“Go and sin no more.”
A woman is caught committing adultery. A mob drags her off and is preparing to execute her by stoning. Jesus steps in and saves the woman from the mob. At the end of the shenanigans, Jesus tells the adulterous woman the above words, “Go and sin no more.”
It would be convenient if the solution to sin was as simple as “Go and sin no more.” But it’s not that easy.
You can try to go and sin no more, but wherever you go, “sin is lying outside your door ready to attack” (Gen. 4:7). It’s like a stalker ex you can’t get rid of. How does one stop sinning then?
Before that question is answered, I want to clarify something about sin. Humans can never be completely sinless in this life. Perfection is not achieved until believers are at home with the Lord.
We will sin. A lie might slip through our lips. A lustful thought might be entertained. What we cannot do is be a slave to sin. There should not be a certain sin that masters or controls us. All of us have one of those sins that we struggle with.
When I say “stop sinning,” I mean finding freedom from a habitual, life-controlling sin. I’m talking about things like pornography, alcoholism and even gossip. I’m talking about that sin that always comes to your mind whenever a preacher is preaching about sin.
How do you stop that sin?
1. Get in the Word
I’m going to use a cheesy line that I read on a Christian t-shirt. “It’s time to get off Facebook and get your face in His Book.” In other words, if you want to find freedom from a particular sin, you need to read the Bible.
It’s a simple solution, but one that is often overlooked. For whatever reason, contemporary Christians brush off the task of reading the Bible. Maybe they’ve been led to believe that it is just a human book, not inspired by God. Maybe they find it boring. No matter what anybody thinks, it’s essential to a healthy spiritual life.
Psalm 119:9 poses the question, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” This question is strikingly similar to the question we are trying to answer; how can a person stop sinning? Conveniently, the author of Psalm 119 also gives an answer. “By living according to your Word” is what the psalmist tells us. Live by what the Bible teaches to stay on the right path.
You have to know the Word to live by it. How can reading a book help you kick the habit?
You have to let God’s Word be your trainer.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Scripture helps us train in righteousness. The Bible is our trainer; it guides us to do what is right.
Training implies discipline. You have to discipline your thoughts so that they submit to God. When a tempting thought comes to mind, you have to turn your thoughts to the Bible. Think of verses like Romans 6:13. “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”
When I am tempted to sin, I often say to myself, “Do not offer yourself to sin.” It has been a helpful practice in my life to avoid giving in to temptations. I pray that it may also benefit you.
2. Find An Accountability Partner
Currently, I work in an organization called Adult & Teen Challenge of Texas. It’s a residential program (the students live on campus) for people who are struggling with substance abuse. We have a strict set of rules the students must follow. One of the rules is that no student is to go anywhere on their own. They must take someone with them. This is to ensure that the students don’t do something like smoke a cigarette (or worse), which is prohibited on our campus. The tag-along student is called an accountability partner. He makes sure the other guy doesn’t do anything stupid.
As Christians, we need an accountability partner. We need someone who will go through life with us to make sure we don’t do anything stupid. This is a person we can confess to when we have fallen into sin. This is a person who will confront us when we get out of line. It’s not someone who beats you with the club of guilt, but someone who heals you with the bandage of truth. Galatians 6:1 gives us an idea of the function of an accountability partner. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”
An accountability relationship can have various forms. Maybe your partner checks in on you with a weekly phone call. Maybe you go out to lunch every other week. The idea is that your accountability partner is someone that you answer to. He or she asks you the tough questions , and you open up about your struggles with a particular sin. You no longer keep your sin a secret, rather you bring it to light.
Some years ago, I had a friend that was struggling with watching inappropriate things on their mobile phone. We were living in the same house at the time. He wanted to overcome his sin, so every night he would turn off his phone and bring it to me for safe-keeping. In the morning, I would give it back to him. This is an example of how an accountability relationship can work.
3. Trust in God
The most important thing to know in your struggle against sin is that God is on your side. God helps you overcome sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. When you become a Christian, God puts His Holy Spirit in you.
According to Ezekiel 36, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to live by God’s commands (not sin). This is accomplished by a transformation of the heart. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
As the master physician, God performs a spiritual heart transplant. He takes out the old, rebellious heart and inserts a humble heart that is willing to submit to His ways. You no longer have a desire to sin, but a desire to live for God. If you have a desire to stop sinning, that is proof that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. Believe it.
Heart transformation often takes longer than we would like. We don’t always immediately stop sinning when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives. But sin will be overcome as you grow as a Christian. Trust in God as he carries out the spiritual surgery in your life and saves you from habitual, life-controlling sin. Trust that God is working in your life to make you into the woman or man of God He wants you to be.
The Bible is full of teachings about sin. I have briefly touched on some practical ways that can help you overcome habitual sins. Go deeper. Read the Word. Pray. Fast. Find a mature Christian to guide you along the way. Above all, know that God loves you and will be faithful to help you defeat sin.
Have a story about how God helped you overcome sin? Drop a reply in the comments to encourage someone who may be struggling!