Stumbling blocks to breaking sinful patterns
Jesus came to set us free from bondage to sin. To break free from cycles of sinful patterns, we first need to remove the stumbling blocks in our minds that prevent us from walking in spiritual freedom. What are some typical spiritual stumbling blocks?
The powerful Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in all believers and will give us new life. Praise God that complete spiritual transformation is possible, even for attitudes and behaviours that appear hard-wired. We are all called to overcome sin and live as “more than conquerors”.
Romans 8:11 ESV If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Romans 8:37 ESV No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
This means we need to intentionally put off our old ways and remove anything that obstructs us from living free of sin. Christians who live mired in sin are poor testimonies to God’s power. On the other hand, we can turn our shame and weaknesses into opportunities to praise God for His work in our lives. We can be His living testimonies!
Typical stumbling blocks
There is no stumbling block we cannot remove from our thinking. Countless other Christians have faced the same obstacles and learnt to overcome. So can we.
1. Our understanding of sin: Get rid of doubt, unbelief and self-condemnation
Some Christians believe that sin is an inevitable part of life; that we are here on earth to struggle and suffer. This type of thinking is a lie from Satan. Jesus came to give us an abundant life on earth, free from bondage to sin.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Romans 6:18 NIV You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Consider the implication of such thinking. Are we saying that God would bring us to life, only to leave us in a state of defeat and suffering? That would be saying that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was petty and meaningless. We should be careful not to operate with a spirit of unbelief, doubt or condemnation when it comes to breaking sin. That would be falling straight into Satan’s deceitful trap.
Hebrews 3:12 ESV Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
2. Our truth: Rely on the source of all Truth: the Bible
God has prepared wisdom and counsel for all of our needs. The Creator knows how everything in this world works. Every answer is found in His Word, the Bible.
His promises and truths will set us free from any worldly lie that blocks us from experiencing His love, joy, peace and hope. We miss out when we don’t study the Bible for ourselves. For example, reading a variety of verses on certain topics can give us a more accurate picture of what God says about specific sins and His providence on how to break free.
John 8:32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
3. Our view of God: Get an accurate picture
Many people have a wrong image of God. They may think He is distant, angry, judgemental, petty or forgetful. The world portrays God in many blasphemous ways. Just as we cannot fall for any malicious gossip about someone, it is the same with our views of God.
No media, family, culture or even church will be able to teach us everything about God and His character. He is unlike any person on earth. No one can represent His overflowing love and fierce power. God loves us so much that Jesus subjected Himself to be born into a lowly human family to show us a better way to live. He suffered greater pain that anyone of us will ever have to, so as show us that He knows our sufferings. Instead of destroying us for our sins, He is patient and compassionate. He has never abandoned us. What an amazing God we serve.
Psalm 86:15 ESV But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Hebrews 4:15 ESV For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
4. Our upbringing: Break away from wrong lessons
There is no perfect family and many times, we don’t always receive the encouraging, nurturing and uplifting reinforcements that we deeply need. This will naturally also skew our view of relationships, and ultimately our relationship with God and how we deal with sin.
Psalm 27:10 ESV For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
For example, if we grew up in an environment where issues are not lovingly discussed but are simply swept under the carpet instead, we will have a natural tendency to avoid our own problems and hope they will be resolved on their own, without our active involvement. If our parents tend to blame others for their problems, we are likely to do the same and avoid dealing with the sin that tarnishes our personal relationship with an almighty God. If they always reminded us that we do not meet their expectations, we may start to think like a loser (we can’t do things right) rather than the victor that we are in Christ (we overcome because of Christ).
We need to identify such influences and renew our minds.
5. Our culture: Get rid of negative influences
If we find ourselves in a culture where people are often sarcastic, complaining, or overly critical, we can subconsciously start to think in negative bleak ways. The same goes for the music we listen to. Popular music of our times encourages hedonistic behaviour and self-idolisation, celebrates rebellion and self-determination and pushes the notion of discontentment. If our school or work culture is one that doesn’t uphold the highest values and integrity, we will find that our intolerance for sin may also suffer.
Psalm 1:1 ESV Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Proverbs 6:27 ESV Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?
We need to identify how cultural influences may have overshadowed our Christian beliefs.
6. Our memories: Identify areas for inner healing
God is Spirit and we are to worship in spirit and in truth. Traumatic memories can impact how we live as Christians because our spirits are wounded.
John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
If we have ever experienced something traumatic, we may come to the conclusion that God has not protected or loved us. This can at times, make repenting from sin harder. In such cases, we should actively seek a sound Christian counsellor who can help us heal our inner wounds.
7. Our choice of spirit or flesh: Deny the body
If we are used to serving our bodies first, indulging in any type of physical pleasure, our bodies’ desires will overpower and rule our minds. This will also drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit in us.
Romans 8:6-8 ESV For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
We need to learn to control our bodies, not let our bodies control us. That is why fasting is so helpful. We are submitting our bodies to listening to God first. Let’s consider learning how to fast and do so soon.
8. Our training: Learning to persevere
There are no “microwave” Christians, who can instantly change in a blink of an eye. We grow into strong and faithful believers through trials and tests.
There is always a higher purpose to why things happen. God is working out something good, even though it doesn’t feel good for us at the moment. Our faith is sharpened when we choose to persevere in spite of our circumstances. Praise God that He promises to reward us for our endurance. He who began a good work in us will make something beautiful of our lives!
James 1:12 ESV Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Galatians 6:9 ESV And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
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