a publication of Life Action Ministries
Change Is it really possible?
Winter 2011 Volume 42, Issue 1 www.LifeAction.org/revive
6 Is Change Really Possible? Del Fehsenfeld III
Killing Your Sin
When Desires Go Bad
Do You Neglect the Holy Spirit?
Free at Last!
Brian G. Hedges
Spirit of Revival Change . . . We Can Believe In
Del Fehsenfeld III
From the Heart
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Daniel W. Jarvis
What’s Your Story?
Counter Lies with Truth
Executive Director: Byron Paulus Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Creative Director: Aaron Paulus Senior Designer: Thomas A. Jones
Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Assistant Editor: Kim Gwin Art Director: Tim Ritter Production: Wayne Lake
Volume 42, Issue 1 Copyright © 2011 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved.
Moving Past Zero
addiction to pornography
Making It Personal
Is addiction an excuse?
A husband and father struggles with an
Kissing the Leper’s Hand
Apply principles discussed in this issue
Revive magazine is published quarterly as God provides, and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the promptings of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. To purchase additional copies of this issue, to be placed on our free mailing list, or contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org • www.LifeAction.org/revive. We do not share subscriber information with other organizations.
SPIRIT OF REVIVAL Change . . . We Can Believe In
ominic Cinelli was serving a term of three concurrent life sentences when he told the parole board he was a changed man. He won the board over by saying circumstances in his life, including drug counseling and the death of his mother, had reformed his life. Four months later, the parole board unanimously voted to free him. Tragically, this past Christmas, Dominic killed a police officer who was the father of two young children. This sad story has a counterpart in the church: We’ve learned from hard experience that outward confessions are not always the same thing as real repentance. Tears and talk do not equal lasting transformation. As the old gospel song puts it, “I’m so tired of being stirred but not being changed.” So what kind of change can we believe in? When John the Baptist was preparing the people of his day for the arrival of Jesus, he exposed the lack of authenticity among the religious leaders of the day. Even though they worshiped the true God outwardly, John called them a brood of snakes (Matt. 3:7-11). For John, it didn’t matter if you were a descendent of holy Abraham—if there wasn’t any evidence of true repentance in your life, then there was no real change and no right standing with God. Today, there’s a lot of talk about change. Politicians, self-help books, and reality shows all cater to our desire to be truly free. But why are we continuing to see moral, economic, political, and even spiritual free-fall throughout North America? The answer is that we are treating symptoms instead of dealing with roots. Naturalist Henry David Thoreau expressed what many of us as evangelical leaders do not fully grasp when he said, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” This issue of Revive is designed to challenge the church to go deep in pursuit of authentic change. Life Action is in the midst of her fortieth year of ministry. If we have learned one thing, it is that we cannot manufacture, manipulate, or fabricate life change. The kind of change needed in any culture is one rooted in repentance enabled by the Spirit of God. But the Spirit of God is not a bully. He will not force us. Instead He waits for hearts that are broken, humble, honest, and repentant. These attitudes of the heart are often the missing ingredients in the kind of change that could be ours. The rediscovery of these vital truths is a verticalhorizontal approach to genuine transformation.
Life Action’s outreaches begin by teaching deeply about the holiness of God instead of trying to solve specific issues, because a proper view of God is what leads to deep levels of brokenness and repentance. From this place of brokenness, every other kind of Spirit-empowered change begins to flow. The sequence is important: Truths that emphasize our vertical relationship with God precede and empower the transformation of our horizontal relationships with others. Without the heart being truly revived by the Spirit and Word of God, the change that takes place is temporal, behavioral, and psychological, but not transformational. But when time is taken to help individuals work through the process of first reconnecting with God, horizontal issues of reconciliation, restitution, and selflessness become the byproducts of the heart change that has taken place. Respected church historian J. Edwin Orr once asked a conference of pastors, teachers, evangelists, and Christian workers to identify the greatest need of the times. After compiling a long list, he then asked them this penetrating question: “Is there any one solution that would make an impact on all the problems at once?” They thought not. Yet there is. Dr. Orr went on to explain how the outflow of biblical revival, according to history, addresses all the spiritual, moral, and social needs they had listed. Widespread biblical repentance, brokenness, and spiritual hunger—empowered by the Holy Spirit—produces the change we so desperately need. Let’s not skip over the root of the problem. Let’s believe God for wide-scale transformation in our day. That’s the kind of change we can believe in. v
The Holy Spirit produces the change we so desperately need.
A Message to Fellow Pastors from Dr. Erwin Lutzer This past spring, Life Action Ministries was invited to The Moody Church in Chicago to hold a 4-day THIRST conference. God moved deeply to transform hearts and lives both on the staff and within the congregation. Hear what Dr. Erwin Lutzer had to say about this event.
Contact us today, and weâ€™ll send you a
copy of the book Ablaze with His Glory.
CONVERSATIONS What’s Your Story?
ow’s this for a ludicrous moment in the Bible? “The Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. . . . We were better off in Egypt!’” (Num. 11:4-5, 18). Really? Better off with a good meal but a maniacal dictator’s crushing demands and cruel torments? Better off with instant gratification but without freedom or a future? Fortunately, we would never think this way! Monotony and hardship would never cause us to forget the wonders of God’s deliverance. Weariness and frustration would never tempt us to minimize the bondage of sin while salivating over its benefits. Right? Okay, it’s crazy . . . but most of us would have to admit that we’ve been there. It’s our story too. Just ask the middle-aged father with a 30-year mortgage and marriage. Everything feels demanding . . . except the woman he just met at the office. Or ask the young couple with big dreams and a small income. Everything feels just out of reach . . . except their six credit cards. Or ask the pretty teenage girl longing to be accepted by Mr. Right and the right college. Everything feels like pressure to be perfect . . . except bulimia, which lets her have her cake and eat it too. Or ask the pastor preaching heaven but feeling like hell. Everything feels depleting . . . except the secret glow of the images on his computer screen. As Christians, each would tell you of a day when their faith was fresh and real and motivating. But now they are going through the motions, wondering if God’s promises are as compelling as what the world has to offer. They’re ready to go back to Egypt. Forty years later, Moses had one last chance to give advice to a people with whom he had wandered for decades. “Remember how the Lord has led you all the way. . . . Do not forget,” he said (Deut. 8:2, 11). These were his last words because he knew that the biggest challenge the people faced was not the external battles they would fight with the inhabitants, but the internal battle to trust that God’s grace would satisfy their hearts. The same is true for us. The real battle with sin and temptation is always a fight for faith—a battle to treasure
God’s presence and promises over sin’s temporary pleasures. That’s why remembering God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ is so important—it’s what gives us perspective and power when temptation comes knocking. The gospel must become the major story line of our lives. This happens in two ways. First, we must recognize and reject the false story that sin can ultimately satisfy or deliver. A friend of mine uses the acronym H.A.L.T to warn about our particular vulnerability to lies when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. These are the times when we particularly need to resist the devil and take advantage of means of grace like prayer, Bible reading, and intentional community with other believers. Second, we need to review the good news of who Jesus is for us, in us, and through us every day. Here’s what the gospel means for you right now: You are justified— you are pardoned of all your sins and accepted as righteous in God’s sight. You are adopted— you are God’s son or daughter, whom He chose to adopt and give full family rights.
The real battle with sin and temptation is always a fight for faith.
You are sanctified— you have been anointed by the Spirit as a saint, having made a radical breach with the power of sin by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Living in conscious awareness of God’s grace is what gives us perspective and power. Do you “preach the gospel to yourself” every day? If not, your story has been gradually drifting from grace . . . and so has your joy and power. We must therefore constantly “restory” our lives according to the liberating truths of the gospel. Staying close to the story of grace enables us to face life’s highs and lows rooted in God’s love, power, and eternal purposes. As a Christian, that’s your story! v
Del Fehsenfeld III
Being like Jesus is not only possible, 6 LifeAction.org/revive
Is Change [Really] Possible? by Del Fehsenfeld III Is it really possible to be like Jesus? I’m convinced that deep down, most Christians don’t think so. After all, Jesus is God. How could we be like that? But being like Jesus is not only possible, it’s the point of God’s saving work: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God’s intention for your life is that you be transformed into the exact image of Jesus. Is this your goal? As long as you believe Christlikeness is out of reach, you will never pursue it with total abandon.1 1
See the parable of the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44).
it’s the point of God’s saving work. revive 7
[Beyond] Willpower Now, I’m guessing that you have tried to be like Jesus. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ve tried and failed more times than you care to remember. Take Vince, who looks at pornography and wants to quit. In fact, he has quit, scores of times! Sometimes he makes it a week or two porn-free. (Once, he even made it two months!) But no matter how hard he tries, the battle always seems too fierce. His resistance wears thin, and he finds himself caught once again in a cycle of failure, shame, and loathing. This same pattern would be true of Shari’s struggle with overeating. Or Hank’s anger problem. Or Tara’s prescription drug abuse. Vince, Shari, Hank, and Tara are all using a common strategy for change: willpower. But, as strong as the human will is, willpower is a limited resource. It can only be sustained for short bursts without support from more deeply rooted desires. That’s why willpower can be effective for temporary change but usually proves ineffective for long-term transformation. In practical terms, willpower is trying really hard not to do what you find at some deeper level you really want to do. Eventually, our desires wear down our willpower, leading to a futile cycle that looks something like this:
Wait until moment of temptation → Try really hard not to do what I find I want to do → Fail → Feel very guilty → Resolve to try harder next time → Eventually grow discouraged and quit or fake it Surely Jesus had something else in mind for us when He promised freedom and abundant life!
