Here are practical methods we can use to evade sin and destructive thought patterns.
A good friend of mine just finished 20 years of being sober. He kicked it through AA like millions of others. Why does AA work when counselors, pills, electric shock and countless other things don’t?
AA starts by calling it what it is: “I’m Joe and I’m an alcoholic.” “I’m Sam and I’m addicted to sex.” “I’m Trevor and I’m addicted to prescription drugs.” Then comes calling on a "higher power" for help. A huge "one-two" punch.
There’s amazing power in naming the sin that’s got you. It might not even be a sin per se--like sex isn’t a sin if it’s with your wife. But if sex becomes a thing that owns you…controls your behavior…leads you to think and do bad stuff, then it’s a sin. At least for you. At least for now.
So what kinds of things own us? What kinds of things should we name?
- Greed – If you find yourself wanting more money and it’s never enough, maybe greed has you. If you think about your money a lot. If you’re constantly adding up the value of your accounts. If you’re holding back money your wife needs to run the house. If you’re willing to do just about anything to make more money and have more stuff, then greed is it. Greed owns you.
- Fear – Sometimes it starts as a healthy respect for things that can go wrong. Then it grows to be a constant thing in your mind’s eye. “This might hurt me.” “That’s too dangerous.” “I’m not taking that chance.” Fear starts to paralyze. Your first thought becomes, “Uh-oh, I better not!” Your world shrinks. Fear owns you.
- Jealousy – You start noticing how people have better stuff than you. The smart, young MBA at work keeps getting the boss’s praise... keeps getting promoted and you’re still in a cubicle. Your friend’s wife is prettier than yours. His kid’s the quarterback; yours is a bumbling third-stringer. What other people have so overwhelms, you’re no longer grateful for what you have. Jealousy owns you.
- Guilt – You did something awful. Looking back, you can’t believe it was you who did it. Maybe recent, maybe a long time ago, but it owns you. “You’re such a liar.” or “You’re a cheat.” or “You’re so two-faced.” or “You’re stupid." You’ve confessed and have been forgiven, but it haunts you. The label you let the enemy stick on you has become your identity. Guilt owns you.
- Anger – As long as you can remember, you’ve had a temper. When your wife says something that sets you off, you feel it start. Spark. Then heat. Then slow boil. Then explosion. Whether it’s over in minutes or days, you can’t control it. You can’t quash or quell it. Anger owns you.
What I’m suggesting is naming these beasts. That’s all, just name them...
Let’s take sex first. Let’s say sin (or the enemy, or evil, or Satan…whatever you want to call him/it) has hidden himself in your desire for sex and he’s using it to get you into all kinds of trouble at home.
Try this. Give it a name and call it what it is. “Sex, you’re not going to own me anymore. Jesus has my back. I’m loving my wife and God is going to bring me and my wife together when He wants us to have sex. I’m not going to sell her, manipulate her, or guilt her anymore. I’m choosing to love her for who she is, not for what she can do for me.”
When you get angry, call it out. “Anger, I know what you’re up to. I’m not giving in to you. You’re my enemy. You want me to lose it. Blow up. Say things I’ll be sorry for. That’s not happening this time.”
Just like anger, fear comes streaming into your heart unannounced, unnoticed and uninvited. Call it what it is. “Fear, I know you’re not from God. You’re robbing me of my joy. I’m not letting you. God, I’m trusting you on this one. Me and my mind are moving on to things I can do something about.”
“Greed, I know it’s you who’s nagging me about what other people are getting. I’m grateful to God for what I have. It’s more than I deserve. It’s so much more than most of the world. I’m turning my back on you Greed. I’m telling God how grateful I am every time you pop up in my head.”
We know Jesus did this at least once. After He tells of His upcoming murder and resurrection (in Matthew 16:21). Peter says, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Instead of replying to Peter, Jesus spoke directly to sin…to the enemy who was trying to move Him off mission. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter probably felt a little funny, but Jesus evaded the temptation by calling its name.
What if we did the same thing? What if we said, “Get behind me Fear (or “Greed” or “Sex” or “Smoking” or “Lust” or “Critical spirit” or “Pornography”)? You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Things of men? Fear, greed, anger, jealousy, adultery, selfishness, dishonesty, dissension.
Name them and evade them.
Things of God? Peace, love, joy, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Name Him and be filled with them.
Question: Is there something the evil one is using to bring you down?