How do we overcome sinful habits?


Can we always overcome temptation or are there times when we just have to sin? This question is relevant to all of us because ...there is no one who does not sin... (1Kings 8:46) and ...everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34).[1]

However, when we confess our sins and receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ, ...we should no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6).[2] Therefore, we need not have an alcohol or drug dependency, an addiction to pornography, or any other obsession for that matter. If we do, and assuming we earnestly desire freedom, how can we get free?

Characteristics of habitual sins

Habitual sins (also known as besetting sins) are characterised by never ending thoughts tempting us to do something wrong, along with cravings for things we should abhor. Unlike 'normal' temptations, no matter how hard we try, resistance will only give us temporary relief. This is because we have been trapped in some way. We need to do something more to set ourselves free.

Dealing with the habitual sin

Habitual sin need not bind us any further. We should keep asking God for forgiveness and keep receiving it by faith - even though we are likely to sin again in the same area. God tells us to continually forgive each other, so how much more will He forgive us?[3]

Habitual sin need not change our standing with God. The atonement Jesus provides enables us to become perfect in God's sight. It offers more than forgiveness of sins. Jesus ...has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). When we ask God for forgiveness on the basis of Jesus' atonement, we are not only counted as innocent, but we are also seen to be righteous[4] - it is just as if we had never sinned and also as if we had overcome the temptation successfully. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:14).

We do not have to make up for any lost ground as we cannot be more perfect than we are already. We continue our fight from a place of victory ...'Everything is possible for one who believes' (Mark 9:23).[5]

How do we overcome
sinful habits?

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Dealing with the temptations

Despite the many temptations, we can still overcome - God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1Corinthians 10:13). As we resist,[6] we should seek God, in faith, to find out why we have so many temptations and then what we should do about it.[7] It could be Satan trapped us one time when we were vulnerable,[8] but it could also be a related unconfessed or on-going sin that we still need to deal with. But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults (Psalm 19:12). If we identify a particular sin as the reason, we should note there could be an even deeper level of sin behind it.[9]

We may need help to get free so we should continue to fellowship in a church and be open to supernatural ministry - such as prophecy, word of knowledge and deliverance. Helping others, wherever we can, may bring about our own deliverance that much sooner.[10] Above all, we need to continue to trust God ...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).