Before any meaningful change will take place in your life there has to first be an awareness of sin and a desire for repentance.
I am sad to say that this is something that is not preached or taught in the majority of churches in our day. Too many pastors are fearful of offending people by calling a sin "a sin." Our church confronts on going sinful behavior and we do practice the ministry of reconciliation found in Matthew 18. However, I know this is not the case among many of you who read today. Your pastor does not confront sin in the church. He is willing to talk about mistakes and how to live a good life, and be a good person but out of fear of affecting the collection plate he will not talk about sin. Not being a pastor, I have the luxury of calling 'em as I see 'em (to use an old baseball phrase).
This is not a post of judgment, nor accusation of you as you struggle to deal with the sin in your life, it is a reminder that there is simply far, far, too much sin being condoned among Christians! I include myself in this because I too live in the world and am assaulted by my own sinful desires constantly! I am not so prideful I will say I have got this all down, because I don't. In fact, a recent situation is what encouraged me to write a blog on this topic.
Before you will cease sinning in your heart you must be convinced that what you are doing or saying is sinful and an unholy affront to God. If you are thinking you are going to stop a behavior pattern simply because someone is angry with you, or you have been rebuked, or even because it is going to cost you money- you are wrong. You may cease for a while, "be good" for a while, but unless change of heart accompanies and even precedes the actions you are simply rearranging your flesh.
Heart change begins with conviction. This is why I believe so much counseling fails. The counselor is more concerned with being a friend than pointing out what the Bible says about our thoughts, beliefs, and desires as being sinful. I maintain that if I am your friend I have the responsibility to teach, rebuke, correct and train you in righteousness by the Word of God and you as my friend have the same duty toward me. Mutual accountability in the Body of Christ is necessary for our growth and change, because it is a tool leading to conviction of the heart.
How do we describe conviction? Is conviction a feeling? Is it a sensation of sickness in the pit of your stomach? Does it bring shame and condemnation? Conviction of sin arises when we are convinced that something we have said, done, or thought is wrong. It is a work of the informed conscience regarding something the Bible teaches or something we have been taught the Bible or our religion teaches.
The closest I can find in the Bible to what I am trying to say is in Romans 2, a parenthetical verse which is in reference to Gentiles who obey the law even though they are not bound by the law. Look here:
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. Romans 2:14-15
My definition of conviction would be: When "right" is inscribed upon our hearts through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and our moral conscience testifies with our thoughts, intervening or adjoining with our thoughts and conscience that what we have done is wrong, we experience the knowledge that we have offended a Holy God.
Our response to such conviction further reveals the condition of our heart. If our reaction is like that of Peter who went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62) we are on the right path. If our response is like that of many who determine to justify their sin, qualify their apology, and set aside the biblical command to confess and repent there will be further trouble to come.
This is why I maintain that repentance is required for change. If a person refuses to repent of their sin there is no reason to believe they desire to live their life to glorify God.