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Ep. 495 Here Is Practical Help for Anyone Stuck in a Bad Habit

Ep. 265 Here Is Practical Help for Anyone Stuck in a Bad Habit

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Show Notes: A person with a bad habit needs a clear path to freedom, though it’s not always clear which pathway to take. As he thinks about freeing himself from bondage, he must begin with a rational worldview that lays a foundation for the practical application that flows out of that worldview. If you’re struggling with an addiction or bad habit or stuck in a rut, here is that clear path—the worldview and your practical path forward. I will start by laying out a biblical worldview in an unsuspected place: what is a covenant?

Show Notes

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Your Highest Affection

Covenant means to separate from all others and commit to one, i.e., marriage or the Lord. For example, in marriage, we are not separated from interacting with all women in the world—if you’re a man. The same goes for women, but it means that nobody from the opposite sex will have power over us, or we won’t have more love for anyone than our wives. We may engage all of humanity—male and female—but none of them will gain our affection more than what we have for our spouses.

Of course, there could be wisdom in separating from some women or a particular woman—if our heart lusts after someone. That type of “separation from the world” is not legalism but wisdom—practically applied. The vital idea to remember is that the evil in play here is not the “objects” in the world but the passions, lusts, and desires in the heart (James 1:14-15; fire in the bones). To miss this point is to miss the origin of the sin, its cause, and where we should place our focus.

James 114-15

The wrongheaded perspective is to say, “It was that woman who is the cause of my lusts, so I must stay away from her.” This view of separating from a woman will keep us from addressing the real issue, and we won’t change. We may separate from all the women in the world and still not find a cure for the problem; the sin, lust, and passion continue to be there, looking for ways to express themselves.

Switching Idols

A man told me years ago that he gave up porn and gained thirty pounds. He did not fix the problem of his lust-filled heart but redirected his desires in another direction. The legalist who believes the problem is “out there somewhere” will do similarly and go through similar cycles of addiction: stop, start, stop, start, ad infinitum. Anytime we externalize sin’s cause as being out there somewhere, we may retreat from all those objects of lust while missing the source of the lust—in our hearts.

  • There is wisdom in separating from specific things or people if those things stir up the preexisting sin in our hearts.
  • But if we place the primary accent on that thing or person, we will miss sin’s origin.
  • The point of separating from certain things is because we know what’s in our hearts.

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Isolate the Origin

As we move inward, realizing that the fountainhead for all sin, temptation, and stumbling blocks rises from the heart and attaches itself to various “precious” subjects in the culture, we’re in the right place to interact with the problem. Perchance we could remove—mortify—those heart idolatries, we possibly could engage those former “tempting objects” in the future because our hearts do not desire them.

Alternately, it could be that your mortification will be a life-long process, an exercise in humility and strengthening from the Lord as we lean into Him in our weakness to gain His strength over our temptations. It’s like a recurring skin disease—eczema. You put a topical ointment on the problem, knowing it recurs, and you have to keep applying the medication. You don’t despair because there is a daily cure, though not a permanent one, until you get a new body. Whether you find a permanent or daily cure, you have a prescription.

Sometimes, our solutions are not how we would prescribe them, but the humble heart receives the Lord’s mercies with gratitude and active obedience. This type of teaching is for those with ears to hear, and if you do have your biblical ears on, you’re on the path to more extraordinary transformation.

Practical Path Forward

It is accurate to say that the Lord shapes us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). We call this passive obedience. You want to relish in the truth that God changes us. But we’re not inactive recipients of God’s transforming power. Active obedience is a thing, too. We have a responsibility before the Lord to work out (Philippians 2:12) what He is working in us (James 1:22, 4:17).

The remainder of this episode speaks to the need for the person who is addicted to something to respond with humble, unashamed, courageous, active obedience. We do this as though our lives depend on it. In one sense, our spiritual life does depend on it. We must throw human wisdom and self-reliance to the wind and embrace the radical, transforming doctrine of grace as we engage God in a way that changes our us.

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Steps Toward Change

I trust these questions and concepts will help anyone willing to change.

  1. What is the thing that has you stuck in a bad habit?
    1. Who knows about it?
    2. What have they said to you?
  2. Have you protected yourself from everything that tempts you to sin?
    1. What specific thing remains in your sphere that you have not cut off—amputated?
    2. If you have not cut out everything, you’re not where you must be and must address why that is still there.
  3. If you know how to sin and create opportunities to do so, you have enough intelligence and power to change.
    1. You’re not a victim because you know how to think about your addiction and put yourself in places where you can enjoy it.
    2. If this is true, why do you do it?
    3. Are you serious about changing yourself?
  4. An element of work is involved in sinning. For example, premeditation, planning, strategy, intentionality, hiding, secrecy, deception, and energy. The habitualized person is not lazy but a strategist. He can’t say he can’t quit because he shows much ability to commit the transgression.
    1. Assuming you are humble and want to change, what are those plans?
    2. What is your strategy?
    3. What is the practical input from others?
    4. What is the accountability process to maintain the rigors of obedience?
  5. Do you continue to take in more information about your problem when you already know what to do?
    1. Meaning, are you more informational than transformational?
  6. Transformation is an active obedience that has outside intervention from friends.
    1. Describe how you’re actively changing.
    2. What is your external input doing to help you stay the course?
  7. Describe all your companions, not just your friends.
    1. Who are your associations?
    2. What are the other means surrounding you that motivate you toward Christ or sin?
  8. Here are a few proactive steps, in no order of sequence and not mandatory but merely suggestive:
    1. Report your ongoing action steps to an accountability partner.
    2. Share these things with your spouse if you’re married and your relationship is stable enough.
    3. Create structure in your life, e.g., going to bed on time and getting up on time, exercising routine, eating correctly, and television and social media moderation.
    4. Remove any material thing that tempts you to sin, i.e., devices.
    5. Appropriately confess your struggle to those you interact with daily, asking them to help you maintain an obedience course.
    6. Identify those folks who interfere with your holy objectives and remove yourself from them if it’s possible.
    7. Find a friend to walk with you down this path.
      1. Who is that person?
      2. How are they helping you?

If you’re not serious about change, which you can measure by responding to this path forward, nobody can help you change. You’ll live in a cycle of purity, sin, regret, purity, sin, regret. Repeat.

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