"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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