Is it actually possible to conquer destructive, sinful habits? According to the Bible, “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). So, by faith, we can know that with God’s power enabling us, we can even overcome those areas of our lives that prove the most difficult: ingrained habits, desires, or addictions. Through the provision of God’s grace, you can take the following positive steps of action to experience victory over sinful habits.
1. Engraft Romans Chapters 6 and 8 into your soul.
To engraft Scripture means to make God’s Word such a part of your life that you begin to live out its truths and produce spiritual fruit. Just as branches can be grafted into a fruit tree and begin to bear the fruit of that tree, so Scripture can be grafted into your mind, will, and emotions, and begin to bear the fruit of God’s Spirit. As your own thoughts are replaced with God’s thoughts, as recorded in His written Word, your mind will be renewed, and you will understand better the will of God (see Romans 12:2). As you understand and submit to His will, and as you grow in your love for the Lord, you will begin to see changes in your behavior.
Start by memorizing a passage of Scripture word-for-word, such as Romans Chapters 6 and 8. Then, begin to meditate on those passages, day and night, applying them daily to your life, especially when faced with temptation. The more you get into the Word of God and the more the Word of God gets into you, the more you will bear the fruit of victory over sin.
2. Understand and believe that you are dead to sin.
Regardless of your feelings to the contrary, the Bible says that believers are dead to sin. God wants us to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, which means “to count it to be so.” (See Romans 6:11.) If a seductive woman walked past a dead man, he would not even blink an eye. God wants us to have a comparable response to the power and appeal of sin—to react to temptation as a dead person would react to temptation.
You died to sin when you became a Christian. At that very moment of salvation, you became a part of Christ. Since you are a part of Christ, you share in all of His past achievements: when He was crucified, you were crucified with Him (see Galatians 2:20); when He was buried, you were buried too (see Romans 6:4); when He rose from the dead, you rose from the dead (see Colossians 3:1). Therefore, you are dead to sin and no longer controlled by its power. Choose to believe that truth.
3. Personalize the truths found in Romans Chapter 6.
As part of the process of engrafting Scripture, turn the words of Romans Chapter 6 into a first-person prayer. Personalize Romans 6 as your own petition and declaration of truth to the Lord, like this: “What shall I say then? Shall I continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall I, being dead to sin, live any longer therein? Don’t I know that when I was baptized into Jesus Christ that I was baptized into His death?” (Continue with the rest of the chapter.)
As you are personalizing Romans 6, identify the particular temptation that you are facing. Rather than using the word sin as you speak God’s truths back to Him, name the specific temptation you are facing. For example, if you are tempted to lust, say, “What shall I say then? Shall I continue to lust, that grace may abound? God, forbid it! How shall I, being dead to lust, live any longer therein?” If you are tempted with bitterness, you could say, “What shall I say then? Shall I continue to be bitter, that grace may abound? God, forbid it! How shall I, being dead to bitterness, live any longer therein?” The power to overcome sin is not a magical recitation, but an acknowledgment of the truth found in the Scriptures: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
4. Rely on God’s power through His Word to “carry you away” from temptation.
When God led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt, He said that He “bare you [Israel] on eagles’ wings” (Exodus 19:4). The Lord “carried them to safety” with His power, and the Lord wants to do that for His children today as well. God wants to carry you away from temptation and destruction “on eagles’ wings.”
Comparing the law of sin to the law of gravity and comparing the law of the Spirit to the laws of aerodynamics can help you understand and, therefore, apply this truth more fully in your life. Picture an eagle soaring in the air. If that eagle suddenly clasped its wings to its sides, it would immediately begin to fall to the ground, because the law of gravity would affect its lift.
The law of gravity never changes; it is constantly in operation and will consistently produce the same effect in any given situation. To stop falling, the eagle merely has to stretch out its wings. The air that rushes over its wings will activate a new force—aerodynamics—that will overcome the effect of the law of gravity. The laws of aerodynamics do not annihilate the law of gravity, but they do overcome it.
When you are tempted, you have only a few seconds of entertaining the thought before you make the choice whether or not to sin. Defeat can come very quickly. Satan wants you to believe that when you are tempted, you are powerless to do anything except surrender to the temptation’s influence and control. Do not believe this lie! The temptation is not the sin. Sin is when you give in and fulfill the wrong desire. (See James 1:14–15.) Will you succumb to the pull of the law of gravity (sin), or will you allow the power of the laws of aerodynamics to aid you (resist sin)?
Don’t believe the devil! When you are tempted, look to the Lord and His truth! Quote the living, active words of truth found in God’s Word (see Hebrews 4:12 and I Thessalonians 2:13), and especially those found in Romans Chapters 6 and 8: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin . . . ? God forbid. . . .” (Romans 6:1–2). As you use the sword of the Spirit to battle against the wiles of the devil (see Ephesians 6:10–18), the temptation will lose its power and appeal, and God will carry you on “eagles’ wings” out of temptation’s reach. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus will lift you above the law of sin and death. (See Romans 8:1–13.)
A key to victory over sin is understanding that this victory doesn’t happen as you merely quote the Word of God in the moment of temptation. The victory happens beforehand as your mind is renewed by the Word of God. As you are replacing your thoughts with God’s thoughts through meditating on His Word, He is cleansing you. Your mind is actually getting replaced with His mind, your will is actually getting replaced with His will, and your emotions are actually getting replaced with His emotions! Victory is a fruit and evidence of the freedom that the Lord has been working in your life as you have been meditating on His Word.
Certainly you will be tempted. But if you have been in the Word regularly, you will begin to find that, in those moments of temptation, you have the power to say “no” to temptations that you were once powerless against! In times of extra-challenging temptation, quoting God’s Word—both to the Lord in prayer and to the devil in resisting the sin—will give you added strength to stand.
5. Make no provision for sinful desires.
If you want to walk in Christ’s victory over a particular temptation, but you “make provision” for that temptation to be carried out, you are deceiving yourself. (See I Corinthians 3:18.) According to God’s Word, you are to “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). What does this verse mean? Making no provision for your flesh means that you should cleanse your life and your surroundings of anything that would contribute to likely spiritual defeat. These items, people, and activities might include sensual books and magazines, items associated with occult practices, friends who influence you to ignore or reject God’s Law, and places and activities where you know you will be exposed to temptation.
6. Ask a Godly person to hold you accountable as you pursue your spiritual goals.
Ask the Lord to guide you to someone who is concerned for your spiritual well-being, such as your parents, your spouse, a spiritual mentor, or a mature Christian friend. Ask him if he would regularly inquire about your progress with your spiritual goals. Tell him what your goals are and give him precise questions that he can use to hold you accountable.
For example, to hold you accountable to engraft Scripture, you may suggest that he ask you this question once a week: “Can I hear the Scripture you have memorized during the past week?” To hold you accountable to read the Bible daily, he might ask you this question: “What did you learn from your Bible reading this morning?”
7. Be alert and obedient to promptings from the Holy Spirit.
In addition to reckoning yourself dead to sin, you also must walk in the Spirit to experience victory over sin. Learn how to discern the promptings of God’s Spirit, which always will be in harmony with God’s Word. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16–17).
As you obey the promptings of the Spirit, God will give you grace to reject the works of the flesh. (See Galatians 5:19–21.) You also will experience the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance . . . . They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–25). Indeed, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (II Peter 1:2–3).