Many people desperately struggle all their lives with some behavior they really want to quit. Some addictive behaviors are obvious like alcoholism, drugs, or food. Some are known only to our families—like anger, gambling, or television. Other addictions, like pornography, may be known only to ourselves. We know they’re wrong. They are hurting us, our families, or our health, but we just can’t quit.
Many turn to religion for help. There are ways our culture encourages this. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “Try Jesus,” as if Jesus is a new and improved brand of stain remover that we can use on a trial basis? Since God is a higher power, many assume that learning and following His rules should solve their problems.
Since I’m a pastor, you would think that I’d be all in favor of going by God’s rules, wouldn’t you? Well, “yes” and “no.” Following God’s rules can make our lives a little better, but my experience has shown me that being religious doesn’t work very well at freeing us from our sinful habits. Many people have told me that they have tried going to church, giving money, reading their Bible, and trying to follow all the rules. It just doesn’t seem to help. Their life-destroying behavior continues. Sometimes it even gets worse.
Would you be surprised to find out that the Bible actually tells you that following the rules can make things worse? The Bible is clear that following the rules (or “the works of the Law”) will do nothing to make you fit to receive God’s strength. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28).
The Bible even goes so far as to say that your sinful desires tend to get worse when you try to keep God’s Law. That’s because when you work at keeping God’s rules, it feeds your pride. We can look at ourselves and think, “Wow, look at how good I’m doing! “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death” (Romans 7:5).
If trying to be good on our own only makes things worse, then why does God give us so many rules? Here is a truth that so many people miss. God’s rules are good because they show us how helpless we are at keeping them. “… I would not have come to know sin except through the Law…” (Romans 7:7).
God’s standards show us how we can return to the perfection He created us for. We can’t do that on our own, though, no matter how hard we try. We don’t have the strength to root out our own twisted, sinful core. God’s rules prove that to us. We will never fully trust in the Lord until we realize that we are helpless to be truly good on our own.
Are we hopelessly trapped by our additions? No, praise the Lord! Christ is the answer to our addictions because a relationship with Him infuses us with the supernatural strength that we need. As the Bible describes it, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Love makes the difference, and that starts with Christ’s love for us. Paul was talking about Christ’s death on the Cross when he said, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5). When we accept Christ’s love for us,, “We love [the Lord] because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
When we fall in love with Jesus Christ, it makes all the difference. Let me illustrate.
A seventy-eight-year-old woman named Aleida Huissen had been smoking for most of her adult life. For many years she had tried and failed to give up smoking. At last, she succeeded. What was her secret? Seventy-nine-year-old Leo Jansen proposed marriage but refused to go through with the wedding until she gave up smoking. Aleida said, “Will power never was enough to get me off the habit. Love made me do it.”
Love for God can give us the motivation and the strength to overcome bad habits, even when good intentions and hard work fail. When we give ourselves over to Christ’s love for us, we become “a new creature; the old things [are] passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Jesus has the power to make us new on the inside. Addictions can be overcome when we accept Christ’s love for us and then humbly depend on His strength instead of on our own. Have you experienced this?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5–8).