Facing the Issues
James 1:8; 4:8
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Are you serious about breaking that sinful habit? Good! Since it is essential that you see your problem in view of God’s Word, let’s look at what God wants to accomplish in your life and focus on the issue that truly hinders you from being free from that sinful habit. James was quite accurate when he taught that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Sinful habits are usually a sign or an indication of a problem of unresolved conflicts.
What Does God Want to Accomplish?
God has a purpose in wanting to show us our inner self, our sin. We too often hold on to the smaller purposes or issues because we desire freedom from sin to avoid embarrassment, be relieved of guilt, or to save face. The most critical issue we often avoid is our rebellion against God (Psalm 51:1-12). We want to be relieved of our guilty conscience but we don’t want to repent. Those who confess their sins, intending to repeat the same action, are not truly repentant. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.
God’s plan is to draw you beyond your repentance for sin to Himself. He wants to use your struggles to lead you into godly living. His will is not merely that you be free from sin but He wants to conform you to the image of His Son. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Delivering you from a sinful habit is only one step in the process. Washing the stains from your life is the beginning of the preparation into the Spirit-filled person God wants you to be.
Biblical change is not just turning away from sin; it is turning toward righteousness. The person who lies must speak the truth (Ephesians 4:25) and the one who steals must not only stop stealing, but he needs to work and give to others (verse 28). Do not just stop sinning--start doing what is right before God. The good habits you build will replace the sinful ones. Defeating a habit also requires changes in lifestyle. We are to make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). The person who wants to stop smoking should throw away all his cigarettes and not buy any more; the person struggling with sexual sin should get rid of any suggestive materials in his possession. The person battling with substance abuse should avoid the company of those who have the same problem (I Corinthians 15:33), and avoid the places and circumstances which tempt them.
Be on guard when wrestling with a sinful habit–––there is a difference between temptation and sin. When you choose to pursue temptation it becomes sin, temptation itself isn’t. Even our Lord was tempted. When sinful thoughts enter your mind, without being invited, at that point you have not sinned. The crucial test is how will you respond to these suggestions? Will you pursue these thoughts, entertain them, and let them materialize in your mind? How many Christians think that victory over sin means that they will no longer be tempted? Or, they think that God will change their nature so that they will no longer desire to do evil. This is wrong thinking. Temptation is not a sin: it is a call to battle. Since we will always be tempted, we need to learn to handle temptation God’s way. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Thought: We are responsible for our own sin--including those sins "which so easily beset us" (Hebrews 12:1). We must take personal responsibility for our own habits and not shrink from calling them sin. If you are struggling with a sinful habit in your life, don’t try to battle it alone. You need to find some mature Christians to help you through the hard times, to check up on you and encourage you to be honest with yourself and with your failures. You must trust God and His faithfulness to give you a way of escape that you will be able to endure such times when you are tempted. Preach the Gospel to yourself daily which is–––the forgiveness of sin, and the righteousness credited to you through Jesus Christ alone.