How To Stop Sinning
Last week we discussed the secret to inner peace and how to have true inner harmony within yourself. As you may recall I focused on the relationship between our born again human spirit, which is perfect before God in every way, and our soul (mind, will and emotions). I believe that if we can succeed internally then we will begin to succeed externally. I also believe that having a unified experience of self, if you will, where your spirit, soul and body are in harmony, is a master key to experiencing all that God has for your life.
I want to take a few minutes today and talk about how to stop sinning and start obeying God in every area of your life. I hate talking about sin, but I love talking about obeying God, and you will see why.
Many of us grew up learning that we need to avoid sin and that if we sin God will punish us. That is not true. If you are a Christian, there is no more punishment for your sin that you will ever experience. Jesus took all the punishment for every sin that would ever be committed, and there is no punishment left for you (1 John 2:2). That doesn’t mean sin never has bad consequences, but Christians don’t get punished by God for sin. But even if you aren’t worried about God’s punishment, many Christians still worry about sin or go through life fighting against it. While we are talking about sin we should also talk about obeying God, as these topics are closely related, at least through the analysis I present today.
So let us look at the actual Christian experience most of us go through. We learn about God’s love for us and that He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins. We repent of our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Then we start thinking about what our life should be like as Christians. Whether you read the Bible or go to church or both, you are immediately confronted with a set of rules. You may feel like there are rules about everything, about relationships, about money, about eating, rules, rules, rules. Most people don’t like a bunch of rules, but we are happy about our tickets to Heaven so we at least start to think about obeying God’s rules.
The first level of obeying God is obeying these various rules to avoid sin: don’t use drugs, don’t have sex out of wedlock, don’t expose yourself to ungodly entertainment, and so on. While you are thinking about those rules, let’s call them the “Don’t Rules”, you start encountering the “Do Rules.” You should give money to the church. You should volunteer with the church. You should go to church, read your Bible, pray, and do a number of other things that supposedly come with the Christian life.
I once heard a woman (who I know loves God) tell me that God was punishing her for not reading her Bible enough. What a terrible lie the devil had told her. Not only was this person (that I doubt has many problems with sin) worried about punishment for the Don’t Rules, she felt like she was being actively punished for breaking a Do Rule.
But this whole paradigm is wrong!! It’s true, the rules do exist. There are things we shouldn’t do and things we should do. It’s the mentality with which we approach the rules that must change, and it’s our relationship to the rules that must change. Here is the key understanding that will unlock the door to you obeying God in every area of or your life, the dos, the don’ts and everything else. Fundamentally, and for a Christian, the rules are not actually rules at all. Rather, the rules are directions to follow God’s path (or plan) for your life. They are also guidelines to help you live your best possible life, literally keys to unlock the wonderful existence that your loving God has planned for you.
In the stories of the Old Testament, before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the rules were laws and they served a very different purpose. They provided a mechanism by which sinful people could have relationship with a perfect God. They also served other purposes, but we don’t need to get into that now.
For those of us in Christ, we are already perfect in God’s eyes. It’s time you internalize that. Don’t argue with it, just accept it. Hebrews 10:14 says “For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.” This is about Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We are “forever completely cleansed.” Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” We are so perfect before God that we can walk boldly right up to His throne. If that wasn’t enough, if you were still unsure of your position before God, then realize that, in fact, we are already seated in Heaven at God’s right hand.
“Even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-6 NLT)
So now that we realize that we are sanctified and perfected before God because of Jesus’ sacrifice for all of our sins, how should we regard the rules? The New Testament, in the teachings of Jesus and the early Church writings, are full of guidelines for Godly living. But they are not meant to help us avoid God’s punishment. They are meant to help us live our best lives and do all that God wants us to do.
Your drug addiction is not going to keep you out of Heaven. It’s not going to make God think any less of you. But it will keep your mind away from Godly thinking, and it will prevent you from living out God’s plans for your life. Your problem with lust won’t keep you out of Heaven.
It’s not going to make God think any less of you. But it will keep you from the depths of relationship available to you in a Godly marriage, and the emotional and physical satisfaction that God has available to you there (and only there).
