I heard a pastor tell the story once of his brief, albeit, passionate addiction to…video games. That’s right. Everyday, around lunch time, he would escape from his church office and find his way to the local mall.
There, while munching on greasy fries, he would empty his pockets of quarters into his favorite arcade game. He would sometimes spend hours shooting down digital planes before realizing that his lunch hour was long over.
No one knew what this young pastor was off doing, but he felt a strange and powerful pull to keep showing up and dopping in quarters.
After a few weeks of this, the Lord told him that this practice had become an unwelcome distraction and thus, a sin. It sounds silly. I mean, video games, really? But, this hobby had become a bit of an idol and the pastor knew it.
He decided he needed to pray. He needed God’s help. But, as he began to pray about it he was struck with a realization.
What the pastor wanted to do was pray for self-control, pray to be less distracted, pray for help cutting back, pray for the strength to stop.
But, before he could even finish his prayers God spoke very plainly to him and he heard the Lord say:
That’s it. Stop.
There was no soliloquy from the Lord. No long parable, no compassionate plea on this pastor’s behalf.
God simply told him to stop.
He chuckled as he re-told this story and explained that while he knew a video game was not a big deal in the scheme of things, for him the lesson to be uncovered was him recognizing God’s intolerance of our sin.
But, the bigger lesson was also the requirement on our part, to stop sinning immediately.
You see, we often try to transition, ease out of, or slow down our sin. We like to put the brakes on our sin, instead of actually taking our sin off the road (Sorry if that is a terribly cheesy analogy. It’s the best I could come up with).
Part of the reason we do this, is the fact that we are really bad at calling sin, “sin.” We like to re-package it and re-label it for easier digestibility. We prefer to use euphemisms for our sin, things like “struggle, hardship, challenge, thorn in our side,” and the like.
The trouble is, Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, I know you’re having a hard time. I know your parents were jerks and life has been full of disappointments, so if you want to take your time in quitting your sin, go right ahead.”
No. Jesus said “Go and sin no more.”
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I know that some sins are deeply rooted, generational, forces of nature. I’ve had those. Heck, I have those.
I also recognize that, for some of us, our sins cannot be fully conquered without formal counseling, intercessory prayer, supernatural healing, and the like. I’ve been there too.
However, we are liars if we believe that God does not expect anything less from us than our complete and immediate repentance. Repentance is not a process (sanctification is a process). It is a moment. Repentance is the instant we say to God “You are right. I was wrong. I sinned. Forgive me.” And we turn and run in the opposite direction.
God wants us to stop sinning. STOP.
He does not want us to slow down, shift gears, take a break, hit pause, or transition out of our sin. His holiness demands nothing less than our immediate action.
Are you guilty of ever trying to transition out of your sin? Have you ever just “stopped” sinning? What was the result?
41 thoughts on “Transitioning Out of Our Sin”
How totally crazy. I’ve just been thinking about this today– regarding, well, something a lot more serious than video games. (Though if we’re being honest, man! Video games! Addictive too!) I … yeah. I think it’s difficult, too, because oftentimes I still WANT to sin, whether it’s video games or foul language or, well, anything that can be “fun.” I think I need to figure out what I REALLY want.
Thank you for being honest and admitting that you often want to sin. I think, as you suggested, that is the core issue right there. As followers of Christ we should be appalled by sin, even our own sin. Freedom in Christ says that actually, we don’t need to sin anymore. We are free to not sin! Which sounds so counter-intuitive, I know. It should be that when we sin, it is us stumbling into, not us choosing it. 1John 3:4 is a great verse on the subject. I’ll be praying for you that you receive the freedom available to you.
Definitely done this brand of sin management – time and time again. A testament that it doesn’t work. :)
Yes, the phrase “sin management” ran through my mind as I was writing this. So true…
I stand convicted. Thanks for the message.
Conviction is a good thing. It’s our spirit agreeing with God’s Holy Spirit. Be encouraged!
So I think this might be one of your best Nicole. Thanks for the round house kick to the face. I’ve been there and in many ways i am there. And for me, the worst part is not just playing sin management, the worst part is I use other people’s sin to justify my transition.
It’s like ‘Hey Jesus, I know this is probably not a good idea but I’m pretty sure you got your hands full with Bob over there who’s swimming in REAL sin, so yea, we’ll figure this out later.’
