When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
Our Lord told a story that illustrates one of the most important principles in breaking bad habits. A man that was inhabited by a “demon” was glad when the evil spirit was expelled and the wicked spirit went out seeking rest. When it found none, the spirit decided to return to it’s original dwelling place and to the spirit’s satisfaction, found the house unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then the spirit found “seven other spirits more wicked than himself” and they went in and lived there, and the last state of the man became worse than the first. What happened? Why did this man fail?
Being morally reformed without regeneration is never effective. Sinful man will always revert back to the same wicked behavior as before. None of us can overcome sinful habits by simply rejecting them, nor can immoral practices be broken without replacing them with righteous ones. To simply resist evil will only make it grow stronger. To determine not to think lustful thoughts only reinforces them in our minds. Freedom comes when we fill our mind with God’s thoughts and diffuse the power of sin by replacing wrong thoughts with God’s Word. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue (excellence), and if there be any praise (worthy of praise), think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). “You aren’t what you think you are; but what you think, you are!” Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” We have the spiritual artillery needed to destroy the fortresses of our mind. We have the spiritual equipment to bring down every thought and make it captive to the obedience of Christ. Vain reasonings, powerful imaginations, and perverted attitudes can be “put off.” (Colossians 3:8,9)
Be honest with yourself and identify the thoughts and habits you want to replace. Don’t be general with the attitudes or imaginations you want to rid yourself of, but, be specific in naming your sin. Spend time consciously committing your mind, opportunities, and life to Christ. Remind yourself of God’s promises, they will give you the proper perspective on life and strengthen you to be able to discern what God can do in you, “I can do all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13).
Prepare yourself for spiritual warfare. The world, the flesh, and the devil do not surrender their hold on you without a battle. Getting ready and declaring war on your thought life means, beginning an offensive plan of attack. Memorize the Word of God. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Find verses of Scripture that speak directly to you about your troublesome thought patterns or sins. If your problem is drinking or drugs, decide that your urge to use or drink will be a reminder to divert your attention to God’s Word. Praying, singing spiritual songs, and quoting Scripture, will lift you up. In following a specific strategy that God gives to resist temptation, you will eventually be free from its grip. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: ( For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (human ingenuity), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations (reasonings, ideals), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Thought: Don’t become disheartened by the frequency of the same temptation. If you have lived along time with these sinful habits, the strongholds will not be easily overthrown. You must realize that you are not merely confronting yourself, but satanic forces as well. Remember, Satan’s most used weapon is discouragement. Meditate on the Word of God and in doing so, you will see new areas of your life that need to be changed. Loving Christ and living in obedience to Him, shows a life that has been transformed by the power of God, not reformed morality or religiously. To attempt to clean your life up without Christ coming to dwell there, is to be exposed to an even greater danger. You don’t want your house moral and empty but indwelt by the Spirit of God.
Note: Sometimes when dealing with women in addiction, I hear them say, “I just want to get better, be well, get my kids back and move on with my life.” These are good things but they are looking to reform their lives morally and fail to see their need for Christ and His regenerating power to save and transform them. Please pray with me that these dear women, in their addition, will be saved and then changed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2).