How To Help Students Stop Sinning

Don’t do this! Work harder to do this!

Is our job as pastors, parents, and youth leaders, just to help students stop sinning?

It can often feel that way.stop sign

But ask yourself, what’s the point of telling a student not to sin? Even if they stop with one sin, aren’t they just going to commit another sin later?

What then, should we do?

Should we just give up encouraging students to live moral lives? Should we not tell them what the Bible says about sin and its consequences? Of course not.

But what we should do, is help students understand why they sin in the first place.

James 1:14 says “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”

Sin happens when we try to meet a good desire in the wrong way.

When I was in 5th grade a friend of mine introduce me to pornography. I’d like to say I ran the other way, and never looked back. But I didn’t. I looked, and I looked a lot. But the reason I looked was not because I wanted to rebel against God or my parents, or do something that was wrong. I looked because I desperately wanted my friend to like me. I looked because I had a deep desire to be wanted. And in those moments that desire was fulfilled. I was accepted by my friend, and I felt wanted. My problem was not that I liked pornography, my problem was that my heart was empty.

I have been in some kind of pastoral role to students for over ten years now. And I have often thought about what I as a student needed back then to change my behavior. I know without a doubt that I did not need someone to tell me to stop, or show me from the Bible how pornography was wrong. I had been a Christian since I was four– I knew all that. What I did need was someone to help me understand what was behind my sin. And then how Jesus could help me.

G. K. Chesterton is attributed with saying “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” I believe more and more everyday these words are true.

I still have the desire to be wanted. But unlike my fifth grade self, I now know the right way to have that desire met. His name is Jesus Christ. And there is no desire he cannot abundantly meet. His love is often made tangible through his body, Christians, like my wife, accountability partners, family, and friends. But it is his love meeting my desires that has, and will, keep me free from such sin.

The best thing we as pastors, parents, and youth leaders can do for students, is not to help them stop sinning. Because, life is not just about not sinning.

Rather, the best thing we as pastors, parents, and youth leaders can do, is to help students identify their deepest God-given desires. And then, show them how Jesus can abundantly fulfill them. When this happens they will know the love of Jesus and his body (the church), and the temptation to sin will take care of its self.

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