You would be surprised how many people have broken the stranglehold of crippling habits by tapping into a Higher Power. This Higher Power is superior to us in every way, including intelligence and morality. Since love is at the heart of morality, this power should be thought of, not as an Ďit,í but as a person. That staggers many people.
People sometimes end up portraying God as an impersonal force more akin to a machine or gravity than the Creator of us all. The secret attraction of this presumption is that it is easier to ignore a nebulous force than a God who thinks and feels. To call God a person, is not to say he has limitations or weaknesses or imperfections. He has no personality flaws. To say he has feelings, does not mean he is a slave to emotions. His emotions never get out of control or over-rule his intelligence and wisdom. Our highest confirmation is that he came to earth as Jesus and revealed his nature to us. If to some of us, God seems impersonal, it suggests not the shallowness of Godís nature but the shallowness of our relationship with him.
As Easy as Falling in Love
Falling in love with the most wonderful Person in the universe is the key to being liberated from powerful habits. We rightly reject a religion thatís a list of dos and doníts. To fill the unfillable hole within us, we need the exhilaration of an never-ending love affair. Without having our deepest (and often suppressed) needs satisfied, we will be forever lured by lesser things in an attempt to dull the gnawing ache. The things we unconsciously turn to could be overwork, overeating, compulsive behaviors, drugs, alcohol, inappropriate use of sex, . . . the list seems endless. Many of these things have a legitimate place, but they were never designed to meet our deepest needs. When forced into this unnatural role, they are as unsatisfactory as cardboard to a starving man, yet with nothing better to fill the emptiness, we often find ourselves enslaved to them.
Step into the Unknown
If the concepts raised in this article are foreign to you, I suggest using the following as the basis for a first-time prayer, modifying it as you feel appropriate:
"God, Iím not even sure if you exist, but I know I want to be free from [name whatever is troubling you]. My motives may not be totally pure, and I might be blind to other things in my life that also need changing, but Iím asking you to open my eyes to your existence and to my need of you. Come close to me. Open my mind as I continue to read, and give me the courage to do what I should do. In Jesusí NameÖAmen."
Itís not hard to imagine that anyone could break habits if they had the supernatural power of God flowing through them. But weíre contaminated with imperfection. God is too holy for us to relate to. The power of God would surely blow us apart, and his perfection makes him unreachable. When Jesus was crucified, however, the guilty and the innocent traded places. Jesus, the only man to ever live a perfect life, allowed himself to be treated as if he were morally corrupt, so that anyone who agrees to be part of this exchange can be treated as being innocent.
Iíve compressed something very complex into a few words, but letís skip the intricacies and get to the benefits. By Jesus accepting the penalty of death that we deserve, astounding possibilities open up, including having the Holy Spirit dwell within us, even though we have been a world away from being divinely perfect. In fact, you can enjoy powers and honors that would otherwise be reserved for God alone. And, of course, this includes the power to crush evil. Letís look at this from another angle:
A Slave to Habits
"...Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (John 8:34).
Thatís what Jesus taught, and any addict Ė whether it be to heroin or bad language, shoplifting or smoking, alcohol or anorexia, gambling or bad tempter, pornography or pedophilia, incest or masturbation Ė is forced to agree.
Behind life-controlling problems is a spiritual power. It is evil, much stronger than us, and it ultimately destroys its victims. Itís as though we have been abducted and enslaved by habits and evil forces. Resistance is useless. When you are a slave, if your master barks an order, you obey. Heíll whip your flesh to shreds until you do. He owns you. Your only hope of escape from a slave master is if he beats you to death or if another master buys you. That habit has you by the throat.
"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
At the astounding cost of this own lifeblood, Jesus has offered to Ďbuyí you from your slave owner, paying your ransom to release you from you abductorís death grip:
1 Corinthians 6:20, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Think of it as a prisoner exchange in which the innocent Son of God traded places with you. Thatís what the cross is all about. Jesus let himself become evil's plaything, in exchange for your release. Evil did to Christ what it would have done to you. He was harassed, bullied, beaten, bound, tortured, killed. Once that evil tyrant had Jesus in his power, however, he discovered Jesus was too strong for him. The victim became victor! Innocence won! In Jesus, good overpowered evil, guaranteeing your release, by defeating the forces of evil and rising triumphant from the grave.
