Healthy Leaders


What About Those Stubborn Sinful Habits?

Patricia TillmanPatricia Tillman

We know healthy leadership requires good character, but how do we deal with (and/or help others to deal with) those headstrong, sinful habits?

Paul asked that question in Romans Chapter 7. In that one chapter, he uses the word “I” 31 times.

In Romans Chapter 7, Paul struggles against sin. “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate; what I hate, that I do…” In Chapter 7, the Law of God pointed out Paul’s sin. Paul relied on his own willpower and determination to conquer his bad habits.

And he failed.

Willpower won’t do it. Willpower only leads to disappointment, discouragement, and weariness in the battle against sin.

“O wretched man that I am!” Paul cried with exasperation. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

“Wretched?” Like when we sing Amazing Grace? “… that saved a wretch like me …”

Am I a wretch? A low-down scoundrel?

“Wretch” from the Greek perspective doesn’t mean “low-down scoundrel.” It means, “miserably tired from struggling and overwork.”

I don’t know about you, but struggling against sin makes me miserably tired. Wretched.

But Paul didn’t stop with Romans 7. He went on to Romans 8.

“I thank God ‒ through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

Paul used the word “spirit” 21 times in this chapter (whether God’s Spirit or human spirit). It’s not by willpower that we conquer carnality. It’s by finding rest in the fellowship and power of Jesus Christ our Lord.

In order to defeat sin, we need to stop trying! We need to lay down our sword, to REST in the love of Christ, fellowship with the Holy Spirit. We allow the satisfaction of His love to replace the lure of that temptation …

When we are tempted, or succumb to temptation:

  1. First, we confess our sin, fully transparent and trusting in God’s faithfulness to forgive our sin and cleanse us from unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Jesus removes the death penalty. The weight comes off our shoulders onto Christ’s at the cross.
  2. Then we allow the Holy Spirit to invade our spirit, to strengthen us from within, to infuse us with His life and freedom. Instead of trying to find satisfaction in the thing that tempts us, we replace that thing with the wholesome, refreshing, satisfying presence of Jesus.

Instead of struggling with willpower, we spend time with the Lord in listening prayer, worship and Scripture meditation. We share with others in transparent fellowship in Christ, and confess our sins to them, so they can pray for our healing (James 5:16).

If we’re helping someone else overcome sinful habits, we can show them how to pray, worship and study by spending time modeling it with them, being the person they need to pray for their healing and lead them in worship.

It’s not easy. It takes time. But it’s the only way to overcome the old nature.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die;
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:13

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