If You Want to Stop Sinning, Stop Trying to Stop Sinning

Garden lettuce spiritual growth lessons

I used to plant the lettuce in my garden in long rows, thinning the sprouts according to the seed package’s specifications. Then I spent the rest of the summer pulling all of the weeds around my lettuce.

It’s likely that I pulled more weeds than harvested lettuce.

I liken weeding to mowing the lawn one blade of grass at a time. It’s my least favorite part of gardening, and since we garden organically, I had to come up with a better weed prevention strategy.

I thought I found my solution with a bale of straw. I could fill all of the gaps in our garden with straw and keep the weeds to a minimum. We saw a drop in weeds, but I still had to keep up with them. At the very least, I cut our weeding in half.

However, once we moved to Ohio where I built two raised beds in our small backyard, I discovered that straw wasn’t going to work. An army of slugs took refuge in our straw and used it as a highway to eat everything in our garden. We needed to find a way to prevent weeds without using chemicals and without covering the ground with fabric that would deplete the soil or straw that gave safe haven to slugs.

I found the solution in my in-law’s garden.

My in-laws have been gardening for as long as my wife can remember, and their lettuce patch replaces my orderly rows with a sprawling patch thick with lettuce. They spread their seeds in an area, thin the sprouts a bit, and let the heads of lettuce grow up right next to each other.

This was a huge “Aha!” moment for me.

We now grow a lot more lettuce and spend virtually no time weeding. As of this summer, I have yet to pull a single weed by our lettuce because our seeds were so evenly scattered.

Mind you, this is a bit of work at first. I had to spend a lot of time thinning the seeds I’d scattered. However, in the long run, I don’t have to do a thing most days. There are no weeds competing for garden space because I’ve invested time in creating so much life in our garden.

The key to defeating weeds is to invest in growing healthy plants that will take their space.

I was doomed to keep fighting weeds as long as I was focused on weed prevention rather than plant cultivation.

I have seen the same principle play out in my life when it comes to Christian living. If I want to leave sin behind, I have to stop fighting against sin. We can only leave sin behind when we pursue something (or someone) else in its stead.

When we talk about repentance, we often speak of an abrupt “about-face” or turning away from our plans to God’s plans. If you think about it, fighting sin or sin-prevention strategies prevent us from actually turning away from our sinful ways in order to pursue God.

We’re so busy looking at what we can’t have that we’re unable to see what God offers instead.

Fighting sin does nothing to cultivate the health of God in our lives. We’ll just keep moving from one “weed” to another, waiting for another weed to sprout in our lives since nothing else has been sown in its place.

While we can always take commonsense steps to avoid sin, the real victory over sin is won when we give God space in our lives and actively pursue God. Whether serving others or devoting time for prayer, these steps toward God keep us turned away from sin. Repentance is turning away from sin, but holiness happens in our daily interactions with God.

There is freedom in the pursuit of God that conquers sin. While there are moral standards of a sort for Christians, we leave certain paths behind because of Christ’s “yes” rather than our own “no” that strives for holiness.

We have been called. Christ has said, “Come!” to you and to me because we surely thirst for the redemption he offers.

He has better things for us, but we’ll never leave our own plans behind if we refuse to believe it.

17 thoughts on “If You Want to Stop Sinning, Stop Trying to Stop Sinning

  1. I think it needs to be a balance. We can’t just pray and read our bible and expect God to “do” everything else. There are such things as common sense christian principles. For example, for men, lust can be an issue on a daily basis. So to purposely plan a vacation to the beach where there will be plenty to lust after, is not invoking common sense You can bring your bible and have your prayer life while there, but as long as you “choose” to put those lustful things before your eyes, there’s going to be a problem. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” sounds like something we need to “do”. Also, I found the ad at the bottom of your post a little off color, especially for the topic that you are talking about. I realize you probably do not have control of the ads that pop up, but that one’s pretty inappropriate for a “christian” page.

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    1. I have no control over the ads that WordPress shows here. I hope to get rid of the ads at some point in the future, but I am unable to do so at this time.

