Overcoming sin: The risk of having good habits

One of the first places we often turn, having confessed sin and asked for God’s forgiveness, is towards the power of habit. This makes great sense. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and good habits help us to strengthen self-control. Smart secular psychologists recognize that our motivation to do the right thing is limited and that our willpower is weak. Thus they advise us to work on developing good habits.

Good habits in the Bible
The Bible reinforces the idea of building good habits, both through direct instruction and multiple examples. In Genesis the habit of the Sabbath is built into the very structure of creation! That alone tells us something of the significance of habits, for this translated directly into the weekly practise of Israel. Proverbs 22:6 says parents are to instruct children in the way they should go, implying that habits are formed from an early age and that it’s important to get them right. In Psalm 1, the habit of ‘walking’ should be avoided if it is walking in the paths of sinners; contrast the instruction in Galatians where our walk is to be “by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16; see also Rom 8:4).

So then, we should get into the habit of fleeing temptation and pursuing spiritual good. Many times we are commanded not to resist specific temptations but to flee from them: think Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife in Gen 39; think Paul telling Timothy “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). Interestingly, though we are commanded to resist the devil, there is no specific biblical command to resist temptation.

One habit that the Old Testament highlights and emphasizes is the habit of prayer and offering sacrifice for sin. This was built into the very fabric of national life through the temple and its associated sacrificial system. So too the five books of the Psalms both demonstrate prayer, and regularly call on the hearers to join in with prayer for anything and everything, most especially praising God and expecting him to act in steadfast love. The use of the Psalms and the offering of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins were combined in the daily worship of the temple.

So ingrained is the habit of prayer in Daniel’s life that his enemies know they will be able to cause trouble for him if they target it. In response to their trouble-making, we read that Daniel “got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Dan 6:10).

Likewise the New Testament gives this very simple instruction about our prayer habits: “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:17).

The risk of good habits
There is, however, a significant risk associated with developing good habits.

Over the years, I’ve gathered a fat dossier of excellent ideas in regard to habits. Some of them are ideas for avoiding bad habits. Others are about developing good habits, or (following the best advice from secular psychology) replacing a bad habit with a good one. One conference speaker told us of how he locked the temptation of television in a cupboard and gave his wife the key. A Christian doctor told me, before internet connections from mobile phones were standard, that he hadn’t even connected to the internet from his house, thus cutting out one possibility of online temptation (he lived alone). Other ideas abound. Accountability groups. Computer software. The man who took up cycling and went for long bike rides whenever temptation struck, even if was at two in the morning.

Some of this advice is so good that it can applied to a whole range of sins equally well, be they pornography, gluttony, laziness, or losing your temper. Each of these temptations can be staved off by a solid cycle or a long distance run, after which it is quite possible that the particular sin will be the last thing on your mind!

But can you see the problem?

Consider. Without in any way taking away from the goodness of pursuing certain habits—whether praying three times a day, or exercising, or putting a lock on the fridge, or doing all your computer work where your screen can be seen by others—ask yourself this important question when you hear good advice about building better habits: has the person, article, book, conference or good idea pointed me to Christ? That question is serious and fundamental.

None of what follows is meant to make light of our own desire to find good habits to deal daily with sin, which if pursued is not only fatal but demonic in character—for Satan was a murderer and a liar from the beginning, and anything that keeps us out of Satan’s grasp is all to the good.

But good advice without reference to Christ is like a car missing its engine, a choir its conductor, or a bark its dog. Or—and this is where it matters—a gospel without any sense of salvation or rescue. Worse, it threatens to become a semi-Pelagian heresy in which the Lord Jesus has supplied something to us by way of initial grace, but now it is up to us to make that grace effective by forming good habits. We are not talking here of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, but of compensating for something fundamentally inadequate in Christ, in that his initial grace given at the cross is incapable of carrying us through to final salvation from the judgement of God.

