"I Can't Overcome This Sinful Habit!" (part two)

Friday, April 26, 2013

In part one of this series we were reminded that in order for lasting change to happen in your struggle against addictions, your entire being – mind, will, and emotions – must be affected by God's truth. Today we will consider the role of our minds in the fight against sinful habits.

With your mind you must remember the truth of your identity - you don’t have to sin anymore!

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
 (Romans 5:20-6:2)

Why shouldn’t we continue in sin? Because we don’t have to! We are no longer chained to sin.

Dogs are gonna bark. Cows are gonna moo. Birds are gonna fly. Rocks are gonna just lie there. Snowflakes are gonna fall. Rivers are gonna run. Sinners are gonna sin. But you don’t have to sin because you’re not a sinner! You may feel like you have to sin, but you don’t have to sin! Because Jesus died and rose, you died to sin and rose to life.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

Christians often say, “Well, I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”  This is true, but it is not the whole truth! “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Cor. 5:17). It’s much more accurate to say: “I used to be just a sinner, but now that I have been saved by grace, I am free to be much more in Christ!”

You may object: “I still sin, so doesn’t that make me a sinner?” No more than rolling around in mud makes you a pig! “Sinner” is no longer your basic nature or your primary identity. You are not defined by your addiction. In Christ you are a “saint” – a holy one. That’s your new identity. But here’s the key – you need to remember that truth. It’s so easy for us to forget. We have to activate our minds to focus on the truth of our identity so that we can be who we are.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)
In Christ, we are "holy ones." We are alive to God. So let’s remember our identity and act on it!

The role of the mind is so important when battling addictions. When we are faced with sin’s temptation, our minds can be very clever at coming up with sinful rationale and excuses. (Often our minds are at their sharpest when trying to rationalize a sinful behavior!) In the moment of sinful desire you will be tempted to think, “I’ll go ahead and sin, God will forgive me.” My exhortation to you is to “embrace the grace of power before you sin as intensely as you do the grace of pardon after you sin” (John Piper). Actively remind yourself who you are. Consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. A slide into sin usually begins in your mind. That’s a great place to stop it.

Remember the truth of your identity - you don’t have to sin anymore!

In our next post, we'll consider how our wills must be affected by the truth of God's Word in order to overcome sinful habits... 


"I Can't Overcome This Sinful Habit!" (part one)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Humans are, by nature, creatures of habit.  In many cases, this is a good thing. I'm glad I don't have to re-learn how to brush my teeth every day. It would be a real pain to have to read a manual on driving every time I step into my car. Praise God for the gift of habit!

However, our habitual nature becomes a detriment when sin enters the picture. The human heart has a way of turning all kinds of activities - including activities that are not inherently wrong - into sinful habits that control us and enslave us and harm ourselves and others. Common sinful habits include alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual addictions (mainly pornography), gambling, compulsive lying, overeating, oversleeping, outbursts of anger, self-inflicted pain, sports obsession, video game obsession, long hours in front of the TV, social media obsession, an out-of-control imagination...the list could go on and on....

Most likely, at least one of the items in that list has been a particular struggle for you. Maybe you think you have your sinful habit under control, but the fact that it’s a habit means that you’re under its control. Call it what it is: Enslavement. Bondage to sin. And because most addictions are related to the body, the chains are strong and extremely tangled and can seem impossible to shake off.

Is it even possible to overcome this addiction? Absolutely - if you know Christ you’re a new creation! You’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit! Temptation will continue for the rest of your life, but you can stop the habit. “God is faithful…with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape” (I Cor. 10:13).

So how can I overcome my sinful habit? What should I do when I keep repeating the same sin? 
It won’t be simple, it won’t be easy – but here's some good news: the most significant work has already been done…by Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Nothing you have done is so bad that you can’t be forgiven by Christ. Some of the greatest heroes of our faith - Moses, David, and Paul – were former murderers! God can forgive you, too. But don't make the mistake of trying to earn God’s forgiveness. Don't think, “If I can just get this wicked activity out of my life and visit with God every Sunday morning…do a few good deeds here and there…maybe then God will accept me.” Being a Christian is much more than going to church and being a good person. It is becoming a child of God through the work of Jesus in your place on the cross. Receive Him, and you can be forgiven no matter what you’ve done.

Mark it down - You are not going to break free from your sinful habit without the gospel.

Forgiven children of God will be tempted by sin and will give in at times. But they are always convicted and cannot remain comfortable in sin. The Spirit of God will reprove us until we are back on the right path. "The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…. If you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Heb. 12:6-8). If you’re caught in an addiction, but you haven’t given up and you want to defeat your sin for God’s glory, my prayer is that you can find some real hope and some real help in the gospel.

Here's something you need to be aware of, right up front: You are not going to break free from your sinful habit without God’s Word. We are made holy by God’s truth – His Word is truth (John 17:17). In order for lasting change to happen, your entire being – mind, will, and emotions – must be affected by God's truth.

Sin, at its core, is deceptive. Satan is the “father of lies” – he’s very good at deceiving you in the moment of temptation. Every time you sin, it is because you have temporarily rejected a promise of God and believed a lie of Satan. Consider some of these common lies about your sinful habit:
·         Just one more time won’t hurt.
·         You’re in control – you can stop anytime you want to.
·         It’s not a big deal if you sin – God will forgive you, right?
·         It won’t really be that harmful if you’re careful.
·         How can something that feels so good be wrong?
·         God’s way is miserable. The way of sin is fun. Why should you miss out?
·         It’s too embarrassing to seek help from a fellow Christian.
·         You’re all alone – nobody else struggles with your sin.
·         You’ve blown it already – God won’t forgive you.
·         You’re in it too deepit’s too late to change.
·         There is no way of escapeyou will give in sooner or later.
·         It’s someone else’s fault that you struggle with this.
·         It’s God’s fault that you struggle with this.
·         God wouldn’t let you struggle with this so much if He really loved you.

My friend, don’t believe these lies! Believe the truth of God. He has given us very great and precious promises in Christ, so that we can escape the corruption of the world (2 Peter 1:4).

In our next post, we'll consider how our minds must be affected by the truth of God's Word in order to overcome sinful habits...


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