      I get your point, but I wouldn’t use that example exactly. I would say that a better example is an alcoholic going to a bar by himself. If every guy who ever lusted vowed to never visit a beach, there wouldn’t be any guys at the beach!

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      1. “If every guy who ever lusted vowed to never visit a beach, there wouldn’t be any guys at the beach!” And the problem with that would be…..? To intentionally put yourself in a situation that could potentially cause you to sin, is really not a good idea, so why not just avoid it? I realize it goes against the flow, but there are plenty of temptations in our everyday lives that we really have no choice about, but to “choose” to make ourselves vulnerable just for the sake of having fun seems spiritually dangerous.

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    2. It wouldn’t just be the beach. It would be everywhere. Are not women everywhere? Do you understand that avoidance isn’t an answer?

      You probably believe that we have control over the sin living in us correct? I would beg to differ. In fact, by stating such, you set yourself up dangerously close to the sin of self righteousness.

      Can you entertain the thought that no matter what sins you think you can overcome, others will pop up and challenge you?

      Rather, if we understand that Jesus Christ covered every one of our sins and if we keep our eyes on Him, and on who we are in Christ; if we understand that from God’s point of view, we are the righteousness of God in Christ, sin will decrease and grace, increase.

      Ed is right for the most part. The more we try not to sin, the more we will sin.

      My point is why concentrate on sin at all?

      We are chosen by God to be holy and blameless in His sight. That means, we already ARE holy and blameless.

      If the flesh sins, what of that? Shall we try harder not to allow the flesh to sin? Or should we rather confess who we are in Christ, and let God lead us from temptation?

      Resisting the Devil. I tell you, you can’t resist him. I say, you can’t resist sin in one form or another. That is the flesh at war with you. Just as I say you can’t love an enemy, you certainly can’t resist the allure of evil.

      So who can? Christ living in us can. He is the author and finisher of our faith. If our walk is one that seems pleasing to God, then it is God doing the walking.

      So, in my humble opinion, telling a man who has “lust” issues to avoid all circumstances where lust might creep in is akin to saying don’t breathe.

      We can’t defeat sin. But Christ did. At baptism, our sinful nature was crucified with Christ. When we were born again, the Spirit of God was breathed into us, making us new creations. Acknowledging this new creation is the only way to defeat the stranglehold of sin.

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      1. Yes, women are everywhere, but I doubt you’d see one in a string bikini at the grocery store. As I said, everyday life is one thing, but the other is a choice. I definitely understand that Jesus covered our sins, but that doesn’t mean that we need to put ourselves in situations, by choice, where the flesh would be more tempted. To a point, even unsaved people have a certain control over sin, it’s called self discipline. So where do you draw your line? Are there any lines of sin that are off limits to you? Would you also be comfortable sitting through an X rated movie and being content just knowing that Jesus covered it?

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    3. So what if you do sin? Don’t you know that every thought, deed, and action is scrutinized by the law? So which sins won’t you involve yourself with today? Is anger one of them? Do you think we only have ONE sin to contend with? Can you not be angry at all today? What about lust? what about self righteousness? What about hate? What about thinking you’re better than someone else? What about a lack of humility? Shall I name every sin that you and I are involved in? It’s nonsense isn’t it?

      If you want to live by the law, then you shall inherit the law and that is a falling away from grace. We don’t want to go down that path.

      The world tries to be good. If it came to trying, then there is no need for Christ.

      God did not come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men, alive!!!

      Do not be sin conscious. Be God conscious. He will lead your walk.

      I don’t go to X rated films. But what if I did? Is my position with Christ any different? No
      Does the Lord want me to see x rated films? No. But God doesn’t want his people doing a lot of things, yet we do them.

      Ido the things Idon’t want to do and don’t do the things I should. So do you. What of it?

      God knows and so do I that we are not able to conquer sin. To even think so is absurd. Jesus conquered the sin. The more I rest in that fact, the more I understand who I am in Christ, the less I’ll want to go to an X rated film.

