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

Thursday, May 9, 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. In part two we considered the role of our minds. (Remember the truth of your identity - you don’t have to sin anymore!) In part three we focused on the role of our wills. (Act on the truth of your situation - you’re in a war!) Today we will consider the role of our emotions in the fight against sinful habits.

With your emotions you must delight in the truth of eternity - sin cannot give you ultimate joy. 

What is it that you really want?
You say, “I want to change” 
… really? Do you really want to change?
Do you really want to leave your sin behind, forever? Do you hate sin, or just the consequences of sin?

Perhaps you'd admit: I want change, but I want to have change without having to break a sweat.
I want change, but I can’t say goodbye to something I love.
I want change, but only because it will make my life a little easier or save me some money or maybe it will restore my relationship with my ex-wife.
I want change…but only sometimes.
I want change…but not until tomorrow.
You will not desire real, lasting change until you desire God more than anything. Until you delight in him over all the temporary pleasures of sin.

Isaiah 55:1-3: Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!     
Open your soul to hear this invitation to partake in the joys of God! You don’t need to keep drinking sewer water - you can quench your thirst at clear, cool streams! You don't need to keep eating that gross moldy bread – you can have the good stuff fresh out of the oven! Don’t you want this more than anything?

The most effective motivations are positive motivations, because ultimately people will do what they want to do. So, what is it that you want the most?

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
“You have been set free from sin.” Addiction feels like slavery, doesn’t it? And sin is a cruel master. But sin is no longer our rightful master. “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin… [but] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36). God has redeemed us, and He is now our master. And he gives the gift of life and the fruit of holiness.
The choice between God and sin is a choice between life or death. Let the significance of that choice sink in. The stakes are incredibly high! Today you can experience distance from God by turning to sin. Or you can experience life by walking with God and focusing on the joy of eternity to come.

Titus 2:11-13: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age waiting for our blessed [happy] hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Grace teaches us to renounce sin in light of something infinitely better - our “happy hope” – the glory of Jesus!
One day Jesus will return in glory and His people will be with him forever. He will usher in his glorious kingdom and defeat all enemies of joy and righteousness. Everything evil will come untrue. The fight with temptation and sin will be over as you become perfect in holiness.

Isn’t this what you desire most? In those moments of fierce temptation, when it seems nothing else matters but gratifying your desires, grace reminds you to desire the best joys, to wait for your happy hope. Don’t sacrifice what you want most for what you want now! Sin cannot give you ultimate joy, only Jesus can. God doesn’t want to keep you from pleasure, He wants to give you the greatest pleasures!
Do you believe this?
Your ability to turn from sin and obey God is in direct proportion to your ability to believe God’s precious and very great promises of joy.

So get to know God’s promises. Get to know God. Worship Him. Sin is nothing other than misplaced worship! In order to leave your worship of sin, you must replace it with worship of the one and only true God.
It could be that you want sin more than you want God because you don’t really grasp just how good and glorious and gracious God is. Any plan to beat addiction must include a plan to know God better. Familiarize yourself with His beautiful, perfect character. He is great, He is glorious, He is delightful. Worship Him. You are not going to break free from your sinful habit without worship of the one true God.

Maybe you read this series of posts hoping for a simple, easy solution for your addiction. One simple answer. One magic pill. I'm sorry to say that it doesn’t work that way. Sin is complex, and breaking a sinful habit is complex. Getting into your addiction took time, effort, and practice, and breaking your addiction will take much more of the same. But here’s the good news: Your gracious, loving Savior is the great physician. He gives us just the right combination of healing medicines and strengthening exercises in His Word. More than that, He gives us Himself. We don’t just get the prescription, we get the doctor. We don’t just get the life ring, we get the lifeguard. We don’t just get the salvation, we get the Savior. We get Christ.

So run to Christ!
While there’s life and while there’s Christ, there’s hope. Repent today! Return to the Lord. He loves you. Remember how horrendous sin is, then remember how good God is and go to Him. He invites you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)

Run to Christ! Cling to Christ! Stay with Christ! Don’t shrink back from Him in shame. He loves you - He died on a cross to prove it. The cross has made a way! His arms are open to you.
Even when we’re faithless, He remains faithful – He cannot deny Himself.


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

Friday, May 3, 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. In part two we considered the role of our minds. (Remember the truth of your identity - you don’t have to sin anymore!) Today we will consider the role of our wills in the fight against sinful habits.