Jesus, please give me the courage to do what is right even when it’s hard.
Oh, so you’re a comparer. Or you see sin as a gradation (which is another post I have in the que actually). Isn’t it crazy how we self-justify? We judge our own sin and decide it ain’t so bad, especially when compared against someone else.
What’s so amazing is knowing that God doesn’t do that with us—for which I am extremely grateful. Can you imagine if God compared us to others? I would fail. I’d be a squashed bug. Game over.
Your prayer is simple, but powerful. It is doing what we know is right even when, well, we don’t feel like it. Thanks for sharing friend and thank you for the kind words too!
yes for me its the computer i was really mad too. because i am employed and living in the stix with no one i know or care to know i suppose thats the problem i am always on the internet because its my only outlet from all the mess. and when GOD said no i was mad. because he is forcing me to get to know people i dont want to get to know. And because my relationship with GOD isnt so good right now, so to stop emailing twittering etc would mean i have to talk to HIm and honestly im not interested in that right now given all the things He’s allowed lately.
Even though I feel like a very aware, perceptive person your post makes me think again if THE sin that has been with me since I can remember is something that I am capable of stopping on my own or not. I’ve been trying since I became a christian 9 years ago. Or maybe I am just using the excuse that my sin can only be stopped by something outside of myself. Any thoughts on ways to sort these kinds of messes out? Is there a mechanism for knowing which sin is which? Or is my thinking just fog to keep me from doing what you talked about: Stop? Am I totally over-thinking this as much as possible?! ;)
ABSOLUTELY. I’ve been there. And as uncomfortable as it can be, one of the best motivators to STOP is to confess. I’ve tried way too many times to white knuckle it and overcome my sin with my striving. But when I’ve confessed it, it’s out in the open and the light shines brightly on it.
Then there’s a deeper level of addiction that is a whole other story, but I know you’re probably not talking about that specifically here.
Confession is merely us agreeing with God the Father as to what He says sin really is.
One does not reason with sin. One does not sit down with it and try to figure out why it is the way it is. (Maybe it wasn’t breast-fed long enough as a baby?) One does not compromise with sin, nor does one need to be laid out upon a counseling couch in some kind of weird Freudian nightmare to figure out why sin is there at all.
I would suck as a “pastor”, because I cannot handle sin with sensitivity or tact.
–“Oh, Pastor, I’m struggling with sexual immorality and online pornography! I can’t stop myself, the devil has me!”
–Um…here’s the deal: Stop looking at naked chicks that aren’t your wife and stop masturbating to their images. Stop it. It’s embarrassing.
–“That’s it? That’s your advice? What about my feelings or the root causes of why I am addicted to porn?”
–What about it? You are addicted to porn because you seek out sin, like all of us. The root cause of your sin is thanks to Eve and Adam. Stop being a wussy. Man-up and stop touching yourself. Simple enough.
–“But, but, but…I thought you would…”
–You thought I would what? You thought I would cry with you, hold you, stroke your hair as you cry on my shoulder? Wake up, son of God. This ain’t Oprah and I ain’t Ellen Degeneres. You aren’t “struggling with sin”. You’re merely trying to get me to make you feel less convicted because of your sin. Well, I’m not going to. Jesus, our King, died because of our sins. Remember that next time you go to some porn site and get your jollies.
See? I would so suck as a pastor.
I think more pastors need to take your approach and just say STOP.
I dunno man. I think all of us appreciate people who are honest and don’t beat around the bush. Yeah sometimes its hard not to get angry when our toes get stepped on, but sadly… I think there is a definite lack of HARD TRUTH in many North American churches.
Mind you, sometimes a dose of tact is a good thing, but I think there’s a difference between using tact and “padding” the truth and beating around the bush so we don’t offend anyone. (last I checked Jesus was a pretty controversial person. Human being from some backwater hicktown, born in a manger and claiming to be the Son of God? Yeah buddy…. sure thing. Here’s a nice white jacket for you to wear…. Its got nice shiny buckles and you can hug yourself when you wear it!)
Btw, I neglected to mention that your post today was timely and spot-on. Confronting sin never goes out of style. :)
God’s done this to me a few times…one time convicting me on the types of movies I had been watching. He put it all in front of me and told me to stop watching horror movies because of how it impacted my mind. And I did it. And it was H.A.R.D. But I know I’m better off.
