Sin is anything we say, think, or do which displeases God. Though we are positionally cleansed of all sin at salvation (1 Corinthians 6:11), we will practically battle with it until the day we die. James’ concurred that “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:1). John taught that if we deny we still struggle with sin, “we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Struggles with bad attitudes, temptation to elicit indulgence, and promptings to harsh words will stay with us until Christ returns. Because of this, we must be on guard. Furthermore, we must be ready to strip off the sins which keep us from the full experience of Christian joy. The author of Hebrews tells us to “lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). I once had an older Christian mentor advise me to “keep a short account of sin.” He encouraged me to make confession each day, to be careful to quickly clear my life of transgressions. If I didn’t, spiritual despondency would ensue. I’ve discovered that his advice is worth following. Sadly, many Christians don’t commit themselves to such watchful care. Year after year, they persist in destructive patterns of behavior. Consider three reasons many believers hold on to sin.
is the bottom line motive for much of the sin we allow to persist in our lives. When James wrote to a sin-stained, first-century church, he told them that pride was at the root of their rebellion. To be restored to God, the church needed to embrace humility (James 4:10). If you will be honest with yourself, you will notice that an unhealthy self-love is at the root of much of your sin. It drives things like bitterness, lust, arrogance, evil-speaking, manipulation, mistreatment, adultery, and stealing. Make yourself low, and God will make you clean.
is also a ground-zero cause for much of the practical sin in the lives of Christians. By analyzing the Genesis account of Adam and Eve’s first transgression, one can see how this works. In short, Eve snatched the forbidden fruit because of her fear of missing out on an opportunity to be like God (Genesis 3:4-6). What are you afraid of? Examine your life. Maybe some of your secret addictions and stubborn habits have some sort of fear at their root. Are you dominated by a fear of rejection, of change, of failure, or a fear of what others think? To overcome the sin which ensnares you, sometimes you have to replace fear with faith. Learn to trust God, and you will be well on your way to obeying God.
Some stay in the prison of personal sin, because they never learn the secret of abiding in Christ (John 15:5). They try to strip off bad behavior through mere willpower, and they never learn the secret of having their heart filled with the love of Jesus. The New Testament contains many references to the importance of conquering sin through the power of the Spirit (Romans 13:14 and Galatians 5:16). Spiritual victory requires both a negative and a positive action. We must put off the ways of the world, and put on the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 4:20-24) . If we do the first, without doing the last, we will likely find ourselves stuck in cycles of sin.
Dr. Patrick Latham