[Change,] the Jesus Way According to Jesus, the battle for change is actually waged in the heart, the seat of our desires (Matt. 15:17-19). Real transformation happens when our most dominant desires match what God desires. Until then, willpower will be a flimsy defense against the relentless, sinful passions of our flesh. 2
The good news is that Jesus came to change our hearts—to cause “rivers of living water” from God’s Spirit to flow out of us and shape the way we live (John 7:37-39). This is what sets the Jesus way of change apart from every other self-help strategy— He changes us from the inside out! Colossians 3:1-5 gives us a three-fold pattern for how “inside-out” change happens in our lives: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Start in the right place. “You have
been raised with Christ” (v. 1).
The essence of being a Christian is not following a moral code of conduct; it’s receiving a new nature. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” by the Spirit (John 3:3). A Christian is someone who has been united with Christ and given His life, literally “raised up with Christ” in His resurrection. Something that was dead spiritually has come alive at the core of our being, making us a “new creation” (Eph. 2:1-6; 2 Cor. 5:17). Why is this so important? Think about it this way. What if my dream was to play basketball like professional superstars Michael Jordan or LeBron James? Could I do it by paying lots of money to attend their basketball clinics? Or by eating their breakfast cereals or by wearing their sneakers? No way! The simple fact is, I don’t share their exceptional physical attributes—no matter how hard I try to be like them. I will never dunk a basketball like Mike or LeBron unless I could somehow share their DNA. You need the DNA to play! The wonder of being a new creation in Christ is that we have become “partakers of the divine nature” and have “every-
See Romans 8 for how each step of transformation is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
thing we need” for a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). In other words, through the mystery of the new birth, the DNA of Jesus has been implanted in us. We have been “raised with Christ,” given spiritual capacity and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul tells us to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). As we “walk by the Spirit,” we no longer fulfill the “desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).2 Of course, being alive is not the same thing as being mature. I’m the proud father of four children. With each birth, I was stunned by how small and vulnerable a newborn is. An infant is utterly dependent on its parents for virtually everything. And yet, that same baby is fully human, with 100% of what is required to grow into a fully functioning adult. In the same way, a person who has experienced new birth by the Spirit may be weak and immature, but they nevertheless have the nature of Christ. Their destiny is to grow up into full maturity like Jesus. That process of growing involves a new fight and a new focus.
Join the battle. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (v. 5). Colossians 3:5 tells us that part of the process of maturing in Christlikeness is putting some things to death. In other words, the process of becoming like Jesus requires some violent action on our part against our sin. When it comes to sin, are you a killer? At the risk of seeming morbid, let’s think practically about what’s involved in killing something. It involves cutting off air, water, and nutrients. In the same way, if you want to kill a sinful practice, you have to stop feeding it! One of the most insightful Scriptures about the process of change is found in Romans 13:14, which simply says, “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its [sinful] desires” (esv). In order to sin habitually, we first have to make provision in some way for that sin to take place. In this regard, isn’t it amazing how our worst behaviors never show themselves on Sunday morning at church? We would never dream of committing our secret sins
in front of everyone! Instead, we reserve a more private time and place for our sin. For example, I talk to people all the time who are addicted to pornography, and when I ask, “Where do you access the porn?” they say, “On my computer or satellite dish.” I then ask, “Where’s the computer or TV?” and they say, “In my house.” Now, I’m not a rocket scientist, but what needs to be done seems pretty clear here. The problem is that we are unwilling to go to the extremes of living without a computer or television, or at least giving up the right to access them when alone. (The same could be said for the junk food and ice cream we keep storing in our kitchens!) We are not ruthless with our sin, so we make continual provision for it. The battle is lost before it begins. One of the common characteristics among people serious about killing their sin and becoming like Jesus is that they have a battle plan to address the things that beset them (Matt. 18:8-9). What about you? Do you have a plan for starving your habitual sins?
Focus on Jesus. “Set your minds on things above, where Christ is” (v. 2).
Of course, simply cutting off access to temptation is not the same thing as transformation. We are aiming for character like 3
Jesus, not a fortress mentality that defines success as simply not doing bad things. This is where things go wrong for so many Christians. Our strategy for being like Jesus is reduced to stopping behaviors rather than passionately pursuing Jesus. The problem with making our focus “not sinning” is that a negation is never enough to satisfy the human heart. We were made to be satisfied in God. That’s why real transformation requires that our hearts and minds be set on Jesus. As we move toward Jesus, we move away from our sin. Here’s the most powerful principle for change that I’ve ever encountered: The key to being like Jesus is to focus on Jesus. We are changed by Jesus as we are with Jesus.3
[Listen] to the Music There’s a captivating story from Greek mythology about the great adventurer Odysseus and his quest to resist the bewitching song of the Sirens—mythical creatures who, with their alluring songs, would seduce passing sailors to jump overboard to their deaths. Curious to hear the beautiful song, Odysseus stuffed his men’s ears with wax and had them bind him to the mast with strong ropes. Upon hearing the Sirens’ song, Odysseus went mad with desire and would have jumped
I owe this insight to Dallas Willard and John Ortberg.
to his death, but the ropes held. Interestingly, the mythology also tells us of another adventurer named Jason, who devised a quite different strategy for escaping the wiles of the Sirens. Rather than stuffing his ears with wax or binding himself to the mast, Jason enlisted the services of the world’s finest musician, Orpheus, to play a louder and more beautiful song. The inferior songs of the Sirens lost their power under the enchanting music of Orpheus. Now, here’s the question before each of us: Do you want to travel your Christian journey strapped to the mast, somehow managing to escape temptation by strong prohibitions even though your heart passionately longs for the pleasures of sin? Or do you want to be like Jason, your mind and heart so full of the true beauty of another song that the counterfeit pleasures of evil lose their allure? The good news of Jesus is that it’s possible to hear His song, a song so beautiful and satisfying that it becomes the most captivating passion in life! Right now, Jesus is singing His soul-satisfying song over us. To those with ears to hear, true freedom is sure to follow. v
Del is the Director of Pastoral Services at Life Action Ministries and the Senior Editor of Revive magazine.
How do we cultivate Jesus’ presence continually? Most believers know that it’s important to have devotions and go to church. But here’s the problem: That still leaves out the vast majority of our lives (i.e., the hours in between devotions and when we go to bed, and Monday through Saturday when we’re not in church)! Here are three simple ways to cultivate the presence of Jesus in your daily life:
Add evenings. It makes sense to talk to Jesus in the morning about your intentions to be with Him, imitate Him, and live your life the way He would if He were in your place. But to honor that intention, it also makes sense to ask Jesus each evening, “How did it go today? What went well and what didn’t in terms of living my life with You?” Simply jot down the things you learn, and make adjustments. Take minute retreats. Despite our firm intention to live our life with Jesus, the pressures and demands of daily life can quickly crowd Him out. This habitual forgetting needs to be interrupted in order to be broken. One way to do this is to set your phone to beep at intervals, or to put up a visual reminder in your workspace as a cue to remember that your life is about cultivating Jesus’ presence in every moment (even the busy ones!).
Practice Sabbath. Picking one day in seven to focus on God doesn’t have to be legalistic. In fact, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath is a restorative gift from God. We not only need the rest, but we need the safety net. We’re all prone to drift. The tragedy is that some people don’t realize it until months and even years have passed. But practicing Sabbath means we can only drift six days without reorienting our priorities around Jesus!
Killing Your Sin Put to death therefore what
is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Brian G. Hedges “The tiger ate her hand. It slowly proceeded to
eat the rest of her arm.” That’s how Vikram Chari described the horrifying spectacle that he and his six-year-old son witnessed at the San Francisco Zoo on December 22, 2006, where a Siberian tiger named Tatiana attacked her keeper.