I think the biggest thing that gets in the way of transitioning out of sin for me is that I make it a private effort. I forget to invite God into it, and others. Usually my sin is about something going on inside of me, deeper than the sin itself, that I might not even fully understand. So when I come out of hiding, confess to God and to others that I know my behavior is wrong, and ask for help getting to the real root of the problem, it almost always makes it easier to “quit.”
“I forget to invite God into it”
That was brutally honest, Ally. That was The Spirit. Brava, sister.
I wrote a post on this subject, but addressed all that time we spend THINKING about dealing with our “issues” versus how little time we actually do anything about them.
I like your approach! Very direct.
Thank you, Nicole, for another bulls-eye.
One way we have been lured into the error of transitioning out of sin is the teaching we all have heard which says that sanctification is a process. This concept tells us that we move gradually toward holiness, allowing us to live both in light and darkness. This is not what the Bible says (though some versions have perpetuated the error through poor translation of some verses).
The word “sanctified” means “set apart as holy.” It first occurs in Genesis 2:3 “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” making it a special day, set apart from the other days.
Leviticus 22:32 “You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” This verse clearly shows us that sanctification is not a process. God is not getting any holier than He is already, but He calls His people to treat Him as holy. He sanctifies His people (that’s us!), making us different, set apart from the rest of the world to be a testimony to them. Those who call themselves Christians who remain in sin and darkness just like the ungodly either have never truly come to Christ, or do not understand their already-accomplished sanctification.
We who are in Christ are now called “saints,” (Romans 1:7; 8:27; Acts 26:10) sanctified ones, holy people set apart for holy work. A saint is not an exceptionally good Christian, but just a regular human being who is truly following our exceptional Lord. Even those who are not walking well (like those messed up Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 1:2) are still called saints.
When the Bible speaks of our sancification being the will of God for our lives, as if it hasn’t happened yet, it is telling us that God has already declared us holy and righteous and clean and pure, and He wants us to understand our holy status and live accordingly! We are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), official representatives of God Almighty in this polluted world. If you actually put on holy garments every day (yes, you do have permission to wear a backward collar) would you live your life any differently? Well, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) Look how you’re dressed and walk like a holy priest should walk!
No, sanctification (despite what most of us have been taught) is not a gradual process. It is a completed act of the Holy Spirit within us. We have been made holy by the residence of God’s Holy Spirit, who does not grdually move in. Read the following Scriptures and see whether you have already been sanctified by God:
Acts 20:32; 26:18
1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11
Hebrews 10:10, 14, 29
Let us repent and depart from darkness, turning our backs to a life of sin, to follow the One who died to give us a life of holiness and righteousness which will result in great blessing to ourselves and to countless others around us. We get to choose what kind of life we live. And God will reward:
Revelation 22:11-12 “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
“We must gain God’s thoughts, repent, and enter into what He reveals.” A Quote by: brywieb that makes perfect sense in today’s nonsensical world.
The word ‘Saved’, in reference to spuaitirl salvation, is a word held in a present-continuous state. Once we have owned up to our sinful spuaitirl state and attitude, sought forgiveness, and the infilling leadership of God for the future, we begin a journey, a spuaitirl formation, where we go on being saved, (holiness), where Christ is being formed in us.When we come to God through the redemption available through the cross, we don’t finish there, the cross is not the completion of the work, but the access to which begins the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Gal. 4:19 and Phil 1:6 speak of this work that continues until the day of ‘Christ Jesus’( appears). Phil 2:12 encourages us to ‘continue to work out your salvation’ (N IV). My concern is that along with the danger that we maybe morphing our theology down into something less than Biblical, is the realisation that we work hard to getting people ‘saved’, or come to faith, but place far less vigour and work on resourcing, teaching and challenging those who are ‘saved’ to work out this salvation to every area of their lives.Once Grace has been planted in our lives, it takes a lifetime of work for that to be expressed in all the different parts of our lives. How we relate, how we handle our finances, how we do emotionally, all those things. Being saved (coming to faith) is the first step on this journey, it is not the destination.
Hmmm….this has me thinking. I have always thought of justification as instantaneous and sanctification as a process. Of course, I don’t have a list of verses at my fingertips like you do (that part takes me much longer).
