How can I deal with life-dominating sinful habits?
Life dominating patterns such as lying (illicit sex, drugs, stealing, etc.) are really just the fruit of a much deeper and more serious problem, failing to walk close to the Lord by faith and by means of the principles of His Word and by the Spirit. People who experience a flesh-dominated life do so because they have not made God their number one priority. One of the things that happens is Christians too easily seek their happiness and source of life through their own strategies for making life work.
The psalmist was confident of victory, but only because He was consistently seeking a close walk with the Lord. He wrote, “So I will keep Your Law (a synonym for God’s Word) continually, Forever and ever.” He then wrote, “And I will walk at liberty For I seek Your precepts” (Ps. 119:44-45). Ability to obey God’s truth and walk victoriously is always related to seeking, learning, and growing in the knowledge of God through His Word. You cannot grow without it and you won’t change without it. The Word is the means the Spirit of God uses to both enable and motivate us to fellowship and obedience.
Closely related here is Paul’s instruction in Romans 6-8. All of us need to read and reflect on this section of Scripture daily and let the truth of these verses soak in, but this is especially critical for those facing life-dominating habits. In addition, one might go to our web site and download the ABCs for Christian Growth series and study Part 1, The Assured Life (as a foundation), but especially Part 2, The Transformed Life. Romans 6-8 is explained in Part 2. This study may be found in the “Bible Studies / Spiritual Life” section on our web site at www.bible.org.
It’s important that we all grasp the principle of first things first—what we do is the fruit of what we are on the inside. It’s the issue of root and fruit. Change in the Christian life is from the inside out and it does not generally occur overnight. Growth and change is a process. In our society we want ‘cure-alls’ and we want them overnight— but God’s Word says, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18) and “as new born babes, desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow in respect to salvation (i.e., in the sense of deliverance from sins power). Peter was talking to those who were already saved, like you, but needed to experience growth and transformed lives, as we all do. It’s a life-long process.
What we need, therefore, is deep down repentance or honest to God confession that not only acknowledges the sinfulness of our ways but which goes to the root issue, neglecting the grace of God or our salvation which includes God’s provision for walking intimately with Him and for ability to overcome sin. Sexual sins and hiding behind lies are serious and have deep consequences for oneself and others. Such sins, however are really only products of a much deeper sin—seeking to run one’s own life. The consequence of this the ignoring of God’s authority and control of one’s life. This is true no matter whether one has been going to church and are doing certain good works or not.
Even though acting religiously, King Saul had disobeyed the Lord. He was seeking to run his own life. So Samuel told Saul:
20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination (down right demonic), And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry (seeking life apart from God). Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
May I also suggest another passage since it relates to neglecting the grace of God, the root problem.
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord (in the sense of fellowship with Him). 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God (fail to appropriate their new life in Christ); that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled (other become defiled by the lives of those who neglect God’s grace and live under sin’s dominion);
Then, the author of Hebrews gave an illustration of what happens when people fail to get right with the Lord.
16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Esau felt sorry about his losses, but what was the real issue with Esau? He had neglected his birthright which included certain spiritual privileges and responsibilities, but he never really changed his mind about the root issues of his life, i.e., spiritual priorities.
The Lord told the disciples, “seek first the kingdom of God (God’s reign and purposes in your lives) and all these things (the details of life—food, clothing, pleasure, security, satisfaction, etc.) will be added to you.” The point? Without a close relationship or fellowship with the Lord as the foundation for all we do, nothing in life really satisfies and we become slaves of our own sin and pursuit of life independently of God. Freedom never means the freedom to do what we want, but the power to do what we ought. Concerning false teachers who were teaching a form of license, Peter wrote, “promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19). So read in connection with this, Romans 6:14f.