Here are 4 things that will often happen before you experience freedom from a repetitive sin in your life.
1. Before You Stop Repetitive Sin, You Will Learn How to Be Full on God First
The less you have of God, the more you will partake of sin. The more you experience God, the less you will crave that which is godless. Every time we sin, we are simply experiencing a symptom of a deeper problem.
Sin does not only separates us from God, it is the outcome of being separated from God. The further you drift from God’s presence, the more sinful your life will be. It’s not just that you sin and then drift further from God. As a Christian, the drifting from God is what causes the sin in your life.
This then causes what I call the sin spiral. The sin spiral occurs like this: You drift from God by not feeding daily on his presence. This causes you to sin. Your sin makes you feel unworthy to be near God. You then distance yourself even further from him, and thus you sin even more. This spiral of sinning because you are distant from God and then being more distant from God because you sin and then sinning more won’t end until this pattern is interrupted by grace.
Grace disrupts this destructive cycle because it causes you to come back into God’s presence even though you have sinned so much. When we put our faith in Jesus, by grace God wipes away all our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus and brings us back into his presence. By grace, though we have sinned, we can enter back into God’s presence as though we lived a perfect life. And when we come back into God’s presence because of his grace, this then disrupts the sin patterns in our lives.
You will not get close to God by stopping your sin. But when you come close to God by his grace, his presence will help you stop sinning. In other words, you will not earn access to God by doing good, but when you gain access to God by grace, his presence will cause you to do good. As Hebrews 4:16 states, because Jesus is our high priest, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We don’t find victory in times of need to earn God’s grace. Rather, when we come into God’s presences, we get the grace that will cause the victory during those times of need.
Therefore, to stop repetitive sin, you can’t start with your sin. You have to start with God’s presence. Before you stop repetitively sinning, you will come into God’s presence by grace despite the sin in your life, and then God’s presence will help you overcome those sin patterns you are dealing with. You have to first feed on God before you will stop feeding on sin.
Therefore, no matter where you are, come to God by his grace in Jesus. Don’t wait to stop your sin before you come to God. That will never happen. Come to God now and he will deal with your sin. When you focus less on your sin and more on your Savior, sin will lose control in your life.
2. Before You Stop Repetitively Sinning, You Will Learn How to Rightly Seek the Holy Desires Your Heart Craves
While it was absolutely right to focus on God first in point 1, it is not biblical to say that it is wrong to desire anything but God. We have nothing good without God (Psalm 16:2), but God has created other lesser (but healthy) desires in our hearts that he desires fulfill. Psalm 103:1-5 states:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Sometimes our repetitive sin is not just a sign that we lack the gift of God’s presence; it can also be a sign that we are trying to satisfy some other good desire in our heart but we are just going about this in the wrong way. One of the primary examples of this type of scenario is when it comes to repetitive sexual sin.
Humans often get stuck in repetitive sexual sin cycles because their heart is craving human love but they are sexualizing this desire. So maybe you are addicted to masturbation but perhaps underneath that desire is your good desire for a spouse. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:2, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Underneath their unholy desire for sexual sin was a holy need for a godly marriage.
Many times repetitive sin is a sign that you lack something good that God wants you to have but you are just seeking the fulfillment of that desire in the wrong way. So before you overcome this repetitive sin in your life, you will learn how to sanctify your desires and pursue the healthy desires of your heart in a godly way.
3. Before You Stop Repetitively Sinning, You Will Learn the Practical Self-Care Steps You Have Been Neglecting
Sin is a malfunction in the human experience. It was not a part of God’s original design. Every time we sin, we should repent by asking God and ourselves, “What went wrong? What led me into this sin?”
There’s always a story before the sin. There’s always a progression of events that lead you to the final sinful act. For as James 1:13-15 states:
Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Notice the “Then” in verse 15. What you do before the “then” changes what happens after the “then.” If you allow your sinful desires to lure and entice you, “then” you will produce sin in your life. But if you stop that chain of events before you get to the decision to sin, you can change the outcome. For example, if you take time to rest and pray before getting totally exhausted and mad at the world, you will “then” be able to go to bed without your repetitive sin habits. If you take care of your mental health, you will “then” be able to have better thoughts. If you honor the Lord with your body by eating a proper dinner, you will “then” be able to resist the binge eating at night.
So one of the ways God will help you stop your repetitive sin is by giving you the spiritual power to make the right earthly choices in life. Christians often like to remain in the spiritual without bringing anything into the practical. Yes, seek the spiritual power you need from Christ. But then use that supernatural power to act properly in the natural.
To overcome repetitive sin, you need to find the answers to questions like these: Why were you “lured and enticed” by your own desire? What did you need that you did not have? What could you have done to prevent the chain of events that started with a thought and “then” led to a sinful action?
4. Before God Sets You Free from Repetitive Sin, He Will Help You Realize You Already Are Free from Repetitive Sin
The gospel is not just forgiveness, although it is certainly that! The gospel also gives us new life. When you put your faith in Jesus and you are saved by his grace, you are justified by God. This means that all the righteous characteristics of Jesus Christ are transferred to your account immediately at your conversion. As Galatians 2:20 teaches us:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What does it mean to “live by faith in the Son of God”? It means that you believe wholeheartedly that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” In other words, if you are a Christian who is still struggling with repetitive sin, you need to first believe that you are already free in Christ from that sin. You need to believe that you are no longer your sin. You have a sin nature living in your body still, but that sin nature is no longer the real you because God has given you his new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Justification is the act of God when he gives you every spiritual blessing in Christ. Sanctification is the process of you learning to live from those blessings you have in Christ. But the more you believe in your justification, the more this will cause your sanctification. In other words, the more you believe that you already are free from sin in Christ, the more you will live free from sin in Christ.
Romans 6:6 states, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” When you “know” that your old self was crucified and you were raised to new life with Christ, you can in your actions also overcome all enslavement to sin. Jumping down to Romans 6:11-12, it continues saying:
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.”
Thus, once you “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus,” this will cause you to no longer let sin reign in your body. So before God sets you free from sin, he will first teach you that you already are free from sin in Christ.