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Helping Women Put Off Life-Dominating Sins

Susan Heck talks about common sins that Christians commit. She provides biblical definitions and practical tips for putting off sin.

Jul 22, 2021

Most of you have probably heard of the great 18th-century preacher Jonathan Edwards, but some of you may not know the story of his daughter. She had an uncontrollable temper. She fell in love with a young man, and this young man came to ask Jonathan Edwards for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Jonathan Edwards’ response was a little different than you might expect. He said, “No, you can’t marry her.”

The young man was really upset. He said, “But I love her. She loves me. We want to get married.” He pleaded with Jonathan Edwards.

Mr. Edwards responded, “That makes no difference. She is not worthy of you.”

The young man said, “Well, she’s a Christian, isn’t she?”

Mr. Edwards responded with this: “Yes, she is, but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else can.”

Jonathan Edwards’ daughter apparently had a problem with her temper. His response indicates that he knew that the presence of selfish anger indicates the absence of genuine love. This story illustrates many of our counselees who come in for counseling. As Jonathan Edwards said, only the grace of God can live with some of these women. Additionally, only the grace of God changes these women and only the grace of God uses you and I in the process. Now with that in mind, I want to give you seven predominant sins which women commit, then seven powerful biblical motivations for putting off sin, and lastly seven practical helps for counseling women in sin.

Wise old King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” I say a hearty “Amen” to that. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there is no temptation that has overtaken us but such as is common to man. Therefore, I assume that the women in Oklahoma—which is where I’m from—are sinning in the same way that women are sinning in every other state.

In preparation for this message, I went through all of my PDI forms from the last year, and I chose the top seven sins based on what women fill out when they come into my office for counseling. Now, I want you to keep in mind that if one of the sins that you are trying to help a woman overcome is not listed in the seven on this list, that is okay. The seven powerful motivations for putting off sin will be practical and the seven practical helps for counseling women in sin will be applicable no matter what sin your counselee is committing.

Seven Predominant Sins that Women Commit

1. Depression.

You might say, “Now, Susan, is depression a sin? David was depressed, Elijah was depressed, and even Jesus was depressed. Surely depression is not a sin.” Depression per se is not a sin, but the choices that many women make while depressed are sinful.

Let’s talk about what depression means. The Hebrew word for depression means “to be bowed down, to incline oneself, to sink under the weight of sorrow.” In the Greek, it means “to be grieved all around, to be intensely sad.” I looked throughout the Old and New Testaments and I found it very interesting that all of the passages that dealt with being depressed—in every single one of them—the solution was always the same. The solution was three words: Trust in God. You will not find antidepressants. You will not find sleep, food, or any other such choices as answers to depression.

Consider the following passages:

  • 1 Samuel 30:6: “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
  • Psalms 42 and 43: “Why are you cast down, O My soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” It’s like saying, “What is your deal anyway?” What is the psalmist’s answer? “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” The psalmist who wrote those two Psalms could not go to worship and to the temple of God because of an illness. I wish that the depressed women that I counseled were depressed because they couldn’t go to church, don’t you?
  • Psalm 55:4-6: David talks about being very depressed. He says: “My heart is severely pained within me…Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.'” The context here is that his good friend Ahithophel had betrayed him. He was depressed. What is his response? In verse 22 he says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
  • Psalm 143: In this Psalm, David is hiding in a cave, escaping from Saul. He says in verse 4, “My spirit is overwhelmed within me.” It’s as if he says, “No one even cares for my soul and I am brought very low.” That’s depression. What is his solution? Is it Prozac or suicide? No, listen. In verse one he says, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications!” He cried to the Lord.
  • Mark 14: The Lord is facing the darkest hour of His life: crucifixion, separation from the Father, and the sins of the whole world placed upon Him to the point that Isaiah said that it pleased the Father to bruise His Son. Mark records for us that Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death. He cried and He prayed, great drops of blood that fell to the ground. What did Jesus do when He was depressed? Do you know that the verb tense in the Greek implies that He prayed over and over and over again the same prayer: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not what I want, but what You want.” Here we see our Lord, in His depression, relinquishing His will to the Father to the extent that John records for us in John 18—when Peter was with the Lord right before His crucifixion and cut off the right ear of the servant of the high priest—that Jesus said, “Peter, Peter, put up your sword into your sheath. The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” Jesus committed Himself to the Father’s sovereign will in the depth of His depression. Depression is not a sin, but a lack of trust in God and His provisions that He provides through His word is sinful. Peter says that He has given us everything that we need for life and godliness. Do we believe that?