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This is the major mental shift you must make. We have talked about renovation of your thinking before, and this is a huge part of it. Every single one of God’s directions to you are meant to help and guide you into God’s wonderful plan for your life. Every single one of them is a gift and a blessing. You must regard them correctly.
1 John 4:8 says “God is love.” Everything God has ever done, every word God has ever spoken, every direction God has ever given, they are all based in love. I agree, it is hard to reconcile that with all of the stories in the Old Testament about God’s punishments for sin, but it is still true. And now it’s time that we realize the truth of God’s commandments, that they are wonderful and we should rejoice in following them all.
(Psalms 19:7-11 NLT) “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to Your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.”
I believe that this understanding is the master key to obeying God. God doesn’t have the Don’t Rules for my life to control me or hold me back from some sort of “fun”. The Don’t Rules protect me. They protect my relationships. They protect my family and the others around me. The Don’t Rules also serve to keep my mind focused on God, which is absolutely required if I’m going to experience all He has for me.
Similarly, the Do Rules are also blessings and guideposts for me. The Do Rules like love improve my relationships. The Do Rules like be generous improve my finances. The Do Rules like go to church improve my community and help me train my children in the ways of God. The Do Rules like read the Bible improve my thinking and open me to unlimited possibilities in God. The Do Rules also keep my mind on God. Also, and this is exceedingly important and often unspoken, many of the Do Rules (worship, read, church, pray, etc.) tune me in to the frequency of God’s voice, so that I can receive His specific directions for my life.
Let us turn away from the rules for a moment and think about the other things God tells us to do. What if God tells you to make a job change? What if God tells you to make a change in your relationships? What if God tells you to read a particular book or listen to a particular person? As you go through life in relationship with God and listening to Him, He is going to give you all sorts of directions. 100% of them, every single one, are from His love for you and others. They are all sent to guide you into God’s best. You must learn to trust Him and obey. But when you understand that all of God’s directions are for your good, it’s a lot easier to trust Him and do what He says.
Over the past 5 years I have made three significant changes in my law practice. All three of them were at the Lord’s direction. All three of them required faith and tempted me to fear. But I know the Lord. I know He has good things for me including financial blessings. I am only three months into the third such change, and this one has required several steps where the first two only required one single decision. However, I can already see God’s blessings appearing in the natural.
I have another situation in my life right now where I feel God telling me to do something. It’s not necessarily life or death, but it does require a significant commitment in money and time, and it will prevent me from doing other things which could be important. However, I trust Him. I know that He will pay for everything He tells me to do. I know that He knows what is best. I know that He knows where I should be at all times, and He has plans for me and my family in certain places. I don’t want to miss anything that He has for me. I must listen and do what He says. I know that I will see the goodness of the Lord in every area of my life as I trust and obey Him.
I understand that in some ways this concept of complete obedience is, like many others, easier said than done. It’s not always easy to see how God’s directions are actually guides to your best life. Trusting Him and knowing His love for you are key components to living in His directions. I wish I could better convey how much He loves you and all the wonderful things He has for your life.
Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 13:44. "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
God’s Kingdom is a treasure, and everything that comes out of God’s Kingdom is part of that treasure. Sometimes we don’t recognize treasure for what it really is. Sometimes things have great value but we can’t see it. We can’t see it until we learn the truth. The life God wants you to have emanates from His love and His treasure. All of God’s directions for your life have their foundation in His love and His treasure. The more of God’s directions you follow, the more of His love and treasure you will see.
Again, the correct regard for God’s directions is the master key, the foundation for obedience to God in every area of your life. But I want to point out two other mental shifts that will greatly help you stop sinning. The first, and you have probably heard me mention this before, is that you must become spiritually minded and start walking in the spirit. These concepts are from Romans chapter 8 and Galatians chapter 5. These concepts are not nearly as difficult or amorphous as they sound.
As you begin focusing your mind on the things of God (reading the Bible and Godly books, going to church, listening to Christian music, fellowshipping with Godly people, eliminating ungodly entertainment, etc.) you will become spiritually minded. It is automatic when you start focusing your mind this way. As your mind shifts from natural things to spiritual things, from natural pleasures to spiritual pleasures, God’s directions make more sense. As Joyce Meyer says, “where the mind goes the man follows.” As you begin thinking spiritually, you will begin living spiritually. The things of God will become more attractive to you and you will start pursuing them. As your life begins to change and become the product of your Godly thinking, you will now be living in that which pleases God. You will become open to specific directions from God. As you start living in God’s will, you begin “walking in the spirit.”
