The blessing of habits is you don’t have to think; you do them. The curse of habits is you don’t have to think; you do them. Of course, bad habits lead to sin patterns that are hard to escape, which is why the five redemptive habits in this article can save you from recurring sin patterns.
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- The alcoholic spends his entire paycheck at the bar, in one night.
- The crack addict steals money from her daughter’s savings to get her fix on.
- The fearful person is in a situation she can’t control. Now she’s afraid.
- The porn addict is tired and exhausted, feeling defeated. He gets his fix by surfing the net. Again.
- The gossiper needs her “approval fix,” so she passes along some juicy info about a friend.
- The mocker fulfills his desire to control others by making fun of people through put-downs and sarcasm.
- The insatiable shopper has two closets full of clothes. She softens the blows to her conscience by calling herself a “comfort shopper.”
And what do these people have in common?
They have a sin habituation that has been going on for many years, and they believe it will never go away. In this sense, the gossiper, the fearful, the druggy, the alcoholic, the mocker, the shopper and the porn guy are all the same.
It is important to understand when you think about addictions that you also include the more refined addictive sins like frustration, fear, self-righteousness, criticalness, insecurity, and sinful mocking.
Christians do not isolate addictive behavior to only the more sensational or socially understood sins like alcohol, homosexuality, and drugs. We’re all addicts in our unique ways. I’m an addict; you’re an addict.
I’ve never met a person who was not an “addict” in some way. Sinful, addictive behavior is a result of our fallenness, which brings you to a few obvious questions:
- How did these people get this way?
- How did you get this way?
- How did I get this way?
- Did we choose one day that we would yield our lives to the cruelty and slavery of sin?
- Are we responsible for our condition or our actions?
- And the most important question of all, “Can I stop my addictive (recurring, habitual) sinning?”
Can’t Get Out Of Trap
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1
To begin unpacking these questions, you must start where Paul started. As a son or daughter of Adam, your default heart condition is an unquenchable and undeniable loyalty to yourself. At your core, you are self-centered. And so am I.
With a pre-conditioned heart motivated toward self-centeredness, it is not hard to understand how and why sin “catches” any of us, to use Paul’s language.
When I say “caught,” I’m not saying you’re “busted” like when a policeman pulls you over for speeding. Though that can be called “getting caught” that is not what Paul means by the word “caught.” Paul is saying you get caught as though you are in a bear trap and you cannot get out of it.
When Sin Controls
The way sin takes control of you is the same for all of us. It starts at your first sinful choice. Though you may say, “Yes” to sin, at that moment, you’re still in control of your sin. Meaning, you may say, “No” the next time temptation knocks on your heart’s door.
If you do not say, “No” to temptation, you will yield to the sin. In the process of time, you will slowly lose control of the ability to say, “No.” Before, you had power over the sin. As you continue to yield to the temptation, it will exercise power over you. You began to develop sinful habits. Habits are, in part, how God wired you. Habits were never meant to be evil.
The bad news is that in a post-Genesis three world, you do not develop righteous habits only. Because of the invasive power of the doctrine of sin, you have the ability to create unrighteous habits too. “Habit” is the word for repetitive behavior. The word “habit” does not distinguish between right and wrong. The word is neutral. It is your heart motive, which evolves into specific behaviors that determine if the habit is good or evil.
When bad habits begin to exert power over your heart, you’re not far from what our culture calls an addiction. Paul called it “caught” in a trap.
My Strength Is Weaker Than My Sin
Let’s pretend a bear trap has caught you somewhere deep in the woods. Let’s further pretend that it has zapped your strength and you have no ability to open the jaws of the trap to release your bleeding and bound ankle. Your hope is diminishing by the second.
It is the nature of the bear trap to exert a greater power over your ability to overcome it. No “Bear Trap Maker” would ever make a trap that was easy to escape.
It is the nature of sin to exert a greater power over your ability to extricate yourself. If you could free yourself from your sin, you would not need a Divine Rescuer. There would be no need for the gospel. The only way you can get out of the traps you get yourself into is through God-ordained means.
Back To The Woods
You decide to pray (yell) to God for help. The question is, “How do you expect God to answer your prayer?”
- Do you expect Jesus to show up and loosen the trap?
- Do you expect the jaws of the trap to pop open miraculously?
It’s not likely that either one of those events will happen. Does that mean God did not hear you and, therefore, is not going to help you? The answer to that question depends on your understanding of prayer as well as God’s ordained means for helping His children. What does Paul say?
You who are spiritual should restore him. – Galatians 6:1
Rescue Happens In Community
Did you know that every time you prayed to God for help to get out of your habitual sinning that He heard you? Did you further know that He provided a solution to your problem?
One of the biggest reasons people get caught in sin and stay in sin is because they do not want anyone to know about the sinfulness of their lives. The man trapped in the woods needs the help of his friends. The man trapped in sin needs the help of other Christians.
That is the way it has to be. A fool thinks he can habituate himself in sin all by himself and that he can get out of his sin all by himself. Not likely.
In Galatians 6, Paul is calling the body of Christ to attention. The “spiritual” in this verse means those who have the Spirit–the Christians. This idea is essential to discipling well. You and I need the community of faith to help us out of our addictive behaviors. And this is where the rub is. We don’t want to tell anyone about our messes.
Keys To Breaking Addictions
If you apply these five simple biblical truths to your life, you can get help for the repetitive sins in your life:
#1 – Humility – The road to change always begins with a humble heart.
#2 – Transparency – You must intentionally and appropriately reveal yourself to a caring community of Christlike disciple makers.
#3 – Honesty – Only the whole truth and nothing but the truth about who you are will help you.
#4 – Repentance – While all of the previous keys are part of repentance, it is imperative you know how to walk through the 13 steps to repentance.
#5 – Contexts – Place yourself in the community of faith. A small group setting is ideal for habituated sinners like you and me.
Friends, do not over-think the situation. Do not look for the next best book for your problem. The church, historically, has never needed the “next best book.” If you carefully apply God’s Word to your life, while authentically living in the context of like-minded believers, sin can be defeated, no matter how habituated you have been.
Also published on Medium.