What I have to share here is equally applicable to all sin-habits. You know yours. Just substitute yours in for the one I have chosen to describe, and find the similarities and take-aways for application in your own life.
I’ve shared before that I once battled a life-consuming addiction to lust and pornography – it’s no secret. Though I have lived in victory for many years now, the old allure to take “just one quick look” can still rise up in new attempts to sabotage my life again.
I have an accountability partner with whom I share those trying times. And he likewise with me. We confess our sins to one another and pray for each other (a la James 5:13-16). We shine a light on our temptations together, so that they cannot grow in the darkness of secrecy and isolation. We fight for each other in prayer.
Recently, he shared a moment of failure with me. He was alone, weighed down with an inordinate amount of stress, and overwhelmed by temptation (these aren’t excuses for what happened, but powerful factors that contributed to it).
- You feel like you have tried EVERYTHING to kick the habit, to drop the sin, to loose the binding and oppressive chains.
- You’ve tried every solution, every safeguard, every strategy to escape.
- In the end, you plunge head-over-heels into a cascade of shame-filled, unenjoyable sin.
- You’re left in a heap of remorse – full of self-doubt and self-disgust.
- You regretted the whole act from start to finish – and that makes the sting of the whole failure that much worse.
What he said next was so poignant, and cut straight to the heart of sin’s despicable power. He said to me, “it’s not even fun anymore”. The sin has become so detestable that you even regret it horribly, while in the midst of the act of committing the sin! Yet its allure and possessive power is so great that you still cannot break fully free of it’s grip…
I have personally said and felt every single one of these sentiments above – many, many times before.
In my reply back to him, I wrote,
Your message below hits me like a ton of bricks. I wish I had a bunch of answers for you. A bunch of strategies and tips to help you escape the temptation… But I don’t. Hopefully I have something better: Romans 7 and 8…
My family is currently reading through the New Testament Book of Romans. Just this week, we read chapter 7 – Paul’s great lament over sin’s ability to ruin his every desire for good. I won’t recount the whole chapter here for you, but I will just highlight a few key statements Paul makes:
- “I am enslaved to sin.” (verse 14)
- “I do not understand my own actions.” (verse 15a)
- “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (verse 15b)
- “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh.” (verse 18a)
- “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” (verse 18b)
- “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (verse 19)
- “I find that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.” (verse 21)
- “I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of God, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (verses 22-23)
- “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (verse 24)
My friend’s lament this week sounded very much the same as Paul’s in Romans 7. Hey, it has to be at least somewhat encouraging to hear that Paul – the great missionary and evangelist – the man who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament Books – felt the same way that we do about the power of sin… :-)
verse 25: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
And then straight into Romans chapter 8, Paul’s great discourse on the liberating power of the God who…
- “does not condemn those who are in Christ Jesus” (verse 1)
- “has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (verse 2)
- “sent His own Son to deal with sin” (verse 3)
- “adopted us to be His children” (verses 14-15)
- “gave the Spirit to help us in our weaknesses” (verse 26a)
- “intercedes on our behalf” (verse 26b)
- “works all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (verse 28)
- “called us, predestined us, justified us, and glorified us in Christ Jesus” (verse 30)
- “is for us” (verse 31)
- “gave up His own Son for all of us” (verse 32)
- does not allow anything to come between us and His love for us! (verses 35-39)
There comes an important moment in our battle with sin where, like Paul, we realize that nothing in our own willpower or toolbox will ever give us the ultimate victory. No strategy, no safeguard we’ve set up, no escape we’ve sought to give ourself…
Nothing short of pure, humble, naked faith in the liberator Jesus alone. Nothing short of the miraculous rescue of God, who hears our exasperated prayers, sees our hopeless plight, and comes down Himself to deliver us from our bodies of death.
When my strategies fail, when my will gives way (for the millionth time), when the enslaving power of my pet sin kicks my meager solutions in the teeth, I am left with nothing but naked faith. Bare, unassisted trust in the Deliverer.
We are His, and nothing can separate us from His love. He is working all this failure of ours into good – somehow – He’s just that amazing! He’s just that strong a Redeemer!
We are His – adopted – joint heirs with Christ – filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead!
We are His, and He is for us – who then could be against us? What could possibly come between us and Him?
WE ARE HIS.