How Christ overcomes sin
So how does Christ overcome sin in us not only through the initial act of forgiveness through the cross, but in the daily struggle with “sin which clings so closely”? The writer of Hebrews 12, who gives us this expression, has a straightforward and powerful answer to those who are tempted back into a reliance on good habits (and it is hard to deny that the Old Testament habits of ritual sacrifice, as discussed in Hebrews, were indeed good habits).

The answer that the letter to the Hebrews supplies (and therefore the whole of Scripture), is to look again to Christ who was in every way tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). Here are just some ways that Jesus Christ, through his cross and resurrection, and by the power of his Spirit, overcomes our daily sin:

He graciously shows us and speaks to us of the true God. (Heb 1:1-4)
He saves us and makes propitiation. (Heb 2:3, 17)
He destroys the devil and his power. (Heb 2:14)
He sympathizes with our temptation. (Heb 2:18)
He warns us of the consequences of continued sin, so causing us to fear. (Heb 3:12-13, compare Heb 6:4-6)
He prays for us continually. (Heb 7:25)
He leads the way and encourages us in our race. (Heb 4:14, compare Heb 12:1-2)
He brings us into God’s presence. (Heb 10:19-22)
He disciplines us as a Father with his sons. (Heb 12:5-6)
He brings us to heaven. (Heb 12:22-24)
We could say a great deal more here, whether from Hebrews or from the rest of the Bible. But if your Christian life is held together by good habits, you can do better. It is Christ, not our good habits, who will lift us out of sin and into salvation.

Jesus saves
One friend, who’d struggled for many years with addiction to both alcohol and pornography, shared that he was quite literally delivered overnight from this dual addiction after praying and putting his trust in God for salvation. To this day, decades later, he remains untroubled by those particular temptations.

I hasten to add that he is not now sin-free. Nor does the Bible promise to anyone that our deliverance from the power of sin will be complete before the day we depart to be with Christ. But his story starkly illustrates how the power of sin in our lives will be broken, be it overnight or by a process that lasts a lifetime. It will come, as with my friend, through the power of Jesus Christ, who by his Holy Spirit raises us to the same new life that first raised our Lord. Fittingly, this is the closing idea of the writer of Hebrews, and I’ll do likewise:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21)

By Gordon Cheng

Am I reading this right?

The stakes are high when we’re reading the Bible. We’re not just reading any old book—we’re dealing with God’s word, and what God says really matters. So what happens when I’m not sure I’ve read the Bible correctly? What happens when the person next to me is sure that I haven’t read it correctly? How can I know I’m right?

Firstly, it’s helpful to frame the question. Interpreting the Bible is a human activity within God’s economy. It’s something we do that fits within the broader context of what God is doing: the Father glorifying the Son in the Spirit by creating, upholding and perfecting the church.

Like all human activities, our biblical interpretation is affected by sin. As our faith is mixed with doubt, our works of service with selfishness, our knowledge with ignorance and error, so our interpretative zeal is mixed with sloth, our interpretative openness with prejudice, our interpretative insight with blindness. We cannot be justified on the basis of this activity. Our interpretation of the Bible is a human work: we cannot hold it up to God in the expectation that he will declare us ‘right’.

But there is good news! Through faith in Jesus Christ, there is blessing for “the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” (Rom 4:6). As with faith, works of service, and Christian knowledge, we depend on God’s merciful kindness in our interpretation of the Bible. We call on God to graciously forgive and accept us and our efforts—in the face of all their obvious inadequacy, in the name of Jesus Christ—and he is “a God ready to forgive” (Neh 9:17).

So God’s grace goes before and after all our efforts. Of course this is no reason not to strive to do as well as humanly possible—just the opposite! Grace puts us to work (Eph 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14). What does it look like to pursue good biblical interpretation by the grace of God, especially where there are multiple interpretative possibilities?

