4 Ways to Stop Sinful Behavior in Its Tracks
- Deirdre Reilly deirdrereilly.com
- 2021 15 Apr
One of the most uncomfortable, painful, anxiety-laden situations we can experience as believers is that of actively sinning. Whether it is a sin that is very harmful, like infidelity, or a sin that is hidden deeper in our hearts (perhaps we are too prideful, or greedy, or practice gluttony of some form), sin hurts us, and even worse, it offends God.
What’s the good news? We can change our behaviors by adding a few mindful, intentional behaviors, and most of all, turning to our Lord. Remember, we all sin; it is part of our shared fallen human condition. As Romans 3:23 reminds, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
1. Pray on It
In all painful situations, we must turn to God in prayer, even when we are embarrassed and horrified by our own sin. You may be doing something horribly wrong right this moment: embezzling at work, cheating on a spouse, or actively causing trouble for an innocent person for your own reasons, which only you know. Here on earth, you must eventually make right the trouble you have caused, which can mean confessing to stealing, admitting your adultery, or even serving jail time for your crime. But to put a definitive halt to your behavior, you need to get right with God.
Remember, God has rules for very important reasons — our happiness. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands,” states 1 John 5:3. “And his commands are not burdensome…” Let’s flesh this out; God created rules for living through His love, so they must be for our good, and thus we should want to follow them. And these rules are not a heavy load for us to carry when we are in close communication with our Lord. So, we want to get back to that place where following God’s laws are not our work but our joy, because we love Him so much.
You need to establish that close communication by taking your sin to the Father. Lay it out before Him, and seek to hear His voice in the midst of your mess. Ask your Abba — a term of great intimacy for God used by both Jesus and the apostle Paul — into your life, both the good and the bad. Let Him treat you as a perfect Father does; with compassion, guidance, and forgiveness.
2. Confess Your Sin
Once you have gone to God to establish that communication in prayer, now you need to clearly and fully confess your sin. This is very important because you probably won’t stop the behavior — perhaps it’s greed, or envy, or sloth — until you fully acknowledge you are performing it, and offending God by it. While these terms, greed, envy, and sloth, may sound old-timey, they are in fact timeless. Even today we see greed in our world, and the envy which causes rash and harmful behavior, and even sloth, which is simply a harmful complacency, a reluctance to work to make something of ourselves. Ecclesiastes 1:9 can be reflected upon when it comes to sin: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Go to God and confess your sin. Confess it entirely, leaving nothing out. For example, if your sin is sloth, perhaps you would pray, “Lord, I am not sure why I am lazy and unwilling to work. But I am; I turn down job opportunities, I spend hours on worthless pursuits, and I lie to family and friends about how I spend my days. I acknowledge these behaviors, and I ask for Your help, whatever form that takes; a chance to participate in therapy, or being given a second chance to work, or whatever will help me to correct this behavior, which offends You.” In this scenario, each expression of the behavior is clearly outlined, and laid before the Lord, hiding nothing.
Do not be embarrassed before God, but forge ahead in your goal of sincere repentance. 1 Corinthians 10:13 declares, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
3. Hang Around the Right Crowd
When attempting to stop sinful behavior, one thing is critically important; being around people that will lead you to upright living and good behavior. The Bible is full of passages about this, and choosing the right friends and associates is a sure-fire way to help stay on the right path.
This is not being judgmental to your current crowd, for God alone can judge, but it is healthy and wise to want the best for yourself. God blessed you with your life, and you need to do your part to honor Him with it. While your current crowd may be fun, and carefree, and ask nothing of you, a prime consideration when you want to stop sinning must be whether you love God enough to change your social circle in order to start pleasing Him.
1 Corinthians 15:33 reminds, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Be attentive to others in your life who are happy, grounded, and honor God, whether at church, in the workplace, or in your hometown. These people, who delight in pleasing and honoring God, are often like magnets, drawing others to them with their warmth, honesty, kindness, and goodness. Don’t be afraid to model their behavior, or even ask for their help in righting your own ship. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” reads Proverbs 27:17. Allow good and godly people to sharpen and better you.
4. Lean into Your Faith
A powerful method you can use to stop sin right now involves intentionality — simply use your own willpower, combined with God’s goodness and mercy, to behave better, and start acting like the Christian you want to be. Today life is complicated and sin abounds, and it is easy to throw up your hands and think, “Life is so hard, and there are so many opportunities to go wrong, that I really can’t help being drawn in to this behavior!”
Yes, you can help it, and you can start right now.
Go to God in prayer, confess your sins in a complete and forthright manner, look critically at the company you keep, and then make a decision to stop sinning. Jesus said to the prostitute he saved from death at the hands of her accusers, “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Here Jesus was granting the prostitute mercy, in his understanding that all human beings sin, but he was also demanding a deep change by the woman in her own behavior. He laid a share of the responsibility directly on her shoulders; it was her job to start living correctly, after being released from her sin.
It is the same for us; we have a responsibility to stay away from sinful behavior, and to make the very best of this earthly life we have been granted by the Almighty God, creator of the whole universe. Jesus died a horrible, humiliating, painful death on the cross that we might be forgiven our sins. And we have God’s promise that our sins will be not only forgiven but forgotten; He erases our sin from His mind, and we can start afresh with Him.
We have a choice every day on this earth to either please God by living honestly and forthrightly or to disappoint and wound Him through sin. Our Lord offers us life-changing opportunities for redemption each and every day. Let us not squander them, but instead, joyously accept them!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Khosrork
Deirdre Reilly is a writer and editor, and her commentary has appeared on various websites including CBN.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Her new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus,” details her own personal journey through doubt and fear into true belief. You can connect with Deirdre via www.deirdrereilly.com, or follow her on Twitter at @deirdrewrites.