Breaking Free from Bad Thinking

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. You are of your father the devil. He does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (the words of Jesus from John 8:31-32, 44).

Satan’s great lie—that people need something apart from God and what God provides—is the basis for all sin including addiction. Whether it’s drugs, sex, alcohol, money, or food, our mind becomes ingrained with the idea that we need these things to find fulfillment in life. Satan and his minions bombard our brains with these thoughts over and over until they form a stronghold—a base of operations—in our mind. Soon, this thought process enslaves us into thinking there is no escape from the addiction.

I used to believe that the best way to help an addict was to command them to stop. “Stop doing that! Stop shooting those drugs! Put down the bottle! Quit sleeping around!” But it became clear that the behavior cannot change until the thought process is defeated. People must know that they are not enslaved to their behavior—that God can destroy that stronghold and free them from that prison.

Lose the pride. Embrace the Divine. Walk with the Spirit. And enjoy the freedom brought by the truth of Jesus Christ.

In a book called The Three Edwards, Thomas Costain describes the life of Raynald III, a 14th-century duke in what is now Belgium. Raynald’s nickname was Crassus, the Latin word for fat. In modern terminology, we would say that Raynald was morbidly obese—really fat.

Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful coup against Raynald, capturing the kingdom for himself. Instead of killing Raynald, Edward had a room built around his overweight brother—a room with regular-sized windows and doors, but no bars. Edward told his brother that he could have his kingdom back the day he could walk out of his room. But Edward knew his brother well. Every day he had a full table of tasty food sent to Raynald. Instead of losing enough weight to walk out of his “prison”, Raynald just got fatter.

Whenever Edward was accused of family cruelty, he answered, “My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.” Raynald stayed in that room for 10 years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined that he died within a year—a prisoner of his own appetite.

Raynald didn’t understand that, with God’s help, his thinking could be turned around, the stronghold of the mind could be defeated, and he could break his addiction.

How does this happen? First, we must come to God with a broken spirit. Pride prevents us from seeking God fully. Romans 12:1 encourages us to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.” Paul is encouraging brokenness of spirit, a full surrender of our pride and self-dependence. Only when we deny self can we become completely dependent upon God.

The result of such brokenness and dependence on God is discussed in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  

The verbs “be conformed” and “be transformed” are passive verbs. It’s not something we do, but something we allow to be done to us. Who conforms us to this world? That one’s easy. It’s Satan, the prince of this world and the father of lies. Who transforms us by renewing our minds? The answer to that one is found in Titus 3:5, “God saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

Transformation and mind renewal are the work of God’s Holy Spirit. And good news! You already have the Holy Spirit living inside you if you’re a baptized believer. So, what’s standing in the way of this wonderful, transforming renewal of the mind? You guessed it—PRIDE. Again, brokenness must come first. Until we trust completely in God, strongholds of the mind cannot be destroyed.

I could not lose 100 pounds until I surrendered my food addiction to God. By prayer and a willing dependence upon God, thought processes were eventually changed, mental strongholds were destroyed, and transformation occurred. It’s not my willpower. It’s God’s power.

Folks, Satan is a liar! He can make you believe that the lies he puts into your head are your ideas. Don’t let him do that! Take those evil thoughts captive, get them out of your mind, and replace them with godly thoughts—thoughts that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent” (Philippians 4.8). Replace the bad stuff with lots of good stuff!

Lose the pride. Embrace the Divine. Walk with the Spirit. And enjoy the freedom brought by the truth of Jesus Christ.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10.4-5).

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Jim Hays

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