How can I break free from sin?
Break free from sin
Living the happy life that we were designed to live has been thwarted by sin. Yet, to break free from sin of our own accord is like lifting ourselves high in the air by our own boot straps. It is an impossibility! And until we learn what the gospel has won for us, we will continue to cry out: “Oh wretched man that I am. Who will save me from the body of this death?”
The making of a destiny
A temptation entices a thought. A thought produces a self-willed act. An act repeated becomes a habit. A habit creates a life-style; which in turn produces a destiny. If the thought is sinful and permitted to grow it will produce a lost destiny without God and anything good. But if we learn how to break the bondage of the habits, we can change our life-style and win back our destiny!
Why must we let sin win?
The temporal gratifications of sin can never give lasting satisfaction. There is always a price to pay. Depression, lack of personal integrity and self-worth, fickleness and attention seeking, or averting social interaction, and finally, a forsaken eternity are examples of the aftermath of besetting sins. The more we give way to sin the more it enslaves us, pulling us closer to the vortex of being forever-lost. Jesus said that the one who sins is a slave of sin (Joh 8:34). But how do we defeat the enemy of our souls and change our destiny? How do we break free from the whirlpool of sin?
Choose to change now
Ask yourself: Do I really want to change?
No matter how old or young we may be, we are at this time the total product of how we have conducted our lives. But we don’t have to accept our current state any longer. We can choose to change right now. And God is with us to work that change within if we will just submit to Him. But to do so we need to understand and acknowledge our current estate and how we got there.
Sin never appears as itself
Firstly; sin never appears as itself. Temptation will offer the first sip of the bottle – not the last; the high of any substance abuse – not the depression that follows. The initial satisfaction of venting our anger in cursing and blasphemy conceals the frustration that these expletives are never enough to quench the depravity within. Sexual lust is shown to gratify the flesh but never shows the loss of dignity and self-respect, shame and lack of any lasting fulfillment. And, after we have sinned, temptation raises its head again, and the currents of the whirlpool of sin continue to drag the sinner ever-downward.
The craftiness of the tempter – know your enemy
We are not tempted by that to which we are not enslaved. Given license, the tempter can lead us into any sin he chooses.
One doesn’t start out as a murderer, but if we let our anger and jealousy take root and allow it to grow and build momentum, like Cain did, there will be no end to the evil we can commit.
Volition of sin
Sin does not just happen. It is by our conscious volition, induced by the weaknesses we allow to take root within us. The tempter plays on these weaknesses early in our lives. He takes his time. He waits, he watches, and steadily draws us into bondage. His intent is for us but we must master him (Gen 4:7).
Temptation to sin will always appeal to our selfishness. The tempter will help us dig trenches of besetting sin deep enough until it seems impossible for us to ever get out. Nevertheless, even acknowledging this fact, many still choose to remain digging the same trenches until their last breath.
However, the power of the tempter is limited to persuasion only. He has no power over the soul or the will. He cannot force us into sin. So he has to develop craftiness to lead us step by step, tempting us with the bait of our weaknesses. But we can choose to break free and pursue the persuasions of God instead.
Points to use to break free from sin
1) Focus on the reality of the alternative
See where your sin is taking you. Use fear of the Lord to break you out of the yoke with which you have bound yourself. Fear of the Lord is the first sign of wisdom (Pro 9:10). Without it there is no starting point. Understand the destiny that sin produces compared to the safety and happiness of being with God through the obedience of faith.
2) Perceive the meaning of the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11)
Those who have learned to walk in Christ have the peaceful fruit of righteousness within. They walk with God without fear of condemnation because they are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). The law is not for them, but for sinners only (1Ti 1:9), who also must walk in fear of its condemnation. (See the difference between sinners and saints here). For it is the purpose of the law to restrain the selfishness of the sinner. But those who walk by the Spirit of God do so in loving obedience, and therefore have no need for the law, as they have the law of righteousness written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 2:14-15). These do not need the written law to stem their flow of sin; God has washed them clean and it is their love for Him and His righteousness that now governs their hearts.
Many professing Christ as their savior love to believe that they are free from obeying the law of God. From the written laws of rights, ceremonies, observations of holidays and sacrifices we are indeed redeemed. But we are never free from the obligation to obey the law of God. It is the law of Christ that ought to be governing our hearts (1Co 9:21). This is through an abiding faith in the conscious presence of Christ, coupled with gratitude for His saving grace.