2. Bitterness and unforgiveness.

It’s interesting that in the New Testament bitterness describes a spiritual poisoning. Acts 8:23 describes it as a “heart of great wickedness.” Hebrews also talks about a “root of bitterness,” which is a wicked person or a sin that leads to denial of one’s faith. That’s bitterness. Unforgiveness is whereby one does not excuse or pardon another person for his or her shortcomings or errors. Unforgiveness and a bitter heart are terrible and common sins among women—and may I add men as well.

What does Scripture say about this horrible sin of unforgiveness and bitterness?

  • Colossians 3:13 says that we are to forbear with one another and forgive one another “if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” We need to teach our counselees this verse. We need to teach our counselees that, based on the Greek meaning, they are to forgive “in the same proportion or to the degree” that Christ has forgiven them. How did Christ forgive? Was it a partial forgiveness? Did He say when you came to Christ, “Well, you know, I’ll forgive you for that sin, but I’m sorry, I can’t forgive you for that one.” No. He forgave us completely and fully. We must teach our counselees to forgive others completely because the Lord has forgiven us completely.
  • Matthew 18 teaches us that He also has forgiven us habitually and continually. Peter comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother? Maybe seven times? I mean, that’s a lot.” Jesus turned back to him and said, “Not hardly, Peter. How about seventy times seven, Peter.” That’s 490 times. It is very doubtful that our counselees have ever forgiven someone 490 times for the same offense. Yet I imagine that the Lord has forgiven our counselees—and you too—490 times for the same thing that you have done over and over again.

If you’re dealing with someone who has bitterness in their heart or an unforgiving spirit, I would encourage you to take them to several biblical examples.

  • Joseph: What a great example. Joseph was a man who was thrown into the pit, sold into slavery, accused by Potiphar’s wife of committing adultery with him, and thrown into prison. We think these things that happened to Joseph were terrible. In Genesis 50, his brothers came to him at the end to seek his forgiveness, and he says, “Am I in the place of God? You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” He spoke kindly to them, comforted them, and forgave them.
  • Stephen (Acts 7:60): Stephen, when being stoned, falls to the ground and he cries out—the Greek means that he shrieks like a raven—and says, “Father, do not lay this sin to their charge.” As he said this, he died. Stephen forgave them.

An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction of terms because we are the forgiven ones, so we need to teach this to our counselees. Three practical steps in helping your counselee with unforgiveness are:

  1. Have them confess their sin to the Lord and ask Him to help them mend the relationship.
  2. Have them go to the person to seek forgiveness and seek reconciliation.
  3. Have them give the person something they highly value, maybe their time or a material possession. This step is usually the hardest, but is a very practical approach. The reason for it is that Jesus says, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

If you’re counseling a woman that is unforgiving or has a bitter spirit, whatever you do, do not let her ignore an unforgiving and bitter heart because resentment will set in. That resentment will rob her of her joy. You can see it on her face, and it will be in her heart. Don’t teach her to avoid it either. The attitude of avoidance is not forgiveness.

3. Gossip, slander, and flattery.

These sins all have to do with our speech. Let’s define each one:

  • Gossip is idle talk that is not always true about other people.
  • Slander is a defaming, evil report that wounds one’s reputation by evil speaking.
  • Flattery is smoothness of the tongue.

Now, if you want more simple definitions of gossip and flattery, they can be defined as follows:

  • Gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you would never say to their face.
  • Flattery is saying to their face what you would never say behind their back.

These are common sins among women and it doesn’t get any easier. John Calvin said, “Talkativeness is a disease of women and it gets worse with age.” I am very gray-headed now, so as an older woman, I have a challenge to make sure that I put away these sins.