If you accept Jesusí offer, that cruel tyrant no longer owns you; your loving Savior does. Those forces that once enslaved you, can try their old tricks, threatening you with all their hellish fury, luring you with all their seductive charm, and you can just walk away. Drugs, drink, lust, greed, or whatever, havenít changed. But they no longer own you...Jesus does (1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Romans 6:1-22). But note this: If Jesus isnít our loving master, sin is. If we donít obey Jesusí wise commands, weíll have to jump when sin commands.
We hate the idea of being pushed around by evil. The thought of being bossed around by God, however, seems not a lot more pleasant Ė until we discover that God is nothing like the selfish, power-hungry fun-spoiler we imagined him to be. Discovering that God is devoted to maximizing your happiness is a most liberating experience. He is the God who made every good thing we have ever enjoyed. How could we ever have imagined that he is a killjoy? And somehow weíve ended up with the preposterous notion that God frowns on us Ė the One who loves us with such intensity as to pour out his blood for us when we were at our very worst.
The reality is that from the moment that you are truly born again, God is thrilled with you. We might hold that thought for a few hours, but it quickly slips away. We often think that if God were ever pleased with us, it was some time in the past, not now. Why is that so hard to believe that God is smiling on us right now? Because we have a highly intelligent spiritual enemy who knows the only way he can dominate us is if he can weaken the joyful trust and delight with which we run into Godís loving, powerful arms the moment we encounter the slightest difficulty.
Receiving supernatural power to break the evil hold of habits, hinges on a spiritual transaction. You canít even trade an old car for a brand new one without some sort of formal agreement, much less an old life for a new one. In essence, you agree to enter into a life-long relationship with Jesus, in which everything you have becomes his (your sin Ė thatís what killed him Ė your time, money, relationships, etc.) and everything he has becomes yours (his perfection, power, completeness, never-ending life, spiritual riches, status with God, etc.). In every way, you win and Jesus gets the raw end, but God, in the intensity of his love for you, wants this more than you can imagine.
Holiness, righteousness, sanctification, holy living, and piety are words that have largely disappeared because they remind us of the dreary, stern, holier-than-thou mentality that turns Godís stomach. Genuine love, strength of character, dependability, Christ-likeness, inner beauty, victorious Christian living Ė these are the things we pine for. And we can enjoy them to the max without fear of artificiality or dullness. We were made to live life to the fullest
When, through Jesus, almighty God dwells inside of us, the power of enslaving habits is shattered. Amazingly, however, many of us continue to act as slaves to habits that no longer have any power over us! We are so mesmerized by the way things once were that we fail to grasp that everything is now utterly different.
Circus trainers typically drive a huge stake into the ground and chain a baby elephant to it. The baby pulls and strains in every direction day after day. The stake never budges. When the elephant grows and finally reaches full strength, the trainers tie the powerful beast to a tiny tent peg with a thin rope. The elephantís past has fooled it into thinking that whenever it is in this situation it cannot break free. So year after year it remains bound, when at any moment it could rip up the peg, trample the man who orders it around, and run free.
You can act like that dumb animal and let evil make a fool of you, or you could take God at his word and win that tug-of-war with wrongdoing. Like pulling a tent peg, breaking a habit still takes effort, but God has promised: he has made you stronger than the habit. If we are now servants of Jesus, sin is powerless to enforce the hold it once had over us. The chain feels the same, but things are different.
Up a pole
By surrendering to Almighty God, servants of Christ have the invincible power of God within them. That means the only temptation that the followers of Christ ever give in to is one they could have conquered. They see no other type of temptation. Usually, for no rational reason, just a fraction before victory, they give up.
Itís as though you are climbing a slippery 30 foot pole blindfolded. You almost reach the top and then start thinking, This is hopeless! I could only last a few more feet and this pole must go on forever! So, with victory just inches from your grasp, you give up and slide all the way down. You hit bottom and immediately regret it. Soon you decide to climb all the way up again. So up you go, almost make it, then the Whisperer starts suggesting that you are no where near the top. You foolishly believe him, get so discouraged that you stop trying, and, instead of taking the victory you had fought hard for, you slide down again. Up and down you go, month after month, though each time it gets still harder because you feel more and more defeated. Some people laugh at you. Some despise you. But the fact is, your courage is amazing. Even those who needed only one attempt might not have had the perseverance to keep trying the way you do. You end up climbing hundreds of feet, instead of the mere 30 feet that was required. And the ridiculous thing is that each time you gave up, you did so because you imagined giving up was the easy option!