Learning to love righteousness is not a religious thing. It is appreciating the worthiness of right being.
3) Learn to love righteousness.
We need to learn to love the law of righteousness. For it restores the soul and rejoices the heart (Psa 19:7-8).
The reason we need to learn the laws of righteousness is because of our fallen nature. God’s righteousness does not appeal to the heart of man. This is because his heart is bent on self. After we have come to Christ, having chosen Him as Lord over our lives, we need to learn the ways of God to be pleasing to Him (Eph 5:10). Jesus said that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is a doing thing! As we seek to know Him He will disclose to us the wonders of His righteousness.
Sin only brings misery and condemnation. But walking according to God’s law of righteousness brings peace and happiness. The Bible says that those who believe otherwise “have no knowledge of God” (1Co 15:34). We are to direct our minds to right thinking.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell (think) on these things. (Php 4:8)
4) Know that the love of God is universal but is also extremely personal.
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love”.
God is infinite love, and upholds that love universally as the framework of His benevolent kingdom. Even though He loves us as a species, His dealings with us are intimate and personal. It took me a long time to realize this, but believing and accepting this great fact allows us the freedom to walk with Him intimately. He is right here, right now. He knows what you are thinking, and He waits for you to surrender to the obedience of faith in Him so that He can lead you out of the bondage of sin and into the freedom of righteousness.
God seeks a people for His own possession, but this people is made up of individuals chosen by Him according to His foreknowledge of our obedience of faith (1Pe 1:2). Therefore our salvation and all the graces that come with it are personal. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His (2Ch 16:9). He constantly watches over His creation to find those who will surrender to Him so that He can draw them near to Him for intimate communion.
5) Accept that godliness requires the discipline of faith.
Nothing is free. Not even salvation is really free. Jesus said that those who wish to follow Him must take up their cross… That is; we are to crucify our old selves and be buried with Him, so that we may be resurrected to a newness of life (Rom 6:4).
We cannot earn our salvation because our sins have already disqualified us from the life of God. For any sin is primarily an act of willful disobedience to God’s universal law of righteousness. (Sin is the transgression of the law (1Jn 3:4 KJV)). God is infinitely holy and thus any sin against Him and His kingdom warrants an eternal condemnation. It is therefore only the free gift of the eternal atonement in Christ, through God’s grace, that we have the opportunity to receive pardon for our transgressions, and reconciliation to God.
However, faith without works of righteousness is not true faith but only belief (Jas 2:20). For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (Jas 2:26). Saving faith is that faith in the consciousness of the presence of Christ that leads us to live holy before Him. Abiding with faith is fear (reverence) and love for God. This faith is the overall motivating factor that keeps us holy and apart from sin. It is by this very fact that we are born again of God. “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world (sin); and this is the victory that has overcome the world – even our faith”(1Jn 5:4).
But it is not just our faith in the ever-present person of Christ. It is our faith in His righteousness. What I mean by this is that when we exercise faith in what is right, even in the midst of temptation, we will pass through unscathed. We need to fix our minds on the successful outcome of resisting sin and walking in faithfulness to our present Savior. When we come out the other side of the storm of temptation and look back we will be glad that we were faithful. Our victory then serves to encourage us to press on and overcome other trials in life.
7 Disciplines of Faith
- Exercise faith
- Study, meditate and memorize scriptures in God’s Word – the Bible
- Learn to love the unseen God
- Take every thought captive
- Learn to recognize the result of sin
- Practice resisting the tempter
We must realize that we are to be a holy people in the conduct of our lives, i.e. in deed, word, and thought, so that we can secure the holiness Christ has won for us. To this end we need to learn the disciplines of faith that produce godliness for the benefit of this life and also for the life to come (1Ti 4:8). Here are some of the major principles to obtaining and building strong faith which will enable us to change our thought patterns and secure our destiny:
1) Exercise faith
Even though everyone has been given a measure of faith (Rom 12:3), it is up to the individual to exercise that faith in all the aspects of Christ. That is; in His presence, atonement, love, righteousness, and His keeping power through the Holy Spirit that indwells us, etc. This takes discipline. But like any physical exercise, the more we practice faith the stronger it is developed.
