For many Christians habitual sin is a real struggle. Whatever it may be, these habitual struggles drain us and slowly chip away at our desire to pursue God. After all, if we aren’t seeing any change, are we even doing it right? Is it even worth it?
Unfortunately, for many of us, we begin to look for decisive moments. We want the struggle to end and think if we can just have a great experience of God it will fix things. Of course, we know the reality of the fading camp high but what alternative is there? We begin to get caught up in a Christianity that is about moments of repentance that are supposed to fix everything only to discover that we need another moment of repentance a week later. The habitual sin remains with some repentance sprinkled in.
The danger of this approach to our spiritual lives is that it becomes entirely moment-oriented and quickly loses trace of the fact that following Jesus is an ongoing way of life. We begin to look for moments of salvation and the in-between-times lose their importance.
Christ confronts this view head on throughout his ministry. Although there are definite moments of salvation and climaxes of recognition by the disciples, the majority of the time spent in relationship together is of a different nature – it’s forming habits.
I don’t imagine that Peter would have been willing to give up his life because of just one incredible moment. Rather, he had habitually practiced submitting to Christ until the point that giving his life was his only option. This is not to say that he was perfect; clearly the gospel accounts make his imperfections quite evident. However, habits are such that over time they become our natural response so that even after betraying Christ, Peter can go on and boldly proclaim him in the book of Acts.
Moments are a significant part of the Christian experience because they are opportunities to establish habits not because they are salvific. As we have an opportunity to sin or turn to God, that choice begins to form a habit (either of obedience or rebellion). When we view Christianity as being about the moments, sin too often wins because we grant it the in-between times. Practicing holy habits (not just spiritual disciplines but actually habituating ourselves to holy living and choices) transforms us and our view of sin. We can only habituate ourselves in one direction, and choosing holiness leads us away from habitual sin. Once that sin is no longer a habit, it’s increasingly easy to conquer.
Rather than seeking to end our habitual struggles with a moment of salvation, perhaps we ought to focus on habituating ourselves to following Jesus, to inculcate holy habits and let the Spirit guide us into salvation, a life pursuing God.