Why do we continue to repeat the same sins we were sure we had “fixed” with the last prayer commitment to God?
I’ve grown in my faith over the years and know the Lord better now than I did at my salvation. The Lord is in the business of sanctification, making holy, those of us who are saved.
So why is it we still repeat old sins?
Are we “changed”?
The apostle Paul taught this about our salvation: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is a joy to listen to a compelling testimony from a person who led one kind of life only to meet Jesus and become a very different person.
What about you?
Has God dramatically transformed your life, or did it look pretty much the same the day after your salvation?
Paul knew what it was to meet Jesus and experience dramatic change because of his salvation. I grew up in a Christian home and, while I knew my future was forever changed, the present remained pretty much the status quo. The “old” didn’t seem to have passed away at all. But, it had. I had received the Holy Spirit and I was no longer on my own.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture comes from Romans 7. It is comforting to this Bible teacher to hear Paul say, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18–19).
If Paul battled his common sins, even after those moments on the road to Damascus, we will battle our common sins as well. Why do we “keep doing” the same stuff that drove us to our knees the last time? Is it possible to break those sins and allow God to change us, or should we just expect to keep blowing it on a regular basis?
My answer to that question comes from experience.
The only way to break our repetitive, natural sins, is to allow God to do that. We can try to do better, but our human strength is insufficient for the problem.
When you need a change, only God is able
I memorized Proverbs 3:5–6 at a young age. For me, those are the verses to apply to the weaknesses in our human natures we know we need to change. The Holy Spirit constantly convicts our thoughts when we step toward a sin. The next step is acknowledging that, like Paul, we are unable to fix it ourselves.
God’s verses for repetitive sin are Proverbs 3:5–6. The proverb begins by reminding us that we need God’s word and direction, constantly. The author says to bind the teaching around our neck and write the commandments on the tablet of our hearts (Proverbs 3:3). That is the way we “find favor and good success in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:4).
But, the way we do those things is found in verses 5–6: “Trust in the Lᴏʀᴅ with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
When a change in our lives is needed, God is able—if we are willing to live what the proverb teaches.
Do we trust God?
It seems hard to trust God, especially with our whole heart.
After all, we know amazing Christians who have experienced significant failures. Or, some who have been diagnosed with something fatal. Others have lived with a vibrant faith and then lost it.
Do we truly trust God like we should?
Trusting is difficult, but we do it all the time. We trust the pilot with our lives. We trust that, behind the closed door, he hasn’t fallen asleep. We trust the surgeon and the anesthesiologist when we need surgery. We trust the elevator and the alarm system and we trust the person driving the car behind us. We have to, in order to live in this world.
Do we apply that same standard to the Lord?
We know we can’t trust everyone all the time. People make mistakes—but God doesn’t. I have come to believe this is true in life. We trust whom we want to trust.
Do you want to trust God?
Don’t lean on what you know
We trust what we google, sometimes. We trust what a smart person says, or at least we trust people we think are smarter than we are. We trust education. We trust experience. We trust faithfulness. We tend to trust what we can confirm.
You can’t trust God unless you choose not to lean on your own understanding.
To lean on what we know or what we are able to figure out is sometimes to lean against a mirage. It only looks real. In order to trust God with all your heart, you have to know him as the ever-present brick wall. There is never a time you will lean on him and fall.
We know we can’t trust our own knowledge. We make mistakes—but God doesn’t.
How can we trust what we cannot see?
In every way, at all times, trust what you know God has said. In all your ways, know God’s word and will.
I know God because I know his word. I know God because I’ve seen his work. I know God because his Holy Spirit lives in me. I know God because he speaks. I know God is real the same way I know love is real. I experience God’s presence in this world and in my life.
We know love, anger, hatred, compassion, trust, fear, courage, and conviction are real. If we believe in those powerful realities, we can believe in God. We can know the One who created all realities.
Do you need a change?
Is there a sin you want to stop repeating? Think Proverbs 3:5–6.
When we know and trust God as his word teaches, he is able to “direct, or make straight” our paths.
Remember when your mom or dad said, “Straighten up”? They got that expression from God. The next time you are about to repeat a sin, think Proverbs 3:5–6. Chances are, you will hear the voice of God saying, “You know what to do. Now, straighten up.”
We make mistakes. Thankfully, we have a God who doesn’t.
Trust him with all your heart.
Submit to him all your thoughts.
Then you will live his plans, most of the time.
That’s our only realistic goal until we walk with him all the time.
If you need a change, God is able.