The beauty of the gospel message is freedom from sin, but the reality for many is a continual daily battle not to sin. Most Christians want to stop sinning, yet their struggle continues.
Some might assume the problem of sin is solely their own, but the truth is that all Christians struggle, even the apostle Paul. In writing to the church in Rome Paul said this:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
— Romans 7:14–15
I was saved at a young age and raised in the church, but Jesus Christ really got a hold of my heart my junior year of college. Sin had always been a struggle for me, but I assumed that once I had fully surrendered my life, the temptations would go away. They didn’t.
When I enrolled in seminary, I once again assumed the temptations would go away. Again, I was wrong. So, at 22 years old, I tried to devise a plan to stop sinning. Sin was neither taking me to the places I wanted to go nor making me the person I wanted to become, so sin had to go. I just didn’t know how to stop.
Initially, I thought that to stop sinning, I would need to become more disciplined and avoid moments of temptation. When I got angry I would just need to try really hard not to say the wrong thing. When I was tempted with a bad thought, I would need to work hard to keep my thoughts clean. This didn’t work. Not because it was wrong, it was just incomplete.
While in seminary, I read a book that was transformational for me. It was titled Desiring God by John Piper. This book had a profound influence on me. One quote helped me the most in my desire for holiness. Piper, talking about our struggle with temptation and sin, said this:
“I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.”
Piper nailed it. Overcoming sin wasn’t about merely making the right choice in the moment. It was about changing our desires. Let me illustrate this for you. When someone strives to lose weight because they eat too much ice cream (purely hypothetical situation here with no relevance to my personal life), they don’t stop liking ice cream. They just like being healthy more.
Are you struggling to overcome sin in your life? My advice is simple, find something that you like more. When your desires change, so will your actions.