I was pondering this morning the various conversations I've had with others pertaining to particular besetting transgressions. What I mean by a besetting transgression is a re-occurring sinful action that one struggles with, and seems to be incapable of overcoming. All of God's children struggle with besetting sins.
In Hebrews 12:4 the scripture mentions our "struggle with sin." In Romans 6 the Apostle Paul says much of our struggle and warfare with the sin which seeks to entangle us, and competes against the Spirit of righteousness we have been granted as God's children. James even tells us that a besetting sin could be our failure to do what is right. Regardless of what our personal struggle might be, the scripture is clear in that we all struggle, wrestle, compete against, and make war with besetting sins.
So I began to ponder on how God, by His grace, has helped me with besetting sin. It might seem very simple, but I believe the following to be Biblical and practical. I pray the Lord use it to bless and encourage you...
1. Scripture. The Psalmist proclaimed it is God's Word that is hidden in our heart that prevents us from sinning against God (Psalm 119:11). Paul told Timothy that the Word of God was completely sufficient for correction, and for training us to do what is right (2 Timothy 3:16-17). James tells us that sin begins in the heart with evil thoughts, and then is manifested in evil actions. Yet when our hearts are filled with memorized scripture speaking directly to our particular struggle, we'll find the Holy Spirit using them to convict us and steer us away from transgression.
2. Prayer. Oh that we might cry out to God for grace! It is God that works within us both to be willing, and to perform the actions that are pleasing to Him. We look to self help books, twelve step programs, pop culture fads, and celebrity endorsed literature to help us "overcome our illness." The problem is not that we just have "a social illness," the problem is that apart from the grace of God we will do nothing but transgress! How much time are you spending broken before a Holy God, praying His grace transform your heart and life? "Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless things we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer." The scripture speaks of sanctification performed within us by the Holy Spirit as we submit to God and flee from sin. Therefore, yield to Him in prayer, and plead for His Spirit to sanctify to strengthen you.
3. Repentance. Understand, I mean genuine repentance. Genuine repentance is a true change. It is from one direction toward another. If we are genuinely to repent, we must cease from the influences that tempt us to transgress. If a man's besetting sin is that he finds himself in a drunken stupor when around alcohol, then genuine repentance would lead him out of the bar! If a man's besetting sin is that he commits adultery by flirting with a waitress, then genuine repentance will lead him to eat elsewhere! Saying I'm sorry, and then continuing to be influenced by and frequenting those things which tempt us to sin is NOT repentance. Genuine repentance seeks to flee from all forms of ungodliness and unrighteousness.
4. Accountability. Not only from God, but from others. James tells us to "confess to one another our faults, and pray for one another." I have found that certain Godly men have been the greatest of treasure in my life as they have prayed for me, encouraged me, and helped to hold me accountable as I have struggled in various areas of besetting sin. I can not count the times that I have been in great battles with unrighteousness, but have had Godly men and women on the battlefield with me. Oh what a precious gift from God we have in the Church! Often we fail to use the church, one of our greatest gifts from God.
I pray these things have encouraged and helped you. I know they have helped me many times, and still do. Grace to you all.