How to Hate the Sin We Love

heart of stone-fleshSin is fun.  It is is exciting and may even be exhilarating.  Sin promises happiness, escape, and pleasure, and its promises are even true!  Well, just for a little while.  If sin was boring or didn’t offer any “rewards”, no one would want to do it.  And when we habitually sin, we do so because we love it (& ourselves).  We enjoy it.  We choose it over others, even God.  We may remember it in fondness and miss it when it is gone.  But we also know from God’s Word that sin is evil and to engage in it, even just once, brings death (“The wages of sin is death…”). Yet we can’t love God and love sin simultaneously, so how do we hate the sin what we love?

First, let’s consider a few verses in regards to hating sin:

Psalm 97:10  Let those who love the Lord hate evil…

Proverbs 8:13  To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

 Amos 5:15  Hate evil, love good;

Isn’t it interesting that God needs to tell us to “hate evil“?  Our hearts are certainly “prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love.”  We are prone to love things we ought not to love, but to hate.  And we are prone to hate things we ought to love, or at least are better for us.

Recently I spoke to an addict who has been having a difficult time staying away from drugs.  He knows he needs to “say no” but he continuously says “yes” to them and he didn’t know why.  Besides the chemically addictive part in the drugs, there was also another reason why he went back.  He loved the drugs.  He loved what they did to his body and mind.  He believed its promises of escape and enjoyment.  He loved the drugs (and himself) more than he loved his family or God.  He asked me, “So how can I hate them and love my family more?

This leads us to the question, “How do we hate the sin we love?”  “How do we hate what we have affection for, what we strongly desire, and what we turn to in our struggles and stress?”  “How do we deny ourselves and love God and others more than ourselves?” At this point, I would love to come up with three proven strategies on how to do this.  I would love to share with certainty that it is a simple process of “just say no,” pray more or say certain prayers, and say “yes” more to God.  Although all these things may prove helpful at times, they won’t change your affections or desires, and they won’t permanently change your actions either.  Why?  Because outward actions will not change inside problems.  Our affections and desires (what we love and hate) stem from the heart, and our hearts can only be changed by the One who created our hearts.

In Ezekiel 11 and 36, God speaks to the Israelites and he tells them, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”  Hearts of stone are hearts that neither love God, nor love the things He loves. Instead, hearts of stone loves the things he hates: sin.  In order to love God more and love the things he loves (and hate what he hates), we need hearts of flesh.  This is a surgical procedure only the Great Physician can do.  The changing of the heart is God’s domain.  We can’t change our hearts or remove our sins.  We can’t make moral decisions and actions and expect our affections and desires to turn 180 degrees.  We may have tried, but eventually, we are guaranteed to fail.

So, what can we do?

In changing our hearts…nothing.  But we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process of our hearts changing.  We cooperate with Him by faith through 1) Acceptance of His love and mercy, 2) Brokenness over our sin, 3) Commitment to pursue what God loves (put off own sin and put on God’s law), and 4) recognize, believe, and see things from God’s perspective.

1) Acceptance of His love, truth, grace & mercy – Accepting is not an action, it is believing.  It is believing that His love is greater than our sins.  It is believing that His laws are motivated by His love and that they are good and for our benefit and His glory.  It is believing that God’s favor is upon us, not because of what we have done, but because of who He is.  It is believing that He forgives you and He will give you strength to carry on.  Our belief, however, is tested by our doing.  We will do what we believe.  So, since His laws are motivated by love and He wants the best for us, will you put this belief into actions by following them?
2) Brokenness over our sins – Unless we recognize and believe we are broken, we will not recognize our need to be fixed, and we will not see our daily need for a Savior.  Brokenness is not hanging on to guilt and shame, but a grieving period where we recognize our wandering hearts and actions (sins) have placed Christ on the cross (Ps 51 – “Against you alone have I sinned“).  Brokenness recognizes that we have caused sorrow to others and to God and essentially places ourselves in the hands of God to fix.  Without brokenness, we will still love what we ought to hate.
3) Commitment to pursue what God loves – Romans 8 speaks about making decisions that are in line with the Spirit of God as opposed to the flesh.  Whichever nature we feed will reap its own benefits or consequences.  If we continue to make decisions from the flesh (which is what God hates), then we often will reinforce further decisions of the flesh.  If we make decisions from the Spirit, we will reinforce further decisions of the Spirit.  Our commitments to pursue what God loves (in the Spirit) often involve accountability from others, limiting our opportunities to sin by recognizing times or places of weaknesses and taking action, and studying His Word.
4) See from God’s Perspective – Isa 5:20 states that many “see evil as good and good as evil, light as darkness and darkness as light, sweet as bitter and bitter as sweet.”  In other words, we’re seeing things all wrong.   One person I spoke to who had an affair saw the adulterous relationship as good and godly because they prayed together, felt better when they were with each other, and enjoyed their time together.  Yet this person was deceived because it was an adulterous relationship. Evil became good because it felt good and there was “good” in it, but the adulterous relationship was really evil.  The Truth (with a capital “T”) of God must always trump the truth of feelings.  It is easy to deceive ourselves, so we need to see from God;s perspective.

Hating the sin we love is an impossible task to do alone.  We truly need transformed hearts and minds, and such transformation cannot occur by our own actions or will, but instead by the love, grace, and mercy of our God.  Our hearts of stone need to be replaced with hearts of flesh by God himself.  Our minds need to be transformed by His Truth. Our affections and desires need to be transformed by His Spirit.  And all of this is done through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Hating the sin we love is possible only when we love the One who hates sin.  Therefore pursue Him with all your heart and mind, and let Him “who began a good work in you carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Php 1:6).

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