All my life I've been baffled as to how to stop in my tracks when it comes to certain sins. You know the ones that you just can't seem to stop. I would determine that I would never again do such and such. I would pray hard about it. I would talk to other christians about it and they would offer the advice: "You have to stop trying to do this in your own strength and lean on God's strength." Then they would quote the verse in Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Ok great. So then I would go on my merry way, happy that I was going to no longer be weak in this area of my life. Except that I would dive right back in the next time the opportunity came along! What!? So then the previous scenario would play out again....over and over and over. I felt weak, I felt like I was a bad christian, I felt like other people were better than me, stronger than me. Why couldn't I overcome these things? I really wanted to!
Sometimes, I will be sitting in church or wherever and an inappropriate thought or memory will pop into my head all of a sudden. I will desperately try to stop thinking about it. Remove it from my mind. The more I try not to think about it, the more I think about it. I just can't make myself "forget". It's bizarre and it makes me feel guilty. Why am I thinking thoughts like this?
But how does one "do things in Christ's strength"? What does that mean anyway? If I am to try to stop sinning in my own strength, does that mean I stop trying? Won't I then do whatever it is even more often? Won't that be worse? The answer was a long time coming, but this week my eyes were finally opened. So what does all that mean practically? Here's the how-to to stop those troublesome and stubborn sins in your life. Recently I read the book " Just Like Jesus" by Max Lucado. It had quite an impact on me. Then the other night I was reading in Colossians 2:20-3:5 which says,
"Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
Well I've read that a hundred times in my life, even memorized it and it never had the impact on me before that it did this week. This is what it said to me. I have been so focused on not doing this or that. To stop sinning. I have been focused on the sin. Obsessed with stopping a behavior. These verses say that that is false humility, self-imposed religion, and neglect of the body. My focus should not be on the sin but needs to move upward. That means giving my thoughts to God. Thinking about Him and what He does and who He is. Bringing my focus and thoughts to God every minute of every day. Max Lucado quotes Frank Laubach, a missionary to the illiterate,
(from his journal) April 18, 1930
"I have tasted a thrill in fellowship with God which has made anything discordant with God disgusting. This afternoon the possession of God has caught me up with such sheer joy that I thought I never had known anything like it. God was so close and so amazingly lovely that I felt like melting all over with a strange blissful contentment. Having had this experience, which comes to me now several times a week, the thrill of filth repels me, for I know its power to drag me from God. And after an hour of close fellowship with God my soul feels clean, as new fallen snow." (emphasis mine)
By being in constant conversation with God, by looking into His eyes and seeing the world through His eyes, by praising and worshipping Him, having a close close relationship with Him, everything that is displeasing to God will become disgusting to me and will fall away. Without my effort to stop sinning. So instead of focusing on the sin in my life, I am now going to focus on God and His amazing glory. A friend recently said, "We need to take that sin to the foot of the cross and leave it there." That in itself is the secret to living a life free from the burdens of sin. Will I still do things that are displeasing to God? Sure I will. But it no longer has power over me. We are human, but by gazing into the eyes of God, we can become more like Jesus. :)