A few great reminders for our counselees would be:

  • Matthew 12:36: where Jesus says, “Every idle or careless word that men will speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:13: where Paul said that before he became a Christian, he was a blasphemer—or used his mouth for evil—but that he was no longer a blasphemer because he obtained mercy.

Slander, gossip, and similar sins must be put to death. A great book to help your counselees if they have a problem with these sins is The War of Words by Paul Tripp. I think it’s a great book for communication.

4. Coveting, jealousy, and envy.

Coveting is a desire to possess more than one has, particularly something which belongs to someone else. I know a lot of women covet another person’s marriage, house, or material possessions. They covet things that are not theirs to have. Jealousy and envy are a little bit different. Jealousy and envy are a feeling of resentment towards another person because of his or her possessions or good qualities. For example, we can be envious or jealous of a person’s position, spiritual gifts, looks, home, or clothes.

These are terrible sins among women and cause fights according to James 4:1-4, which says: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain.” What reason does James give for our inability to obtain? Because we ask out of a desire to consume what we receive upon our lust and our pleasures.

Also in Exodus 20:17, one of the Ten Commandments that God gave Moses was this: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”

For example, a woman who has sexual relationships with a man to whom she is not married is coveting. She’s wanting something and taking something that is not hers to have.

5. Sexual sins: fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and addiction to pornography.

Now let’s describe sexual sins. Fornication is a Greek word, “porneia,” from which we get our English word “pornography.” However, in the New Testament, when you look at this word, it is broadened to include any kind of illicit sex. Every kind of amoral sexual relationship that you can think of would fall under the category of “porneia.”

As we think about sexual sins and counseling women who have sexual sins, we must admit that we are faced with temptation in a way like no other previous generation because of the availability of pornographic material on the internet. I have had more women lately come into me for counseling whose husbands are addicted to pornography. The statistics are staggering. Internet porn has revenue of $57 billion worldwide and $12 billion in the United States. This is more revenue than all professional football, baseball, and basketball franchises and more than the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC. Forty million people in the United States are sexually involved with the internet.

Sex is the number one topic searched on the internet. Did you know that 25 percent of all search engine requests are porn-related? These statistics should motivate you in your own life as well as motivate you to motivate your counselees to guard themselves and their family, including their husbands. In our home, we have something called “Covenant Eyes.” Once every two weeks, I get a report of every website that my husband has accessed. It’s protection. He’s a pastor and an elder. He has encouraged all of the elders in the church to do the same. We need to encourage our counselees to have protection.

Now, what does the Bible say about this awful sin?

  • Matthew 15:19: Jesus tells us where this terrible sin comes from when it says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1: “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.” Paul says here that fornication is not even practiced among the pagans and it should not be practiced among Christians. Paul goes on to say in verse 11 of the same chapter, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is a called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat.” That leaves us with an awesome responsibility as we are counseling these women. If our counselees will not put off these sins, then we have a responsibility to begin church discipline because we’re not even to eat with such a one who is practicing these sins.
  • Ephesians 5:3: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:13: “The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” Paul goes on in verse 18 of that same chapter to say, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.”

This past year, I had a young woman come in to me for counseling who was addicted to pornography. My husband and I have counseled men who have been addicted to pornography, but this was the first woman that I have counseled with this addiction. Interestingly enough, she never came back for the second appointment. We had a great session together. I gave her some homework. I gave her some guidelines on how to protect herself. She called me and she said, “I need to reschedule.” I thought, “No, she’s not coming back.” I knew when she left the office that she was not serious about putting off this sin. Sexual sins are some of the hardest to break.

6. Anger and wrath.

Anger is a quick temper of violent passion or a deep smoldering bitterness. One man describes anger like this: It’s a growing inner anger like sap in a tree on a hot day, which swells the trunk and the branches until they’re in danger of bursting. That’s a good definition. Now, if we would be truthful, we would all admit that we have all had that inner feeling sometimes of being frustrated or angry. In fact, before my conversion, I used to have a real problem with my temper. This was an area that God had to change in my life after I became a believer.