      Christianity has nothing to do with our behavior. Our behavior is a byproduct of our spiritual belief and walk with Christ.

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      1. The point I’m trying to make is that it is a very sad commentary when unsaved people have more morals than saved people. Your position with Christ may not be any different the first time you go to an x rated film, but if you continue to go, with no conviction, that’s a dangerous place to be. Also the issue of testimony needs to play into it as well. All I’m saying is satan is alive and well and seeking whom he may devour, if I truly love God I will not put myself in compromising situations by choice. Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”. I don’t know you personally, but perhaps for you something like the beach would not be an issue for you. But what about the 14 0r 15 year old boys that accompany their parents, with all their raging hormones. It would be like telling them to not lust and then throwing a playboy magazine at them. Wise as serpants and harmless as doves. It has nothing to do with living under the law. Because I love Christ I am compelled not to put myself in certain situations where temptations are high.

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        1. I understand where you are coming from. What I’m telling you is that you will fail. You will fail eventually. You will fail consistently at trying.

          Why you assume I propagate sin is befuddling to me. But, your accusations thrown at me are the same that Paul received from the church.

          What that scripture truly means is that WHEN we sin, and we will, God’s grace is sufficient to cover us. It does not say that we should willingly keep running into sin. But I tell you, that most sins we commit are willingly. Do you deny it? When I sin, I know I sin and willingly do so. (Gasp).

          But I never stated to go ahead and seek to sin. Did I? However, you read that into my statements because of your viewpoint.

          You are coming from the point of view that believes to love God, I must not sin. I must do this. I must not do that. You are living exactly under the law. You don’t mean to. But you are. Everything you have told me suggests so. Do you think you are holy enough to please God by your actions? Think hard before you answer that.

          I’m saying plainly, that you will forever sin. That is, the sin living in your flesh will always strive to sin and will make that happen. Even if the sin is the slightest little itsy bitsy sin, like telling your girlfriend you can’t meet for lunch because you have a doc apt when in reality, you just don’t feel like going.

          I point out the all forgiving grace of God, the constant state of sin our flesh lives in, and the great news of the Gospel of Christ that your sins ARE FORGIVEN and FORGOTTEN — FOREVER!!! Nothing you can do can make you any holier. Nothing you can do is worth anything. In fact, all of your self righteousness is nothing but filthy rags before God.

          It is HE who works out all good things in you. It is HE who cleanses your soul. It is HE who makes you walk blamelessly before Him. And it is HE who gets the credit for covering your sins when you do sin.

          I can do all things through Christ. That means, Christ living in me, can do all things. I can do nothing apart from Him.

          Since I began to understand the Grace of God, my outward self ‘sins” much less. But I won’t boast of that. I will boast that God’s grace is sufficient for me, for my walk, for everything I am and am not.

          We must stop being sin conscious. It gets us absolutely nowhere but under condemnation. It’s called falling away from grace. And if anyone falls away, he cannot come back. So, stop trying to live a lawful life and seek only to understand and live the life God has for each of us: HIS LIFE through us.

          Paul denounced those who went back to the law. Many Preachers today have become a disgrace. They will tell you what to do and how to act, while sinning themselves as they absolutely must.

          They don’t show you the way to godly living. They place you under the yoke of slavery. Of the law. Woe to them and woe to anyone who lives that out fully.

          Faith is the ONLY thing that is pleasing to God. And faith is a gift from God.

          All those scriptures that tell you to do something or not to do something is law. You must understand why they were given, to whom they were given, and the context in which they were given. But, you need to understand fully, that on this side of the cross, we are NOT idolaters. We are NOT sexually immoral. We are NOT dogs. Etc. Even if our flesh sins sexually, the true us, the true chosen people are not considered such under God’s grace.

          It is a concept that begins at the cross and ends at the resurrection. We are simply living out what God has already done in our lives. Spiritually, we are PERFECT. BLAMELESS. WITHOUT BLEMISH. SINLESS. Why? Because Jesus Christ lives IN US!!!

          Do you understand what I’m saying?

