Every believer has beat themselves up about this horrible inability to stop sinning. It is totally normal—even for the most pious and perfect-looking person. Even the apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15, "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." Ever felt like he did? You might think that it's because you're weak, but usually the problem is that we don't understand how strong God is.
First of all, remember that you have been forgiven for all your sins—past, present, and future. All believers will continue to sin—that's what sin nature is. But once you have accepted God's forgiveness, you're no longer a slave to that nature. That is, sin is not your puppet master; you have a choice to say "no" to those temptations.
Paul wrote in Romans 6:11, "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." What he means is that we must remember that in coming to Christ, the power of sin has been broken in our lives. With Christ, you absolutely have the power to turn away from sin before it takes ahold of you. The more you exercise the power of God within you, the fewer instances of sin will pop up in your life (Matthew 19:26).
You're right. We all mess up sometimes. When we do sin, we should confess it to God, asking Him to forgive us and to bring back that close friendship with Him. He promises us that “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We must rely on the power of God’s Holy Spirit, who lives inside us. Back to Romans 7, Paul says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:25). Can you relate?
The Christian’s struggle against sin is one in which our ability does not match our desire. That is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul later says, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit, through God’s Word (John 17:17), works to clean out our sin.
First things first, with any sin, you must first WANT to overcome it. If you don't truly want to stop doing it, then you will never make any long-term changes. You have free will to choose to sin or not to sin. Thanks to Christ, you don't HAVE to choose sin. God promises that He will always give you an escape route when you're feeling tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13). When you feel tempted, it is up to YOU to immediately look for that escape route and TAKE IT.
Habitual sin is overcome when we continually submit ourselves to God's will and refuse the temptations of the flesh (James 4:7-8). Quit the activities, practices, or situations that have caused you to sin. God has given you the strength to say "no" and resist in the moment temptation occurs. God will always give you a way out when temptation comes (1 Corinthians 10:13). Be on the lookout for that opportunity to run away from temptation. If you're not looking, then you won't find it. ☺
I know it isn't always that easy though. Honestly, the only way to break the cycle of sinning, feeling bad, repenting, forgetting, then sinning again, is to accept the fact that we cannot stop sinning. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but hear me out.
If we cannot stop trying to save ourselves by our own willpower, we'll never be at rest in the knowledge that God has saved us and has strength enough to help us. The joy of being saved from our sin comes from accepting the fact that God's grace covers us, that He will change us and help us to become more like His Son, Jesus, and that it is HIS work—not ours (Romans 8:29; Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 13:20-21).
God has saved us because He loved us so much (John 3:16). By saving us, He showed His grace, love and strength. Our salvation has nothing to do with how much or how little we sin or even how many good things we do. Our salvation exists only because of God's grace, love and purpose (Ephesians 2:8-9). Remember that! Because, ironically, believing that we can do anything to earn our salvation will ultimately make it harder to stop sinning. Is that crazy or what?
Once we can truly, truly grasp this reality, sin loses its power. We should no longer feel the impulse to turn to sin as a means of temporary relief or pleasure, because everything has been relieved by Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14). Then the good works we do in faith (including repenting of sin) are done because of love and joy rather than out of fear or duty.
You can't stop sinning. Even the most faithful believer will still sin every day (Romans 3:23). Even the apostle Paul struggled with his sin nature (Romans 7:15-25). But remember that you have been forgiven of all your sins—no matter how bad you think you are (1 John 1:9). As a believer, you don't have to be a slave to sinful desires (Romans 6:11). You can CHOOSE not to sin (Romans 8:11). Don't beat yourself up when you DO sin, but also choose to stop sin from taking over your life and your mind (James 4:7-8).
Cat is the webmaster and editor of 412teens.org and writes novellas with local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, five socially awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily that gets together every Saturday for various shenanigans.