As a Christian, you are an entirely different person than before you accepted Jesus. Now, you are forgiven your sin and are justified. You have been born again spiritually, and the Spirit of God lives in you. However, we still have sinful habits that God wants to change. In order to become more mature and established Christians, God will help us to overcome our sinful habits.
This last few days I was dealt with some horrible news, and after several hours just sitting there, dazed and confused I began to speak in tongues because I could not even muster the patience to pray because my mind kept wondering to the horrible accusations in this person’s email. I began to see in the spirit that I should have shown this person more love, more patience, and communicated better.
I then began to see why God allows these trials, and it began to occur to me that some trials are divinely permitted to teach us to get rid of sinful habits.
Habits are any routine we feel compelled to follow. Some habits we developed when we were children, such as washing our hands before eating. Some habits are because of addiction, such as smoking or gambling. Other habits we developed because of bad influences or environment, such as cursing and swearing.
Obviously, some habits are sinful and can be very harmful to ourselves and other people.
If we keep hold of sinful habits, we give the devil a way to destroy our lives. For example, if you have a habit of criticizing others or saying sarcastic words, then the devil can use that to destroy your friendships and family relationships. Sinful habits are like bits in the mouths of horses; Satan can use them to control us in the same way the rider controls a horse. What I learned is that I have a sinful habit of non patience, and I am quick to anger. This is a new habit I formed since my mothers stroke. If any of you care of a stroke victim who is paralyzed you can understand what a toll it takes, especially if you are the main breadwinner and caregiver.
Our savings have been completely used up and due to my busy schedule, I have put little time into my business and that too has been a strain. As a result I have been quick to anger with many people, and while this may not seem like a big deal, it really is. People look at us as Christians and we must act like Christians and be above reproach at all times.
The truth is, without God, we will never be free from the bondage of sin in our lives. Because we are born with a sinful nature, we will always be slaves to sin unless God comes to set us free. When we become a Christian, God begins a work to change us.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Some of the Corinthian church had very sinful habits, attitudes, and addictions before God worked a miraculous change in their lives. Corinth was the modern day Las Vegas. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and what He did for the Corinthian believers, He will do for you as well!
How to overcome our sinful habits
1. Truly repent of our sins
The first step to overcoming our sinful habits is to recognize those actions are sinful. The devil may try to tempt us by making those sinful habits seem insignificant, but God cannot tolerate any sin. The devil’s goal is to pull you away from God, and he will make the sin seem small. Remember how the devil talked to Eve in the Garden of Eden? He lied and tried to make the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil seem desirable. Eventually, Adam and Eve decided eating the fruit was better than obeying God.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
Therefore, do not love your sinful habits! Don’t be wise in your own eyes like Adam and Eve, and think your sinful habits are insignificant. Actually, every time the Holy Spirit reveals some sin to us, we should be ready to change. If we do not, then eventually our hearts will become calloused and we will go deeper and deeper into sin. If you haven’t already, take some time now to pray to God and repent of your sinful habits. Ask God to forgive you and cleanse you by the blood of Jesus.
2. Receive God’s Word
When we read the Bible and listen to preaching and teaching, God’s word will change us. The Bible says the word of God is living and active, and reveals our inner thoughts and attitudes. The word of God is compared to a hammer that breaks rocks in pieces, like a double-edged sword that pierces our soul, and like water that cleanses us. It is God’s tool for changing our hearts. When we read the Bible or listen to the word being preached, we should open our hearts to change. God will use His word to cleanse us and mold us into His image.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
God’s word is also like spiritual food. We want to be strong spiritually so that we can win the spiritual battle against sinful habits. Therefore, we need to read the Bible and listen to the sermon CDs frequently.
3. Depend on strength from God, not ourselves
Overcoming sinful habits in our lives is difficult, and so we need to pray and ask God for help. This principle of depending on God’s strength is the key to a successful Christian life. In fact, even Paul the apostle depended entirely on God’s strength to overcome problems and personal struggles. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul wrote about a “thorn in his flesh” that made him depend on God. Even through all of his hardships, Paul was not defeated by difficulties, but prevailed over them because he depended on God.
Practically, we can learn dependence on God by fasting and praying. When we fast and pray, we learn to say “no” to our flesh, or sinful desires, and say “yes” to the Holy Spirit. Of course, fasting and praying is difficult, but it trains us to not easily give in to temptation, which often comes through physical senses: we want to touch, taste, or see something. Fasting and praying trains our body to obey our spirit.
When we pray to overcome sinful habits, we should not give up, but rather keep asking God for help. The person who wrote Psalm 121 understood what it was like to completely depend on God for help:
I life up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
4. Live Spirit-filled lives
The Holy Spirit is like a fire inside us that cleanses us from unholy things, including sinful habits. In Matthew 3, John the Baptist says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. When we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is like a fire that burns up sinful things in our lives. I know its hard to do sometimes, especially with the way I was so angry and impatient but we need to really live by the spirit.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
We should be filled increasingly with the Spirit so that God can change us quickly. Our sinful desires conflict with the Spirit of God; either you crave sinful things or you will hunger for more of the Holy Spirit. When one hunger becomes stronger, eventually the other will grow weaker. Paul wrote to the Ephesians not to crave alcohol, but to hunger for the Spirit and be filled with the Spirit.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Christians who hunger for the Spirit and are continually filled with the Spirit naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is defined in Galatians 5:22-23 as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In order to be filled with God’s Spirit, we should stay in fellowship with other Spirit-filled Christians, and wait upon God by praying during personal time and in the service.
5. Replace the old with new
Finally, simply stopping our old sinful habits is not enough—we must replace them with godly habits, such as reading the Bible, learning worship songs on the guitar, and fellowshipping with other Christians. Anything you enjoy doing that gives glory to God is a terrific “godly habit!”
Similarly, we should also stop receiving negative influences and receive godly influences. Our environment and community makes a big impact on our daily life. For instance, if we continue to hang out with friends at the bar, then we will continue to be subject to temptations. Instead, we should seek out fellowship with other Christians who can encourage us to give up our sinful habits.
This is one reason why caregroup and discipleship are important. We need to have godly relationships where we can practice “bearing each other’s burdens” and encouraging one another. If we really want to overcome our sinful habits, we should seek out good Christian fellowship.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
What should we do with our non-Christian friends? Well, if these people are associated with sinful habits, then you need to be careful to not relate to them in that context any longer. Instead, offer to do something else with them and invite them to join your caregroup or church activities.
6. Don’t give up
One last thing to remember: God will always be on our side as we struggle against sinful habits. My financial situation right now and my personal situation seem like they are impossible, but with his majesty anything is possible. Therefore, we should never give up because we stumble or feel discouraged. Don’t give up, because God does not give up on you.