Now, let’s describe wrath. Wrath is indignation. It’s a more abiding and settled habit of your mind, like a roaring furnace. It’s like passion or fierceness. In fact, the Greeks would liken it to fire in straw that flares up briefly and then it’s gone. That’s wrath. You might ask, “What is the difference between wrath and anger?” Anger often lies below the surface and gives rise to eruptions of wrath. Wrath is that outward anger boiling over or a sudden outburst of anger.

Anger and wrath are extremely hurtful and dangerous. I have counseled many women who are haunted by things that they have said in a moment of rage. In fact, one woman that I’m getting ready to let go after working with her for a year now—which is way too long—shoved her pastor against the wall two or three months ago. Per the last email I got from her two weeks ago, she broke her arm in a fit of rage. She has not made any changes. She’s actually getting worse. As a result, in our last session I’m going to compel her to repent of her sins and give her life to the Lordship of Christ because I think a year is long enough to begin to see some changes.

Anger is very destructive. Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” must have never been the recipient of anger and wrath because they are very hurtful. In fact, my daughter-in-law just recently told me that murder is the number one cause of death among pregnant women because of an angry husband or an angry boyfriend. Obviously, this is a sin that’s not just committed by women, but by men as well. We are living in a society that seems to be exploding with angry men, women, and children. All you have to do is get on the freeway and you’ll see people who are angry because you’re not driving correctly.

What does God say about this sin?

  • Colossians 3:8 says to put off anger and wrath.
  • Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”
  • Matthew 5:22 where Jesus says, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
  • Psalm 37:8 says, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.”

This is a very dangerous sin among women.

7. Lying, deception, and hypocrisy.

Lying means to utter an untruth or attempt to deceive by falsehood. Lying really is all manner of hypocrisy and deception. We know that lying is from the devil. As Jesus says in John 8:44, the devil is the father of all lies. Lying has nothing to do with our Father in Heaven. Paul says in Titus 1:2 that God is a God who cannot lie.

We know that we come out of the womb speaking lies, right? I have three grandsons. They’re all so cute and I love every one of them, but they are sinful and came out of the womb speaking lies. Psalm 58:3 says that. In fact, I remember that the last spanking that my father gave me as a little girl was for lying, and he whipped the tar out of me. I can still remember on a Sunday morning running down the hall to the bedroom saying, “Daddy, please don’t spank me, please don’t spank me.” He did. He spanked me very hard for lying.

As we grow up, we get a little bit more sophisticated in our lying, don’t we? Counselees will pretend to be something that they’re not. They will pretend to be spiritual in church when they aren’t at home, and that is a lie. What is worse is that their kids and their husbands see right through that. They might sell a house, a car, or any other personal item and lie about the value of it. I heard a woman one time after the phone rang say to her child, “Tell so-and-so Mommy is not at home.” That’s a lie. What is worse is that the child saw that. In fact, I was washing my car not too long ago, sitting in one of those places where they wash your car for you and you’re waiting. This lady was on her cell phone and she said, “I’m on my way as we speak.” I thought, “You’re not on your way as you speak. You’re sitting right there and you’re lying. You’re lying to that person.” Many women embellish stories to make them look good or to make the story interesting. That’s an untruth; it’s a lie. They’ll tell somebody that they’ll be somewhere at a certain time or do something for them and they don’t. They’re not a person of their word. That’s lying.

In fact, I was listening to a tape recently about the lying that’s going on in our nation right now. This tape said that if a person lies and is comfortable with lying, that person will fall to any temptation because they never have to fear being discovered because they’re so good at deception.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:25 that we are to put away lying and instead we are to speak the truth to our neighbor because we’re members of each other.

Now, before I go on, you might be wondering, “Susan, why didn’t you list marriage problems as one of the seven predominant sins that women commit?” Marriage problems are indeed a major reason that I counsel women, but most of the seven sins I just mentioned can be a result of marriage difficulties. Marriage difficulties can cause women to be depressed, to be angry, to be deceptive, to have deep-rooted bitterness, to have unforgiveness towards their spouse, to be involved in ungodly speech, and in some cases—especially if adultery has taken place—to be envious or jealous. Marriage difficulties can cause those seven sins and those seven sins can actually cause marriage difficulties. It’s kind of like a cycle.

