Trying to not sin doesn’t work for the vast majority of Christians. Why? Endeavoring to not do something is too weak of a vision. It is not compelling enough. Not just with big things like God, but even with something as mundane as diet and exercise. Trying to not eat sugar or bread gets most of us now where. Bringing eating habits under control too often only follows a heart attack or diagnosis of diabetes or constant joint pain from inflammation caused my too much processed food, etc. Then suddenly there is a vision of a preferable future: I don’t want to die; I don’t want to live on insulin or in pain, etc.
Dealing with persistent sin issues requires the same kind of vision. Here is how it works. The primary word for sin in the Greek New Testament is “hamartia”. It means to “miss the mark” (think of a target or bulls eye). The mark in this case is the will of God for humans, especially his called-out ones—followers of Jesus; the church. I believe, based on my personal struggles and long-time pastoral experience, that sin persists mostly because we have lost “The Mark”—the story of God which was meant to be the thing that gave our lives meaning, coherence and direction; the thing to which we sought to align the various aspects of our lives.
We sometimes say that, “no one knows what sin is anymore”. Well…there is a reason for that: If we let that mark drop away, it should be no surprise that sin has no meaning.
Pick up the will of God for your life and you find it pulling you away from all the wrong directions and drawing you toward the right ones. This is what happens when someone decides; I want to become a marathoner. Suddenly their whole life begins to revolve around that goal.
Don’t aim for perfection—that is not available to us. But major growth and progress is.
Try it on for size: quit beating yourself for nagging sins. Get a big vision of God’s goodness and your call to be his cooperative friend—you will find old leaves of fall naturally dropping off to make way for new spring growth.