So You Want to Stop Sinning?

I wasn't sure I could make it home.

Of course, I hadn't wanted to go to the doctor in the first place. I assumed it was a bad cold, and we all know there’s no cure for that, right? What could I do but treat the symptoms and let it run its course?

The only thing I'd get out a trip to the doctor was a co-pay.

But as I started to feel worse, I decided to go to an urgent care clinic just in case.

By the time I made it back to the examination room, all I could feel was my head and my joints pulsating with every heartbeat. I had to lie down to keep from passing out.

I could barely sit up when the doctor came in.

“I’m going to swab your cheek. This test should take about five minutes.”

45 seconds later. . .

“That’s the quickest I have ever seen a strep test turn positive.

“You have Strep Throat.”

I can't tell you how I made it home, because I can't remember.

I do remember getting a mile down the road and contemplating pulling in to the Mr. ShortStop convenience store so I could park my car and rest.

Streptococcal pharyngitis was such a horrible experience that I have reserved a special place of reverence for it in my psyche. When others mention it, my mind goes back to that exam room, back to me trying to drive myself home.

I’m not sure what would have happened had I tried to just treat the symptoms on my own.

With the antibiotic I attacked the source of the problem, and I felt 90% better within 18 hours. Without it I may have been ill for days.

A Deeper Problem

This is the same approach that we often take in regard to sin.

We say to ourselves, “I’ll do better next time.”

“Never again.”
“I’ll work on that.”
“I won’t do it again.”
“I need to get this under control.”

But we will never get it under control with this approach; all of these statements focus on the symptom, instead of the problem.

We work on trying to repress our anger, our lust, our pride.

And we may even get good at repressing sin for a while.

But just like a rushing river, we can only dam the waters for so long before they burst through. We cannot contain it.


Because as hard as we might try, all we are doing is focusing on the symptom of a deeper underlying problem: the depravity of man.

It is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. Mark 7:21-23

Our hearts are filled with darkness.

And our actions originate from the heart, so merely trying to deal with the actions is not the answer. We will never succeed.

This is not to say that it is not admirable to try to stop sinning (I treated the fever and joint pain as well as the bacterial infection), but only focusing on the sin is a setup for failure.

Turn to the Great Physician

The solution is to treat the problem at its source: the heart.

But just like we could not perform physical heart surgery on ourselves, we cannot solve our spiritual heart problems on our own either.

We must turn to the Great Physician:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

If we ask, God will forgive our sins and begin repairing our hearts.

This is grace.

Were we able to do it on our own, there would be no need for a New Covenant.

If we could do it then Israel would have kept the law; they would have kept the Old Covenant with the LORD.

But “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Heart Repair is a Process

So you want to stop sinning? So do I.

First we must be born again: believe in the LORD and allow the Spirit to dwell within us and begin re-wiring our hearts. Allowing God to treat the condition is the only way to change.

Then we must persevere.

Where salvation is a single event (Luke 19:9, e.g.), heart repair is a process:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Changing our hearts changes everything about us: the way we think, the way we see the world, the way we see others, the way we speak, and then how we act.

Actions are just the physical manifestations of what is already going on inside of us.

This is a systemic, comprehensive change.

So it isn't enough to just try to remove something bad; we must replace it with something good. This requires frequent trips to the Doctor:

Pray often, commune with fellow believers, and study God's word.

But don’t make the mistake that I did and delay going to the doctor.

Only God can do what He said he would do through the prophet Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (36:26).

Have you asked God to cure your heart? If not, what’s holding you back?


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