FREEDOM FROM LIFE DOMINATING HABITS
I. Understanding the Causes.
Life dominating habits are behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse, overeating, pornography, compulsive spending or gambling. These behaviors control your thinking, emotions, and desires to the point that they become the master passion of your life determining most of the decisions you make. When any behavior takes this kind of preeminence and control over your life it will become destructive to you and those who are closest to you. What drives a person to take actions they know are destructive to themselves, their family, or their marriage?
Without understanding and acknowledging the basic reasons and the underlying causes of these life-dominating habits, there can be no lasting freedom or change. People usually attack only the symptoms of the problem and miss its real causes. This is exactly what Jesus was concerned about when he asked the disciples, "Why are you so fearful?" He wanted them to determine the cause of their fear so they could grow and be free from it (Matt. 8:26). By causing the disciples to question the causes of their fear Jesus enabled them to deal with their sin and bring about the change and growth in their lives that was necessary. Hundreds of times throughout the Bible, God has explained the reasons for His actions and the reasons for men's actions. The Bible uses the word because 1251 times. The use of this word is to draw your attention directly to the causes or reasons for a specific problem or behavior. See the following examples. Why did God refuse to do mighty works in men's lives (Matt. 13:58)? Why are people mistaken about the truth of God (Mark 12:24)? Why is it that men will or will not come to the light of God (John 3:18-21)? Why does the world hate Jesus (John 7:7)? Therefore, if you really want a solution to these life-dominating habits, you must ask the question, Why do I do this? What causes me to take these destructive actions?
The world today is also offering many so called answers and causes for these behaviors. Some declare that these behaviors stem from a person being sick or that they have some genetic or physiological problem. Others believe that these behaviors are because a person has been emotionally damaged or that they have low self-esteem. But, what does the Bible declare are the causes of life dominating habits?
The Most Basic Biblical Reasons:
A. A Spiritual Vacuum and Emptiness in Your Life.
The spiritual vacuum and emptiness in a person’s soul is one of the most basic causes of any destructive behavior. You can see that this was the case in the life of King Solomon. He sought to gratify and fill the spiritual void in his life with wine, possessions, money, and numerous building projects. However, all that Solomon found was more emptiness in the end (Ecc. 2:3-11). He tried every pursuit known to man to find fulfillment and to fill the spiritual void in his life. At the end of all his labor, Solomon found his soul empty and unsatisfied (Ecc. 6:7). In addition, Isaiah declared that when a man’s soul is “empty” that it “craves” to be satisfied in some way (Is. 29:8). Therefore, the spiritual emptiness in your soul is the most basic reason you have given yourself to your life dominating habit.
However, Jesus promised to satisfy this void and craving in you with His living water and real life. He offered the woman at the well a drink whereby she would, "never thirst again" (John 4:1-26). This woman had searched her whole adult life to fill her emptiness just like Solomon. She tried to fill her spiritual void with five husbands. She ultimately gave up seeking satisfaction in a marriage relationship and was just living with a man when she met Jesus. The important thing is that Jesus told her there was hope and that there was a solution. He declared that He was the only One who could give her "the drink" that would satisfy her completely. He also is the only one who can satisfy the spiritual void and thirst in you. This satisfaction is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and being filled of the living water of His Spirit (John 7:37-39). Do you sense this void inside you? Are you craving for satisfaction from the thirst inside of you? Then keep reading.
B. The Power of Your Sinful Nature.
In addition, when a person lives his or her life void of a spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ, or has a superficial relationship with God, he or she will be driven inside by a power other than the power of God. This other power is your sinful nature. Consequently, if your sinful nature is not resisted, controlled, and dominated by the power of God, you will be dominated by your nature to sin. The Bible declares that, apart from God, man's sinful nature and desires are stronger than a person’s will to resist them. He becomes a slave of sin (John 8:34). Your sinful desires then take dominion, mastery, and control of your life; but this is not all! Sin is also progressive and will continually try to possess and control more of your life. If you fail to resist these sinful desires they will take greater and greater control, which leads to greater lawlessness and destruction to your life (Rom. 6:19). Sin and wickedness are pictured in the Bible as a fire that is continually progressing, possessing, and consuming all that is in its path (Is. 9:18) (Prov. 30:15-16). Paul warned the Ephesian church to put off their former conduct because "the old man grows corrupt according to deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22). According to A.T. Robertson, this term, grows corrupt describes a process of corruption that becomes worse and worse.
Therefore, the cause of life-dominating and destructive behaviors stems from sin reigning and dominating your life; with the resulting search for something to satisfy the emptiness in your heart. This search will always lead you to a particular sinful behavior that ultimately enslaves you. The longer you obey these sinful desires, the more controlled and dominated you will become to these behaviors.
