boundaries during this season to keep us from temptation. As Jesus commands, “If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:30).
These steps may be short-term (like changing your bedtime to 10 p.m. for the next six months) or long-term (like deciding never to drink alcohol again), but they are critical to keeping us from the temptations that most seduce us.
Now that we’ve taken a hard look at ourselves, where can we look next for real change and freedom? Check out the next blog article for these steps.