For those who work with wild animals, the bloody assault was a reminder of what they know but don’t always remember— the creatures they’ve become so accustomed to can turn on them at any moment. As animal behaviorist Dave Salmoni puts it, “You can’t get the wild out of a cat because he’s in a cage.”1
Many of us think we can tame sin, but like a tiger, sin turns and masters us at the first opportunity. We may think we have evil under control, that we have tamed sin, rendering it harmless enough to share a peaceful, mutual coexistence. But sin will never be domesticated. It is wolf, not dog; piranha, not goldfish. That’s why we can never be tolerant or open-minded about our sin. We are called to aggressively hate our sin—to despise it, reject it, deplore it, starve it, and make every effort to kill it. As the seventeenth-century pastor and theologian John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”2
If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rom. 8:13).
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the
flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24).
Killing sin includes putting to death both sinful actions (deeds) and the sinful motivations (passions and desires) which produce them. It involves the habitual rejection of sinful desires, motives, thoughts, and habits in our lives. If we are to kill sin, we must oppose it consistently. We must habitually fight its impulses and make every effort to weaken its power over us.
10 Ways to Kill Sin 1. Yield yourself to God Yield yourself to God. In Romans 6:12-13, Paul teaches us that one of the first steps in fighting against sin is surrendering to God. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”3 He specifies in this passage that we are to hand over our bodies and our members—every individual part of the body, without exception. This is particularly challenging in our self-centered culture. As David Wells writes: Much of the Church today, especially that part of it which is evangelical, is in captivity to this idolatry of the self. This is a form of corruption far more profound than the lists of infractions that typically pop into our minds when we hear the word sin. We are trying to hold at bay the gnats of small sins while swallowing the camel of self.4 We will never make much progress in the war against sin until we have first dethroned self. The denial of self-rule for God’s rule is Square One in the fight against sin. As Jesus himself said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Putting sin to death starts here.
2. Accept the battle Accept that the battle never ends. Killing sin is a constant duty that will require lifelong battle. In Romans 8:1213, Paul says, “We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Owen captured the point well when he said, “You must always be at it while you live; do not take a day off from this work; always be killing sin or it will be killing you.”5 We must never let up the fight. Sin is always pounding away at us, “always acting, always conceiving, and always seducing and tempting.”6 This is not to say that genuine progress cannot be made in overcoming specific sins. Nevertheless, the Christian is never off duty when it comes to killing sin. “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21). There is no cease-fire in this war.
3. Take God’s side Take God’s side against your sin. Every day we are faced with split-second choices. When provoked by mistreatment, will I indulge my anger and retaliate with angry words of my own, or will I respond in love? When confronted with a sexually provocative image, will I indulge in lustful thoughts or turn away and seek to fill my mind with the pure pleasures of God? When weighted with responsibilities, will I run through every worrisome and selfreliant scenario, or will I cast my anxious thoughts on the Lord? The only way to mortify sin is to act with increasing consistency on the right inclinations instead of the wrong ones. This is the discipline of ongoing repentance. As John Stott writes: The first great secret of holiness lies in the degree and the decisiveness of our repentance. If besetting sins persistently plague us, it is either because we have never truly repented, or because, having repented, we have not maintained our repentance. It is as if, having nailed our old nature to the cross, we keep wistfully returning to the scene of its execution. We begin to fondle it, to caress it, to long for its release, even to try to take it down again from the cross. We need to learn to leave it there.7
4. Make no provision
5. Use your sword
Make no provision for the flesh. Which flame is harder to extinguish, that of a match or a forest fire? Fires start small, then get bigger. Paul tells us, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). This verse is about lighting fewer matches and being careful to snuff out the lit ones before the flames increase. In practice this means not exposing yourself to things— websites, magazines, or movies, for example—that are likely to bring strong temptation. Making no provision for the flesh also involves rejecting the first inclinations of sin. In rejecting the urge to snap back in sarcasm at a hurtful word, or indulge the lustful thought or glance, we extinguish the match in those first few seconds. If we don’t, we may soon have a raging fire on our hands. Owen wisely warns, “Rise mightily against the first sign of sin. Do not allow it to gain the smallest ground.”8 This was Jesus’ point when he said:
Use your spiritual sword. As Romans 8:13 says, we must put sin to death “by the Spirit.” But how does the Spirit help us put sin to death? Consider Ephesians 6:17: “Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Linking Romans 8 and Ephesians 6 together, we see that one way the Spirit helps us kill sin is with His sword, the Scriptures. The psalmist agreed: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. . . . I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11). We need to follow the example of Jesus when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Do you remember how Jesus responded to each temptation? “It is written” (Matthew 4:1-11)! He quoted Scripture; he used the Spirit’s sword. Many believers sadly fail to defeat temptation because they lack sufficient skill with their spiritual weapon, the Word of God. When we do not avail ourselves of Scripture, we will have few resources for fighting sin when it appears unannounced. How skilled are you with your sword?
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48). These are frightening words that have been misconstrued by some as a demand for literal self-mutilation. But Jesus is teaching us to be radical in dealing with sin. We have to burn the bridges that lead us into sin. Ask yourself, “What am I allowing into my life that is clearly leading me into temptation or sin?” Cut it off. Let it go.
6. Aim at the heart Aim at the heart. Sin is a heart matter, not just a problem of behavior. Stomping on the fruit of sin—the sinful behavior itself—won’t kill the tree. As Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). If we focus only on sinful behavior and not on the motives and desires that generate the behavior, we will become hypocrites and fail to grow in holiness.
7. Replace sin with grace Replace sin with grace. Repentance involves not just turning from, but turning to. Holiness demands both “putting off” and “putting on.” We must not only put off
sin, we must put on grace. The negative must be replaced with the positive. An effective and practical way to apply this to the sins you are fighting is to determine to kill each specific sin by cultivating the particular virtue which best counters it. Counter greed by cultivating contentment and generosity. Give more money away. Wage war on pride by practicing humility. Be quick to confess when you’re wrong. When tempted to lust, turn away your eyes and pray for them instead. Crucify self-centeredness by serving those around you. How will you replace your sinful thought patterns and behaviors with those that are virtuous and Christlike?
8. Stay in community Stay in community. Battles are best fought by armies, not individuals. One of our strategies in putting sin to death must be to stay close to other Christians. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). The writer assumes that one means God uses to keep people from falling away from him is mutual, daily exhortation. Perseverance in the faith is a community project. Believers need one another. You need fellow Christians. You can’t do this alone. So stay in community. Live out the “one another” commands in the context of your local church. Build strong friendships with believers who will encourage and pray for you. Learn to confess your faults to them (James 5:16). Let your brothers and sisters in Christ help you kill your sin.
9. Look to the cross Look to the cross. Without this, all other strategies will ultimately fail. Before Paul speaks of putting to death the deeds of the body in Romans 8:13, he reminds us that:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).
Paul’s words: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13) “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). While our constant effort is necessary and required, we clearly cannot defeat sin in our own strength. This is true because only the Spirit can truly convict the heart of the evil and danger of sin.
10. Depend on the Spirit Depend on the Spirit. Finally, as we look to the cross in our efforts to put sin to death, we must also remember that the power of the cross is only available to us through the Spirit of Christ. Remember
Taken from chapter 7 of Christ Formed in You, copyright © 2010 by Brian G. Hedges. Used by permission of Shepherd Press, www.ShepherdPress.com.
The righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled in us only because we are in Christ Jesus, absolved from guilt and condemnation, and freed from the law of sin and death, through the sin-defeating death of God’s Son. Over and over again, when the Bible commands us to put sin to death, it does so in the context of Christ’s victory over the very sins we battle. But the cross is also what progressively frees the affections of our hearts from the enticements of sin. Paul said, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Commenting on this verse, Owen writes: The baits and pleasures of sin are all things in the world, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” By these sin entices and entangles our souls. If the heart is filled with the cross of Christ, it casts death and undesirability on them all, leaving no seeming beauty, pleasure, or comeliness in them. . . . Labour, therefore, to fill your hearts with the cross of Christ.9
Only the Spirit can reveal to us the fullness of Christ and establish in our hearts the confident expectation of triumph through him.10 v
defeat sin in our own strength. Only the Spirit can truly convict the heart of the evil and danger of sin. Only the Spirit can reveal to us the fullness of Christ and establish in our hearts the confident expectation of triumph through Him. Adapted from Patricia Yollin, “Horrified zoogoer recalls tiger attack,” The San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, January 1, 2007. 2 John Owen, The Mortification of Sin: Abridged and made easy to read by Richard Rushing (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004) 5. 3 All Scripture references in this article are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. 4 David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998) 203–204. 5 Owen, 5. 6 Ibid., 7. 7 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 151–152. 8 Owen, 85 (author’s emphasis). 9 John Owen, Indwelling Sin in Believers: Abridged and Made Easy to Read (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2010) 99–100. 10 See Owen, Mortification, 129. 1
The editors highly recommend Christ Formed in You. Purchase it online through LifeAction.org/Addictions.
