HOW DO I BREAK FREE OF PROBLEM BEHAVIOR? This article is written to help those dear ones of Christ who continue to fail in things they cannot seem to leave behind and bring them continuing shame.
I have in mind the usual list of addictions: sex, drugs, alcohol, pornography, food, gambling, overspending, and so forth. Yes, followers of Jesus Christ can be quite faithful in parts of their lives and yet be captured by addictive behavior in other parts.
To begin with, you must start with the truth that having entrusted yourself to Jesus with the intention of following Him, you are forgiven. Completely. Forever. Permanently.
Not because you deserve it (who does?) but because JESUS determined that His death and shed blood would save you from ALL your sins – past, present, and future.
This is what the Bible means to be “saved by grace.” Grace is God doing for you what you cannot do for yourself.
However, if you see grace as an excuse to sin recklessly, I must say, with all respect, you may not have actually been converted.
The Bible says: “My dear children, I write this to you SO THAT YOU WILL NOT SIN. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
Jesus Christ has died and risen again to set us free from sin and all forms of destructive behavior. Perhaps not all addictions rise to the level of what we call sin – but they certainly are things hurtful to us which God is prepared to set us free from.
To those who are desperate to be free of this sort of behavior, let me ask you this. If you could save yourself, WHY WOULD GOD HAVE SENT YOU A SAVIOR?
You cannot save yourself from sin or addictive behavior. That is the whole point. Jesus Christ provides a full and complete salvation. Your salvation rests in JESUS CHRIST – not in YOUR efforts to overcome.
The Bible says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, NOT counting men’s sins against them.” So, who are you going to trust? You and YOUR efforts to live an overcoming life – or Jesus Christ?
We trust Jesus not only for forgiveness but we also trust Jesus Christ for DELIVERANCE from sin and destruction. Your identity as a believer is no longer that of the “sinner.” You are instead a CHILD OF GOD who struggles with sin.
You must be very clear about this. “I am forgiven child of God in Jesus Christ!” Say it out loud. That torment of despair and self-loathing is from the devil. He wants you to quit on Jesus. So, don’t you do it! JESUS CHRIST WILL NEVER QUIT ON YOU.
Jesus said, “I give my sheep eternal life and they shall NEVER perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:29).
Are you one of Jesus’ sheep? Have you given yourself over to Him? Are you His follower? Jesus is your GOOD SHEPHERD and He will not allow you to be lost. He went to awful lengths to save you. He is determined that your addictions will not defeat His saving grace.
WHAT CAN BE DONE THEN about this habitual behavior? You have probably made innumerable vows and promises to stop and yet you find it just a matter of time before you fail again. It defies logic. After each time of failure, perhaps you think, “I guess I’m just not trying hard enough.”
OR perhaps you have come to the correct conclusion: “I am beaten. I am overcome. I cannot break free of this on my own.”
These habits have become more powerful than your own will. A power greater than your own must intervene. And that power WILL intervene when you let go and let God.
“Letting go and letting God” does not mean you do nothing. It means you accept the truth about yourself – that you are powerless – and that God alone must provide the power to overcome your habits.
CONTRARY habits can and must be formed with God’s help.
Perhaps you give way to pornography. Start praying for those you have seen in those videos. Ask God to save them and heal their souls. Remember that they were once someone’s little baby boy or girl. You do that and SOMETHING is going to give way inside you.
Keep track of each day you do not give way and when you have gone 30 days REWARD yourself. Buy yourself something you wanted. Then 30 more days and reward yourself again. It will not be long before you can breathe a sigh of relief and say, “One day at a time, I am free in Jesus.”
Contrary habits will not in themselves heal the deep causes of seeking pornography or alcohol or drugs – but to an amazing degree they will get you started. Prayer for inner healing, deliverance from evil spirits, therapy, and medicine may also be called for. Almost certainly you will need a recovery group.
Of GREAT IMPORTANCE is to develop regular habits of practicing spiritual disciplines, such as time alone with God, contemplative prayer, praying in the Spirit, reading meditatively in the Scriptures DAILY, and periodic fasting.