First, we recall that reading the Bible fits into what God is doing: saving a people for himself. God’s purpose is to create and preserve and perfect the church. This happens as people encounter Jesus, and in God’s wisdom the place we encounter Jesus is in the Scriptures. The Father and the Son have poured out the Spirit of witness, by whom the Scriptures were written, preserved, and recognized as God’s word to the church—and by whom the Scriptures are rightly read today (John 16:13-14; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Cor 4:14-18). In the purpose of the Father, by the power of the Spirit, we can depend on the Scriptures doing their job: bringing us face to face with the Son, God’s Word to us. This is the clarity (or perspicuity) of Scripture.

The Bible’s message is clear: God is with us—in other words, Immanuel, Jesus Christ. We interpret the parts in light of the whole, the ‘unclear’ in light of the clear. Some biblical words, phrases, verses—even whole books (looking at you, Ecclesiastes!)—are tricky to pin down. But we know that the notes they sound, however strange and even dissonant they are to our ears, must ultimately harmonize with the Bible’s great theme: the loving kindness and mercy and faithfulness of God in Jesus Christ. We call this principle ‘Scripture interpreting Scripture’.

Because Scripture is given to the church, and is for the church, interpreting Scripture is a church activity. The ‘communion of saints’ stretches across time and space. To read the Bible is to enter into an ongoing conversation with brothers and sisters throughout history and all over the world. Because the theme of the Bible is so rich and so profound, it is more than any one person or group can grasp and articulate. After all, it takes four Gospels to tell the one gospel of Jesus Christ. Other saints at other times in history or at other places in the world—or just other members of my Bible study group—may interpret the Bible in a way that would never have occurred to me, but in such a way that some new aspect of the grace of God suddenly becomes clear. This is a good gift of God, and to be received with thanksgiving.

But what about specific differences over the meaning of a passage? What about the real possibility of interpreting the Bible wrongly and destructively? “There are some things in them [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

In light of what we have already said, our default posture must be charity and optimism. Perhaps the divergence is more apparent than real, and both parties have grasped some different aspect of the fullness of God’s meaning. Making this judgement will require time and expertise.

Perhaps the difference cannot be simply resolved, but is ultimately of little consequence. We can cheerfully await the perfection of our knowledge at the return of Christ.

Perhaps the difference in understanding is significant; we do not regard each other’s interpretation as ‘a different gospel’, but nevertheless as flawed and misleading. We can no less cheerfully part ways, each with prayer for the other, to serve the one God in parallel (the different evangelical denominations represent the endpoint of this kind of process).

It may be that a misreading of the Scriptures is so grave that in it we detect the activity not of the Holy Spirit but of another spirit; we do not recognize the gospel of Jesus Christ but “a different gospel—not that there is another one” (Gal 1:6-7). Here we can only do what we must always do in reading the Scriptures: call on the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, to preserve us from error and lead us and all God’s church into the truth (John 16:13).

When it comes to reading the Bible, ‘getting it right’ is beyond us. But it is not beyond the God of the gospel. ‘Right’ reading of Scripture has less to do with confidence in our technique and more to do with confidence in God’s power and goodness. As we come to our Father’s word in prayer, we can trust him that we will meet his Son, in the power of his Spirit.

By Peter Baker

Pruning our thorns

When studying the parable of the sower, we Christians understandably want to identify ourselves as the good soil. After all, so far as we can tell, we’re bearing fruit, we’re being as faithful to God as we know how to be, and we aren’t pursuing happiness the way the world tells us to. Doesn’t this make us the good soil?

Not necessarily.

My own experience leads me to suspect we all have at least a little thorny soil somewhere in our lives. Though we may not be chasing what the world urges us to, we’re still very wealthy compared to people in developing countries. To us, being rich may mean having multiple homes, fancy cars, private jets, yachts, and the ability to take great vacations ‘whenever’. Yet most of the world would consider themselves wealthy if they had what we have: homes with electricity, indoor plumbing, clean running water, and basic luxuries like TV and books.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that having any wealth automatically means we have thorny soil. I am, however, willing to say it can distract us from living as Jesus did—thereby allowing thorns to grow in our lives. To prevent this, we need a concrete picture of how Jesus would have lived, and the two passages that have been most helpful in giving me this picture are Ephesians 5:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:3-11. The first tells us we need to recognize time isn’t on our side when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission, and we therefore need to be careful about how we live to ensure we make the best possible use of the time we have. The second, meanwhile, shows us what this looks like: continually adding to our faith increasing amounts of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love, with the promise that possessing these qualities in increasing measure will enable us to be productive and effective in our kingdom work.

