Sin 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.
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).