Breaking the Chains of Sinful Habits

Dear Friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against your soul.
— 1 Peter 2:11

The word "abstain" translates the Greek apechomai, a combination of two Greek words: apo, a preposition meaning "off;" and the verb echo, meaning "to hold." Combined they mean "to hold off." It describes an aggressive stance--a defensive position--as one would hold off an attacker. "Fleshly desires" translates the Greek epithumia, which literally means "to pant after." According to Peter, we have inside us these animal lusts that wage war against our souls. Just a glance in the window... just a whiff of fragrance... just a brush of the hand, and the battle is on! Our response is critical. We must match aggression for aggression. Passivity means defeat. 

As as an example: one in ten adults look at pornography on a regular basis--one in three of these are women. 25% of internet searches are porn related. 70% of men ages 18-34 view internet pornography once a month. One in four Christian men have viewed pornography in the last 30 days. Many are losing the war! 

What can we do about it? 

1. Admit you are vulnerable. Even a Christian giant like the Apostle Paul admitted his vulnerability (Romans 7:18) Do not think that because you have been a Christian for 40 years you are beyond certain temptations. "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). Recognize that your old nature is just as wicked, corrupt, incorrigible and perverted as ever! 

2. When you fall, confess and repent. Proverbs says, "The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy" (28:13). 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness." Confess your sin--no matter how many times you have committed the same sin--and accept God's unconditional forgiveness, then move on.

3. Acknowledge that God's power in you is sufficient to conquer every sinful habit. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead resides in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:18-20). As a Christian you are a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now you "can do all things through Him who strengthens you" (Philippians 4:13).

4. Surrender yourself entirely to Jesus as Lord (Romans 12:1). This means you allow Him to have control over every compartment of your life. Nothing is off limits to His authority. 

5. Realize that you are in a daily struggle. After attacking Jesus in the wilderness the Bible says that Satan left Him "for a time" (Luke 4:13). If Satan would not leave the perfect Son of God alone permanently, what makes you think he will leave you for very long? He'll be back... carrying his bag of tricks. 

6. Make yourself accountable to someone you trust. A trustworthy person is hard--but not impossible--to find (Proverbs 20:6). Find someone you can confide in and hold you accountable. Don't delude yourself into thinking "I've got this... I don't need anyone's help" (Proverbs 18:1). 

7. Renew your mind daily (Romans 12:2). Every word, smell, taste, feel and image is filed away in that amazing computer between your ears. You cannot empty your mind, but you can fill it with other things. Memorize Scripture and dwell on the "word of Christ" (Colossians 3:16). Listen to Christian music. Sing worship songs to yourself. Maintain a spirit of praise in your heart. Focus on the good (Philippians 4:8). 

8. Get involved in service. No, I'm not trying to hook you into taking another job at church. But if you can spend hours a day looking at a computer, you've got way too much time on your hands! Do something constructive with your time: "No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please his recruiter" (2 Timothy 2:4).  

9. Help someone else (Galatians 6:1). Do you know how difficult it is to find someone you can confide in? Do you? Then you determine to become a trustworthy person for someone's sake. 

10. Make no room for temptation (Romans 13:14). Peter said, "Keep it away from you; hold it off!" The proverb says, "He who would not fall down ought not to walk in slippery places." Don't be like the guy who was tempted when he drove past the donut shop. "I won't stop unless there is a parking place in front." Wouldn't you know it... his third time circling the building a space opened up! If watching certain channels on TV cause you to be tempted, don't watch them. Better yet, cancel your subscription! 

11. Keep yourself humble and accountable to God (James 4:10). 

Some boys were trying to build a scarecrow. They stuffed him full of straw and hay, but he kept flopping over. Finally, exasperated, one of them said, "He needs something inside him to hold him up!" 

God has placed Someone inside of you: His Holy Spirit! He is all the power you will ever need. Submit yourself to Him. Rely on Him. Let him sustain you... and hold you up!