With your will you must act on the truth of your situation - you’re in a war!

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (Romans 6:12)

As a believer, you’re no longer defined by your sin. But sin still wants to dominate your life. This verse pictures sin as an heartless, malignant, vicious overlord. (If you're a Star Wars fan, picture Darth Vader. If you're a Lord of the Rings fan, picture Sauron. If you're a Harry Potter fan, picture Voldemort. You get the idea....) Sin does not have any rights over you anymore, but sin still wants to control you and make you obey its commands and destroy your life. 

Don't let your guard down! Don't forget that sin is an evil tyrant. You see, sin wants to present itself to you in a far more charming manner. It will dress itself up as an jovial entertainer, or even as a hilarious comedian. It will dress itself up as a shrewd financial planner or career adviser, telling you how to successfully allocate your money and your time. It will dress itself up as an ice cream man, dishing out treats for all to enjoy. It will dress itself up as a wise philosopher, cunning you with fine words. This is why you must know the truth of your situation! Life is not a classroom, or an ice cream shop, or a career office, or a theater. Life is a battle. You’re in a war. Sin is not your friend or your ally or your commander. Sin is your enemy!

The good news is: the war against sin has already been decided, and we’re on the winning side! D-Day is already past! The cross marked the beginning of the end for sin. But there are still battles to be fought, and you can still get seriously wounded.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments [weapons] for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments [weapons] for righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

In the battlefield of life, you have a number of weapons at your disposal. Your mind, your time, your energy, your talents, your relationships. You can give these weapons to God for his cause of righteousness in opposing sin, or you can give these weapons to sin for its cause of unrighteousness in opposing God. My friend, you’ve been brought from death to life! Why would you present your weapons to the agent of death, sin? Present all you are and all you possess to God!

Present yourselves to God” – this involves intention and action. Don’t just “let go and let God.” By the power of the Spirit within you, take up the armor of God and fight! The cross frees you and empowers you to fight! A passive approach to godliness won’t work – that is why the New Testament so often speaks of the Christian life as strenuous activity: warfare, long-distance running, physical combat. The battle is real, and the struggle is good!

In order to overcome sinful habits, you must develop a plan. There is nothing unspiritual about being intentional. Make a plan to break free from your addiction. You are not going to break free without a plan. Don't keep your options open. Destroy the sin once for all. Be brutal at killing the sin within you!
·         "I will sever all contact with my drug buddies. No excuses."
·         "Once a week I will have someone check the internet sites I visit."
·         "I will make my eating public by eating with family or a friend every night."

Your plan must be specific. The more specific, the better. Not “I’m going to ask Janet to keep me accountable” but “I’m going to call Janet this evening, speak with her honestly about my struggles, and request that she ask me about my struggles twice a week.”

Use wisdom. Discern the triggers that start you back down the road toward sin, and set up barriers right at the beginning of the road. Sometimes the road to pornography doesn’t begin with lust but with anxiety. Sometimes the road to overeating doesn’t begin with cravings but with self-pity. Sin is complex – face it honestly and aggresively.

Don’t expect permanent change overnight. Pack your bags for the long haul. But don’t let the length of the battle scare you. God gives you grace to fight the battle of today. Tomorrow He will give you grace to fight the battle of tomorrow.
Let me close with an encouraging truth: you’re not expected to fight this war alone. Cry out to God for help, even in the moment of temptation! He gives us the gift of prayer so we can call for aid in the midst of the war. Cry out to other believers as well. Fellow soldiers are all around you and are eager to help! One of the non-negotiable realities of fighting a sinful habit is this: you can’t beat it alone. Trying to beat an addiction cold turkey, all by yourself, is nearly impossible. Satan prowls like a lion – his strategy is to separate you from the herd when you are weak so he can have his way with you. Stay with the herd!

Maybe you've been been trying to beat your sinful habit alone because of shame, fear, or doubt that anyone would care. But you must reach out for help! Open up to a mature believer in your life. God sees your sin anyway – you may as well be honest about it to a faithful brother or sister in Christ. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16). Seek accountability and prayer support. In a war, a solo mission is usually a suicide mission. Team up with other soldiers. Humble yourself – You are not going to break free from your sinful habit without help from others.

By the grace of God, act on the truth of your situation - you’re in a war!

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


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