These practices will break up the pattern of these bodily habits. I promise you, having walked with Jesus over 40 years now, increasing victory is possible. I know how painful repeated failure can be.
You must fasten yourself to the truth I mentioned earlier, that once you gave yourself to Jesus Christ, you now belong to Him forever. He has made an unbreakable covenant with you. You have entered into a state of grace. He will not leave you or forsake you. He refuses to let you go.
The addiction trigger is inner pain of some sort. Whether fear, hurt, anxiety, loneliness, or anger – inner upset drives us to find comfort. Things such as alcohol, drugs, food, sex, and excitement create a euphoria that anesthetizes the inner upset – temporarily.
As you know, these “solutions,” if persisted in, ALWAYS lead to great problems. The only enduring antidote for the inner turmoil is to experience on-going SERENITY through the peace and love of Jesus Christ.
The Twelve Steps listed below are used very successfully by recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. They are in fact modeled after early Christianity. You will progressively receive and live in Christ’s serenity as you proceed to work and re-work these steps.
1. I admitted that I was powerless over these habits and that my life had become unmanageable.
2. I came to believe that a power greater than myself, namely God, could restore me to sanity.
3. I made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God.
4. I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of my life.
5. I admitted to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
6. I became entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. I humbly asked God to remove all my shortcomings.
8. I made a list of all persons I had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. I also made a list of all persons who had harmed me, and by a decision of my will, chose to forgive each one.
9. I made direct amends to the people I had harmed wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. I continued to take personal inventory and when I was wrong promptly admitted it.
11. I sought through prayer and meditation of Scripture to improve my conscious contact with God, praying simply for the knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out.
12. Having found freedom as a result of these steps, I tried to carry this message to others with similar problems and to practice these principles in all my affairs.
In working through these steps, you will discover that God is doing for you what you could NOT do for yourself. It will be best if you can work through these steps with a group of like-minded people – at the very least with one other person.
Please know that living in the peace of Christ is not a once-for-all event. It is not “all or nothing.” We LEARN how to abide in Christ’s peace. Often, we fail. When we fail though, we pick up the pieces, turn once more to Jesus Christ, receive His forgiveness, and continue to carry on doing the next right thing.
We seek PROGRESS, not perfection. Perfection must wait till heaven.
Actions of other people are often the flashpoint of our inner turmoil. The behavior, opinions, and thoughts of others are NONE of your business. Your ONLY business now is to seek God and do whatever He wants you to do.
Your goal is to remain calm, to pause in the midst of provocation, and carefully choose your response. It is the PEACE OF CHRIST that shall rule in your heart. When anger, fear, lust, anxiety, or any such emotion rises within – pause to pray and ask God to lift those feelings.
It may be helpful when under temptation to run the video tape forward. In other words, if you take this drink or drug, or watch this porn video, or eat the ice cream, or have sex with this person – how will you feel afterwards?
Do you really want to have that shame and self-disgust again? So back away. Get off the escalator of the stimulation. Walk outside. Call your sponsor or friend. Cry out, “GOD, HELP ME!”
Have you reached a point of defeat? Is time to let go and let God?
By totally giving-up on yourself and abandoning yourself to God to do for you what you cannot do for yourself, and then to seek to do HIS will, you will begin to find God taking away your cravings.
Why? Because God is like that. He loves you more than you can know. It is your cry for mercy that moves Him – and your willingness to let God be GOD.
Abandoned to God, your focus will become quite small. Every day you simply present yourself to God and say in prayer, “God, here I am. This is your day. Fill me with your life and power. Show me what you want me to do today. Give me the desire and strength to carry it out.” Then you proceed in your day, maintaining conscious contact with God and doing the “next right thing.”
Jesus knew exactly what He was getting Himself into with you. He had no illusions about you to begin with – and there is nothing you can do to make Him change His mind about you now. You are His forever!
So, let go and let God. Turn your will and life over to the CARE of God. Follow the steps listed earlier. And trust Jesus to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
There are some articles and videos on my Facebook page you may also find helpful.