That the Bible urges us to make the best use of our time is why I believe we need to constantly evaluate how we’re spending whatever time and money we have. Can we honestly say we’re “making every effort” to continually add the qualities from 2 Peter 1 to our lives… or are we more prone to spend our time on our own entertainment? We need to be honest with ourselves about this; the Bible warns that the last days will be filled with people “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” as they love pleasure more than God (2 Tim 3:1-5). But what does this look like?

I think it looks like the life I once lived, in which I tithed, attended church, Sunday School, and midweek Bible study—and then counted the rest of my time and money as my own to do with as I pleased. Once I realized this could be the very lifestyle Paul had in mind when he penned his warning to Timothy, I got serious about finding and pruning the thorns out of my life. Not only did I drastically reduce the amount of time and money I spent on entertainment, but I sought to avoid anything glorifying sin. I then sought to grow in godliness by improving my prayer life and spending more time watching, reading, and listening to things that would help me become a more mature Christian. Though I’m sure I still have thorns in my life, I know from the way in which my life has changed that I’m making progress—thus, I believe, helping to confirm my calling and election.

Being in the world isn’t easy. We’re continually exposed to its lies about what will bring us happiness, and sometimes we listen. Fortunately, however, if we’re willing to constantly evaluate our lives, with God’s assistance, we’ll be able to keep uprooting the thorns and replace them with the only thing that can truly bring us joy and happiness: more of God himself. Then, when we meet Jesus face to face, we’ll be able to truly rejoice as he reveals how he used our lives to bear 60 or even 100 times what was originally sown.

By Nathan Dempsey

Six lessons on holiness from Thomas Watson

If you want to take the business of holiness seriously (and you should), read the works of any notable Puritan writer. These 17th-century Christians understood that living God’s way is not a burden but the path to true and lasting pleasure. Thomas Watson has been particularly helpful in urging me towards godliness. I read his book The Godly Man’s Picture after it was recommended by Tim Challies in his ‘Reading Classics Together’ series. As Challies rightly points out, it’s applicable to any Christian regardless of gender. Here are a few of the lessons Watson taught me in his exhortation and guide to holiness.

1. Holiness produces joy

He who has only a painted holiness shall have only a painted happiness. (p. 17)

Watson addresses hypocrites who seek glory by appearing godly, but inwardly are full of corruption. There is no assurance or joy in this kind of life—it will be of no benefit to us when we stand at the judgement seat of God. Joy comes from genuine holiness worked into our bones by the Holy Spirit. He makes us more like our Saviour Jesus Christ who died for us, and gives assurance that our salvation is genuine.

2. Holiness takes intentionality

Look at the saints’ characteristics here, and never leave off till you have got them stamped upon your own soul. This is the grand business which should swallow up your time and thoughts. (p. 8)

You won’t drift into holiness. Like most important things in life, our sanctification takes time, planning and preparation. Do you face an on-going temptation to gossip? How will you plan to speak works of love and truth instead? Perhaps you could memorize Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”. Or you could pray specifically and daily against temptation. We should give more thought to holiness than any other plans we make, even for our career, personal life, or finances.