Here is the point, when you are thinking and living according to God’s ways, you lose any room in your mind for sinful things. When the sinful things don’t have a space in your mind, they lose any space in your life. Here is where churches have missed it big time in my opinion. I don’t need to talk to you about the evils of sin if I want you stop sinning. Rather, I need to teach you about the goodness of God and His plan for your life. The true things of God are far more attractive and exciting than sinful things. Focus on God, you will lose focus on the sinful things of the world. Again, this will be automatic. This is why Galatians 5:16 says “walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
Here is the last point that will greatly help you overcome sin in your life, you must recognize sin for what it really is. Sometimes when a preacher is talking about sin the preacher points out how fun or pleasurable a particular sin really might be. I hate that, and it is totally wrong. Such a point only looks at the very short lived and physical realities of a particular action.
Consider for a moment (a brief moment) the sin that would be most appealing to your flesh, whatever it is. That thing, be it a drug, stolen money, something sexual, or anything else, may create a momentary feeling of pleasure to your body. But there are also soul and spiritual sides to that action. Even while you are taking it to your flesh your mind regrets the decision. Within moments of the sin you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. What is the sin doing to your mind, to your body, to your relationships, to your future? Even if no one will ever know, how will you feel?
In the future, when you encounter a potential sin, consider every aspect of it, not just the momentary physical pleasure. That’s what happened to me a few years ago when I found myself alone in Colorado walking past a legal marijuana store. Memories from college came to my mind. I was tempted to get high. But what would that do to my mind? What would that do to my relationship with God and how I needed to be hearing from Him the rest of that day? What bad decisions might I make after I smoked? Would it be harder to resist the next time? What would my wife think and would I tell her or keep it from her? After about two minutes of thinking, the decision to walk away was pretty easy. The analysis of a particular sin opportunity might lead you to different questions, but the correct answer is always the same. Sin is wrong. Sin can have negative consequences. Sin is never just about the physical act, often the real damage occurs in the spheres of the soul or the spirit. Those damages occur even if no one ever learns about your sin.
So when a sin opportunity arises, if your spiritual mind doesn’t immediately shut it down, do yourself a favor and truly analyze the opportunity. There are devils behind these opportunities. It’s the devil who has created all these sin opportunities in the world. There is really nothing good that will come from them. They are never worth it. They are always bad.
Much of the church world has spent a lot of time teaching people to stay away from sin. But the way to avoid sin is not by focusing on fear of punishment or blind adherence to Biblical laws. We best avoid sin by recognizing that God’s directions are tremendous blessings from His love and Kingdom Treasure. His rules, the dos and the don’ts, are guides into your best possible life. God has all of the best in the world for you. His guidelines will lead you to it.
Focus your mind on the things of God, begin living a life according to the Bible’s directions. You will lose any attraction to sin. As you become spiritually minded and start walking in the spirit, you will automatically distance yourself from the old sins and start living in God’s directions.
As you start making these mental changes, as you start renovating your mind this way, your mind won’t resist God’s directions when you hear them. Now your mind will recognize the blessings of God’s directions, and you will feel the harmony between your soul and your spirit as you approach them. “Yes, God. I will do whatever you say. I approach your directions with excitement and joy, God. Thank you, God.” With this harmony between your spirit and soul, getting your body to line up with God’s directions won’t be a problem. Now you are on your way.
As you start listening to God and obeying His directions, He will give you more. But they won’t be more “don’t rules”. They will be more things to do, more things to understand. Now God isn’t dealing with you to get stuff out of your life, He is bringing good things into your life. Now you are starting to work with God to expand His Kingdom. Now God starts using you regularly to show His love to the world. There is nothing like working with your Creator to show His unfathomable love to others, to see them touched by His heart, and knowing that you were His instrument to show His love. This is on the next level of existence. This is working for the Kingdom of God in the earth. I pray that we would all begin to live this way all of the time.
God bless you,