Typically we tend to think of our sinful actions as just that: bad behavior. The solution then seems pretty simple: STOP it. But the Scripture provides unique resources in our fight against sin. As we read the Word, we find it presents the idea of the "heart".
Our culture says to "follow your heart", but the Bible objects. Jeremiah writes in 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Rather, we need to be guarding our heart and watching out for danger in it. Proverbs 4:23 warns, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."
What is the heart? It's not just what we feel. It's not just our romantic dreams. The Bible defines the "heart" as the seat of the affections and the will. The heart is the driver of the person, and from the heart flows our behavior and actions. Consider the words of Jesus in Mark 7:20-23, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." The Scripture further elaborates and corrects our thinking on the source of our sin, in James 4:1-3, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."
Usually porn or cutting or drugs or alcohol or sinful eating are just SYMPTOMS of a deeper problem. Using these substances is usually a means of anesthetizing whatever deeper pain and difficulty is being experienced. If you can figure out what that pain is, and find your ultimate comfort in Jesus, the behavioral escapism might just go away. See, the problem is not just the BEHAVIOR, you need to get below the surface and focus on the heart. The heart is the source and working on the behaviors without addressing the heart is like mopping up water from a running faucet. You have turn off the faucet first! So to make real progress on our sin, we have to go deeper and address the heart. To put it in military terms, we need to "Attack the Base" instead of merely fighting on the battle front with the endless waves of enemies. In real-time-strategy video games, if you destroy the enemy base with the unit producing structures, victory is inevitable.
But wait! Before you rush off in your attack, one important clarification is needed: Knowing the source of your sin is useless unless you have the power to destroy the source. In ourselves, we have no weapon to blow up the home base of our sinful hearts. It's NOT good news that the source of our sin is OURSELVES. That's even worse! What we need is a heart transplant. We desperately need to be transformed from the inside out! Here's the good news: This is PRECISELY what the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us. God promises in Ezekiel 36:26-27, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." At the moment of the new birth (John 3:3-8), God begins an inside-out work of change.
Therefore only the regenerated Christian can begin to fight the heart, because of the nuclear weapon of the gospel. Practically, here are a few steps to addressing the heart:
- Realize you're rejecting God's comfort: Jeremiah 2:12-13 says, "Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water." Our sin is not an isolated behavior without consequences. Ultimately it's a heart decision of turning AWAY from the Lord as our comfort and satisfaction, and turning to our favorite sin.
- Repent Deeper: You may have only been repenting of the behavior. When we realize that the behavior is flowing out of a bad & sinful HEART, it necessitates a much deeper repentance. Instead of saying "God, please forgive me for looking at porn" we're instead saying, "God, my heart is filled with lust and selfishness, and last night it bore the fruit of looking at porn. God please forgive me for my lustful heart!" And then remember & believe the gospel in a deeper way. Rejoice! God is changing your heart!
- Figure out what the sin is promising: Our sin is making a promise of what it offers. Perhaps cutting offers release. Porn offers pleasure amidst our loneliness. Alcohol offers distraction from the worries in our lives. By unearthing the false promise, we can replace it with TRUE promises from God. The key is to ask, "What's the lie?"
- Believe that Jesus is BETTER: Allow the sin & Jesus to go toe-to-toe in a fight for who is greater. Is sin offering comfort? Jesus' comfort is BETTER. Is Sin offering pleasure? Jesus' pleasure is BETTER. To learn more, read the blog post: Jesus is Better.
- Cultivate a superior satisfaction in Christ: We can't merely believe that Jesus is better. We have to put it into practice. We have to cultivate an affection for Him through reading the Word, singing, and talking with Him in prayer. To learn more, read the blog post: The Counter-Attack.
May God help you to repent and grow, not just in your behavior, but from the deepest places of your heart.
Attack the Base,
The Relentless Fight