I had a fascinating discussion today with three other guys. We were talking about how to preach about holiness and drunkenness, without being judgemental.
We talked about two dangerous opposites that people fall into when seeking after holiness. Some people focus very much on personal and rigorous discipline, refusing to allow the possibility for any temptation. However the result of this is often simply repression, rather than genuine healing. The temptations remain, they are not healed, and so if the discipline cracks, an explosion is likely.
The equal and opposite approach is to focus very much on the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Being open and honest about emotions, temptations, desires, allows the Spirit to transform you inwardly, so that your desires are directed toward God, and not sin. This brings these things to the surface, hopefully so the Spirit can deal with them, but often it also enhances the temptation, making it more likely for you to fall into it.
There are very few people I imagine who would advocate one to the exclusion of the other, but there is a danger in our behaviour to tend towards one or the other. Think of it this way: which is most important? To be focused on disciplining yourself, or on being open to the Spirit's healing.
Of course, the answer is 100% of both. Repression of emotion and desire is not helpful discipline, although it may look like that. Openness to healing is not real healing if bringing things to the surface causes you to do them.
If we recognise that we fall into a certain sin or sins regularly, we need to do something about it. We need to ask God to give us the strength not to fall into temptation, to transform us so we no longer feel that temptation (it does happen, I promise!), and to work as hard as we can to make sure we don't fall into any traps.
What this looks like in real life, is regular prayer, on your own and with other people with whom you can be honest. And it means being sensible about temptation. If you struggle with drink, don't go to the pub, unless the people you're going with aren't going to drink. If you struggle with pornography, get some software that blocks it, or that emails a list of the websites you visit to someone who will hold you to account. Do these things whilst at the same time praying – and getting people to pray with and for you – about it. Be open and honest with yourself, and with someone else, about your struggles, and ask God for healing.
Discipleship (living and growing in holiness, which is the image of Christ) is really tough. And we don't help ourselves when we don't use our common sense, and when we don't ask God for his help, and when we don't make use of our fellow-Christians. One of the most important things in growing as a disciple of Jesus, is our community. We are all in this together, don't fool yourself into thinking you're the only one, or that you can sort yourself out on your own. We are all put here by God to help each other.
Of course that doesn't always work out, but it's the best (and only) way for our churches to grow in discipleship.