That same situation is happening again, the one that always results in me running to my drug of choice for security and comfort. Those same thoughts are going through my head, the ones that conclude with me feeling disconnected from God and turning instead to some habit that “misses the mark” of truly fulfilling me in any lasting, meaningful way.
So, it’s decision time. I know the battle over doing what I do not want to do must first be won in the mind before it will result in behavioral change. So how exactly do I do that?
The FREEdom process is Suitt’s answer to that question, and I can vouch for it from experience. He details this process in chapters 8 and 9 of More Than a Sunday Faith. Briefly, it is as follows:
- Freeze-frame every thought. “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) I stop myself as soon as I am aware of a thought that is a “trigger” for me to turn to my drug(s) of choice. (Pray for the Spirit to bring these thoughts to your attention; I can guarantee that He will!)
- Run every thought by the Spirit of truth. (James 1:5; John 16:13) With the thought frozen for inspection, I ask the Holy Spirit, “What’s going on here? What’s the truth I need right now?” I admit to myself that I want to turn to my drug of choice; trying to convince myself otherwise is just lying to myself and counter-productive. But I go on to admit to myself that my sinful habit will not satisfy for more than a moment and will only lead to guilt, shame, and feeling distant from Jesus.
- Expose the lie and exchange it with the truth. Exposing the lie (“taking my drug of choice will solve the situation and satisfy me”) is the very heart of the battle. And make no mistake, it is indeed a battle, and a fierce one at that! But if I resist the enemy, he must flee (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7). Then I proceed to replace the exposed lie with the truth (“only God will keep me safe and ultimately satisfy me”), lest I end up worse off than before (see Matthew 12:43-45).
These first three items are the “brain” side of what we do to find freedom and rest in Christ, moment by moment throughout each day. There is one final item upon which those preceding depend, and it is the “will” side of the equation:
- Exercise the truth. The three “FRE” steps listed above are worthless if I do not or will not actually put them into practice. In Christ, I can choose Jesus’ way instead of our own “drug of choice”. But will I?
There are so many times when I am fully aware of thoughts that I know will lead to sinful behavior, but I do not “take them captive”. I know what I need to do to have peace (the “brain” side is equipped), but I do not do it. At my worst moments, I will not do it. I let the lies overwhelm or coax or cajole me, I rationalize, I justify, and I fall into behavior that I hate.
And it is precisely in that moment when I must turn toward Christ, because it is exactly then that I need Him most. I meditate often on Romans 7 and 8:
Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. [emphasis added throughout]
I am free from sin’s control, because God has declared it to be so. He has freed me — it is already done. Because I belong to Jesus, there is no condemnation for me. So, what do I do with this freedom? Go on sinning? If my heart has been changed, if I really do desire to obey Jesus out of love for Him, then of course not! I am free instead to turn toward Him.
Jesus was just as human as I am. He chose the right thing in loving obedience when it was the hardest thing to do. “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39) And because I belong to Him and have His Holy Spirit within me to help and strengthen me, I can do the same.
So, it’s decision time. Do I trust Jesus enough to follow and obey Him? If I say “yes” and take steps to make my assent more than just words, then I am “exercising the truth”. This is faith in action; this is “more than a Sunday faith”.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is applicable here: “Freedom is available 100% to those who surrender 100%.” If I will submit 100% of my will to Him 100% of the time, I will know perfect, unbroken peace, rest, joy, and freedom (Isaiah 26:3). The result of this yielded life will be constant honesty with God, constant resistance to lies, and regularly adopting the truth. My life will be transformed, and I will find myself empowered and victorious. The Gospel will be made real in my life in a way that is readily apparent and attractive to others who are also hungering for peace and rest. And from the overflow of this abundance, I will have more than enough to share with any and all!