Wouldn’t it be nice to live completely free – permanently? Imagine how it would feel to not have to expend energy fighting against fear, or anger, or lust. Think what your life would be like if the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, goodness, faith, etc. – was your default mode of responding to people and circumstances. There’s a permanent freedom God has promised that can begin now.
Sometimes I think back to the years I was so dysfunctional. But the truth is, I have to work hard to remember. The sting is gone – permanently. As I walked with God out of that prison in my mind I learned a way to live that has brought permanent freedom. Who I am on the inside is different. My default way of responding to even the worst of circumstances is not the same. I’m not vulnerable in the ways I was. I’m not holding on by my fingernails, desperately praying I won’t fall apart again. It’s just not there any longer.
I say that humbly and gratefully. I am still a sinner saved by grace. I am still dependent moment by moment on God’s presence through His Holy Spirit. But I have absolutely no fear that a negative circumstance, attack from the enemy, or some toxic person will wreck my peace and spiritual joy.
My experience of permanent freedom has lasted 20 years. Do I feel pain? Yes. Must I make a daily choice to live in that freedom? Yes.
But this I know; “Once I was blind. Now I see!” (See John 9:25)
Wouldn’t you love to stop wrestling with the same sins year after year? I think God sometimes pleads, sometimes shouts, “You don’t have to live like this!” You can come to the place where:
- The desire for cigarettes or alcohol is gone
- Someone irritates you and you feel no internal anger
- A horrible circumstance happens and you respond calmly without angst
- Your default response to a real need is not how little can you give, but how much
- Your mind forgets the pathway to pornography or illicit sex
Don’t get me wrong. We live in a sinful messed-up world, and will until Jesus returns. We will never be “good enough” on our own. We will be forever dependent on the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus and the sustaining power of His Holy Spirit.
But we don’t have to be slaves to sin any longer!
I’ve spent some time in Romans 6-8 recently. If you’re struggling with some persistent sin or sinful tendency or dysfunction, read those chapters several times. Don’t get bogged down in points of contested or deep theology, but hear the plea of Paul’s heart. Let me offer my paraphrase:
You don’t have to keep living the way you were before. You don’t have to be a slave to all those worldly, dirty, destructive ways of living any longer. If you’ve become connected to Jesus through baptism the old you is dead, and sin has lost its hold on you. You’ve been set free!
Why then do you keep living as though you were a slave? In Christ you are made new – from the inside out. You’re a child of God. With the Holy Spirit in you, start living like the new creation you are!
This is not some triumphalism, some once saved, always saved, or some superficial perfectionism. But why do you keep living as though you are a slave? You can live in permanent freedom!
That kind of permanent freedom is not automatic. You probably know that already. Let me offer some keys that will help you experience that kind of Fully Alive freedom – from the inside out.
Don’t get hung up about time.
God lives outside of time. It’s not that He is deaf to our cries of “how long?” But what concerns Him most is the state of our heart and the final result He is creating in us, not how long it takes us to get there. If you’re not there yet, don’t let the enemy harass you with guilt and shame. When Satan comes with a guilt trip, send him packing!
Yes, permanent freedom is available! Your pathway will be unique, but it is possible. How long it takes matters much less than that you believe it, and are cooperating with God in the process. The better you cooperate with God, the less you resist, the less pain you are likely to have along the way. You don’t collapse in shame and guilt if you get angry again, struggle with lust again, or in some other way “fail.” Still struggling does not necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong! But it means you keep going no matter what, refusing to give up or give in.
You must be All In.
No half-way measures will suffice. You can hold nothing back. “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:4) Your striving is not what saves you! But God will not force freedom on you. You must be willing to do whatever it takes.
If your sin or sinful tendency or dysfunction is major, this is likely to mean significant permanent changes in every part of your life. It will mean changing the people you hang out with, the way you spend your time and money, the input you allow into your mind. This is a battle again the enemy! You don’t have to go out and fight the devil; Jesus did that – and won! But that battle must be won in your own life, and you’re the one who decides who wins.
It’s a Lifestyle.
This is not a one-time fix, a one-time prayer, a one-time deliverance. It’s not even just a daily prayer in the morning. Through Christ you become a new person on the inside, and absolutely everything about your life is different. The thoughts you think, the things you care about, everything. And you will live permanently differently for the rest of your existence – here and in eternity, every minute of every day.
For me that included permanently changing the way I think. I couldn’t think new thoughts for a few weeks and be free; I developed new ways of thinking that over time became so engrained and habitual I don’t have to “fight” to think that way. It included permanent changes in my daily life with God, including pleading the blood of Jesus over my life every day. I’m permanently different, my lifestyle is permanently different, and the results are as different as night and day.
Humble and Confident at the same time.
It’s been years since I feared falling apart. But I also know what to do that keeps me that way. When my husband died, for example, I knew where to go. My permanent new lifestyle keeps me safe under the blood of Jesus. Yes, bad things will happen. We’re still in the crossfire between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. But there’s no white-knuckling good behavior; I AM a different person.
Your drive for alcohol may go away, but you may well need to permanently forego drinking. Your tendency to violent anger may leave, but you will permanently nurture your inner soul with positive people and other healthy input. Your “falling into” pornography or illicit sex will stop, but you permanently guard your heart and eyes and invest deeply, daily, forever in your marriage or other friendships.
How do you get there? By returning to God’s presence over and over again. In His presence we are changed. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
What the Bible Says
Peter denied Jesus, repented, and allowed Jesus to restore him. A year, ten years, thirty years later was Peter still struggling to not deny Jesus? No! He was permanently changed.
Paul delivered Christians to persecution and death, was brought up short by a visitation from Jesus, and allowed God to turn him into a great missionary for the gospel. As He preached in Corinth, Athens, or Ephesus, was he trying hard to not kill people? No! He was permanently changed.
After Paul talks about the sins that will keep people out of the kingdom of God he says, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
You were sinners living in sin. But you’re not that way any longer. You’re different people! That’s what happens when God changes you from the inside out.
Now go and live like it!
Your Turn: Have you “given in,” assuming your sin or dysfunction will always be with you? Are you willing to accept a permanently different life? Leave a comment below.
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Defeating Fear and Anxiety is Possible!
God wants you to experience His promise of a sound mind – permanently!
There’s more about this in my book Overcoming Fear and Anxiety through Spiritual Warfare. Right now Amazon has the book available at a nice discount. (And who doesn’t love a discount!) We have no way of knowing how long this special pricing will be available.
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