Why do we do the things we do? Why do we get angry, frustrated, irritable, or depressed? Why do we lie, steal, fight, and gossip? Why do we dream, fantasize, envy, and plot? Why do we overwork and overeat? Why are we worried about what people think? Why do we fail to be the parents, spouses, or employees we should be? Where do evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, and malice all come from?
When Desires go
by Tim Chester 14 LifeAction.org/revive
Jesus gives us the answer: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21–23)1
Whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in, that, I tell you, is your true god.2
ccording to the Bible, the source of all human behavior and emotions is the heart (Luke 6:43-45). It’s easy to focus on behaviors and emotions, but lasting change is achieved only by tackling the source.
Why Do We Sin? So what is going on in our hearts when we sin? Hebrews 4:12 speaks of “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” There is a twofold problem in the heart: what we think or trust and what we desire or worship. Sin happens when we don’t trust God above everything and when we don’t desire God above everything. Here’s how Ed Welch describes it: We are always actively worshipping, trusting, desiring, following, loving, or serving something or somebody. When Scripture speaks of the heart, it typically is emphasizing that we live before God, in all things and at all times. We respond to him either by trusting in him or trusting in our self-serving idols. . . . When our worship is true, we experience joy, peace, love, and hope, even in difficult situations. When our worship is false, and the things we desire are unattainable or impotent, we can be grieved, bitter, depressed, angry, or fearful. Our emotions usually mean something, and it is wise to ask, “What are my emotions saying?” “What are they pointing to?”3 In other words, destructive or sinful behavior (such as lying, manipulation, violence, theft, adultery, addictions, and eating disorders) and negative or sinful emotions (such as anxiety, depression, envy, guilt, bitterness, and pride) all arise when our hearts don’t trust God as we should and don’t worship God as we should.
Counterfeit Gods We don’t often think of ourselves as worshipping idols, because we think of idols in terms of statues and shrines. But the New Testament way of talking about idolatry is “sinful desires.” Literally, it is “the lusts of the flesh.” “Lusts” here is not just sexual desire, but all sinful desire—the bias toward sin that we have from birth. Paul describes “covetousness” or greed as “idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Your idol is whatever you’re greedy for. It may be money, approval, sex, or power. “For where your treasure is,” says Jesus, “there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Whatever you treasure most is the thing that has your heart and controls your life. The process is described well by our English word captivated. We’re made captive by our desires. Our hearts are captured. We confuse free-willed with self-willed. We think we’re free when we break away from God, but we become enslaved by our own sinful desires. “Whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19). We serve whatever our hearts desire most. If that desire is for God and his glory, then God is our master. But if our desire is, for example, for money, then money is our master (Matt. 6:24)— and that’s idolatry. Elyse Fitzpatrick comments, “Our choices are predicated upon what we think is ‘good,’ what we ‘delight in,’ what we find most ‘desirable.’ The truth about our choices is that we always choose what we believe to be our best good. We always choose what we believe will bring us the most delight.”4 Sin begins with desire. We’re not sinners because we commit sinful acts. We commit sinful acts because we’re sinners, born with a bias to sin, enslaved by our sinful desires. That’s why we can’t change ourselves simply by changing our behavior. We need God to change us by renewing our hearts and giving us new desires from his Spirit: revive 15
Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. . . . Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you (Romans 8:5, 8-9). We are changed by faith as we look upon the glory of God and so find him more desirable than anything sin might offer. By faith and through the Spirit, the desire for God trumps the desire for sin.
Reclaiming Desire Desire itself isn’t wrong. Desire is part of being human. A sinful desire is a desire that has become more important to us than God. To paraphrase John Calvin: Our problem is not the natural desires God wrote into our character at creation, the desires [for love, for order, for pleasure] that make us human. Our problem is desires which struggle against God’s control. . . . Human desires are evil and sinful, not because we desire unnatural things, but because our desires are inordinate.5 It’s not usually the thing we want that is the problem, but that we want it more than God. To want to be married or successful or healthy, for example, is to desire a good thing. But if my singleness or failure or illness makes me bitter, then my desire has grown too big, bigger than my desire for God. As a result, I cannot be content with God’s sovereignty over my life. The world is full of good things given by God. We can, and
indeed should, enjoy them. But they’re meant as bridges to joy in God. We delight in the gifts and the Giver. We do this by receiving them with thanksgiving. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4–5). A good thing can become a “god-thing” if it eclipses God, if the gift matters more to us than the Giver.
A Life of Repentance Since sin arises because we desire something more than we desire God, overcoming sin begins by reversing this process: desiring God more than other things. The Bible calls this repentance. The word means “turning”: we repent when we turn away from our idolatrous desires and turn toward God in faith. Sin is fundamentally an orientation toward self. We won’t let God be God of our lives. We run our lives our way, without him. Self is at the center of the picture. Repentance is reorienting ourselves toward God. It’s putting God at the center. What matters most is no longer our pleasure or success or even our problems, but God’s glory (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). This new God-centered perspective is both humbling and liberating. It’s humbling because it puts us in our place. We’re not the center of the world. We’re not even the center of our world. But it’s also liberating. We no longer need to try to be in control. We can let God be God. Our reputation is no longer what matters. We’re no longer controlled by the approval or rejection of others. We’re free to serve others in love. v Taken from chapters 4 and 6 of You Can Change, copyright © 2010 by Tim Chester. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.Crossway.org.
All Scripture in this article taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. 2 Paraphrased from Martin Luther on the first commandment, in The Larger Catechism, Part 1. 3 Edward T. Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001), 129. 4 Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001), 81. 5 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1, trans. F. L. Battles, ed. J. T. McNeil (Philadelphia: Westminster/SCM, 1961), 3.3.12. 1
Identify your Idols: The things we believe we must gain or keep from losing in order to be happy often reveal the idols of our hearts. Ask yourself:
What do I want that I am not getting?
What is being threatened?
What have I lost or failed at?
What outcome am I trying to avoid?
Where do my thoughts go for joy or comfort?
Summer / Fall 2011
Whether you’re looking for rest or excitement, you’ll find it here! Come recharge on Life Action Camp’s 175 acres of beautiful meadows, lake front, and wooded trails in southwest Michigan. Family camp offers activities and programs for your entire family: • • • •
Corporate worship Dynamic speakers for everyone Relationship-building activities Great fun, food, and fellowship
If you’re looking for a vacation to refresh and strengthen your family, check out family camp. Register soon—spaces fill up quickly!
LifeActionCamp.com • 269-695-2191.
Pastors’ Retreats at TheLodge
The Lodge is a place for pastors
and leaders to take a break from the
demands of ministry and find spiritual renewal and physical rest.
Discover the many retreats at The Lodge by visiting
www.RetreatAtTheLodge.org The Lodge is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
Do You Neglect the Holy Spirit?
he great question for us to ask ourselves is whether our life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit. The indications that a Christian is serving God in the power of the flesh are very easy to detect. Self-effort always ends in sin. In Galatians 5, the Christians were quarreling and in danger of devouring one another. Count the number of expressions the apostle used to indicate their lack of love, and you will find more than twelve— envy, jealousy, bitterness, strife, and all sorts of others. The apostle Paul gives the reason for their failures: They were trying to serve God in their own strength. Today, there is complaint everywhere of the lack of high standards of integrity and godliness among professing members of Christian churches. If we think of how much temper and bitterness and strife exists among us—how much envy and jealousy and pride—then we are compelled to say, “Where are marks of the presence of God’s Spirit?” Alas! We have forgotten, we have grieved and dishonored the Holy Spirit!
The Way to Transformation The Galatians had no other way to change but to return to where they had gone wrong—to come back from all religious effort in their own strength, and to yield themselves humbly to the Holy Spirit. And there is no other way for us as individuals today. God wants us to arise and place our
always ends in sin. sins before Him, and to call on Him for mercy. Let us confess before God how our self-effort and self-confidence have been the cause of every failure. God alone can bring about the change. God alone, who gave us the Holy Spirit, can restore His power into our lives. God alone can strengthen us “with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). If God is going to have mercy on His church, it will be because the Holy Spirit will be sought after with a whole heart. Ministers and congregations will be found bowing before God in deep abasement with one cry: “We have grieved God’s
Spirit; we have tried to be Christians with as little as possible of God’s Spirit; we have not sought to be people filled with the Holy Spirit.” Until believers grasp this, and cease trying by human effort to do God’s will, the church will never be what God wants her to be and what God is willing to make of her. We must wait on the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power. v Adapted from chapter 7 of Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray. Found online at www.TrinityTheology.org.