As I said earlier, if you are counseling someone and I have not listed one of the sins that you are trying to help them with, the next sections will be very practical no matter what sin they are in.

Seven Powerful Motivations for Putting Off Sin

Paul says in Colossians 3:5 that we are to mortify or put to death our members. We really do not have a choice. We must do it ourselves and we must also teach our counselees to put sin to death. That Greek word means “to kill, to reckon as dead, to make a corpse of sin, and to deprive it of its power” and indicates that we are to do it now; we’re not to postpone it. I’ve talked to some women who say, “Well, don’t you think we’re just supposed to wean ourselves gradually from sin?” I say, “That’s ludicrous. Where is that in the Scripture? Show me the verse that says we’re to gradually wean ourselves from sin.” Paul says in Romans 6:1, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” I don’t see anywhere in Scripture that we gradually wean ourselves from sin. We fight against sin every day.

How can we, as counselors, convince our counselees to put off sin? Let’s look at the seven powerful biblical motivations for putting sin to death. Each of these motivations is worth going over during a counseling session with those counselees that are slow in putting sin to death.

1. The wrath of God is coming on the disobedient.

Paul says in Colossians 3:5 that we’re to put away fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire, covetousness and idolatry. He gives a reason why: for the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. Wrath is a word for violent, passionate punishment. The verb “is coming” is in the present tense in the Greek, indicating the certainty of this future event and suggesting that God’s wrath has already begun. It is and it has. God’s wrath has already begun and it will culminate in the future.

Paul says that this wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience. Disobedience describes some of our counselees when they are obstinate and rebellious. Do you know what Paul is saying? This verse would indicate that those whom you are counseling who refuse to put off sin are sons of disobedience. God is holy. He cannot allow sin; therefore His wrath comes because of sin.

I think we can see the manifestation of God’s wrath poured out upon our nation. That’s no surprise when you consider the beliefs of the average Christian—not the average person. A recent survey among Christians revealed that:

  • 97 percent of Christians believe that God is forgiving;
  • 96 percent of Christians believe that God is loving;
  • 37 percent of Christians believe that God is judging; and
  • only 19 percent of Christians believe that God punishes those who do wrong.

I’m always amazed when a woman comes into me for counseling and tells me that she has no fear of disobeying God. I assume she does not take God seriously. She has no fear of judgment. If she doesn’t take God seriously, then she doesn’t take her marriage, the raising of her children, sexual purity, humility, repentance, honesty, faithfulness, lying, cheating, stealing, or any other sin seriously. Why would she? She doesn’t take God seriously. I repeat: The wrath of God is coming.

2. These sins are an indication of the old life.

We need to teach our counselees that they are dead to self, dead to sin, and alive with Christ. Again Paul says in Colossians 3:3, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” The word “dead” comes from a Greek word that refers to a definite act. You died. We need to teach our counselees that their former life died in all the evil of it when they came to Christ. They’re dead to self and they’re dead to sin.

It’s just like how someone who is dead physically doesn’t care what you do with their body because they’re dead. It doesn’t matter what you do with their body. In fact, a few months ago, my mother passed away in Russia. She was on a trip. It was a series of some hard events for me and my siblings as her children. We were trying to get her body back from Russia. Everything was kind of a fog at the time. We buried her in Oklahoma. About two weeks later, my sister called and said, “Oh no. I just found mother’s wishes. She wanted to be buried in that yellow dress, and we buried her in the purple dress.” I said, “Janet, we are not exhuming her body to change mother’s dress. We’re not going to do it. Mother is dead. She’s in glory. She doesn’t care what you do with her body.”

It’s the same with our counselees. They have died spiritually. Their life is hidden with Christ. They have died to earthly entrapping. Our counselees need to consider themselves dead to the things of this world just like a dead corpse.

