How can I conquer sinful habits?
Is it actually possible to conquer destructive habits? Yes, because “with God, nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Through the provision of God’s grace, you can take positive steps of action to experience victory over sinful habits.
“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” (2 Peter 1:2–3).
1. Engraft Romans 6 and 8 into your soul.
To “engraft Scripture” means to make it a living extension of your life so that it can produce spiritual fruit. Just as branches can be grafted into a fruit tree, so Scripture can be grafted into your mind, will, and emotions. For example, as you engraft the truths of I Corinthians 13, you will bear the fruit of genuine love, and if you engraft the truths of I Peter, you will bear the fruit of patience during suffering.
Memorize Romans 6 and Romans 8 word for word. Then, begin to meditate on those passages, and apply them daily to your life. As you engraft Romans 6 and Romans 8 into your soul, 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, 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 and Colossians 3:20); 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 (i.e., not controlled by its power). Choose to believe that truth.
3. Rely on God’s power by relying on 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 . . . [them] 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 more fully (and therefore apply more fully) this truth 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 take over.
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 begin to fall into temptation, it won’t take many seconds of falling before you experience defeat. Satan wants us to believe that when we start falling, there is nothing we can do but surrender to his temptations and be defeated.
Don’t believe the devil! When you start to fall, begin to quote the living, active words of truth found in God’s Word (see Hebrews 4:12 and I Thessalonians 2:13), especially those found in Romans 6 and Romans 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.)
4. Personalize the truths found in Romans 6.
As part of the process of engrafting Scripture, turn the words of Romans 6 into a first-person prayer. Begin to quote Romans 6 to the Lord as your own petition and declaration of truth, like this: “What shall I say then? Shall I continue in sin, that grace may abound? God, forbid it. How shall I, being dead to sin, live any longer therein? Don’t I know that when I was baptized into Jesus Christ I was baptized into His death? . . .”
After personalizing Romans 6 in this way, there is one more important step to follow: 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?”
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.) God’s Word says, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). What does this mean? It means that you should cleanse your life and your surroundings of anything that would contribute to spiritual defeat. This includes, but certainly is not limited to, sensual books and magazines, immodest clothing that defrauds others, items associated with occult practices, and friends who influence you to ignore or reject God’s Law.
6. Ask a Godly person to hold you accountable to 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, and ask him if he would regularly ask you 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 fulfill 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 5:19–22.) 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).
As you take these seven steps of action, you can have victory over sinful habits. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies [to God as] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Remember, through God’s power and by His mercy and grace, “nothing shall be impossible!” (Luke 1:37).