You Need to Just Stop Sinning.
“I am unable to get my [particular addiction this person struggles with] under control. I repent but keep going to it. How many times will God forgive me? I am enslaved to this but the Bible says I cannot be enslaved if I am free in Christ. I need help. Do you have any advice?” ~ John V
So often we tell the sinner to “Just stop sinning and repent.” And when he returns to his sin again, his shame grows more and more as he starts to think that Jesus doesn’t care for him because if He did then He would have completely removed this thorn. I hear you. Yours is a constant refrain that I hear from Christians of various backgrounds, “Maybe I am lost. Why can’t I just get over this?” I have been there myself. “Why can’t I get over this? Why are you not helping me God?”
And when a struggler hears the advice like,
He tries. He knows that he has to stop. And he knows that they are correct, he does need to stop sinning. He does need to repent. And he wants to just stop. But he is broken, addicted, crushed…And it is true that Jesus can simply zap your struggles away, but he may not do that. He may instead use your struggles and addictions to draw you closer to him. For those who don’t like calling any sin an “addiction” because making sin a disease implies excusing the behaviour of the person…I hear what you are saying. I totally get it. We should never excuse sin. So, when we speak of particular sins as an addiction, we should never excuse the sinful behaviour. The behaviour is still sinful and rooted in sin. And addiction never starts off as an addiction. It starts as an idolatrous sinful behaviour repeated over and over until it becomes a compulsion that the addict can no longer control. The idolatrous root is fed and nourished, and ultimately the root becomes a big tree bearing it’s sinful fruit….be it alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction, porn addiction, coffee addiction, or any other addiction.
“How many times will God forgive me?” Let’s look at Matthew 18. When Peter asks Jesus how many times He should forgive his neighbour, Jesus said not 7 but 77 times! God is gracious and expects us to be as well. If we are expected to continually forgive, that is evidence of how gracious God is. We read in Ephesians 2:8 that grace is a gift from God. The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 that when we sin, the Spirit will convict us to a godly sorrow, but he doesn’t condemn us because, as it says in Romans 8 – there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is Grace. God will continually forgive you, if you repent and return to the cross of Christ. However, Paul tells us that grace never should be used as an excuse to sin. So if we abuse this grace, by not fighting against our sins, or if we downplay sin and simply say that we are weak, or we are addicts, and so give in to our addictions, it is then that we tread on dangerous ground. There is a difference between living in sin or accepting it as our lot in life, and fighting against an addiction that we keep falling into. Sin is sin, and it must called out and rebuked as such, but do not be anxious of your salvation if you are repentant, even if you keep stumbling. Christ is stronger than your weakness.
Do you have any advice?
Just stop…I mean…Confess and repent. This is a concept that I needed to grasp with my heart, not just my head: I am in Christ, which means that I am forgiven all my sin. There is no more guilt. There is no more shame for those who are in Christ. That is the beauty of the gospel. I had to accept this promise from God. We confess our sin to God and to those whom we have sinned against, we repent. To repent means turning from sin – stopping the behaviour – and turning to God. And that is where most of us have the problem…we repent and swear to never engage in the behaviour. But the battle wages on and many of us give up instead of continuing to repent.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9
Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, ~ Acts 3:19
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ~ 2Peter 3:9
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. ~ Proverbs 28:13
Feed on the Word of God. King David said, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin.” Memorize scripture, because scripture is where the Lord speaks to us. If we have it memorized then we have “hid it in our hearts” and any time temptation arises, the Word of God, which you have hid in your heart, will begin to speak. Try memorizing psalm 1 and proverbs 7, 1 Corinthians 10:13 to start. Oh and if you want to hear God audibly, I also have the answer for that. Read your Bible out loud. 🙂
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word ~ Psalm 119:9
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. ~ Psalm 119:11
The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. Psalm 37:31
My son, keep your father’s commandment,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you. ~Proverbs 6:19-22
Seek real fellowship for accountability and mentorship. After the Lord brought me out of bondage to sin, and I was brought to saving faith, I went out and got me a mentor! What better way for a baby Christian to grow than by learning from a spiritualy mature person? Find someone to ask you the hard questions, who encourage you, rebuke you, and point you to the cross; I also had a pastor who took me under his wing who mentored me in spirituality and life. We need to surround ourselves with Godly people and rid ourselves of the bad influences. Paul even said, “be imitators of me.” Find a Godly person and imitate them.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ~ Proverbs 13:20
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:33
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
Be an active participant in your sanctification. Whoa! Wait! Slam on the Reformed brakes! Only God can sanctify us! Yes you are correct. But we are not to be idle or passive in our sanctification. Yes, our sanctification is worked out in us by God alone, but Jesus told us in Matthew 5:27ff that in response to sin, particularly sexual sin, we are to wage war on it with drastic measures. It is better to cut off your hand and gouge out your eye he says…that sounds pretty drastic to me. So pick up that axe and cut down the tree, then grab that shovel and start digging to expose the root of the sin. It won’t be easy, it will be hard, and there will be scars. If yours is more than a bad habit and has become an addiction, you will most likely need professional help or a 12 step group.
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. ~ 1 Timothy 2:21
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 1 Thess. 4:3-7
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23
So in regards to being an active participant in your sanctification, you may also want to:
Avoid evil attractions. Do not expose yourself to evil attractions. Those people, places, and things that tempt me to sin I avoid. Know yourself, and stay away from those things that take your mind off Christ and tempt you to sin. So if your computer tempts you to sin – get rid of it or get filtering software like K9, or get accountability software like covenant eyes, and have your internet activity reports sent to your pastor or a mature Christian friend. If driving past the liquor store on the way home from work causes problems for you – go the other way! If you have a Facebook friend who continually posts “selfies” of herself in her swimsuit…maybe it’s time to un-friend her or stop using Facebook. TV a problem? Toss it out. If money causes you to sin, have all your spending scrutinized by a deacon or your pastor. If being alone causes you to sin, find a mature Christian friend who you can call day or night if your wife is out of town, or if you are out of town on business and so on.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~ Matthew 5:30
Ultimately, we need to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus. You have a personal relationship with him, engage in that, cultivate it. As reformed believers we place so much emphasis on being a part of the covenant that sometimes we forget that we are not just a people of God, but that you and I are personally redeemed by Jesus and have a personal relationship with him. That is where the battle is won. The most powerful motivation for holiness in my life comes from knowing God, having a real relationship with Jesus. I am not saying I don’t sin anymore, but after I believed, I found that sin did not have the same hold over me that it once had. So I implore you… get to know your Saviour. Read your Bibles and pray.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.