3. Those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

First Corinthians 6:9 says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived…” We are counseling women who are deceived. I was one of them until I was 30 years of age. I thought I was a believer. The passage continues: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified…”

You know what I do when I’m counseling a woman with predominant sins who will not put them off? I return to passages like this and I have her read them to me out loud. I say, “Would you please turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 6? Would you please read that passage to me?” She does. Then I say, “What does that mean? What does that say?” She replies, “Well, let’s see. It says that those who do these things aren’t going to enter into heaven.” Then I ask, “So what does that mean in your case?” She’s caught and replies, “I guess I’m not going to heaven.” Then I say, “Right, if you continue to practice these things, God says that you are not going to inherit the kingdom of heaven. He even says not to be deceived.”

Some other passages to turn to and have your counselees read out loud to you are:

  • Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • Revelation 21:8: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
  • Revelation 22:14-15: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
  • 1 John 3:8-10: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God…Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”

Some counselees think that they can retain ongoing sin and go to heaven, but I don’t know what you do with the above passages. I would have them read those passages to you and talk about them.

4. The Lord’s coming.

The Lord’s coming should be a motivation for holy living. Consider the following passages:

  • Colossians 3:4, where Paul says that when Christ who is our life will appear, we will appear with Him in glory.
  • 1 John 3:1-2: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is….” Then in verse 3 John says something very interesting: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
  • Revelation 20:11-15: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

The fact that the Lord is coming should motivate our counselees to live holy.

5. Ongoing sin has terrible consequences.

If you are counseling someone who has a repeated habit of sin, I would encourage you to have them look at the following passages for homework assignments:

  • Deuteronomy 28: Study the chapter and chart all the blessings of obedience and all the curses of disobedience. It should cause them to fall on their face. I was looking at it last night and the list is just unbelievable. Your health, your crops, your children, and everything will be cursed if you continue in disobedience.
  • Acts 5: Study the example of Ananias and Sapphira who agreed together to lie to the Holy Spirit. They were struck dead.
  • The study of David’s child being taken from him when the child was only 7 days old because of David’s adultery with Bathsheba.
  • 1 Corinthians 11: Read where Paul tells the church at Corinth that many were sick and weak, and many had even died because they came to the Lord’s supper with sin in their life and brought judgment on themselves.
  • Matthew 18: Study church discipline and ongoing sin. I remember one time I was counseling a young woman and she would not have sexual relations with her husband. I tried to help her lovingly. I even emailed Martha Peace for some help because it was kind of a difficult situation and gave the woman a good book to read. Finally, after about two or three months, I said, “If you do not move back into the bedroom, I will be bringing one of the elder’s wives with me next time I come.” Of course, then she cried and she moved back into the bedroom.
  • Additional examples: Cain and Abel; Ahab and Jezebel; Jonah and Nineveh. The examples in the Scriptures of what happens with ongoing sin are endless.

Several weeks ago I was counseling a young, 16-year-old girl who is bulimic and her mother was in the room. I finally asked her mother to leave because I figured she wasn’t going to open up to me too much with her mother there. After her mother left, we began to talk more and I said, “Do you want to die?” She said, “Well, no!” Then I said, “You’re going to die. You’re going to die if you continue to make yourself throw up. I would know because many years ago I was anorexic for a year. I quit menstruating.” I even showed her pictures of myself during the time that I was anorexic. I told her, “I did irreparable damage to my heart and lungs during that time. You will die, if you do not stop this.”

6. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit and is displeasing to God.

We need to teach our counselees this. Take them to some of the following passages:

  • Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Do not quench the Spirit.”
  • 1 John 3:22: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
  • 1 John 2:3-4: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

7. Sin gives a foothold to Satan.

We need to teach our counselees that ongoing sin gives a foothold to Satan. Consider the following passages:

  • 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I had a perfect illustration of this last week when I was in Tahoe speaking at a lady’s conference. I was walking my sister back to her car and we got chased by a bear. I was looking at this verse and was thinking, “Why didn’t Peter put a roaring bear?” We turned around and hightailed it out of there. I thought both of us were going to have heart attacks. This verse became very real to me because as a result of all of the fires in Tahoe, the bears had come down to elevation and they were hungry. I didn’t want one eating me, so I ran. That’s what the devil is like. He’s a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We need to teach our counselees to “resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing the same sufferings are experienced by [their] brotherhood in the world (v. 9).”
  • Luke 22:31, where the Lord says to Peter, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
  • Ephesians 4:26-27: “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”
  • Ephesians 6:11-12: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Our counselees need to understand that Satan will entrap them and will devour them if they do not repent of their sins.

