Why It’s Hard to Stop the Cycle of Sin | Understanding Your Flesh

Are you held captive by a cycle of sin? Maybe you have said, “I won’t do this again. I’m going to white-knuckle it. I’m going to push through. I am determined to try harder, do better, and break this cycle of sin once and for all.” 

Jesus came to give us abundant life, yet most of us live a rollercoaster life of Christianity. We are up one day and down the next. Many of us are living in captivity. 

Paul addresses this problem in Romans 7. 

  • “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”—Romans 7:15

The problem is our flesh—our sin nature. It is hard to break the cycle of sin because we have a sin nature and we are sinners. 

How Our Flesh Tries to Stop the Cycle of Sin to No Avail 

Get Inspired! 

Inspiration does not stop the cycle of sin. 

Many people think that if they simply attend a Sunday morning service, they will receive enough inspiration to break the cycle of sin. 

Inspiration is useful, but if it only engages the feelings and the flesh, it doesn’t last much past Sunday.  To stop the cycle of sin, we must move beyond inspiration. We must grow deeper, digging further into scripture so that we can grow up spiritually. 

Rather than just seeking inspiration, let us pray and receive what will last. 

Do More! 

More religion, determination, and self-discipline does not stop the cycle of sin

The apostle Paul writes that following rules and “will worship” (Colossians 2:23 KJV) will not bring sanctification. Sanctification is the victorious life in Christ. 

But regulations and religion will never bring about sanctification. He writes to the Colossians, “Therefore, if you die with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations…” (Colossians 2:20). Regulations and religion will never stop the cycle of sin in our lives. 

Rather than getting caught up in religion, let us remember we have been redeemed. 

The Spiritual Reality

As Christians, we know we’ve been forgiven. We have put our trust in Jesus’ work on the cross and believe He is the only one who can save us from eternal death. So then, why do we continue to struggle? Why is it so difficult to stop the cycle of sin in our lives?

When we accept Jesus, we are delivered from sin’s penalty, but we have to be delivered from sin’s power through the process of sanctification. 

Woman with her arms outstretched, broken chains on each arm.

What Freedom Looks Like

The Bible uses lots of words to describe a Christian’s life.

  • “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”—John 10:10 (emphasis added)
  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”—2 Corinthians 3:17 (emphasis added)
  • “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”—2 Corinthians 2:14 (emphasis added)
  • “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Corinthians 15:57 (emphasis added)
  • “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”—John 8:32 (emphasis added)

If we have an abundant life, liberty, triumph, victory, and freedom, why do so many of us live in captivity? This was Paul’s story, and it is our story too. We all go through the same “stuff” because we’re all made of the same “stuff.” We are sinners, which is why we sin. The problem is the human heart.

In Romans 7, Paul writes about his personal story of futility in fighting his flesh—his sin nature. Paul’s story is our story. 

Finally, he discovers the key to victory. 

Understanding the Cycle of Sin and the Process of Sanctification. 

If you aren’t living in victory, you can. Why? Because, through Jesus, God says you have everything you need to live victoriously. 

“… as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…”

2 Peter 1:3

Living victoriously won’t be easy, and it comes with a cost. But you can live victoriously because the victor has redeemed you. 

Romans 8 tells us there are stages of salvation. 

  • First is justification. The blood of Jesus covers you and you are justified. In other words, God does not see your sin when He looks at you. It has been completely erased as if it never happened. He declares you innocent by the blood of Jesus.
  • Sanctification happens next. God isn’t done with your salvation when He forgives your sin. First, He delivers you from sin’s penalty. Then He wants to deliver you from sin’s power. This is how you are conformed into the image of Jesus—sanctified. 

The key to victory… the crucified life!

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”—Galatians 2:20

The way we walk in victorious resurrection power is found in Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” 

To be delivered from sin’s penalty, Christ had to die. To be delivered from sin’s power, you must die. 

  • “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”—1 Corinthians 15:31 (emphasis added)

A Christian is not victorious by “doing.” A Christian is victorious by “dying.” Until we learn to apply the crucified life, Jesus can live in us, but He can’t live through us. 

All the promises of God are appropriated by faith in the word of God. It is by grace through faith we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). The same way we received justification—forgiveness of sin—is the same way we are sanctified—delivered from sin’s power. 

The apostle Paul quit “doing” and learned what it meant to start “dying” daily. Discover more about what it means to live in victory and to be delivered from sin’s power by listening to our Revival Family Weekend series here.