50 Things the Holy Spirit Does
Taken from Frank Viola’s 11-18-2010 blog post
(www.frankviola.wordpress.com). Used by permission of Frank Viola, author of Jesus Manifesto (www.FrankViola.com). 1 . Convicts the world of sin, righteous- ness, and judgment (John 16:8)
20. Sets us free from the law of sin and
36. Strengthens our spirits (Eph. 3:16)
death (Rom. 8:2)
37. Enables us to know that God abides
2 . Guides us into all truth (John 16:13)
21. Quickens our mortal bodies
in us (1 John 3:24)
3 . Regenerates us (John 3:5-8)
38. Confesses that Jesus came in the
4 . Glorifies Christ (John 16:14)
22. Reveals the deep things of God to us
flesh (1 John 4:2)
5 . Testifies of Christ (John 15:26)
(1 Cor. 2:10)
39. Says “Come, Lord Jesus” along with
6 . Reveals Christ to us (John 16:15)
23. Reveals what has been given to us
the bride (Rev. 22:17)
7 . Leads us (Rom. 8:14)
from God (1 Cor. 2:12)
40. Dispenses God’s love into our hearts
8 . Sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13)
24. Dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16)
9 . Empowers us (Acts 1:8)
25. Speaks to us (Rev. 2:11; Heb. 3:7)
41. Bears witness to the truth in our
10. Fills us (Eph. 5:18)
26. Speaks through us (Matt. 10:20)
conscience (Rom. 9:1)
11. Teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27)
27. Is the agent by which we are baptized
42. Teaches us (1 Cor. 2:13)
12. Bears witness in us that we are
into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)
43. Gives us joy (1 Thess. 1:6)
children of God (Rom. 8:16)
28. Brings liberty (2 Cor. 3:17)
44. Enables some to preach the gospel
13. Produces in us the fruit of His work
29. Transforms us into the image of
(1 Pet. 1:12)
and presence (Gal. 5:22-23)
Christ (2 Cor. 3:18)
45. Knows the thoughts of God
14. Distributes spiritual gifts through
30. Cries in our hearts, “Abba, Father”
(1 Cor. 2:11)
the body (1 Cor. 12:1-11)
46. Casts out demons (Matt. 12:28)
15. Washes and renews us (Tit. 3:5)
31. Enables us to wait (Gal. 5:5)
47. Brings things to our remembrance
16. Brings unity to the body (Eph. 4:3)
32. Grants everlasting life (Gal. 6:8)
17. Brings oneness to those who were
33. Gives us access to God the Father
48. Comforts us (Acts 9:31)
enemies (Eph. 2:14-18)
49. Makes some overseers in the church
18. Is our guarantee and deposit of the
34. Makes us (corporately) God’s
future resurrection (2 Cor. 1:22)
habitation (Eph. 2:22)
50. Sets apart certain believers, through
19. Seals us unto the day of redemption
35. Reveals the mystery of God to us
the body, for specific work (Acts 13:2)
How connected are you to the Holy Spirit? In Forgotten God, Francis Chan asks, “Do you listen to the Holy Spirit as you stand in line at the post office? Perhaps He is asking you to begin a conversation with the elderly lady in front of you. Do you allow the Holy Spirit to lead you when you are making your budget? Perhaps He will direct you to allocate monies differently than you otherwise would. Do you submit to the Holy Spirit as you spend time with your family? We need the Spirit’s help to love them well. These are just a few of the many, many areas of our lives that we can submit to the Spirit’s leading. Take some time to think about areas in your own life where you tend just to do your own thing, heedless of the Spirit’s will and call.”
Begin a practical 30-Day Journey toward revival today! Find it online at LifeAction.org/Addictions.
In my teenage years, I became a slave to bulimia. I loved and enjoyed food, but I didn’t want it to “catch up with me.” How delighted I was to find this way of eating what I wanted without consequences—or so I thought. More and more of my life began to center around food binges. I made my decisions about who I would be with, what I would do, and when I would do it based on my growing addiction. No one knew, and my happiness seemed to depend on their not finding out. I lived for those binges. In those moments, I could live without limitations— except, of course, the swollen glands, the strained relationships, the wasted opportunities, and the perpetual sense of guilt and fear that I would be discovered. But I could eat anything I wanted! Sounds crazy, yet this was life for me, and I chose it again and again over losing my “freedom.” Eventually, however, I began to desire a life beyond food. So I decided I would stop. I read books, obtained jobs, and chose college and graduate courses all with the primary purpose of learning how to be free from the chains of this relentless addiction. And I would quit . . . for a day, a week, even months, at times. But the addiction would never leave. When life became too hard, I would comfort my-
at Last! by Debra Fehsenfeld
One day in the midst of study and meditation, the first of several links in the chains of bondage was broken. self by appointing a day for an uninterrupted binge. When that anticipated day was unwittingly disrupted by an unsuspecting friend or relative, or by some unanticipated circumstance, I experienced the ensuing restraint as an untamed beast experiences a cage. No matter how hard I tried, brief periods of abstinence were the best I could do. My mind and heart were literally obsessed by food. During my years in graduate school, I began to feel concern for my soul. I felt so guilty. I knew that God was not pleased with what I was doing. I reasoned that even if He would tolerate my binging and purging, He certainly hated the lying, stealing, and manipulating that came with it. These were essential, though, since secrecy was my only means of “peaceful” continuance in sin. What an absolutely miserable existence! After completing graduate school, my husband and I began attending an evangelical church, and I started reading the Bible. I was without a job, and God raised up a Jesus-following lady who hired me to transcribe her personal journals. As I read of her own failures and battles with self-indulgence, I saw an unmistakable difference. Her happiness was in God. My happiness was in food. When she struggled, she responded by ultimately forsaking the sinful indulgence out of greater love for and delight in God. When I struggled, I turned from God and His ways out of greater love for food. All I could do was groan to God. I felt it would kill me to permanently stop practicing bulimia. It would mean giving up all of what I knew and loved (though also hated) about life. I could not do that. I knew I couldn’t. About this same time, a guest speaker came to our church and shared his testimony of how God’s power had set him free from the sin of gluttony. I was surely the most attentive person present that day! When he said, “If you want to stop sinning, memorize Scripture,” I
began immediately. It didn’t work in the magical, instantaneous way I had hoped, but I kept on in sheer desperation. I spent hour upon hour, day after day memorizing, reading, studying, and meditating on the Scriptures. I continued to groan and plead with God for help, for freedom. My desire for freedom increased all the more as I came to see more and more the beauty of Christ, and the peace and happiness that surely belonged to all who could walk with Him freely. But that was not yet my privilege. Would it, could it ever be? I wondered and hoped. One day in the midst of study and meditation, the first of several links in the chains of bondage was broken. For a long time I had known that the word gospel meant “good news,” yet it wasn’t until this moment that it dawned on me why “good news” was the phrase used for describing the work of Christ. Christ had died for sin. By His death He freed me from the penalty of sin. This much I knew. But by His resurrection, new life had come for all who were His. What I realized in that moment was that Jesus was the One with the power to make me free, and He would do it by making me altogether new! I knew from hard experience that I could never stand against the power bulimia had over me. I would be its slave forever. My only hope was the possibility that the old me would die and be remade, reborn, a new person in Christ. As I responded to God in faith, I began to experience a new desire. Before this time, I had always wanted to be free so that I could live without hindrance. For the first time, I wanted to be free so that I could love my God and Savior with all my heart and soul—the way He deserves! Something had indeed changed. So, did I quit practicing bulimia from that day forward? No. In fact, I betrayed my new Master many times. But something about even the process of failure was incredibly different. He remained faithful to me. He blessed me so richly ev-
ery time I was in His presence that I came to love His presence. And captivated in this way continually, I found myself binging and purging less and less frequently, until one day I realized I didn’t need to practice it at all. I was happy without it. I never could have imagined it possible, but the truth had set me free! Jesus had become more important, more satisfying, and more desirous than the sweetest, most appealing of foods! That was about fifteen years ago now, and I am still free. In fact, I am more free. Do I ever feel old desires creeping in? Yes. Do I ever think too much about food? Sometimes. But I am experiencing the amazing grace and invincible power of God, who is remaking me in every way. Because He has freed me and I am being freed still, I know that one day I will be completely, altogether freed—made perfectly like Jesus with no distractions, no impulse toward sin, in order to serve, worship, and love Him forever! There is not a day that passes that I don’t marvel at what He has done for me. I love Him and run after Him and His ways because He has set me free. Yes, the gospel is “good news.” It is indeed the power of God unto salvation (freedom)! And yes, now I have a new obsession: freedom for all in Christ! “Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. . . . I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Psalm 63:3-5).
Pathway to Freedom Stopping the practice of bulimia was just the beginning of a whole new life, but it was an important beginning. It was through this time that I first began to believe that God is powerful beyond the grasp of my imagination. I want to share some insights that have been helpful to me throughout the process of being delivered from this bondage. I have come to believe that the basic pattern for
If you are in bondage, there is no way to complete freedom other than by His power.
change is the same no matter what the habit or addiction.