          Break loose from that dead end life of trying to live a holy one. That will get you nowhere. It basically tells God that His Son’s sacrifice wasn’t enough. That you have to do something to gain favor with God.

          My, that’s a dangerous way to live.

          Be free sister and stop worrying about what you can’t control. Live unto God knowing He is the godliness and holiness of your life. You have nothing to do with it. You simply must believe it.

          Your brother in Christ,
          Mike

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      2. Mike, not sure why I couldn’t reply on your last post, so I’ll do it here. As far as I can see I never assumed you propagate sin or threw any accusations your way. I was simply asking questions and giving scenarios. You really don’t know me personally, so to say that I live under the law is not accurate. I often take to the far side of a subject to try to bring some balance. Everything we do should come from a place of loving God and wanting to please Him. I Cor. 10:23 talks about all things being lawful, but not all things are expedient or edifying. And I would not agree that MOST sins are willful, at least not any more. And by willful I mean premeditated. I’m not saying none, but the more mature we are in Christ the less willful our sins should be. It’s not at all about being holy enough to please God, it’s about loving God enough to want to please Him, it’s the motivation behind the actions. You may call that the law, but I disagree. I see you’ve made plenty of accusations towards me, most of which are so far from the truth of how I live, but that’s ok. We can’t truly know someone through a computer screen, so I will just say, God Bless you MIke and be done.

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        1. Thank you sister Shirl for your kind parting words.

          I will respect your wishes to be done with this conversation but not before I try, for the last time, to convey, somehow, the chasm of thinking between you and me. And if truth be told, between most of the western church and those like me.

          I think your most fervent premise is that if we love God, we should want to please God with our daily walk.

          My ultimate answer to this premise is the premise; If God has chosen us to be His heirs, his sons and daughters, then we are already pleasing to God. It has nothing whatsoever to do with our behavior, our works, our anything but…our belief.

          Naturally, God wants to see his children behave and live a life that expresses all the attributes of Jesus.

          Conclusion: I can’t…I won’t try to accomplish that by trying…Just as Ed inferred by the heading of this post.

          So, I will believe that I am already pleasing to God, as is scripturaly sound. And by doing so, give God all the credit for this walk. In this way, I have no reason to boast of myself. I can’t say, “Gee, I’m a great guy or I really love God because look what I did or how i live.” I also can’t live in defeat when I sin or in self condemnation. For there is now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

          I just don’t understand why it’s so difficult for Christians to understand that their works, their walk can only be pleasing if they walk in faith, not by trying to please God. Believing they have pleased God is the way God wishes us to view ourselves. And this comes from a humble point of view as well as from God’s point of view.

          When he looks at me he sees not what I used to be but he sees Jesus. Those words come from an old Lutheran Hymn, I believe. So if God sees Jesus, what then does he see in us? Perfection. Holiness. a Pleasing sacrifice.

          So in closing, I hope I’ve at the very least, conveyed something that you can agree with or at the very least, begin to contemplate. It’s completely contrary to the typical church message.

          What is the church message today? I think I can sum it up:
          1. Be holy.
          2. Go witness.
          3. Get involved.
          4. Go to small groups.
          5. Stop sinning.

          The truth to these demands or pleas:
          1. I am holy because the Holy Spirit resides in me and because the blood of Jesus covers me.
          2. I am a witness. I’ll let God choose whom he wishes me to talk to about His Son.
          3. I’ll let God involve me as He sees fit.
          4. Small groups are a poor excuse for a replacement of the church service.
          5. Can’t. But through Christ, my spiritual me is sinless. So in effect, the real me, the me that is hidden in Christ, has not only stopped, but never did sin. When I became a new creation, that meant saying bye bye to sin.

          Do you know that even many in the bible didn’t know how to walk with Christ? They concentrated on sin and look where it got many of the early churches…In trouble.

          Ok. That’s it for me. I do thank you for the back and forth and pray that the grace of God be always upon and within you. I know you love the Lord Shirl. “Know that the Lord loves you as you are, not as you should be, because no one is as he should be” — (Brennan Manning).

