This post is from my podcast The LightBright Podcast. It’s my online space to have virtual conversations about faith. Take a listen to the full episode below. I’ve also included my notes and a transcript, if you’re short on time.
Being a Christian can be challenging in today’s world. There are different places where you could come across strongholds or habits in your life that are not productive to a strong Christian walk. So today I wanted to talk about strategies for keeping your life holy.
At no point does God expect us to be perfect— which is why we have Jesus Christ who is the perfect sacrifice. But I remember when I was younger, and I was constantly running to the altar, because I had an area of sin that had a little bit of an addictive hold on me. And I struggled with sin patterns for decades, if I’m honest. And now that I’m in my 30s, I’m starting to think about different strategies to hep me overcome. When you get free when the Holy Spirit breaks a hold off of your life, the plan is to stay free. If I think about the times where I’ve had the longest streaks of success, when I’ve been able to abstain or have been victorious over areas of sin, it’s because I had a plan. So today we’re going to talk about how to have a plan—Six strategies for holiness.
1. Identify your personal triggers.
When I stumbled in the area of sexual sin and lust, I really struggled first in my mind before I even ever tried to do anything physically. So my personal triggers could have been anything. So observing yourself, What usually starts you in that spiral of negative and non productive thinking, is it stress? Is it loneliness? Is it relational tension? Oddly, I found that when people talk about an area where I have previously struggled, I would then start to think about that thing. Even certain conversations would even trigger it for me, sometimes it would be movies, or even someone insinuating something about an area. And so for you observing yourself, where areas where those personal triggers popped up.
2. Know yourself and recognize your relapse warning signs.
The language I’m using is actually language that’s very similar to what addicts have to do when they are recovering. I think that some areas of sin are especially addictive, especially when we’re thinking about things like substance abuse, or sexual sin, those tend to have a very addictive hold on us. And so we actually have to treat ourselves like recovering addicts. It sounds a little extreme, but our brains get really hooked on the serotonin, how high and how happy we feel when we’re doing some of these things. And so we have to really address it, like the the scientific addictive behavior that it is. Your personal relapse warning signs could be when you start thinking less rationally, start behaving less responsibly. For me, I would recognize there would be certain times where I’d be so strict with myself. And then I get tired of being so strict, and I’d say, Oh my gosh, like I don’t even care does it even matter. And I would find myself starting to think less rationally starting to maybe justify certain behaviors in my mind way before I did anything, the relapse warning signs were there. If you find yourself returning to a problematic thinking pattern that you used to have, put yourself on alert.
3. Reconstruct old routines and habits
We are all human beings and in our lives, we have natural desires and needs that are programmed into our bodies. At times we can have non-productive ways of fulfilling those needs. So do not allow your mind to make you feel like you’re a bad person for wanting to fulfill these needs. However, we have to reconstruct and replace these destructive patterns with ones that better serve us.
4. Surround yourself with community
As a human being, you need interaction with people. You need to be able to have friends, people who know you, and people whom you know, the really great thing about community is that it’s a place that not only can you receive love and support, but you can also give love and support. Many times when we have been in patterns of kind of stumbling and struggling, we feel like we have nothing to give. But sometimes the things that we’ve kind of messily stumbled through can be the things that people need to learn about in order to be free. And so in community, we find that our imperfection is actually appreciated, because that humanity that is in us is something that people want to partake in.
I highly recommend finding a community of people going back to the example of how people who are coming out of addictive lifestyles, a something that’s very effective for people because they have open and transparent conversations about areas where they’re struggling, find at least one friend that you can be honest with. Whether it’s your accountability partner reflecting your actions back to you, or you reminding yourself through your journal or through a voice note, all of those things are ways that you can stay on this path of growth, and progress.
5. Practice self discipline & self compassion
Self discipline is a great gift to yourself because it carries over into other areas of your life. With each wise decision, you began to reprogram your brain to tell the story that you are good at self discipline, that you are able to keep to a plan and be successful at it. Along with self discipline, you must also have self compassion. Even if you are somebody who has a really great streak of self discipline and you slip up, you must have grace for yourself when you I make a mistake. I’m going to get back right on it and start again. So it’s really great to keep track of your progress, whether that is a habit tracker, or even just a note on your phone that says hey, I did this thing. Success. For a few days, but also not being bummed out when you have breaks, that doesn’t mean that you were unsuccessful, that means your streak might start all over again. But it’s another opportunity to be victorious over an area of your life.
6. Celebrate milestones
Your brains is wired for reward and it loves when you do something great, so reward yourselves for good choices. Go ahead and celebrate every single thing, even if it seems small or insignificant. As you do this, you are building a case for your ability to overcome things that formerly tripped you up. Your daily choices become your habits and your habits becomes your lifestyle. The cumulative effect of everything you’re doing is helping you build strategies for holiness and leading you to a freer life.
The set of strategies above (along with the help of the Holy Spirit) have really freed me and are keeping my free in my walk with God. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about every day asking Jesus Christ to guide me to make me stronger. And the places where I’m weak, I lean on the Holy Spirit very heavily to give me strength. The Bible says that in my weakness, he is strong. So I count on the Holy Spirit empowering me for every good work that he has called me to.
I want to speak to anyone who feels discouraged, or maybe even disqualified because they have an area of sin that they struggle with habitually. Jesus Christ wants you to be free. And this freedom is not something that is easily attained. Freedom is something that happens every single day, decision by decision. And so I don’t think there’s anybody out there who is completely free, every day, we have to take up our cross and follow Him. And so that means we have to put down the habits that would help stop us from walking towards what God called us to do. So we put aside all the things that would help make us stumble, and we pick up the things that God would have for us. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. At no point, can anyone come and tell you that you are not a child of God, God has chosen you. And it is Him who will purify you every single day.
So I want to pray a prayer of repentance for any of us who need it. In order to be holy, like God is holy, we have to ask for His help. We can’t do it in our own strength. It’s not something that as human beings we are naturally wired to do. So it takes the supernatural strength of God to make us holy. So let us pray.
In Jesus name, Lord, I thank you for your sacrifice on the cross, I thank you that you are perfect. You are the spotless lamb. And you knew ahead of time that we would need so much salvation from our sins, that we would need a spotless lamb to stay and take our place. It’s us who should have received the wages of sin, but you took death in our place. So God first we thank you for that. And God, I pray for my brothers and sisters who are listening, who are struggling in some area of sin that day, maybe have not been successful in in the path and pass and so Lord, I pray for your grace. I pray for your grace to help them through every single day, I pray that you help them to be victorious over the areas where they might struggle. God, I pray that you give them strength. And I pray that they remember your heart towards them that you want them to live a life of holiness, and you are going to help them to do that. And so I pray that you would speak to them in the areas of their lives where they need a conviction to turn away from sin, and the places where they have been condemned in the past. I pray that you show them that you love them, and that your love for them leads them to repentance. And so God I pray for all that are listening that we would Have the boldness to step away from lifestyles and habits and patterns that do not please you. And instead, we will run towards the things that would help us be stronger in our walk. God, we’re not perfect and we don’t pretend to be helpless, to be vulnerable to find community where we can be ourselves and we can confess our sins to one another, and form strategies for holiness. Thank you, Lord, for loving us. Thank you for calling us to holiness. And thank you for your Holy Spirit, who helps us every day to be more and more like you. Amen.