I have though, however, thought of verses like Phil 2: 12 “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” and Phil 3:10-12 “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
The fact that Paul recognizes that he has yet to attain the power of Christ’s resurrection and sufferings (which cannot be fully realized until death, I suppose) has always encouraged me to mean that sanctification is a process.
I read through the verses you listed and I recognize that in most, if not all, the word used is “sanctified” which indicates it has happened in the past, and the result of which remains present.
All that to say, I agree and recognize that the instant we are sealed with the Holy Spirit we are set apart and holy. I know we are no longer sinners, but saints. But, I cannot believe (or I sure hope not) that I’m done and God has nothing else to do in me. So then what do we call the process that we live in currently if not “sanctification?”
Regeneration? Some other fancy Christian-ese word?
And it’s not as if I’m one who is big on labels, but on this point, I feel there needs to be some type of descriptive word. A definition. Something.
This also has me thinking that if God sees us as holy, blameless, pure, etc why do we not see ourselves as this–or why is this a difficult truth to live out ( a big question, I know). Really more rhetorical. It seems that if we really are sanctified in an instant then why do very few of our lives reflect that?
I read a bit about progressive sanctification being an expression of positional sanctification and this resonated with me. If we are light, then we must also reflect light. We are holy, but that doesn’t mean everything we do is immediately holy. It is the ongoing process of sanctification that reflects our current inner state of sanctification. That makes sense to me and seems to support both sides of scripture on this issue as well as my own experiences.
Okay, I’m tired and now I’m not exactly sure of what I wrote. Looking forward to your response.
“This also has me thinking that if God sees us as holy, blameless, pure, etc why do we not see ourselves as this–or why is this a difficult truth to live out ( a big question, I know). Really more rhetorical. It seems that if we really are sanctified in an instant then why do very few of our lives reflect that?”
I smell a blog post here. Just sayin’.
Nicole, thank you for your thoughtful response. The full answer to some of your questions above require much more explanation, but let me offer this simple answer to the heart of your question.
Justification, regeneration, reconciliation, and sanctification have already been accomplished in the life of one who follows Jesus as Lord. So, what do we call the process that we are involved in? Growth.
As we are equipped by gifted leaders in the church, we grow “until we all attain… to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children… we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:13-15)
“I am writing to you, little children, … I am writing to you, fathers, … I am writing to you, young men” (1 John 2:12-13) In the body of christ, we have newborn babes, young children, young men, fathers, and grandfathers. We see the effects of continuing through our natural life usually reflected in greater wisdom and mature actions (but not always). The same is true in our spiritual understanding, wisdom, and maturity as we spend time with our Father and with the saints and in the Word, following the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit. We grow. We learn obedience, just as Jesus Himself learned obedience as He grew up (Heb 5:8).
The “____tion”s have already been granted to us. Now, we need to walk in them.
Thank you! Very timely. That’s all!
Amen and Ouch all at once! Thanks for the kick in the butt today. Completely guilty
Another two cents: the reason He says “STOP!” is the same reason a mother yells “STOP!” to her child running into the street – you are in danger and He loves you!! Once we understand that there is no such thing as “a freedom to sin” because all sin is bondage, we will stop running into the street and learn to trust our Father who loves us “this much.” (see His arms spread wide?)
It’s hard, isn’t it? I wrote a piece about that very same thing this summer, where I wrestled with the concept of “Like, Love it, or Back on the Rack,” where I fell into seeing my spiritual life like a swimsuit hunt. Crazy, huh? http://www.jenniferdougan.com/2012/06/love-it-like-it-or-back-on-rack.html
Thanks for tackling this too. I think God is telling me something… ;)
Nicole– great, great post today that really speaks to me. Thanks for this.
Maybe it’s because I’m not at the greatest place in my faith at the moment, but this seems to be saying that it’s easy to stop a certain sin if you just want to enough. Surely you can only quit a sin so suddenly if God has convicted you about it and is helping you stop?
Are there sins our Father is not convicting any of us about?
Don’t look at it as ‘quitting a sin’, Louise. Look at it perhaps as merely being like Jesus. It is possible. It just doesn’t preach well, is all. :)
Stop huh? So your saying that if I stop sinning a lot and sin only a very little bit that’s not enough? I have to quit it completely? Obviously you haven’t read the Common Mans Guide to Sin. It very clearly details how different sins have different values and colors and that some sins aren’t as bad as others. If you would like to get a copy the author is…oh that’s embarrassing…..uh it’s written by SATAN. I’m sorry I feel sarcastic today.
