I recently answered a question sent to me from gotquestions.org. This person, who is quoted below, thought her sins were silly little sins and she wondered why she was unable to get over them and stop repeating them. My reply comes from over 30 years of walking with the Lord. I doubt I could have given this reply after just ten years.
1. “There are very small silly little sins I keep on repeating week after week. Every time I repent and promise to God not to repeat them.”
Let’s review what the Bible says about sin, with a few comments. There are no such things as “very small silly little sins,” so we need to correct your theology.
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus came to save us from the power of our sins. Since He had to die a gruesome death to set us free from sin, we dishonor His work by continuing in them.
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14). Jesus’ blood cleanses away sins when they are acknowledged as sins that separate you from God, not as silly things that do no harm. The “worse thing” that will come to those who continue in sin will happen at the judgment seat of Christ.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4). We keep on with the same sins because we are not convinced that we can or should stand in the victory Christ won for us over those sins. We have not been moved by the warnings that we should work harder to overcome lest we bear their consequences.
“But he that lacketh these things [spiritual progression in holy character] is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:9-10). We are not convinced of the consequences of continuing in sin; we haven’t seen anything bad happen to us, so we think the consequences are nothing. But when we stand before Jesus at the judgment, then we’ll see the full effects. If we don’t deal with them now, we will bear the awful cost then.
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). There are no silly little sins. That’s like saying there are silly little deaths. Sin is a serious matter with God, for He gave His Son up to death to save us from sin. We will side with God against sin, or side with the devil and believe sin is a little thing.
I hope these verses help you think about your sins differently. They help lay a foundation for stopping sinning.
2. “In preaching, my pastor said that we needed to put it to death our sinful habits instead repenting of them every week and then repeating them again.”
This is correct theology, and you should pour every ounce of your Christian training into investigating this. Read every commentary you can on Romans 6-8, for that is where this idea came from. Here is Romans 6, and I suggest you read it: http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Rom&c=6&t=KJV
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). If you sin, then you are a slave to the sin; sin is lord in that area of your life, not Jesus! The idea of putting to death the sinful habits is that Jesus is now Lord, not sin. That is spelled out in Romans 6. So when you are confronted with sin, then you may say, “I don’t have to do that anymore, it is only a strong feeling and I no longer have to obey it. I choose to obey Jesus as my master, not sin.” Then you run to the throne of grace to ask for help in time of need.
As we saw with earlier verses, God never intended that we continue in sins, but repent of them and overcome them. Jesus came to save us from them.
You are able to list your “silly” sins. Now acknowledge that you are a slave of sin and want to be freed from them. Jesus has already set us free from them through His death, burial, and resurrection, and your confession of Him as Lord; so you take the next step and review the verses above again and again until you see that you need to change your approach about sins.
Once you believe you need to change your attitude about sin, then the next thing to do is recognize the circumstances that push you to sin. If it is a certain person who is pushing your buttons, then avoid that person or ask God to give you strength before you meet that person. If your tongue is the problem, then ask God to give you strength to keep quiet or avoid the circumstances where you speak unwisely. And so on. You are now a soldier confronting a real enemy that will really rob you of life – act like you are engaged in battle. If you knew a robber was going to come and rob your house, then you would take steps to protect your valuables, not whistle like it was a small thing. Again, read all you can about Romans 6-8. Jesus has already set you free. By faith you overcome; that is, when you really believe these truths, then you will wage war earnestly against sin, and God will help you.
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11a). Paul worked hard to be faithful to the Lord because he was afraid of facing Him at the judgment seat as an unfaithful person. Since Paul felt this way, should we not as well? The warnings in scripture are to rouse us against sin and take them seriously.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31). Continue in the scriptures, for doing so will give you the actual promises God gives on victory over sin that can encourage you, and warnings about consequences that should pick you up when you have fallen, or make you more watchful against sin if your walk with God is strong.
If you continue in the world instead of the word, you won’t get lessons on overcoming sin. The world will show you the pleasure people get from sin, from going their own ways and leaving God out of life. What lessons are influencing you the most? What would most likely label your sins as “silly little things,” the word, or the world?
3. “I thought I would have some sort of help to grow into a better person and put an end to repeating my silly sins.”
The Holy Spirit indeed has come to help us (John 14:26). It is the Spirit’s work to convict you of sin (John 16:8-9), to convince you to turn you against them. Then to guide you to victory by convincing you of the truth inwardly (John 16:13). He is most obviously at work when He points us to Christ (John 16:14). If Jesus Christ will be your supreme aim in life, you’ll find the Holy Spirit very active. If the American Dream is your aim in life, you’ll find very little evidence of the Spirit.
If you want to learn the spiritual way, He will teach you. If you don’t, then He won’t — other than leave you with a nagging feeling that all is not right (because of John 16:8-9 above). For instance, the disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” and Jesus gave them the first lesson, the Our Father prayer. They grew from there and some of them were doing miracles four years later. Many of us, though, are stuck with the Our Father after decades as churchgoers. There is more to learn if we just ask and follow His lessons.
If we don’t know the Spirit’s activity in our lives, it’s only because we are not familiar with who He is or what He does. This means we need to read our Bibles more seriously to learn more about our salvation and the role Jesus and the Holy Spirit play in it.
Please, read your Bible, especially the New Testament, every day. Become familiar with the gospels and epistles. If you are not getting sound instruction against sin in your church, then do your own research, starting with reading the Bible for yourself. If you have more questions about getting the victory over sin, please ask. But the Bible has already given us the details. Start there; our answers don’t give you power to overcome — God’s word does!