Breaking the Sin Cycle

CONTRIBUTED BY ANDREW HART

While on holidays recently, I was reading a book which made reference to “committing sin”. The passage was based on John 8:34, where Jesus says (NKJV) “whoever commits sin is a slave to sin”. This made me think of the prayer we often hear, to “forgive the sins we have committed”.

What is it to commit sin, or to commit to sin?

While we were planning the holiday, we did lots of thinking, research and planning. Things like how to get there, where to stay, what to do, etc. Before the first ticket was bought it was easy to change our mind. But once the first ticket was purchased we where “committed” to the holiday. All the other things quickly needed to be purchased as well, to ensure that we didn’t miss out on anything.

I think this scenario is similar to committing to sin. It’s a stage of the sinning process.

If you do an internet search on the stages of sin, you we will see various scholars describe between 3 – 7 different stages, and most make reference to the “commitment” as a stage of the process.

To simplify this, I see 3 main stages:

  1. You think about the sin, the pleasures that can be had from the sin. You think, I haven’t done anything yet, so this isn’t so bad. The thinking about it already gives a “guilty pleasure”.
  2. You commit to the sin. You choose to do something more than thinking about it, you take action. Even if the action is to do more thinking about it (step 1).
  3. You carry out the sin. Once the commitment to the sin has been made, its rare to change your mind. This stage rarely happens without the first two.

These stages are just as described in James 1:15 (NIV) When, after (the) desire has (been) conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. See, it’s a process, one thing leads to the next.

In Lords Day 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 127 we read about our sworn enemies, who don’t cease to attack us: the devil, the world and our own flesh. To me, by far the strongest of these is my flesh, or my own thoughts. This is step 1 and 2 in a nutshell.

So what to do about this? Continuing to read from answer 127 HC, we read the prayer (I’ve paraphrased it) “Lord, will you please strengthen me by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that I may not be defeated in this spiritual war; but that I can resist my enemies, especially my own evil thoughts, until I obtain a complete victory over my sinful habits”.

The solution is to pray, often and honestly. Especially when you find yourself in step 1, thinking about the pleasures that sin offer. Rather, think about doing good things. Talk to God, and ask him for the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer always defeats sinful thoughts, every single time, I promise.