Seven Practical Tips for Helping Women Put Off Sin

1. Scripture memorization.

I can honestly say that I have seen the Lord use this over and over again to change women’s lives. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

I wish I had more time to go into this. If you want to get the ACBC workshop from 2004 “The Importance of Scripture Memorization in Counseling,” I would encourage you to do so. That’s another whole lecture in itself. I could give you story after story of women to whom I have assigned memorization, such as Psalm 42 or Psalm 43 on depression. I have had them memorize Scripture to meditate on. It has truly revolutionized their minds and the way they think about God, themselves, and others. I would encourage you to get the tape of the workshop I mentioned that would hopefully give you some help.

2. Journaling.

What I mean by journaling is writing down the answers to the following questions:

  • What is causing her to be angry? What is she thinking when she becomes angry?
  • What is causing her to be depressed? What is she thinking? Where is she when it happens?
  • What is causing her to lust after someone else’s husband?

Have your counselee write down what she is thinking and then what she should be thinking. Sometimes I will begin counseling a woman and I say, “This week, I want you to journal what is going on, why you are you angry, and what’s causing this anger.” If she doesn’t know how to fill out the second part of that journal of what she should be thinking, I’ll help her with it the next time we meet using the following pattern: “This is what you were doing and this is what you were thinking. This is what you should be doing and this is what you should be thinking.”

I have found Martha Peace’s book The Excellent Wife to be of tremendous help in charting. I probably use that book more than any other book outside of the Bible in counseling. It is very helpful and has great charts in it about putting off and putting on. Self-confrontation Manual by John Broger is also very good. It gives “Victory over Failure” worksheets that I usually assign and give to my counselees as they go home and do homework. We need to teach them how to put love on over lust, forbearance over fighting, and telling the truth over lying. But the only way that you can teach them is if they will journal and tell you what they are thinking and what they are doing.

3. Fasting and praying.

Ask your counselee, “How much have you prayed about this problem? Have you ever fasted?”

I will often ask counselees those questions, and more often than not they’ll say that they have never prayed about it. No wonder they’re coming in for counseling. They haven’t even prayed.

Philippians 4:6 says that we’re not to be anxious about anything but we’re to pray about everything. We’re to pray without ceasing. In fact, in Matthew 17:21 when Jesus is answering the disciples’ question about why they couldn’t cast out a particular demon, He said that the kind of demon does not come out except by prayer and fasting.

My book With the Master on Our Knees has two chapters on fasting and praying. I am convinced that we do not see more victory in the lives of the women we counsel because we do not pray, they don’t pray, and we don’t fast. I would encourage you to make sure you allow time for prayer in every one of your sessions before your counselee comes, with her while she’s there, and when she leaves.

4. Call sin, sin.

Don’t use psychologized terms. For example, I am expecting to start counseling a woman who said that her husband is bipolar. Don’t let them use those terms, but instead look at what the Bible says. Let’s name the sin. Here are some examples of what a counselee may say and how you can put it in biblical terms:

  • “I have an addiction.”
    Oh, you mean, you have a sin?
  • “I’m an alcoholic.”
    No, you’re a drunkard.
  • “I have a problem with self love.”
    You’re selfish.
  • “I come from a dysfunctional family.”
    Who doesn’t come from a dysfunctional family? We’re all dysfunctional because we’re all sinners.
  • “I had an affair.”
    You mean you committed adultery.
  • “Oh, you know, I told my husband a white lie.”
    You mean that you lied.
  • “I am depressed.”
    You have a self-focus.
  • “Well, you know, I just got a little frustrated with my spouse last night.”
    You mean that you got angry. Martha Peace tells us that even inner frustrations are anger, and she’s right.

Do not minimize their sin.

5. Hold them accountable for assignments, whether it’s a written assignment or an oral assignment.

I have had women who will not complete their homework. Some don’t even start it. I counseled a woman for several months and finally, I said, “You know, I’ve given you assignments now for two months and you haven’t done one of them. You have not done one assignment.” Let them know that you’ll set up their next appointment when they complete their assignment.

