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Caught in the Sin Cycle

Caught in the Sin Cycle

Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” By nature, we are creatures of habit. Sometimes habits are healthy; sometimes they are sinful. A habit can be difficult to break. We want to change, we are convicted that we need to change, but we seem to be caught in a cycle of action, to guilt, to promises not to do it again, to doing it again.

Nice names for these habits are controlling habits or “pet sins”. These are the sins in our life that we ask God to forgive and then go right back to them again for some reason. Once we have allowed a sin to control us, it breaks us down to the point where we don’t even try to resist, because we feel like we can’t break free. The attitude becomes…Why should I try to quit, I always go back to doing it again. These sins separate and distance our relationship with God. No, we don’t lose our salvation, but the joy we once had in Christ is not there. We grieve the Holy Spirit. Paul understood the sin cycle.

Rom 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Have you ever been caught in the sin cycle? One more swig; just one more bite; one more drag; just one more look on the internet; it’s just a simple shopping trip; it’s the last time I’ll do this. And before we know it, we are caught in the cycle of insanity brought on by sin. We repeat things over and over again hoping for; longing for; or even expecting a different result. How do we break this sin cycle?

First, we must recognize a principle Truth: Sin will function at its highest efficiency when it operates in isolation or secrecy.

We falsely believe that we can manage sin better by covering it up or tackling it on our own. We do not want the sin to be discovered because then we will be seen as less spiritual. So we hide it. We cover it up.

But the reality is this: Sin that is covered up and self-managed will quickly grow. Freedom from the sin cycle cannot come through individual effort alone. Why?--because sin functions at its highest efficiency when it operates in isolation or secrecy.

In the sin cycle, we believe we can cover our sin and not hurt anyone else. However, sin is NEVER a private matter. It ALWAYS has an impact on other people. Everyone around us is affected by the sin in our life, because it affects our personality and actions. Hidden sin will always have more impact than we imagine.

There is one other lie that we believe in the sin cycle: No one has to know. When we think we have covered it up; when we think we have limited the scope of the damage; when we think we have gotten away with it and buried it; the truth is this: Sin cannot be hidden from God.

David thought he could cover up his sin of adultery by having Bathsheba’s husband killed and taking her for his wife. But God saw everything David did and the motive of his heart.

2 Sam 11:27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

What happens next shows God’s love and mercy and the way to break the sin cycle.

2 Samuel 12:1-13 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.' "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'" Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.

Nathan exposes David’s sin to the light. He makes David personally accountable for his actions. YOU are that man. This is the first step in breaking the sin cycle. Before healing can take place, our sin must be exposed to the Light. We have to stop trying to hide our sin. Sin operates at its highest efficiency when it operates in isolation and secrecy. That’s why this step is often the most difficult, because sin hates to be exposed.

John 3:19-21 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

If we have habitual sin in our lives, it must be exposed to the light. Without taking this painful first step, we cannot begin to break the sin cycle and insanity of repeating the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Step two? Read 2 Samuel 12:7-8 again. We intentionally look at God’s blessings in our lives. Sin (coveting) will look at what we DON’T have; God wants us to see what we do have and be thankful. God directs David’s focus on what HE has been given: Safety from Saul; the kingdom; wives; a palace; God is a generous God. Think about the blessings in your life and give thanks.

Phil 4:6-8 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

If you are caught in the sin cycle, expose it, and list the blessings that God has given you and thank Him for them. These two steps will change your perspective. From this perspective, we won’t be able to sin and enjoy it as much as we used to. We will see sin for what it really is.

And that is the third step out of the sin cycle: Call sin what it really is – sin. Call it by it’s real name. God doesn’t give sin a politically correct name. You, David, are a murderer. You stole someone else’s wife to be your own. What you did was horrific and terrible.

Folks, it’s not an affair; it’s adultery. Men, it’s not enjoying some "eye candy"; it’s full blown lust. Women, it is not attractive and cute; it’s sensual and immodest. It’s not having too many drinks; it’s drunkenness. It’s not a choice, it’s murder. It’s not borrowing; it’s stealing. It’s not living together, it’s fornication. It’s not a gay lifestyle, it’s homosexuality and it’s sodomy,  perverted, and evil. We choose to sin and sin brings terrible consequences regardless of what name we call it or how we rationalize it. To get free from the sin cycle, we must confess our sin and call it what God calls it.

After all, our sin affects God. We sin against HIM. We were created in His image to be like Him, and we mar His glory. Sin is never private. God always sees it. We believe that we are hurting no one but ourselves, because sin functions at its highest efficiency when it operates in isolation and secrecy.

So we have to expose our sin to the Light. Remove its efficiency. We have to take off the rose-colored glasses and call sin what it really is, sin. It’s ugly and hideous. And we must admit we are too weak to overcome it on our own. We have tried and tried to quit, but we keep getting the same result. So are to confess our sin to God--and to one another--that we may be healed.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

When David’s sin is exposed to the light and he confesses his sin as sin; Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. There will be consequences, but you are not going to die.” It’s this deliverance and salvation that Jesus Christ wants to accomplish in us.