3. Holiness will never be reached in this life

A child of God laments hidden wickedness; he has more evil in him than he knows of. There are those windings in his heart which he cannot trace—an unknown world of sin. (p. 56)

Early in our Christian walk we may have a vague understanding of our sinfulness—perceived fuzzily, like a badly tuned radio—but as we mature it starts coming in loud and crystal clear. This is disappointing if we expect to reach perfection this side of heaven. But there is reason to rejoice. Not in sin, of course, but in the Spirit’s work in our hearts to reveal how desperately we need Jesus. In our weakness we are driven to the Cross where our Saviour died, taking on even the sins we’re not aware of. We find new strength, for “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

4. Holiness comes from God working through his Word

As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. (p. 62)

So often I am content to read the Bible in the morning and consider my duty done. I have seen spending time in the Word as something to be ticked off my list rather than a glorious blessing from God. He knows every suffering we will face, every temptation that will sneak up on us today, and he promises that his Word will be sufficient to carry us through it. We cannot expect to live a holy life if we don’t allow it to work in our hearts. And this is not achieved by simply reading—I have found it immensely helpful to memorize Scripture, so the Spirit can bring it to my mind in times of trial or temptation. The Word is the weapon God gives us to fight against sin; let’s take it everywhere we go.

5. Holiness requires us to think rightly about sin

If men would step aside a little out of the noise and hurry of business, and spend only half-an-hour every day thinking about their souls and eternity, it would produce a wonderful alteration in them! (p. 207)

Have you thought deeply about your sin lately? Often churches will have a time of confession and repentance in their services, an important thing to do as a community—but I am lacklustre about doing this on my own. We are miserable when we fail to realize the depth of our sin. When we think we’re doing okay, all suffering will seem undeserved. When we don’t think about the severity of our sin, our eyes wander from the cross and there is no impetus to pursue godliness.

6. Holiness does not save us—only Christ does

It is not our holding God—but his holding us—which preserves us. A little boat tied fast to a rock is safe, and so are we, when we are tied to the “rock of ages”. (p. 215)

There are many benefits to holiness, but it cannot bring us salvation. You must make every effort to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you” (Phil 2:12-13). By his grace he makes us more like Jesus Christ, but we can never reach the standard of holiness God requires of us. The only reason we have eternal life is because Jesus, who lived a perfect life of obedience, died and took on our sin.

Since reading The Godly Man’s Picture I’ve realised how undisciplined my thoughts are. It’s much easier to control my actions than what goes on in my mind—and there’s little accountability when others can’t see my sin. I’ve had to be intentional about stopping thought patterns that lead to anxiety, discontentment, and pride. It’s been frustrating and humbling as I’ve failed time and time again. But my good shepherd has led me into pastures of peace that I would never have known if I’d kept wilfully sinning. Along with Watson I’ve tasted delight on the painful road of holiness and found it worth all the toil. As he writes in the book’s closing pages: “The soul is swiftest in duty when it is carried on the wings of joy” (p. 251).

By Cassie Watson

More than a fish sticker

If we earnestly seek truth in God’s Scriptures—desiring the message of Christ and what he asks of us—we find a message so profound and challenging that it tears us away from the very fabric of worldly wisdom. We are lead into a truth poles apart from the narratives that have been embedded into our consciousness and cultural DNA since the first bite of that forbidden fruit. This truth however, comes with a cost.

Several years ago, while studying in Melbourne, I met a guy who was changed by the gospel message. He had come to university planning to complete a degree in commerce and then enter the world of finance—high-powered work that would set him up well by worldly standards. Then the gospel message transformed his goals into those of Christ. However, this didn’t go down well with his atheist father; he saw his son as good as flushing his future down the toilet. I distinctly recall my friend vomiting from the stress of being pressured by his father to abandon his faith.

But this story isn’t unique, and shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jesus never said that he came to make our lives easy or filled with wealth and pleasure. Consider his words in Matthew 10:34-36:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

These are not comforting words but they ring true, especially to those who have become isolated and banished from places such as Hindu and Islamic households for the sake of Christ. But it’s hard. Human beings desire to be part of a group. It is therefore tempting for us to conform to the world’s way of thinking in order to avoid exclusion. Even in the small things we hate to be unpopular. Who wants to be caught wearing a skinny tie in a fat-tie year?

That’s why so many of Jesus’ words really do surprise us. They go against the grain of everything we feel:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25)

An interesting question for Christians to ask themselves then would be, “What does it mean to live in the world but not of the world? Have I taken up my cross, or tried to hide it behind my back?”

