Habitual sins are problems for almost everyone. Perhaps even you!
For example, you hold on to sinful anger, anxiety, depression, or a hypercritical nature. On the other hand, you could be continuing addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling. Further, you may be persisting in struggling with inappropriate sexual relationships or viewing pornographic material. Additionally, you possibly be feeling overwhelmed by envy, guilt, or greed.
What’s going on? You thought becoming a Christian would mean you would not have to deal with all these old habitual sins.
And that is why so many new believers become discouraged. For instance:
- Am I saved?
- Why do I continue to sin in the same old way?
- Can I ever overcome these habitual sins?
What’s going on?
Habitual Sins as Spiritual Baggage
As an illustration, I have schlepped a lot of luggage all around the country. With four children that is hardly surprising. We often had to ask the kids to lighten their suitcases. Because too much baggage weighed us down and made us miserable.
Our excessive luggage is analogous to the Christian life carrying previous spiritual baggage. But, unfortunately, many people enter God’s kingdom carrying luggage that won’t fit.
For example, they have histories of dysfunctional families, abuse, and trauma. Or they may instead be struggling with addiction, anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt.
But here is the thing. These are precisely the people God wants in his family! Jesus came and died for broken and needy people (John 3:16)! In other words, you and me!
But like over-stuffed luggage, new believers must remove these habitual sins. If they do not, their sins will continually weigh them down. As a result, they live hopeless lives that persist in sinful choices.
What is the Source of Habitual Sins?
Before we trusted in Jesus Christ, we were slaves of sin (Rom. 6:17) and experts in sinful habits and character. Basically, there are three sources of our sins.
- First, there is our sinful nature (Rom. 6:12).
- Second is our surrounding culture (James 4:4).
- The third is the devil (1 Pet. 5:8).
Examples of Habitual Sins
There are many examples of habitual (or besetting) sins. Particularly those that become the focus of our lives. For example:
- First, pride (everything is about me)
- Second, power (everything is about control)
- Third, position (everything is about success)
- Fourth, prosperity (everything is about getting money)
- Fifth, pleasure (everything is about satisfying my needs)
If a particular sin is bothering you, it is probably the Holy Spirit “convicting” you. Meaning you should and can change.
Resources for Overcoming Habitual Sins
As believers, we can conquer our sins without being its slaves (Rom. 6:17-18; 8:31-39). Jesus’ death and resurrection of Jesus is the source of our salvation (Eph. 2:8).
And after salvation, we are to be more like Jesus (1 Thess. 4:1-8). This process occurs over our lifetime and is called “sanctification,”
Sanctification means God expects every Christian to be righteous and holy (Eph. 4:22, 24).
And He gives us everything we need to do that. For instance:
- First, we have the indwelt Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 14; 1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19)
- Second, God’s Word is the sole authority to guide you in every aspect of your life (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:2-11).
- Third, we have access to the mercy, grace, wisdom, and power of God in Jesus Christ through prayer (John 16:23-24; Heb. 4:15-16; Jas. 1:5; 1 John 5:14-15).
Despite these resources, for some, there remain deeply embedded sins that are habits. To be free of these habitual sins requires significant effort on your part.
Hard Truth: We Choose to Continue in Habitual Sins
Before we put our faith in Jesus, we were ignorant and blind to our sins (Eph. 4:18). But after salvation, the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:15-16) and the Bible let us know when we are sinning.
So when we choose to continue sinning after our salvation, we know what we are doing. Hence, habitual sins make our sinfulness all the worse.
But as Christians, we do not need to continuing being “slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:1-7). The cross defeated sin forever (Rom. 6:6).
Seven Ways to Overcome Habitual Sins
1. Am I Truly a Christian?
Firstly, ask yourself, “I am saved?” (2 Cor. 13:5)? Although no Christian is sinless (1 John 1:8-10), are you striving to be more Christ-like?”
Understand me. 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. And as a result, we have godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:10-11). Thereupon we hate our sin, confess it, and ask forgiveness (Psa. 103:12, 1 John 1:9).
In contrast, if you habitually sin, never repent or turn to God, you are unlikely saved (1 John 3:9). And hence, will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Explicitly true repentance means not only a broken heart “for” sin but also “from” sin.
Therefore, if you are not turning to Christ and away from your sin: do that now! Put your complete trust in Christ and begin following him with your whole heart.
2. Confronting Yourself
Secondly, confront yourself truthfully (Luke 6:39-45, Ps. 139:23-24). For example, 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?”
You’ll never find total freedom until you’re able to honestly put your finger on what and how you’re struggling.
3. Lifestyle Change
Thirdly, defeating habitual sins requires lifestyle changes. We cannot allow any opportunity for corruption in our lives (Rom. 13:14).
Given that, we need to answer specific questions about our habitual sins. For example:
- “What are the times, places, situations, and people that I need to avoid because they tempt me?”
- Do I usually drink or party with the same old friends?
- Am I consistently prideful, greedy, jealous, always angry, or anxious?
- Do I seek out inappropriate internet content after 11:00 p.m.?
- Do I speak badly about others whenever you’re on Facebook?
Write down your answers and how you will avoid them. After that, ask others to keep you accountable for avoiding evil behavior.
Unquestionably as a new Christian with spiritual baggage, your spiritual health requires boundaries. Especially during this early season to keep you from temptation.
For instance, 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).
Some steps may be short-term, like changing your bedtime to 10 p.m. for the next six months. Other measures may be long-term, like deciding never to drink alcohol again.
But lifestyle changes are critical. They will keep us from temptations that seduce us into our habitual sins.
Now that we’ve taken a hard look at ourselves, where can we look next for real change and freedom? Check out thefollowing blog article for these steps.