Anonymous asked (edited for length and anonymity)
I often hear or read things about “habitual sins.” … I know that I will always be sinful, and even if it’s not porn, I’m going to sin in other ways. However, I guess I’m wondering if it’s different because this sin is a habitual and cyclical one?
Thank you so much for your honesty here. In case you’re interested, I have a podcast and blog series on porn addiction here.
The short answer is that “habitual sin” usually has three traits:
1) Premeditated: you plan it out or you purposefully lower your guard to triggers and situations.
2) Preoccupied: it’s always on your mind and you make no effort to re-prioritize your central thoughts.
3) Unrepentant: you refuse to stop because of some rationalization or you just don’t want to, despite the destruction it’s causing.
While I hesitate to label things so quickly, if you have the above: it’s possible you might be in a habitual sin.
Let’s also remember what “sin” is because this word is so often mocked and ridiculed and misinformed. Defining it will also help us overcome it.
Sin is simply the entire human condition of brokenness that causes our hearts to be divided from our design and Designer.
You’ve probably heard that “sin is doing bad” or it’s “total depravity,” and while I understand what they mean, I don’t think it’s helpful to leave it there.
Sin did begin with an act of rebellion, but the consequence is that we’ve been dislocated from God ever since. We often cover the first part about “immoral behavior,” but not the second part about being made for Christ. We not only disobeyed; we were disconnected.
Remember: We once were perfectly whole in reflecting and receiving the Glory of God, but since Adam and Eve, that’s all been painfully fractured.
That’s why Romans 3:23 doesn’t say, “We all disobey the glory of God” — but rather, “We fall short.” The rest of humanity’s story is the desperate effort to find the wholeness that only God can give us. Or in another way: The noun of sin can lead to verbs of sin, but we are ALL woefully broken and in need of rescue.
This helps you both overcome the behavior and the source of the issue. Sin is not only what we do or who we are, but what we’re missing. It doesn’t just explain alcoholism or porn addiction or yelling in traffic, but also explains our need for approval, our competitive cutthroat culture, and our existential self-examination of significance.
So if you’re trying to quit porn, you can’t just “quit porn.” We must both run from sin and run to Him — to His purposes, His opportunities, His people, and His presence.
Now if you’re “stuck in habitual sin patterns,” you are willfully using and abusing people and things to fill your spiritual void — sometimes maliciously, other times mutually, but always consciously.
But here’s the thing: If you are actively fighting this sin in your daily spiritual walk, one day at a time, with your pastor or mentors or church and in confessional fellowship with others — then you’re doing something about it. Even messaging me is a step in the right way. You’re already moving towards Him.
You must please allow yourself some grace and time on this. These addictive patterns of sin have been your comforts for a while: so breaking free requires your full weight upon the Holy Spirit and the process will be just as painful as an amputation. Be drastic. Find replacement behaviors while working on your heart with the Lord. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s “legalism,” because as I’ve said before, effort is NOT legalism.
Each day, your resolve will grow stronger as you pursue Him. You’ll continually leave behind the corpse of your old self as you put on the new self. If you fall, keep going.
If you doubt your own growth, then I have a simple question —
Can you tell if a moon is waxing or waning? You’d have to look at it over a period of days before you could see it growing or shrinking. Right now, you are the waxing moon. You are growing. You are making the choice in submission to Christ to overcome this sin and reflect His Glory. If I could, I’d give you a high five. I don’t want you to see this as an affirmation to relax, but rather an encouragement to push you forward. Keep fighting the good fight on this.
To close out, I will once again shamelessly quote myself:
The Christian life is your whole life. That sin which keeps defeating you has more roots than you think, and God is patient to work in you for the surgery. Our journey of faith is a growing process of fits and starts, aches and pains, highs and lows, bliss and blisters. Jesus is going to take you all the way home on this: just keep leaning in with the full weight of your weary, desperate soul. He will catch you, always.