          Your brother in Christ,

          Mike

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  2. Ed, you certainly know how to expertly serve food for thought. I am certain you knew that many of us would revisit Matthew 13:1-52. Let us 🙂 savor one excerpt, verse 33: He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

    You learned the hard way that lettuce, when most efficiently planted, can work all through the bed leaving no room for the weeds. You had several seasons of trying the package way and your way before you came to your in-law’s way. I would say that an author to have material to write needs to go through those documented struggles first rather than do it right the first time. How else would an artist such as yourself color in the page would vibrant contrast?

    The planter bed is my heart and mind and which seeds are planted in what portions I have control over to accept or reject. The harvest of wheat or weeds is what determines the quality of the flour. The yeast is the Holy Spirit working into and eventually all through my heart and mind. The dough is me.

    My sin transition has been far more subtle but your premise captured in the title proves equally to be true. It is not focusing on what we should not be doing that eventually works for all of us but to look to what we need to do in order to achieve our desired harvest.

    Sin to me is not having a fertile relationship with in the soil my heart and mind is planted. As I have grown in a living relationship with the Holy Spirit I have realized nutritious value in all the kingdom opening up to me beginning with this world. Slowly I am becoming filled with love of God, neighbor, self and enemy. Slowly I am finding my days more and more worked through with actually treating all others as I would have them treat me. I have an eternity promised to learn how to be a master gardener, and then after that, maybe, a master sailor, and then after that a master horseman, … .

    Today I am focusing on becoming an adequate relater to all others through love as I am loved by my Father in Heaven. I am not focusing on don’t say this, or don’t say that, or don’t do this, or don’t do that for my days in this one opportunity world are far too short not to rely on my wise Counselor to guide me to try this and try that I can surely trust from which seeds all can grow in the kingdom. The more daily habits that I enjoy doing fill up my days more and more so there is less and less habits of sin against, my Lord God, my neighbor, my self and my enemy.

    Thanks Ed!!!

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  3. “There are no weeds competing for garden space because I’ve invested time in creating so much life in our garden.” I think you are on to something here! Paul’s “put off” and “put on” principle in Ephesians 4 speaks directly to this issue. Sin, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Leave an empty space, and soon enough there will be more sin there.

    Thanks for this post, Ed.

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    1. You have a point regarding empty space.
      I’d like to suggest approaching this subject a bit differently.
      And it really comes down to the renewing of our minds.

      From God’s point of view, you and I are filled (no empty spaces) with the Holy Spirit. Correct? Is this what you believe?

      If so, then in reality, there is no empty space. But, this reality is spiritual.

      We are two people. We are the spirit and the flesh. We can occupy our time with either aspect.

      Will the flesh continually rear up and fight us? Sure. it will try. But, since we are filled with the Holy Spirit, if we understand, believe, and concentrate on that fact, then that space that you are referring to, will be filled all the time with God’s revelation. Right? Do you agree or disagree with that assessment?

      I’d also like to suggest that Christians in the western church today, are so preoccupied with works, with fighting off sin, that we forget Christ already defeated sin and that our works were planned for us before the creation of the world. Furthermore, we shall do the works God has for us in His time.

      Since it makes sense that Jesus conquered sin, and that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, that if we simply, by faith, believe this is so and that everything is finished; that we are the Righteousness of God in Christ Himself, our spaces will be no more.

      When we read the epistles or gospels, there is much law intertwined within them. So we must decipher the Word and understand that we live totally in grace. And grace is what will make our walk more “pleasing” to God. Not sin consciousness. Not trying not to sin. Only a faith that proclaims, “thank you Lord for saving me and finishing the work. Thank you for dying for me and filling me with your Holy Spirit. Thank you for making me holy and blameless in your sight.”

      And if I sin, “Thank you Lord for forgiving me and not even remembering even one of my sins.”

      God bless you,

      Mike

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  4. Such an important insight that people need to hear. It’s all about falling in love with Jesus and having that replace the sin in our hearts.

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