C. The Consequence of Covering-up Other Problems.
The cause of any addictive or life dominating sin is also complicated by not dealing with the other underlying problems within your life. Remember, the fundamental problem for any addiction is that you are not letting the Lord satisfy the thirst within your heart as I explained concerning the woman at the well (John 4:1-26). She tried to cover up her need by marrying one man after another, which only compounded her emptiness inside. This woman needed to stop marrying men and looking to them for her security, esteem, and satisfaction. Therefore, the underlying problems must be dealt with if you want to find lasting satisfaction.
Failing to deal with these underlying problems is the reason many true believers still struggle with their compulsions to drink or use drugs after they are converted to Christ. Why does this happen? Because they do not resolve the issues that hinder a close relationship with the Lord which will bring the lasting satisfaction they are looking for. Let me give you some examples. Christians have confessed to me that they are angry at people for past physical or sexual abuse that they have experienced. People have told me of extremely hurtful experiences they have had and the guilt over the offenses they have committed in retaliation. But, they have never told anyone about these offenses or tried to resolve the anger or guilt within. Others have told me that they struggle with anxiety because they feel they have never measured up to people’s expectations or to their own perfectionist standards. Others have battled the fears that they've had for as long as they can re-member. Others live an independent lifestyle as a believer and rarely seek God in His Word, pray, or attend church and thus walk in their own strength. Then people attempt to cover up their emptiness, anger, anxiety, guilt, or fear by again medicating themselves with drugs, alcohol, food, or some other source of pleasure or distraction. I've seen people even use an adrenaline rush from some exciting sport or they become a workaholic thinking success or material wealth will satisfy them. However, nothing man made can ever cover up these tormenting emotions. The cover up is an escape to find pleasure or a perceived peace yet never addressing the real issues. But, in the end they continue to be unsatisfied because they have not addressed these issues in the way God has commanded. No one can cover up emptiness, anger, guilt, anxiety, or fear and be successful in life. You must resolve these issues God’s way! Notice what Jesus said to believers concerning how to find lasting freedom: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ ” (John 8:31-32). Don’t you want freedom from everything that holds you captive? If you do then seek out your pastor or a mature believer for counseling and allow them to apply God’s Word to your personal struggles that are unresolved. Stop trying to cover up the real issues with some artificial or temporary solution.
II. The Solution.
The solution to any cycle of addiction is the same one that God has provided for every other problem of man (1 Cor. 10:13) (Matt. 16:24). It is redemption and personal discipleship. Redemption brings freedom from every lawless deed and gives you the ability to pursue every good work. But, what does it mean to redeem someone? According to Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words and Strong's Concordance, the word redeem means to loose a person by the paying of a ransom price. Notice this passage where Paul explains to Titus the fruits of God’s redemptive work (Titus 2:14). He wrote to Titus that Jesus paid this ransom price by His own death, thus setting free and loosing all who receive Him from the penalty and power of sin. Jesus has the power to loose every human being from "every lawless deed" that binds them. That would include every life-dominating and destructive behavior known to man. It also means that you can be set free today if you will come to Him by faith and invite Jesus to come in and live in you. Then, go and ask your pastor or a mature believer for help in addressing any remaining issues that need to be resolved in your life so you might progress in your walk with Christ.
In addition, notice in Titus 2:11; 12; and 14 of this same chapter that Paul related a further fruit of this redemption and salvation. He declared that God will purify a special people for Himself by teaching people that God's grace will help them to deny ungodliness and worldly lust, which will enable them to live soberly and righteously in this present age. The importance of these passages, as they relate to these life-dominating sins, is extremely important. Paul explained that a redeemed person was one who would be enabled by the power of God's grace to live righteously. God promised to enable a person beyond the best self-help plan of man. Righteous living is accomplished by His grace teaching you to make choices to deny ungodly attitudes, thoughts, and actions. His grace will enable you to live soberly, (self-controlled or moderately - Strong's Concordance) and righteously (rightly or justly - Strong's Concordance).
Now, what more could a person want out of life? To be forgiven and free from the penalty of sin; to be free from life-dominating habits and addictions, and be empowered to live in a righteous, moderate, and self-controlled way. If you want to be forgiven from your sin and set free from your life-dominating habit, take this first step. In prayer, admit that you have sinned and transgressed God's law. Ask God to forgive you. Ask Jesus to come in and take over your life. Ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit and enable you to turn from every known sin (Mark 1:15) (John 1:12) (Rom. 10:13). Go to our web site www.calvaryag.org for further discipleship material.