Cry Out to God If you are in bondage, there is no way to complete freedom other than by His power. Let Him know that you know you need Him and that you can do nothing to free yourself. Acknowledge before Him that you deserve nothing but punishment from Him, having failed to love Him above all other things. Cry out to Him for mercy. Tell Him, if you can honestly, that you hate the thing that has taken from Him your love and energy. Express your desire to give Him all your heart’s affections. If you find yourself just saying words, without your heart and mind being engaged, admit that to Him. Be completely honest before your Savior. Honesty is essential for healing. Ask God to reveal to you the truth about your own heart.
Trust God Today Trust Him to help you this day to overcome. Do not tell yourself, “I am never again going to give way to this sin.” Rather, pray: “Help me, please, Lord; and by Your grace, I will obey You today.” Trust Him to supply you with the strength, perseverance, and love that you need in order to obey Him today. Then prove your trust by making decisions and choices with love for God and His Word as your rule. We are changed and brought to freedom one day at a time.
Avoid “Triggers” There have been, more than likely, some particular practices that trigger a sequence
of choices that end in finally giving way to your addiction. In my case, there were certain foods that I would not normally eat unless I was planning a binge/purge. Pay attention to what you do, say, and think about before you fall into sin. Although these things may not be wrong in themselves, while you are still so vulnerable to going back to your old master and “love” through habit, you must wait to reintroduce these practices into your life—and some you may never choose to allow again. This is simply part of the process of wanting freedom enough to ruthlessly make “no provision” for sin (Rom. 13:14 nkjv).
Be Saturated with the Truth
Memorize Scripture (during exercise is a great time for this!); study; listen to sermons; read books to help you understand God’s Word; praise Him because of the truth you are discovering. Do everything you can to get the truth of God into you. Feed on it. Savor it. Think about it just as you have done with your addiction. Just as your sin ascended to the high ground in your life, now let the Word of God overtake that ground and stand alone in its priority and governance over your life. But keep in mind that Bible knowledge alone does not free anyone. According to Hebrews 4:2, “The gospel was preached to [the Old Testament Jews in the wilderness]; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” Change and freedom come when you read, memorize, and study, believing God. You don’t know when or how He will do what He promises, but you believe He will. You hold on to Him and His Word, obeying Him because you believe Him. You release
.com Purchase the entire “Free at Last” booklet at LifeAction.org/Addictions.
your grip on things that you love, because you believe that what He has is better. Perhaps you believe God enough to pray, but not enough to change. If you find yourself lacking in faith, not really believing Him, ask God for faith to believe Him more— ask for the mercy of greater faith. Then begin again obeying Him, believing that you have been granted the faith you asked of Him. Sinful habits must be broken and replaced. Do not expect this to be easy.
Seize Pivotal Moments It is in the midst of the most intense moments of temptation—those moments when everything in you feels drawn to doing what you have become accustomed to doing—that you have the opportunity to embrace and cling to God’s grace to break those habits and to be freed. When you feel the old, familiar draw, you can be sure you will do what you have been doing unless you purposefully do something different. The “something different” can be any number of things—play with your children, pray for someone, pay bills, write a letter, go for a walk . . . It ought to be something active, not just mental. Do “something different” while depending on God, praising Him and reminding yourself afresh of the truth that you have come to believe: His love is more satisfying than the temporary pleasures of sin! v Debra has an M.A. in counseling. She has been married for 16 years and has 4 children.
FROM THE HEART
Counter Lies with Truth
ur culture is riddled with deception.
It’s everywhere, as illustrated by the following outlandish advertising claims:
“Become a World-Class Violinist Instantaneously.” “How to Play the Piano . . . Instantly!” “‘Instant Health’ at the Flip of a Switch!” (ad for a kitchen appliance) “Melt 10 lbs. in 10 minutes! . . . a workout so easy, you do it in your pajamas!” “Look Better and Feel Younger in Just Minutes a Day . . . The key to a healthier, happier life.” (ad for an oxygen chamber—price tag: $3,999.95)
Sometimes it’s easy to see through the falsehood (as in the claim that one can become a world-class violinist instantaneously). Unfortunately, however, most deception is not quite so easy to detect. A clever and cunning pitchman whose intention was to change Adam and Eve’s thinking about God and His ways designed the first advertising campaign. Satan deceived Eve through a clever combination of outright lies, halftruths, and falsehoods disguised as truth. From that moment to this, Satan has used deception to win our affections, influence our choices, and destroy our lives. In one way or another, every problem we have in this world is the fruit of deception—the result of believing something that simply isn’t true. Deception was—and still is—crucial to Satan’s strategy. Sadly, most people—even naïve Christians—have exposed themselves to so much deception, they don’t even realize they are being deceived. Most people mindlessly accept whatever they hear and see. We listen to music, read books and magazines, watch movies, listen to advice, and respond to advertisements without asking ourselves important questions:
where we are in bondage because we have listened to, believed, and acted on lies. How can we escape from bondage and move toward freedom in those practical issues? Here are three steps to keep in mind as we begin to deal more specifically with the lies that put us in bondage and the truth that sets us free: 1. Identify the area of bondage or sinful behavior. Chances are, you already know what some of those bondages are. But there may be others that aren’t as obvious. Ask God to show you specific areas where you are not free. Scripture says, “A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2 Peter 2:19). What are the areas where you are not living in freedom as a child of God? 2. Identify the lie(s) at the root of that bondage or behavior. What lies have you listened to, believed, and acted on that have put you in bondage? The answer to that question may not be immediately apparent—roots are generally hidden beneath the surface; and lies, by their very nature, are deceptive. We need the Lord to help us see what we have been believing that isn’t true. Ask God to show you which of the Enemy’s lies you have bought into, and to help you repent of believing those lies. 3. Replace the lie(s) with the truth. Satan is a powerful enemy. His primary weapon is deception, and his lies are convincing. But there is something even more powerful than Satan’s lies, and that is the truth. Once we identify the lies that have put us in bondage and repent of believing them, we have an effective weapon to overcome deception—the weapon of truth. Each lie must be countered with the corresponding truth. Where we have listened to, dwelt on, believed, and acted on lies, we must begin to listen to, meditate on, believe, and act on the truth. That is how we will move from bondage to freedom, by the power of the Spirit of God. As Jesus declared, it is the truth that “will set you free” (John 8:32). v
Deception was— and still is— crucial to Satan’s strategy.
v What is the message here? v Is it really true? v Am I being deceived by a way of thinking that is contrary to the truth?
The important thing to remember is that every act of sin in our lives begins with a lie. Most of us have areas
Adapted from chapter 1 of Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, copyright © 2001 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Used by permission of Moody Publishers.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Revive Our Hearts radio host
? ? ?
Hard Questions May I Be Excused? ad·dic·tion [uh-dik-shuhn] noun the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma
verywhere we turn we are confronted with addiction—brains and bodies taken captive. Along with familiar addictions such as drug or alcohol abuse and sexual compulsions, Wikipedia adds many others, including work (as in workaholic), shopping (as in shopaholic), video gaming, and exercise. Tellingly, “idolizing” is also on the list. Idolatry, the Bible’s name for addictions, has been part of the human condition since sin entered the world. The apostle John understood the danger of addiction, concluding his first epistle with these words: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). The promise of pleasure, the desire to avoid pain, or the drive for approval entices us all. The power of addiction—hardened, habitual behavior—is real. It is the result of many poor choices that have solidified into a compulsive behavior. Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton’s song about drug addiction, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” captures the destructive power of addiction well: “Come down off your throne and leave your body alone. . . . I can’t find my way home.” Caught in addiction’s strangling grip, we cry out like the apostle Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Rom. 7:24). So how should we handle addiction? Will God excuse the “addicted” from their responsibility to obey? I’ve heard people quote Romans 7:15-17 as an indirect excuse for continuing defeat: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do . . . it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For them, Paul’s admission offers company for their misery.
Dr. Richard Fisher
“Even the apostle Paul couldn’t stop,” the reasoning goes. But Romans 7:7-25 does not provide excuses for practicing addictive behavior. Rather, it reflects the slavery and misery that addiction produces, as sin seizes the opportunity to arouse our selfish passions and control our lives. Paul isn’t excusing addictive behavior—he is showing the futility of human solutions to fix it apart from deliverance by Jesus Christ. This deliverance is spelled out in chapters six and eight of Romans. These passages give us hope—even a mandate—for overcoming any addiction. Here is a pattern I have found effective for doing exactly that:
Acknowledge that you have a problem and need
help (Rom. 10:13). Call your addictive behavior what it is— sin. Unless you are willing to admit that there’s a destructive pattern in your life, you won’t make any lasting changes (1 John 1:9).
