Updated: Nov 30, 2020
If you haven’t seen this famous video of “psychologist” Bob Newhart yet, you’ll want to.
Obviously, not all fears and phobias can be erased by an act of the will. My fear of snakes won’t just go away instantly if I “just stop it!” But, the reason that video “works” is because we all know many of our bad habits or sins can “stop” – must stop! But here’s the crux of the problem;
The primary reason believers continue to sin is because we’ve not decided to stop!
Here’s why: Most Christians have come to terms with an acceptable level of sin in their lives and feel it is either unnecessary, too difficult, or too costly to be much better. This attitude is rooted in this truth: Each of us subconsciously measure ourselves based on our observations of other Christians or people we know, and once satisfied that we are at or above the “average,” are content to stay there. But how can Christians break from good enough? The truth is this: When we are truly born again or “made new” by the power of the Holy Spirit we have both the power and ability to do the will of God – that is to stop doing the things that displease God and begin doing the things that please him. Why is it then that we find ourselves still so prone to sin? It is because we are still not fully intentional about doing away with certain habitual sins.
Dallas Willard says this;
“To begin with, we must have it clearly fixed in our minds that what dominates us is not some invincible, overpowering cosmic force of evil. If we believe sin is irresistible it will invariably lead to giving in and giving up. If you convince yourself that you are helpless, you can stop struggling and just ‘let it happen.’ That will seem a great relief – for a while. You can once more be a ‘normal’ human being, but then you will have to live with the consequences.”
This is the truth: nothing has the power to tempt me to wrong action except I give it that power, by what I permit to be in me. This is true of anger, pride, foul language, materialism – you name it. No one can make me sin – it’s my choice. The real problem is, I enjoy some sins – that’s why I do them and I’m not really sure I want to stop! The AA program would be powerless to help anyone who has not decided to avoid drinking. Dallas Willard has said, “Those who say they ‘cannot help it’ are either not well informed, or they have not decided to live without it.”
Satan uses three distortions of grace to weaken believers’ resolve. The first is the idea that if I’ve already been forgiven, why not do what I really want to do? Doesn’t God want me happy? The second is a question Satan tempts us to ask: “How disobedient can I be and still be saved?” The last distortion is more of an observation: “The last time I sinned, nothing bad happened; maybe God really does just forgive and forget.” Grace becomes an excuse for sin, rather than a gift to honor.
The way to break the habit of sin is to understand exactly what sin is and what Christ wants us to do about it — this we get from serious and regularly study of Scripture. (Forget how other people, even Christians, are behaving!) Secondly, ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to resist sin and remind you of what pleases and displeases God. Thirdly, meditate on your habitual sins and make specific plans regarding what you will do differently the next time you are tempted. Fourth, if necessary, remove yourself from tempting places, people, and activities. Fifth, resist the impulse to do the next thing you know or suspect is sin, even “small sins.”
Although there are a number of major moral and spiritual decisions, which can significantly affect our lives, it is the sum total of the dozens of smaller spiritual battles won or lost every day that most shapes our character. Both disobedience and obedience are cumulative. Obedient believers grow more bold, obedient, fruitful, and more confident in God – disobedient “believers,” just the opposite – more disobedient.
In which direction is your life moving right now?
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:5, 9