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What the Bible says about Habitual Sin
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 3:6

Some things are worthy of treasuring for the rest of our lives, while other things belong in the dumpster.

We all have the natural tendency to cling to what is familiar, even it if proves detrimental to us. Like those who have adopted the Depression mentality, we fearfully and tenaciously cling to self-defeating and destructive behaviors. Many individuals have collected injustices and grudges throughout the years, nursing them and keeping them alive long after the activating event has ceased. Spouses who have gone through an ugly divorce carry these malignancies to the grave after having infected their offspring with the same malignancy.

In his book, Weight Loss for the Mind, Stuart Wilde suggests that "letting go" is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks for a human being. He suggests that we instinctively "hang on to our family connections, to the certificate we got at school, to our money, we embrace and hang on to our children [sometimes attempting to micromanage their lives into adulthood], we lock our car and hang on to it." People may hang onto books, magazines, cassettes, records, shoes, egg cartons, plastic jugs, bottles, reusable cans, etc. If we keep these items long enough, we sentimentalize them, affectionately calling them antiques.

Henry David Thoreau in Walden compares our accumulated belongings to traps we carry around, suggesting

it is the same as if all these traps were buckled to a man's belt, and he could not move over the rough country where our lines are cast without dragging them—dragging his trap. He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap. The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free. No wonder man has lost his elasticity.

The difficulty we have in freeing ourselves from physical clutter metaphorically parallels our difficulties getting rid of spiritual clutter. God's Word indicates, however, that we must make a full-fledged effort to rid ourselves of excess baggage. Notice Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . . .

Perennial and chronic sin constitutes the unwanted weight or obesity that we desperately desire to shed. This accumulative set of reinforced bad habits and transgressions the apostle Paul identifies as the "old man." He admonishes that we ought to slough off the "old man" like an accumulated mass of dead skin cells or an old discarded garment: ". . . that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).

Paul gets more specific as he identifies particular obnoxious traits and qualities found in the old man—or our comfortable, old, carnal selves:

But now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds. . . . (Colossians 3:8-9)

Dr. William V. Haney in his Communication and Organizational Behavior illustrates that people who hold negative or dysfunctional self-images tenaciously hold onto them, feeling their very "identities" to be at stake:

A man, for example, may regard himself as incompetent and worthless. He may feel that he is doing his job poorly in spite of favorable appraisals by the company. As long as he has these feelings about himself, he must deny any experiences which would not seem to fit this self-picture, in this case any that might indicate to him that he is competent. It is so necessary for him to maintain this self-picture that he is threatened by anything which would attempt to change it.

. . . This is why direct attempts to change this individual or change his self-picture are particularly threatening. He is forced to defend himself or to completely deny the experience. This denial of experience and defense of self-picture tend to bring on rigidity of behavior and create difficulties in personal adjustment. (3rd Edition, 1973, p. 88)

To hang on to this negative self-image rather than to conform to God's image (Romans 8:29) means to resurrect and hang onto the old man—with its obnoxious habits and behavior patterns. Some of these behavior patterns we may have reinforced so thoroughly that it has become part of us, somewhat like individuals who carry around benign or malignant tumors, accepting them as part of themselves, rather than a hideous and life-threatening alien growth.

David F. Maas
A Time to Throw Away

Matthew 16:6-12

Jesus warns His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Seeing their puzzlement, He explains further. "Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (verse 12). Both testaments use leaven as a symbol of sin because of what it does to a lump of bread dough. Once yeast enters the dough, it immediately begins to spread by breaking down in reaction to the dough's sugars and producing a gas that puffs the bread up.

Like leaven, when sin enters a person's life, it begins to corrupt and fill him with vanity. A person enslaved by habitual sin will have a difficult time growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ because of sin's corrupting influence. Sin defiles and can permanently destroy relationships with God and man.

Throughout the year we hear frequent exhortations to produce fruit and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. During Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we give special emphasis to "getting the leaven out." These three actions are all parts of the same process. Though not technically the same, they are related closely enough to say they are simply different ways of describing the same process. "Getting the leaven out" is the most negative, "growing" is the most general, and "producing fruit" is the most specific. All three emphasize that a Christian should not stand still after entering the New Covenant. God expects him to take steps to ensure that these actions will occur in his life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace

John 8:34

Instead of freedom, habitual sin brings about an enslaved consciousness, and one can gain insight into its nature by comparing it to chemical addiction. Like the chronic use of drugs, habitual sin causes a hardening of the heart (Job 9:4). Just as a junkie needs more of the addictive drug more often, habitual sin lowers the barriers of our conscience to more sin. As Jesus Christ says, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14).

Our religion—our connection to God—provides us with the moral compass necessary to define both sin and the standards we need to walk worthy of our calling. This same connection also provides us with the ultimate solution for our addiction to sin—His love.

We do not live or commit sin in a vacuum. Each sin lowers our inhibition to further transgression and often causes collateral damage to those close to us and beyond. More importantly, it separates us from our Father and His love, without which we would be eternally lost. We can be assured, though, that because of our heavenly Father's powerful love for each of us, He has provided the perfect antidote to all of our sinful habits in the life and the blood of Jesus Christ.

Martin G. Collins
Admission of Sin

Hebrews 3:12-13

The will is the power or faculty by which the mind makes choices and acts to carry them out. At first, against his will, a person engages in some forbidden pleasure because he wants to, but if he keeps it up, he soon finds that he has no strength to resist it. This process does not happen any more quickly than an addiction to alcohol, but in the end, he keeps sinning because he cannot help but do so! Once a thought or act becomes a habit, it is a short step to being a necessity. The old saying is true: "Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny."

Hebrews 3:12-13 reveals a worrisome characteristic of sin: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Sin is seductive, enticing, deceitful, and hardening.

Sin's deceitfulness is that it cannot deliver what it promises. It deludes a person into thinking he can "have it all" or "take it or leave it." It promises pleasure, contentment, fulfillment, and life, but what it delivers in those areas is fleeting, which leads to its addictive quality. The pleasure is never quite enough to produce the desired contentment and fulfillment. Sinners are forced into greater perversions until it kills them.

Sin offers rationalizations and justifications. It puts on a plausible appearance and can even seem to be virtuous, as in situation ethics. However, sin's drug-like quality always demands more because what formerly satisfied no longer will. The person in its grip gradually becomes its slave, and all along the way, his heart becomes hardened as well.

In Hebrews 3:13, hardened is translated from the Greek word for a callus. A callus forms around the break in a bone, on the palms of hands and on fingers from constant hard use, or in a person's joints, paralyzing its actions. In a moral context, it suggests "impenetrable," "insensitive," "blind," or "unteachable." A hardened attitude is not a sudden aberration but a habitual state of mind that shows itself in inflexibility of thinking and insensitivity of conscience. It can eventually make repentance impossible.

Jeremiah 9:1-5 describes people in this state, so inured, so enslaved to sin that they weary themselves pursuing and doing it:

Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place for wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. "And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth. For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me," says the LORD. "Everyone take heed to his neighbor, and do not trust any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will walk with slanderers. Everyone will deceive his neighbor, and will not speak the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment

2 Peter 2:20-22

No matter how clean we are on the outside, if the inside, the nature, the heart, remains unchanged, or if we resort again to habitual sin, we will return to what we came from and once more be filthy both inside and out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 




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