Commit yourself to Jesus Christ. Romans 7:24-25
clearly states that Jesus is the only source of lasting victory. Hebrews 12:1-2 challenges us to apply Jesus’ victory to our lives by: v v v v v
claiming God’s promises of forgiveness and redemption in Jesus looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, as we run life’s race remembering Jesus’ example, who bore our sin, enduring death on the cross for us considering Jesus daily, taking up our cross, and following Him making Jesus our new boss
Stop making excuses; assume responsibility for
Don’t leave a clean house empty. If you don’t replace
your life and your daily decisions (Gal. 6:7). You will reap what you sow. Addictions begin with choices, and they end the same way.
your addiction with godly desires and behavior, it will return with a vengeance, just like the demonic spirits Jesus warned about in Luke 11:24-26. Victory over addiction is not just about cleaning up your life; it’s about having a new life. Consider your old lifestyle as dead; put off the addiction, and put on beneficial activity that leads to life (Eph. 4:20-24).
Don’t go it alone. With God all things are possible
(Matt. 19:26). And typically for those seeking victory over addiction, God works through compassionate people. In Galatians 6:1, Paul challenges mature believers to help those who are struggling with sin. Seek out the help of a mature believer in your church.
Embrace the hardship ahead of you. Prepare for hardships, setbacks, and challenges, but trust God. “Lean not on your own understanding” (see Prov. 3:1-12; James 1:1-12).
See yourself as a victor, not a victim (1 John 3:1-6).
Let God define what’s possible for you, starting today. Reject what the world says; let go of your past; “Cast all your anxieties on God because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
You may be traveling on the road of addiction, heading to destruction, thinking there is no hope; but God has made an exit for you through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. Take that exit. This narrow road will lead you through some difficult territory as you heal and change. But the way of God will lead you back to the life He designed for you. God will give you the power to experience victory. v Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.
Journal your journey. Plan your journey to victory (like
a game plan), and keep a daily record of it. It will provide an account of God’s working in your life as you trust Him. A practical way to plan is to set monthly benchmarks. Complacency and inconsistency are two of the biggest reasons for failure. Your journal will alert you to any deviation from the pathway to victory.
Truth for Addicts
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin (Romans 6:6-7). Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-18).
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25).
Real World Husband, father, porn addict. He knows it’s wrong, but he won’t stop.
Let Grace In
The Scenario It started “innocently” enough when I was younger, glancing at women’s clothing catalogs when Mom and Dad weren’t around. Real problems started when my parents let me have a television in my own room, and I’d channel surf for hours at night, looking for anything arousing. Later I was introduced to the vast online world of staged and airbrushed beauty, a world of “free” content piped into my own house on my computer. How horrifying it would be to have all this exposed to my family that I love, and how many times I’ve tried unsuccessfully to stop looking. I don’t even know why I keep this up. My wife is wonderful, and I love her. I don’t need these other women, these other images in my life, but I keep bringing them into my heart and home. I worry that someone will discover all this, and I know the consequences would be terribly shameful and hurtful. In all honesty, I feel addicted. I hate to use that term, because it sounds like an excuse, but it’s how I feel. It’s almost like my faith and even my common sense fall apart in the moment of temptation. I wish I were stronger, more resolute, more faithful in my heart, but I can’t quit. Maybe I can’t, or maybe I won’t, I’m not sure which. Sometimes I don’t care.
To motivate you to choose God’s path, you must realize what this is already doing to you and your family. Covering sin never works. David told God, “When I kept silent [about my sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4). You will experience increasing emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual deterioration as long as you remain silent. Like cancer, sin doesn’t get better on its own; it spreads. You can, however, escape your sin. But you will never overcome this by yourself. You need what the Bible calls grace. Grace is God’s supernatural power that gives us the desire AND the ability to obey God and overcome sin. As long as you try to cover your sin and handle it alone, you are walking on your own and will even know God’s resistance (James 4:6). He only gives grace to those who humbly admit their sin and acknowledge their need. You must let God into the equation, or your bondage will continue and worsen. But when you let Him in, you won’t just overcome your sin; you’ll find intimacy with the One who alone can satisfy the hunger of your soul. Here’s pride-buster #1: Find a godly older man and get honest. Withhold nothing. Confide in a man who can give you biblical counsel to walk through the process of confession, clearing your conscience, accountability, and developing new patterns of behavior. Turn the light on, and the darkness cannot remain. Remember, there is hope. You are not the only one who has faced this. Tens of thousands of men who were deeply in bondage are winning this battle. Bill Elliff is the lead pastor of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Starve and Replace I want to commend you for admitting your need and tackling this sin head on. This is one of the first steps toward moral health. Don’t despair. In Christ there is help and healing. Proverbs 7 gives some vital instruction concerning lustful addictions. Here are two steps found in this chapter: 1. Complete Starvation. Failure in the moral arena occurs when one feeds the lust. Concerning sexual sin, verse 25 counsels, “Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.” A practical application of that verse is to rid yourself of all stimuli that tempt you to fail—possibly magazines, Internet sites, movie packages on cable TV—I’m sure you know what your roadblocks to moral purity are. The key to this step is the word complete. Leave nothing available that will trip you up. 2. Positive Replacement. One who is wise and victorious over lust also fills the mind with biblical truth. Read verses 1–4. Again and again the text tells us to ingest and follow biblical advice. Then verse 5 reveals the reward: “They [biblical truths] will keep you from the adulterous woman.” Of course, the deeper the sin habit, the longer it may take to gain victory. Loving accountability from your mate or a good friend will deter future defeat and aid moral victory. Don’t give up! The truth WILL set you free (John 8:32).
not only brings healing (James 5:16) and forgiveness (1 John 1:9); it brings safety, since it “de-fangs” the embedded power of secrecy. 3. Identify the shallow promises that sexual sin offers you. Every sin offers you promises (“You’ll enjoy this,” “This will be fun,” “You’ll feel in control”), but sexual sin is deeply rooted in “want.” It offers you the promise of being wanted in a way that you dictate, control, and direct. Asking yourself, “What do I really want in this?” will expose the shallowness, inability to fulfill, and implicit idolatry of self-centered sexuality. 4. Eclipse the lurid, greedy, self-centered promises of sexual sin with the greater promises of satisfaction found in loving God and (if you are married) in enjoying your wife. It is as practical as saturating your heart with the promises of God, memorizing Scripture, singing, and being in community with other believers. It is as personal as focusing on the beauty of your wife, serving her in many ways, and discovering the reality and depth of naked acceptance and sexual satisfaction in the relationship of marriage. Sexual sin doesn’t have to bind you. The cycle of misplaced desire, failure, and shame is half-hearted living. God offers something far better, attractive, and satisfying. Mark Vroegop is the lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Wilson Green pastored for 21 years before joining Life Action in 1999. He currently co-leads a Life Action summit team.
Eclipse the Lies Sexual sin, at any level, is a complex web of God-given desires, misplaced affections, empty promises, secrecy, and guilt. Those who find themselves trapped in the repeated cycle of failure (“I want this,” “I do this,” “I hate this,” “I am this”) often describe themselves as addicts. And no wonder. For all intents and purposes, they are addicts—trapped in the inability to stop. So what should you do? 1. Understand that there is hope. Since sexual drive, desires, and activity were designed by God, they are all fundamentally good. The misuse of these gifts can be both forgiven and redeemed through the life-changing reality of a relationship with Jesus.
Recommended Resources v Closing the Window by Tim Chester v Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller v Addictions – A Banquet in the Grave by Ted Tripp v Think Before You Look by Daniel Henderson v www.SettingCaptivesFree.com
2. Sever the power of secrecy. The trap of sexual sin is its isolation and privacy. Acknowledging the struggle and your failures is critical because it confronts the shackle of shame. Confession
Kissing the Leper’s Hand He was from a well-to-do, well connected, rich Italian
merchant family. Being a natural leader, he was popular and had a large group of friends who enjoyed regular wining and dining, often at his expense. Always well dressed, he was also a romantic and dreamer by temperament, even seeking on one occasion to go to war dressed as a knight in full armor! He was ready to fight thirteenth-century injustice on the one hand and gain some fame on the other. Yet in his mid-twenties, this would all change quite dramatically. The latest fashions were discarded for the simplest garb. Any wealth was given to the poor and the church, and his new friends became a group of companions whose revelry and joy were not found in parties but in God and His work. His name for the last 800 years has been associated with his hometown, and his example has been an inspiration to people everywhere: Francis of Assisi. So what caused the change? How was it possible for him to break free from the powerful spell that materialism, selfishness, and riches held over his life? For Francis the spiritual breakthrough came in a series of specific, deliberate acts of radical obedience, the most well known being his encounter with a leper. As a cultured young man, he had learned to appreciate the finer aspects of art and beauty, and to him there was little that seemed farther removed from that than associating with the ugliness and sensory nausea of leprosy. Thirteenth-century Italy had thousands of these unfortunates who suffered from the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual isolation imposed on them by their contemporaries and were left to die a slow, alienated death. People hearing the leper’s bell or clapper always gave them a wide berth. It wasn’t that Francis didn’t care; it was the horror of the disease that frightened him into inaction. In his last will, he was to confess, “In my worldly days I could not bear even to look a leper in the face.” That was, until . . . in the words of one of his earliest biographers: “He met a certain leper, and this unforeseen meeting filled him with loathing”; yet he decided to “conquer self . . . to become the soldier of Christ,” and leaping
from his horse, ran to embrace him. “When the leper stretched forth his hand as though to receive alms, he kissed it and then put money therein.” Francis confronted and acted against the greatest fears that had held him back—and the spell of sin and the chains of fear were broken. “Filled with wonder and joy, he began devoutly to chant praises unto the Lord.”
