Sin in any form grieves God. We know this not just because of church and Bible study, but also because of the grief it causes us. As disciples of Jesus, our inner selves are transformed and His Spirit dwells with us. When we sin, we’re no longer at peace with the Spirit within us. The discomfort, regret and sadness we feel after sinning is called conviction.
Some people try to turn conviction off by ignoring it, and if you do so long enough, you can smother the Spirit’s voice. But those who do so bear a weighty consequence. When they need Him most for direction and comfort, they find it very hard to hear Him.
Those with soft hearts and quick ears to hear God’s voice often suffer the most when they sin. Because we live in a fallen world, we will always be tempted to follow sin’s call. But in Christ, we are new creations—free from the condemnation and power of sin. Sin no longer is our nature, but those old habits and patterns die hard. To conquer a sin for good, it’s not a one-day battle. It’s a lifelong war.
Get Rid of the Timeline
When I counsel girls struggling with sexual sin, they frequently ask me “How long until I can be free?” I always answer: “There is no timeline on freedom from sin.” When we try to put a calendar on conquering a sin “for good,” we’re missing the point. Yes, we all want to have continual peace. We all want to be strong against temptation. But this doesn’t happen in a specific span of time—30 days, three months or even a year. It happens day by day.
For many people, certain sins will ALWAYS be a temptation. You will always have to be on guard. There will not come a day when you can “relax” around that kind of sin. So let go of the timeline. Fight your battle in the day you’re in, seek God in the moments you have and let Him transform you.
Align Your Heart
Victory only comes through Christ. He is the one who conquered sin—not us—and we can’t conquer it on our own willpower. Since Christ defeated sin when He died on the cross, it is only by aligning our will with His that we consistently defeat temptation.
If you’ve ever wondered why you need to read your Bible, here it is: to expose yourself to the heart of God. When you continually expose your eyes, ears and spirit to the Spirit of God as revealed in His Word, you’re equipping yourself for the battle.
There’s a lot of confusion around repentance. We’re often told that repentance is “never repeating the same sin.” So when we DO sin again in a similar way, we wonder if we even repented in the first place. This causes a spiral of doubt and defeat, which often leads to further sin patterns.
It’s important to note that conviction is not repentance. Remorse and regret are not a 180-degree turn from what we did before! Emotions might be part of the process, but they aren’t the sum of it. Repentance is both a heart change and an action. If you find yourself returning to the same sin repeatedly, you have to ask yourself, “What did I actually repent of?” Did you repent of the sin—the behavior—while still clinging to an idol in your life? Are you still living for your desires and impulses instead of walking by the Spirit? That is the real issue that needs repentance.
Sorrow can lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9). But repentance in itself is a deep, conscious grief over our sin—so much so that we commit to do whatever it takes to turn from that sin. We see this depicted in the Old Testament, where God forgave genuine repentance and gave grace whenever His people humbled themselves over their sin:
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Do the Hard Thing
Repentance is the first step, but then we must “bear fruit in keeping” with it (Matthew 3:8). That means our lives should reflect the fact that we’ve turned away from sin. Whatever tempts you, whatever makes you weak—get it out of your life. Be harsh with it! If that means you stop watching TV shows for several months, do it. If it means you stop going places alone with your boyfriend, do it. If you can’t hang out with certain friends—do whatever you need to do to bear fruit in keeping with your repentance.
As you consistently choose God’s way over the world’s, you will conquer sin. And day by day, you will conquer it for good.