Before he died, Islamic-turned-Christian writer Nabeel Qureshi shared in his book about a young woman from Saudi Arabia who truly understood what it means to sacrifice one’s life in order to save it.1 A member of Islamic group Al-Hasba assassinated his sister for converting from Islam to following Christ; he killed her by burning her and cutting out her tongue. Why would a young girl in her prime lay down her life in such a way? She knew that by losing her life for Christ she was really gaining it.

Living as a Christian involves more than placing a fish sticker on your car: you must die to yourself for the sake of following Christ, a challenge to say the least. It requires a humility that goes against everything that the world equates with success. This is what Jesus himself recognized as he spoke to the rich young ruler seeking eternal life but who was unable to release his wealth: you cannot have it both ways. He said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”. Jesus doesn’t leave us without hope, however. He adds, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19: 24-26).

While it’s true that God requires what we cannot do ourselves, he transforms us as the Holy Spirit works within our hearts and minds, helping us to develop the childlike humility needed to surrender to Christ and to live with the courage and strength to run the race. The Apostle Paul knew well what it meant to suffer for the sake of the gospel, often pleading with God to take away his pain. The answer Paul received is the answer we all need to wrestle with and learn from as we live through our personal trials and tribulations:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9)

So next time you catch a glimpse of a fish sticker, be reminded that the cost involved in truly bearing one is far greater than its retail value. The price is our earthly life—and the reward is eternal life in Christ.

By Benjamin Swift

Why I’m giving up giving up

I won’t go into details but I’ve been learning a bit about addiction in the last year or two. And it’s not what I thought it was.

People often think that addiction is a sign of weakness, and in one sense it is. But in another sense it is not. You have to be strong, so strong, to be an addict.

Maintaining an addiction is hard work that requires focus, effort, and often careful planning. It requires you to push back against strong and meaningful relationships when an objection is raised to your lifestyle choice. It requires you to work at finding the space to indulge your craving, and to manage the lies you tell so that you remain undiscovered. Whether that’s an addiction to drugs, porn, gambling, shopping, sex or computer games. Drop any kind of junkie in the middle of nowhere with no money or mobile phone, and you will quickly discover how resourceful and focused they can be at finding their next fix.

Before we can even conceive of giving things up, we need to be captured by a vision of something better.

So when we arrive at the season of Lent, and everyone is talking about “giving something up” as a test of their willpower, my nose is more finely tuned to the smell of fakery—and I smell a rat.

We’re all addicts

There are many ways we can think about the nature of sin: as idolatry, as self-love; as rebellion. One helpful additional perspective is to think about ourselves as addicts. We develop obsessional love and attachment to and for things that are not worthy of that role. We worship the created—money, spouses, children, pleasure—not the creator.

And it’s why, when scripture talks about how we grow in our sanctification, it never does it solely in terms of a raw act of will power to stop doing something—it is more about moving on the shutting down. Take this, for example:

“Do not lie to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3 v 9-10

In the imagery here, the process of change is much more complex than simply giving things up. We are changing clothes, and being renewed in our minds. The call to stop lying to one another is not a demand to steel ourselves to stop doing something we want to do. It is a natural consequence of something far deeper, more profound and fundamental. A root and branch transformation of our mindset, our identity, who we see our selves as.

As many addicts discover, they can only move on from their addictions when their whole way of thinking changes, and they find someone, something, to direct their energies towards that are more health-giving and life-affirming than the destructive addictions they have been used to: whether thats education, family, God or work. Before they can even conceive of giving things up, they ache to be captured by a vision of something better.

So the headline is clickbait — and if you’ve read this far, it has worked. I’ve not stopped giving things up. I’ve just recognised that before my addictive soul stands a chance of giving something up, I need to be change in my mind, and to see more clearly the glory of Christ and all that he gives compared to the poverty of all that I am, and the worthless things I cling to.

By Tim Thornborough

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