There is no way to chart their progress without completion of assignments. If they’re not going to do their assignments, more than likely I guarantee that they are not interested in truly changing, and so you’re probably wasting your time.

6. Go the extra mile when needed.

A few months back, I had a young woman that was observing my counseling because she wanted to become certified. We had been working with a woman who lived two hours away and we weren’t getting anywhere. Finally, I called her pastor and I said, “You know, I think I need to have a meeting with you and her husband. We need to get on the same page because I don’t think we’re giving the same counsel.” Now that took a lot of my time. We drove two hours to another city, we spent about two hours in the city, and we drove two hours back. That was six hours of my time, but it had a lot of results. The pastor and I got on the same page, I got to meet her husband and find out what the plan was, and I found another woman in their church that could also help this woman.

It was worth my time, but it was a sacrifice. It may mean that you have to sacrifice your time, your energy, your money, or your sleep. I’ve had women call me in the middle of the night. I don’t encourage that, but I’ve had some women in crisis and they’ve called in the middle of the night. We need to be willing to go the extra mile. Isn’t that what Jesus said? “If your brother asks you to go a mile, go with him two; if he asks for your coat, give him your cloak also.” They need to see that you love them with the love of Jesus Christ and that you will go the extra mile if needed. I’m not talking about enabling them. Don’t enable them, but love them.

7. If a woman is really continuing on in sin and will not repent, make sure that she is truly redeemed.

If the woman that you’re counseling is not obtaining victory over sin, go over the issues of salvation with her: the gospel, repentance, and the lordship of Christ. As I said earlier, I was deceived for many years. I was very religious, I knew all the jargon, I even read my Bible every day, but I didn’t have a changed heart. I grew up in a pastor’s home, but it wasn’t until the age of 30 that I truly repented of my sin and turned my life over to the lordship of Jesus Christ. That’s when my life changed. I have a real burden for these women that come into my office who I see may not be truly saved. I have a passion for these women who think that they are redeemed and yet they are not and there’s no victory over sin.

If you are interested in some of the things that I do, as far as questions I ask, you can see the study questions from my book With the Master in the School of Tested Faith, which is a Bible study for women on the epistle of James. Those are copyrighted, so do not use them other than for your personal use.


Let’s quickly go over where we’ve been.

The seven predominant sins women commit are:

  1. Depression;
  2. bitterness and unforgiveness;
  3. gossip, slander, flattery;
  4. coveting, jealousy, envy;
  5. sexual sins;
  6. anger and wrath; and
  7. lying, deception, and hypocrisy.

The seven powerful motivations for putting off sin are:

  1. The wrath of God is coming;
  2. these sins are an indication of their old life;
  3. those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven;
  4. the Lord is coming;
  5. ongoing sin has terrible consequences;
  6. sin grieves the Holy Spirit; and
  7. sin gives a foothold to Satan.

The seven practical tips are: 

  1. Scripture memorization;
  2. journaling;
  3. fasting and praying;
  4. calling sin, sin;
  5. holding them accountable for assignments;
  6. going the extra mile; and
  7. making sure of their salvation.

If your counselee were the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, I trust Mr. Edwards would not say to a prospective husband: “No, you cannot have her. She has a temper and worse than that, she is given to outbursts of anger. No, you cannot have her. She’s been evil, and she’s involved in gossip and blasphemy. Every once in a while, she comes up with the dirtiest jokes that aren’t even fit for a sailor to tell. No, you can’t have her. She cannot be trusted to tell the truth.”

I trust that our counselees will hear not only from the lips of their earthly father, but more importantly from the lips of their heavenly Father: “Yes, you can have her. She will do you good, and not evil all the days of her life. She is full of compassion and kindness and gentleness. She can be fully trusted. She’s an honest woman. She’s a virtuous woman. Her price is far above rubies. She will make you a good bride as her actions show that she is truly a part of the bride of Christ.”

You can buy Susan’s booklet on this topic, Helping Women Put Off Life-Dominating Sins, here.