The Enemy gives up, too, you know. When he fought Jesus in the wilderness, after his exhausting attempts he scurried back to his hole for a while. Everyone knows it takes just days, or at most a few weeks, to break the back of habits and addictions. Itís a battle of wits: who will give up first, you or your enemy? The God on whose dependability every law of physics depends, guarantees that you can outlast your opponent.
Temptation is an attempt to Swindle You
To say, ĎOne little sin wonít hurt,í is like trying to convince someone that a little step off the edge of a skyscraper wonít hurt. When the crafty serpent whispers that something God asks you to do is too frightening or painful, he is trying to con you into imagining that the all-knowing God, who on the cross gave everything for you, doesnít have your best interest at heart. Who would have thought anyone could be duped into believing such foolishness? To disobey our wonderful Lord is to foolishly believe a lie. In any circumstance, obeying God is the one thing you can do that youíll be forever thankful for. To sin is to fall for a dirty trick.
Know your Enemy
Imagine you had been kidnapped as a baby and brought up by an evil man who constantly forced you to do criminal acts for him. After many years, your real father tracks you down, rescues you, and secures your captorís conviction. The man is jailed, never to be released. As he fumes in prison, his consuming passion is to execute revenge by tormenting you. Yet there is no way he can touch you. Prisoners can write letters. All other contact with the outside world is impossible. Finally, he hatches his scheme. He will write threatening letters to you, demanding you continue doing the evil things you used to do for him. He will also use false names to deceitfully become your pen friend and write things to discourage or corrupt you, or make you think poorly of your father, if you could be foolish enough to believe such lies.
Thatís very close to the devilís dealings with you. Now that Jesus has rescued you, the worst the adversary can do to you is tell lies. Nothing more. Thatís why at every stage of your life, faith is the bottom line. What will you believe; the truth of God, or the craft serpent's concoctions? Who will you regard as trustworthy; the Faker, or the One who gave his all for you?
A cruel lie. Thatís what temptation is. We counter-attack by finding the appropriate truth and clinging to it, choosing to believe Godís truth and rejoicing in it, no matter how convincing the adversary's bluff seems. Thatís exactly what Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness. The lies were most persuasive. Scripture was even quoted, but Jesus beat him by latching on to the appropriate word of God, refusing to accept anything contrary to it.
Godís promise to give us power over temptation, is often the truth to grab. In other situations, other truths may be required. If you have difficulty finding the specific truth appropriate to your trial, ask godly friends and family, or your pastor. We are set free not by positive thinking (by our own effort), but by looking to the God of the Bible. It is this method of attack that empowers you to beat depression.
In a Nutshell
The scripture urges us to become like past spiritual heroes who, through faith and patience, have received Godís promises. "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12). This key verse reinforces three things:
(1) God has promised you victory (Hebrews 2:18):
We might think we deserve to be abandoned by God and left a prisoner to sin. The Judge, however, treats us not on the basis of our self-evaluation, but on the basis of his declaration. The Upholder of the universe cannot break a promise. Our almighty Savior has invested everything to ensure we win. The Almighty will not give up on you. Donít give up on yourself.
(2) Faith is essential (Hebrews 11:6):
Our faith should reach the point where we are so certain of the promised victory that we rejoice in it before we even experience it. So forget your failures and instead focus on Christís success. Amazingly, your supernatural union with him makes Christís achievements your achievements. Celebrate!
And focus not on temptation, but on Godís love and beauty. Take your eyes off your own shortcomings and keep thinking about how wonderful God is, and how much he loves you. As you keep this up, faith and spiritual life will mushroom. Loving, trusting, and enjoying God will follow almost effortlessly. Itís easy to trust someone that you know loves you so deeply and wants your very best, and who is so strong and wise. As you begin to fall in love with God, you will long to stay close to him, and in that closeness you will find divine protection.
Enjoy God and youíll enjoy success. Donít struggle, enjoy! Thatís what faith is all about.
(3) The need for patience proves you might well feel like giving up, even though every thing is on track:
Hold on. Almighty God has vowed that you can do it. Donít miss out by giving up that bit too soon. Your breakthrough is on its way!
Return to Sin
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