In the last article, we walked through the nature of habitual sins, why they don’t still have power over our lives, and the first three steps that we can take to overcome them (including taking a hard look at ourselves and what we need to put off). But what can we now “put on” to change and see God’s transformation? Steps 4-7 help us make a proactive plan to find freedom.
4. Open Your Bible
God doesn’t usually supernaturally “zap” people to transform their wills. Instead, he gives us tools for change. And the essential tool is the Bible.
Start renewing your mind (Rom. 12:2) by reading some of the Bible every day. Being in Scripture daily will slowly change the way you think about:
- Your time
- Your entertainment
- Your relationships
- God’s involvement in your daily life
- The Holy Spirit
- And your daily decisions
It’s from our minds that we make our decisions. And this first step helps us move in the direction of glorifying the Lord in all of our thoughts, words, and actions.
Our life’s goal is glorifying God in every moment! The apostle Paul invites us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
But it can be challenging to submit all of our life areas to God’s will (2 Cor. 10:5), so be patient; it will take time and practice to discipline yourself.
5. Memorize Verses About Your Sin
Begin by reading and becoming familiar with God’s Word and, in particular, those verses about your besetting sin. You can easily search for these verses online, use the topical concordance in the back of your Bible, or ask another Christian friend for help to find these verses.
Don’t just read these passages once. Instead, meditate on them, reading them over-and-over and thinking through what this passage means and what it means for you. Invite God to speak through this passage to you as you read it.
Also, pick at least one verse that relates to your area of struggle to memorize.
- Read this verse over and over in its parts
- Write it on a notecard
- Say it out loud
- Pray it to God
- And share it with others frequently
This way, when temptation comes, this verse will also come to mind and help you win that spiritual battle. Scripture memorization is a necessary tool: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11).
6. Pray About Your Sin
As you read, meditate on, and memorize these Bible verses, don’t forget to pray. Take time to pray contemplatively by focusing on the Bible passage and opening yourself up to the Holy Spirit’s leading (Ps. 27:4). As you speak to God, seek what is he indicating about who he is and what he wants you to do?
Pray for God’s wisdom (Ps. 119:97-98), confidence (Ps. 16:8), mercy, and grace (Heb. 4:16). Eventually, we can incorporate prayer into all of the moments of our day and “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17).
And instead of always feeling the tug of temptation, we will become increasingly influenced by our constant conversations with God.
7. Develop New Habits
The Bible tells us to “take off” besetting sins and in their place “put on” Christ-like behavior.
Instead of merely stopping sinful behavior, we should focus on what is right and more productive to our spiritual health. This solution is a lot like parenting: when you tell your child that they cannot or should not do something, their entire focus becomes doing that activity! Similarly, we don’t want to be absorbed solely with what we’re trying to “take off.”
- “What godly habits am I seeing in God’s Word?”
- “What God-honoring activities will I use to replace my sins?”
- “What are the times, places, situations, and people that I want to use to engage these new habits?”
Are you going to join a church group to help get healthy spiritual relationships in your life? Are you going to start exercising daily to use your energy wisely? Are you going to memorize a weekly verse with a friend?
We remove evil from our lives by replacing it with a greater good. Let good habits replace sinful ones. This approach means committing yourself to do God’s commands in every area of your life.
8. Involve Others
Involving others in helping us change is the practice most of us ignore. But we aren’t meant to change on our own.
At some point in “putting on” Christ-like behavior, you must include others who are trustworthy Christians.
- You may need to involve them at the very beginning: having them help you assess your sin and what needs to change
- You may need to include them in the “put on” process: receiving help to know what God’s Word says about glorifying him and how to do that
- And most of the time, you’ll involve someone else in both the “put off” and “put on” process
These helpers could be a pastor, a family member, a counselor, or a friend, but you must bring someone else into being involved in your change, or it won’t last long. It’s wise to have someone who can mentor (or counsel) you through this process and someone else who can come alongside you as a friend to keep you accountable and encouraged regularly.
9. Persevere...Even After You Fail
A word of caution: because besetting sins are deeply ingrained, don’t get discouraged if you fail initially.
Persevere. All successful athletes know the frustration and pain of training. And as you train yourself in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), you will face formidable opponents (Satan, the surrounding culture, and your own flesh). But the Holy Spirit indwells you and is working to conform you to the image of Christ. And if God is for you, who can be against you (Rom. 8:29-31)?
How do we persevere?:
- First, choose to be unmovable in your quest to succeed in your goal of becoming more like Jesus in all your thoughts, words, and actions.
- Second, have a contingency plan to eliminate, resist, or flee from temptations that arise unexpectedly (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Expect temptations to occur! And don’t be discouraged by them; instead, be prepared with a plan for the inevitable.
- Third, don’t believe the lie that you have to do it all on your own. Battling habitual sins all alone can be a recipe for failure. As you humble yourself to get guidance from more mature Christians (including pastors or trained counselors), they will encourage you, hold you accountable, and hold you up in this journey.
Freedom Is Coming
Besetting sins don’t need to haunt our new life in Christ. There are greater power and pleasure in Christ than any substitute. And by relying on the Holy Spirit, prayer, and God’s Word, we can attack and defeat any habitual sin to find victory. God promises us that he will not permit us to be tempted beyond our ability but will always provide a way for us to escape (1 Cor. 10:13). So this week, take your first steps toward the freedom that God wants to bring you.