Just Stop It: Instructions on how to repent

Instructions printed on products are quite often, well, instructional. After a nail-breaking, white-knuckled attempt at prying open the child-proof cap on a medicine bottle, I have meekly consulted the instructions on the label— push down, pinch sides, and twist anti-clockwise— and in an instant access was granted. That’s the point of the child-proof lid, to be complicated. But sometimes the instructions printed on products give the impression that the manufacturers think humans are really obtuse.

Here are some actual examples:

On an American Airlines packet of nuts: Instructions: open packet, eat nuts.
On Sainsbury’s peanuts: Warning: contains nuts.
On a hotel provided shower cap: Fits one head.
On Nytol sleep aid: Warning: may cause drowsiness.
On a bread pudding: Product will be hot after heating.
On Boot’s children’s cough medicine: Do not drive a car or operate machinery.
On a child’s superman costume: This garment does not enable the wearer to fly.
On a bar of Dial soap: Directions: Use like regular soap.

God’s word gives us instructions on how to stop sinning. It may seem obvious at first, and yet it is amazing how many times we need to be reminded.

3 Steps To Stop Sinning…

Disclaimer: You cannot stop sinning on your own. It’s theologically and practically and experientially impossible. You must have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you to free you from your bondage to sin, renewing your mind, convicting you of evil, granting you the fruit of self-control, and leading you into righteousness. So, only Christians can truly stop sinning and replace it with righteousness.

But Christianity is not about behavior modification, it’s about Christ. Changing your behavior is not the goal; pleasing your Savior is the goal. Changing your behavior will not earn you favor with God. Jesus earns that for you and gives it to you as a gift. But we still sin, and if you are a Christian, you don’t want to sin. So how do we go about stopping?

1. REFRAIN: Put Off Sinful Behavior

Ephesians 4:22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

Put off, means to disrobe, as in taking off a coat. This is the most obvious part of the instruction. If you want to stop sinning, you have to initiate the process by a simple step: stop.

You refrain from doing the sin by changing your behavior patterns. This takes planning, decisiveness, sacrifice, and accountability. But it is absolutely necessary.

If you want to stop gossiping, then stop lingering at the water cooler, stop reading tabloids, stop being part of the grapevine, stop feeding your appetite for the scuttlebutt, stop soliciting “news” from the office gossip, and tell them that you are not interested in people’s personal lives.

If you want to stop your drunkenness, stop going to pubs, stop restocking your wine rack, stop saying “I’ll have only my two beers and no more.” In short, to stop getting drunk you need to stop drinking.

This seems obvious, but many Christians want to stop sinning while they continue to put themselves in positions where sinning is easy. You need to get creative about how to avoid those scenarios.

Start with the commitment to do whatever it takes.

Matthew 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Start by saying “I’m willing to cut off anything and everything to stop this sin.”

2. RENEW: Change Your thinking

Ephesians 4:22-23 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds

This is the step people most often neglect. They try to stop sinning, but they find they keep going back to it like a dog to its vomit. The sickening cycle of sin, shame, repentance, and sin again is disheartening and exhausting.

This step, of renewing the mind, makes all the difference.

Without this, you are just trying to alter your behavior without the heart change. You will most likely fail because behavior always flows from the heart. Or if you do succeed, you will become a hypocrite who does the right thing but hates doing it, and you will mistakenly believe that you are right with God. But God sees the heart.

You need to shift your thinking about the sin, not merely adjust your behavior.

If you stop going to a pub, but still want to get drunk, you will start bringing booze home with you and getting drunk there. If you avoid the office gossip at the water cooler, you will simply send an email.

The external behavior will morph into other sinful behavior.

So how can I be renewed in the spirit of my mind? The best way is by what Ephesians 5:26calls “washing by the water of the word” i.e. reading the Bible. Scripture has a way of permeating into your thoughts and reshaping your thinking.

Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. …I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

The more your read the Bible the more you see sin the way God does: repulsive, offensive, and dangerous.

When you think differently, you will act differently over time.

3. REPLACE: Put On Righteous Behavior

Ephesians 4:22-24 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Put on. This is key. After you have put off the filthy rags of your sin, and been cleaned up, you need to put on good, clean, and fresh robes of righteousness and holiness.

The opposite of sinning is not to do nothing. The opposite of performing sin is performing righteousness. You have to replace the patterns of sinful behavior with patterns of godly behavior that flow from your new thinking. Unless you put on righteousness your repentance will just create a vacuum that will always suck the sin right back into its former place.

Here is an example:
Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious [step 1] about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [step 2] let your requests be made known to God. [step 3]

Stop worrying, renew your mind to be thankful for what you have, and put on prayer—ask God for protection, provision, or whatever you need.

We will see in weeks to come that the opposite of stealing is giving, the opposite of lying is volunteering truth, the opposite of anger is self-control and the opposite of swearing or discouraging words isn’t being mute, it’s being encouraging.

So, identify your sin, confess it, read passages on it, pray about it, and commit to deal with it by the power of the Holy Spirit in you, and do the opposite action in its place.

But remember that only Christians can truly stop sinning and replace sin with righteousness. If you are not a child of God, you need to place your faith in Jesus’ death for you, accept God’s forgiveness of your sin, and then you will have the Holy Spirit’s power to stop sinning.

Source: Clint Archer | The Cripplegate

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