John 4:13-14 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

If we have been trying to find satisfaction in life through anything or anyone besides Jesus Christ, we will always come away thirsty and unsatisfied.

Is 55:1-2 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Many times in my own life, I tried to find satisfaction through other means. Now I want you to understand that when I did some of these things, I was already a Christian. The sad thing about it, Christians, we have the pure water from Jesus Christ and yet we drink the sewer water.

Jeremiah 2:13 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jesus is the spring of living water. He is the only source of life, refreshment, and nourishment for us. He is always fresh and new, like a spring, and to “drink” of Christ is to receive life from His Spirit and be satisfied!

Therefore, replace that sin (the sewer water) with things of Jesus (pure water). That means whatever that habitual sin we have quit a million times and kept going back to must be dropped off at the feet of Jesus and left there. Sinful habits are formed through willful behavior. Godly habits can also be formed through willful behavior, but not in isolation or secrecy.

Gal 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

In terms of war, a sinful habit is like a stronghold, a territory that the enemy already occupies and controls. Sin will function at its highest efficiency when it operates in isolation or secrecy. This is why the stronghold must be correctly named and exposed. Everything starts with confession, admitting we are guilty and accepting the responsibility that we have a problem. Then we can fight with the power of the Spirit to recapture that territory for the glory of Christ.

Many people are in a state of denial, they never admit they have a problem, therefore they never break free. Alcoholics, who never admit they are alcoholics, won’t find freedom. People filled with anger, who won’t admit they have a problem, won’t get freedom. The first step toward deliverance and freedom is recognizing we are bound and admitting we have a problem.

1Jn.1:9 “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

After confession, depend on God’s power to combat sinful habits. Continue to have a brother or sister to pray for you. When it comes to being set free from sin that binds, Jesus can do more in a moment than doctors can do in a lifetime. God must become our primary source of strength.

Phil. 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Therefore, start your days off with God, and He will help you through the day to overcome the sinful desire and show you a way out of every temptation. The more we humble ourselves and allow God to be Lord of our life, the more we will see Him working in us.

James 4:6-10 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Sinful habits must be replaced by good ones. Paul encourages us to live as Christians by throwing away our old way of living and moving ahead into our new life of obedience to God and faith in Jesus Christ. Set your mind on things above instead of the things of the flesh.

Col 3:1-8 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

To do this, we need each other’s help to stay focused on Jesus. God says it is absolutely essential for our recovery or healing. We are healed by admitting our faults to God and to one another. We can put our sinful nature to death by becoming accountable to one another.

Still we resist confession and ask why do I need to drag another person into this? If they really knew the truth about me, they wouldn’t love me. Why can’t I just admit it to God? Because the root of our problem is pride and unaccountability, and sin will function at its highest efficiency when it operates in isolation or secrecy.

Part of the sin cycle is: We lie to each other; we deceive each other; we’re dishonest with each other; we wear masks; we pretend we have it together. We deny our true feelings, and we play games. This, too, is sin, and we must repent of this pride and falsehood. After we are humble, we can love one another and help each other.

Gal 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

It is an honor to bear one another’s burdens, to be trusted to pray. The amazing thing is, when we risk honesty with someone, all of a sudden, this feeling of freedom comes into our life. We are no longer alone. We realize that everybody has habits and often they have the same one we do.

So, take one day at a time, because get God’s strength one day at a time. We did not get the sinful habit overnight, so we form new habits one day at a time. Any victory, no matter how minor, thank God for it. Confess each defeat, don’t isolate yourself, refocus, and get victory one day at a time.

The desire to sin will never leave us until Jesus comes. The enemy will continue to entice the lusts of our flesh. However, we have everything we need to live godly lives in this evil day. We have the Blood of Christ to cover our sin after we have exposed it and confessed it. We have power of the Holy Spirit to rebuke the tempter and cause him to leave. We have grace to flee temptation and focus on Jesus instead of our lusts. We have each other to help us be accountable to the Lord and to pray for us. And, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

However, this assumes you have Christ living in you. If you have never given your life to Christ, then you are helpless against the sin cycle. You cannot save yourself. Give your life to Jesus by confessing Him as your Lord and Savior. Confess and repent of your sin and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin and the rebirth of the Holy Spirit. Start living a new life in Christ today.

If you need to confess a sinful habit to someone, Al, Sheila, Kathy, or I will be glad to pray with you privately. Maybe there is someone else you trust--a spouse, a relative, or a friend, who will pray for you and help you be accountable. One word of caution: your confidant, with whom you share intimately, should be someone of the same sex, unless it is your spouse or relative. Don’t delay setting up an appointment with that person or a giving them a phone call. You don’t have to suffer the sin cycle in silence or alone. Jesus wants to set you free.