Great post, good advice. Just stop.
Convicting, yes. We pray for strength to stop sinning, and yet the Bible says that God never lets us be tempted beyond what we are able to resist. So, what is our excuse then? We’re not strong enough to resist? God’s word leaves us without excuse.
I was struggling with a particular sin for a LONG time… decades… and there seemed to be no solution, to the point where I doubted where I was even saved or not.
Then God showed me something… God cannot bless me (or you) with the full, rich, amazing life that He has planned for us, if we are in open rebellion. He showed me this, specifically, what he has in store for MY future, and you know what? Not only did I stop, but the very TEMPTATION went away. Completely! A huge, incredible weight was just lifted off.
Want to know what happens when you get a clear vision of how amazing your life COULD have been, if you’d just put away your sin? BITTER, PAINFUL REMORSE. TRUE repentance. Have a look at what Paul writes in Ephesians 3. What God has in store for us is way WAY better than anything we could imagine, or think to ask for. God can’t make our lives a channel for His blessings, if we keep clogging up the gutter.
How often do we pray, on a daily basis, what Jesus told us to pray in his example prayer? “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one” (Matt 6:13 NLT).
There is so much in that prayer that we take too much for granted… may His Kingdom come – into our personal life. May His will be done – in MY house, at MY job, in MY life. Pray that EVERY morning and let it not just become vain repetition. MEAN it.
Remember what James wrote? The reason we don’t have things is because we don’t ask God, and we don’t ask for the right reasons. That includes this struggle.
I, too, have had “silly” addictions that I soon deemed were, indeed sins, for they distracted me from my purpose. No, they weren’t video games, but my addiction was just as distracting! I believe that many of us fall into ruts of “silly addiction” (or serious addictions) at least once in our lives. Thank you for taking the time to discuss this topic.
The Lord did this same things to me, JUST STOP!!! However my pride told me I would transtition out. My sin got the best of me and cost me my wife, daughter, and pretty much everything I love. Because I didn’t just STOP. Thank you for your words at this point in my life it is good to know I’m not alone, even if it feels dark and lonely
I know I’m late to the conversation but I really enjoyed reading this. It was a nice balance of entertainment and the harsh reality of sin. Growing up in a big church (over 2000 members) I was never told to stop sinning or to even acknowledge the sin in my life. It wasn’t until I pleaded with God to save me two years ago that I was able to understand the degree of my sinful nature. Allow me to first say that I am a 21 year old woman who has struggled for 10 years battling chronic depression and 7 years battling porn and masturbation (yes there are women who struggle with this too). Sexuality sin is by far the hardest sin to break because its a form of deep satanic worship and it feels good. Lack of genuine repentance and self control caused me to enter into the camp of the devil where I had suffered for years! There were many times that I would repent and feel free for a short amount of time (3 months at the most) only to slip again and find myself questioning my salvation. You are so true when you say God does not tolerate sin in the least. About a month ago in frustration I fell captive to my sin again only to find myself rushing to the bathroom with vomit spilling from my mouth. I realized then that God had enough of my sin and was literally purging it from my body. We have to be so careful of when we grieve the Spirit because there will be consequences for our actions. I still struggle with the temptation to sin even today but I have peace because I know God is helping me to overcome my sin. There is absolutely no such thing as a carnal Christian. Either you’re in Christ or you’re not. However, being in Christ doesn’t mean you wont fall sometimes because we all do. From my experiences I have learnedly that there is complete victory in the name of Jesus and that He will never leave His righteous forsaken but you have to STOP! There is no shame in Christ and you can overcome anything as long as Christ is in you. Pray and be alone with God do that you may be delivered.
I just stumbled across this post, and all I can say is WOW! And amen, and praise the Lord, and all those other cliche things we say. This is so clear, so concise, so true!
Oh, and I’m guilty…
Thanks for sharing!
Years ago a friend was speaking with Elizabeth Elliot after a conference session, similarly explaining a certain struggle and looking for both advice and sympathy. Elizabeth stared rather blankly and quipped, “So, you’re giving yourself permission to sin. What do you suppose God thinks of that?”