Besetting, or “pet” sins, refers to those habits and behaviors we know we should give up—but don’t. Sometimes we resist surrendering because we feel like the sin isn’t “that bad” (e.g., gossip, envy, abusing caffeine or food). Other times we feel so overwhelmed at the thought of trying to overcome the sin, we don’t bother to try at all.
But as believers in Jesus, sin is no longer part of our identity. When we choose it, we’re going back to a former lifestyle—a lifestyle Jesus died to remove. Overcoming sin isn’t easy, but it’s God’s will for us, because God’s will for us is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
When we don’t feel like responding to God’s call to sanctification, and refuse to repent of a sin, it reveals a heart condition that needs the Spirit’s power. Following are four steps to take regarding this sin issue in your life.
1. Acknowledge what this sin is doing to your life.
First, take note of how this sin is affecting your life. Even “mild” sins are offensive to God, because He is perfect. They grieve Him. And they keep us from perfect peace with Him, from having clarity in our decision making and from reaping positive relationships. When we sow to sin, we reap the consequences of that sin. So be honest: How is this sin affecting your life? Perhaps you struggle with envy. Wanting what your friends have—a relationship, the latest clothes, the amount of social media followers—may not seem like a big deal. But if you really look at how envy affects you, you’ll probably see that it makes you insecure, makes you spend much more time on social media and leaves you feeling depressed afterward.
We must recognize what sin is doing to us and stop ignoring the reality of consequences.
2. Acknowledge what this sin is doing to your walk with God.
Second, acknowledge how this sin has affected your walk with God. Sin always has an impact on our relationship with Him. If you’re feeling distant from Him, don’t want to pray, are bored by the Bible and feel disconnected in church, ask yourself: Is there a sin that’s keeping me from peace with Him?
God wants you to be close to Him. But sin drives a wedge between you two because you recognize in your spirit that God can’t accept the sin you’re embracing. Fortunately, God has made a way for you to be at peace with Him again: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
3. Acknowledge the excuses you’ve been making.
Third, recognize any excuses you’ve been making for this sin. Have you been justifying your actions because you are tired, feel overworked or have been wronged? God will deal with the other people in your life. You’re not responsible for them. But you ARE responsible for yourself and how you react to your circumstances. Sin is sin, regardless of excuse.
4. Acknowledge what it cost Jesus for you to live in sin.
Jesus died to save you from the eternal consequence and power of your sin. That’s amazing grace in action! But when we return to sin as believers, we’re forgetting what it cost Jesus to pay our price. It cost God everything. And He loved the world so much, He sent His Son anyway (John 3:16).
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Because of what Jesus did, we should “no longer live for ourselves.” Instead, we should allow His Spirit to transform our decisions, let go of our sinful habits and reject anything that is not consistent with our identity in Him.
Leave it all at the cross. Stop making excuses for the sin and acknowledge the truth about it. Then lay it down and leave it in His nail-scarred hands. He has overcome the world—and He can overcome this sin for you.