Do you know people who struggle with recurrent sin patterns? Who seem to live in continual defeat? Are you that person, even as a church leader? If so, here are some steps to breaking those patterns.
1. Recognize the spiritual warfare element of the struggle. For the sake of illustration, imagine a “sin line” that marks the place where we cross from obedience into disobedience. On one side of that line, the Enemy is the enticer (1 Chron. 21:1) who seeks to draw us across the line. He makes sin look inviting, exciting, and satisfying, even as he ensnares us with his messages: “Go ahead and do it, nobody will know.” “Look at what you’re missing.” “Everybody else is doing it.” So alluring is the sin, and so loud are the messages, that we choose to cross the line.
Then, the Enemy changes his approach. The enticer on one side of the line becomes the accuser (Rev. 12:10) on the other. Here’s what it sounds like before and after the sin line, when the encouragements to sin become taunts of accusation:
“Go ahead and sin; God will still love you.” “God will never love you again.”
“Just one more time, and you can stop.” “You’ll never overcome this sin.”
“Don’t worry; God will forgive you.” “God won’t forgive you this time.”
“You deserve this. Don’t miss it!” “You’re just a loser.”
The process is clear. The Enemy dangles the lures in front of us, and we take the bait. Then, in a demonic twist, he turns on us and beats us up with accusations. When we accept his charges as truth, our resolve to fight future temptations is weakened. We accept lies as truth and fall even more into sin that cannot satisfy.
If that’s where you are, know that the Enemy doesn’t have to win.
2. Be honest with somebody about your struggles. I know that’s a risky step, but we don’t overcome sin patterns when we fight the battles alone. God has designed the church in such a way that we can lean on each other for help. Ask God to direct you to someone with whom you can confess your struggle (James 5:16). Then, trust that godly love, restoration, and forgiveness will trump the power of sin (Gal. 6:1).
3. With the help of others, focus on the glory of Christ. When we’re caught in a sin pattern, we keep drinking from the well of sin while thinking that our choices will somehow bring fulfillment – only to discover that sin leaves us thirstier in the long run. Only Christ can satisfy the heart so accustomed to turning to sin for fulfillment. When we see Him as the priest who prays for us (Heb. 7:25) and the king who is above every power (Eph. 1:20-23), sin will lose some of its attraction.
To get there, find somebody in your church who’s simply walking with Christ. Take him or her to lunch. Ask questions. Learn about his walk with God. Listen to how she prays. Your goal is to learn to long for Jesus, meet Him, long for more of Him, grow in His grace, long for more still . . . and just keep longing for and loving Him more. Ask God today to cure your sin addictions by making you captivated by Him.
4. Repent, and rejoice in small victories. That’s the bottom line, of course. We must turn from our sin, but God gives us His Word, His Spirit, and His people to lead us to victory. Each time you successfully fight through a temptation, take time to praise the Lord – and remember that every small win is one step closer to victory. I pray that victory will become real for you today.
Let us know how we might join you in prayer today.