2) Study, meditate and memorize scriptures in God’s Word – the Bible
Faith comes by hearing / reading the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Without knowing God’s word we have very little upon which to base and grow our faith.
Prayer is the only mode of communication we have with God. Praying correctly, and with the right intention is paramount to having any real relationship with God. We need to cultivate a prayer life if we are ever going to have a life with God. Indeed, our relationship with God is measured by our prayer life.
4) Learn to love the unseen God
Love for anyone is a learned experience. It is not infatuation. Nobody rightly really “falls” in love with another. They become attracted to another through what they perceive the other to be. Love that is not spurious is not an instantaneous occurrence. Affections grow into love through a learning experience of that person. So it is with God.
As we learn about God, particularly as our heavenly Father, and commune with Him, our faith grows, prayers are answered, and the Holy Spirit gives understanding of the wonderfulness of Him. The more we wish to learn of God, the more insight He gives us. Without a genuine love for God we have no quickened life in Him. Loving God supremely is the first and foremost commandment (Mat 22:37). And even though it is our absolute responsibility and privilege to love God with our all, it is a growing, dawning experience.
5) Take every thought captive
We are taught in scripture to destroy everything that raises itself against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive and bring it to the obedience of Christ (2Co 10:5). That means we are to weigh up everything that we do, say or think against what we have learned in the Bible. Whatever is contrary to God’s Word is to be discarded as sin. Can you see why it is so important to get to know the Bible? (To see more on how to discern truth go here).
To overcome our enemies, the place of attack should always be directed to their weakest point. The tempter is our enemy and we are his. And his tactic to overcome us is striking at our thought process.
It is difficult for us to try to change our life-style, or even habits in our own strength. This is because our sins are already deeply entrenched in us, and have too much momentum from repeated acts. But we can choose to change how and what we think. Therefore, whenever we are tempted we should immediately focus our attention on that which is holy – exchanging a wrongful temptation for a rightful thought. We are counselled to train our minds to think on the things above – not just with fleeting thoughts but to direct our minds to dwell on them.
6) Learn to recognize the result of sin
When you get tempted – and we all do, look ahead and see the result of sin. See the guilt; the fallen place from grace it will bring; the necessity of the process of repentance to obtain restoration and reconciliation with God. James teaches that those who befriend the world (i.e. through sinning) makes themselves an enemy of God (Jas 4:4). The aftermath of sin is never worth the temporal gratification it promises. Plus; you will have strengthened the devil’s foothold again in your life.
7) Practice resisting the tempter
The more we resist the tempter the more we break his power over us. James said: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7).
I knew a man who couldn’t give up smoking. So one day he said to himself that the next time he wants to light up he will wait five minutes before doing so. (Bear in mind this was not, by any measure, a godly man). After the five minutes had passed he reckoned to himself that if he could resist lighting up for five minutes he could do it for ten. He continued lengthening the time to an hour. Seeing his success after an hour, he promised himself a cigarette after two hours. This kept on until months had passed since his first five minutes. This happened about forty years ago and he still hasn’t lit that cigarette.
We not only have the power of free choice, and the in-borne knowledge of good and evil (our consciences), but also the knowledge of God’s Word coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. (For more on growing our faith go here)
But what if we sin after our repentance?
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (1Jn 2:1) (See the full explanation of this verse here)
John does not here give us an excuse for continued sin. But he shows the grace of God during our walk with Him. The epistle is to encourage us to stop sin in our lives, and protect us from its condemnation. However, should we succumb to evil temptation and fall into error, we have Christ who acts as our advocate with (not against) the Father. This enables us to repent again of sin and to continue in reconciliation with Him.
This scripture is not to be used as a parachute to protect us from willfully skydiving into sin, but is a safety belt to protect us from wrath should we fall prey to sin.
We are at war and we must win
Let us not be fooled. We are at war. The flesh wages war against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:17). The prize is our eternity, and all costs should be spent on securing our victory.
God is for us and it is His desire for us to accomplish the obedience of faith in Him, loving Him from a heart undefiled. He has given us all we need to win, and empowers us by the presence of His Spirit if we will only entrust ourselves to Him through an abiding faith.
The whirlpool of sin will get ever-stronger if we let it. But now is the time to break free from sin and its pull, and live the life for which we were designed. This is a life of integrity, self-respect, and greater than all, reconciliation and favor with God.