Francis confronted and acted against his greatest fears—and the spell of sin and the chains of fear were broken. This was the first of thousands of acts to many sufferers in the context of a life sold out to God. Francis has left us no great theological literature; yet his example of faith in action, even against his greatest fears, has left a legacy that remains a challenge to those of us who find it easier to read, write, and talk rather than actively overcome and do. v Bibliography
Life of St. Francis, Bonaventura, Everyman’s Library, 1923. Saint Francis of Assisi, John R. H. Moorman, SCM, 1950. Francis, Michael de la Bedoyere, Collins, 1962. Kevin Adams was born in South Wales and has authored two books and a film on Welsh revival history. He is the senior pastor of East Baptist Church in Lynn, MA.
Moving Past Zero
magine using a line graph to picture our struggle to
change. Any activity below zero would indicate steps taken to battle sins like lust, greed, hatred, and selfishness. Any activity above zero would indicate steps of positive obedience like prayer, witnessing, serving, and giving. Now, if we were to graph the life of the average Christian, my hunch is that we’d see the majority of energy being invested below zero, in the “minus territory” of trying hard not to do wrong things. We’re confessing to God, renewing pledges of repentance, seeking accountability from friends or family to stop bad behavior, beating back temptations, and maybe even reading books designed to help overcome particular sins. (I have this hunch based on a significant amount of personal experience!) All of that is good. But I’ve come to believe that the battle for Christian obedience can never be won this way alone. Romans 12:21 (nlt) explains: “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” In other words, overwhelm and override your temptations by filling your life with bold, positive obedience to Christ! This means that acts of service and evangelism, focus on missions and revival, passion to see the world transformed by the glory of God, faith-filled prayer, and all other steps motivated by faith and love are some of our best weapons against sin. It’s a kind of spiritual paradox—we don’t defeat sin by exclusively focusing on fighting sin, but also by filling our lives with good. In order to put this principle to work, we have to stop assuming that our lives must be “cleaned up” in order to start serving, sharing, or stepping out to do what is right. If we don’t, we are waging this war for change on Satan’s territory, where he has the advantage, instead of leapfrogging his paralyzing tactics of guilt and shame. Of course, I’m not saying you should stop striving to be holy and sinless. But let’s open up another front in our fight to change—let’s initiate action on the other side of our graph, in the positive territory of faith and action!
Doing so will fill our lives with what matters and what motivates, and will crowd out a lot of the junk that currently bogs us down. Instead of our spiritual struggle being all about us (our problems, our bad choices, our habits, our needs), it will become about the larger purposes of God with the people all around us. Against this sort of warfare, our Enemy has no effective defense. Against prayerful, passionate, loving, committed, serving believers, he and his minions face certain defeat. He wants to drag the conflict back into his territory and have you “struggling to overcome” for the rest of your life. He wants you to say, “Once I get my life straightened out, I can get serious about serving God.” He wants you to say, “I’m not ready yet.” His whole battle plan depends on it. He has you right where he wants you! Deny him the advantage of setting the terms for your conflict. You launch the attack! Start a Bible study at work. Invite your neighbors to church. Volunteer to serve your community. Give sacrificially to missions. Ask your pastor about discipleship training. Practice hospitality in your home as a way to share your faith with unbelievers. Start a revival prayer group. Hit the Enemy hard where it hurts most by shaking the foundations of his evil kingdom. As a believer in Jesus Christ, you have access to the same incredible power that raised Jesus from the dead; there’s no reason for you to spend the next year of your life below zero. You were saved for much more than that! v
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good.
Daniel W. Jarvis
v Make a list of positive obedience possibilities. v Start praying for revival and missions. v Enlist a friend to serve with you. v Form a group to identify and address enemy strongholds in your community. v Expect fierce counterattacks—and trust God to bring you through them.
Making It 40 Days of Change The power to change comes from the Holy Spirit working in our lives. The desire to change comes by the grace of God. But the choice to change remains in our hands. The Bible identifies specific things we must “put off” and “put on” in obedience to Christ. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
For each of the next 40 days, take ONE “put off” and “put on” from the list below, and work through the “4 Steps for Change” at the bottom of page 31.
Day Put Off
1 . Lack of love 2 . Judging 3 . Bitterness 4 . Selfishness 5 . Pride 6 . Disobedience 7 . Impatience 8 . Ungratefulness 9 . Discontent 10. Complaining 11. Jealousy/Envy 12. Strife/Contention 13. Retaliation (getting even) 14. Anger 15. Gossip 16. Critical spirit
1 John 4:7-8, 20; John 15:12
Let God search your heart
Matt. 7:1-2; John 8:9
Compassionate/Forgiving Heb. 12:15; Eph. 4:32 Self-denial
Phil. 2:21; John 12:24
Prov. 16:5; James 4:6
1 Sam. 12:15; Deut. 11:27
James 1:2-4; Heb. 10:36
Romans 1:21; Eph. 5:20
Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:8
Phil. 2:14; Heb. 13:15
Gal. 5:26; 1 Cor. 13:4, 7
Prov. 13:10; James 3:17
Return good for evil
Prov. 24:29; Romans 12:17-20
Prov. 29:22; Gal. 5:22-23
Prov. 11:13; Eph. 4:29
Gal. 5:15; Col. 3:12
17. Lying 18. Complacency 19. Laziness 20. Hypocrisy 21. Left first love 22. Worry/Fear 23. Unbelief 24. Unfaithfulness 25. Neglect of Bible study 26. Prayerlessness 27. No burden for the lost 28. Inhospitable 29. Cheating/Deception 30. Stealing 31. Gluttony 32. Temporal values 33. Love of money/Greed 34. Lust 35. Pornography 36. Following the crowd 37. Gambling 38. Favoritism 39. Presumption 40. Stubbornness/Rebellion
Eph. 4:25; Zech. 8:16
Rev. 3:15-16; 1 Tim. 4:10
Prov. 20:4; Prov. 6:6-11
1 Thess. 2:3; 2 Cor. 1:12
Rev. 2:4-5; 2 Cor. 11:3
Matt. 6:25-32; 1 Peter 5:7
Heb. 3:12; Heb. 11:1, 6
Prov. 25:19; Luke 16:10-12
Deut. 6:6-9; Psalm 1:2
Luke 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17
Matt. 9:36-38; Acts 1:8
1 Peter 4:9; Romans 12:13
2 Cor. 4:2; Eph. 4:25
Deut. 5:19; Eph. 4:28
Prov. 23:20-21; 1 Cor. 9:27
Matt. 6:19-21; 2 Cor. 4:18
Love of God
1 Tim. 6:9-10; Matt. 6:33
Titus 2:12; 1 Thess. 4:3-8
Psalm 101:3; Phil. 4:8
Prov. 1:10; Prov. 3:7
Prov. 28:20; Luke 16:11
Love others as yourself
James 2:1-9; Luke 6:31
Trust God’s will
Prov. 27:1; James 4:14-15
1 Sam. 15:23; Isaiah 57:15
4 Steps for Change 1. Read the suggested Scriptures that correspond to the areas you are focusing on that day. 2. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what needs to be “put off” in your life, and confess any sin to God. 3. Write on an index card one or more practical ways you could “put on” obedience in that area. 4. Take the card with you and review it throughout the day.
For an extended worksheet of helpful “put off” and “put on” items, download the PDF at LifeAction.org/Addictions.
P.O. Box 31, Buchanan, MI 49107 269-697-8600 • www.LifeAction.org
Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Life Action Ministries
Igniting Movements of Authentic Christianity Since 1971, Life Action Ministries has been calling God’s people to God’s presence. Our family of outreaches is igniting movements of Christ-centered revival among God’s people in innovative, life-changing ways: •
Summits and THIRST conferences for local churches
Revive Our Hearts publishing, conferences, and daily radio for women
Life Action Camp for families
Retreats at The Lodge for ministry leaders
Collegiate Impact for colleges and universities
Cutting-edge resources, such as Seeking Him for small groups, Revive magazine and the Infuse podcast for personal renewal, and Heartcry Journal for pastors
Visit www.LifeAction.org to find out more about how Life Action Ministries is for you!