Reason #6: Your Life and Witness Will Be Stronger, Effective

Recall again the parable of the sower, and the thorns that choke the word, making it unfruitful.  We must continue to remind ourselves that this parable is not about unsaved people.  The seed was sown, and it was planted.  It took root and grew.  But its growth was stymied by half-hearted devotion and the distractions of the cares of the flesh.

We who want freedom must desire an undistracted life.  This kind of life is one that effectively maximizes God’s plan to use you to be His witness in the world.  Think about the areas of your life where God has used you.  Think about ministries, charities, activism, and discipleship.  How effective can you be in those tasks if your mind is constantly thinking about surfing the web at the same time?  About your favorite internet model? How effective can you be when you’d rather be elsewhere? When these people kind of annoy you with all their real world problems, and you’d rather just wade into the pool of prostitutes and naked women?

This is why God wants an undivided heart.  A compromised life is an ineffective life.  Romans 12 says we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  That means we aren’t distracted by all kinds of other things.  We have a faith-based mission, and we are going to change the world, one day at a time.

James 1:23-25
Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, this one is like a man considering the face of his birth in a mirror.  For he considered himself, and he has gone away, and he immediately forgot what sort of man he was.  But the one having looked into the perfect law of liberty, and having continued–not having become a forgetful hearer, but a doer of work–this one will be blessed in his doing.  (NT Transline)

James also talks about the “double-minded” person who is blown and tossed by the wind because of his doubts.  And where does doubt originate?  One place is a distracted life, filled with all kinds of unnecessary concerns.  Misplaced priorities.

In both cases, you have a person who hears lots of truth–this is someone who goes to church regularly–but does nothing with it, and when the fires of life get turned up and faith is mixed with doubt, he gets thrown around into chaos.  He hears, but he does not respond.

Action reveals character. If God’s character is indeed growing inside you, then your actions should start to reflect this. James calls this the “law of liberty.” It’s interesting to think of liberty as a law.

Like many of God’s mysteries, He has injected them into the fabric of human life. Give, and it shall be given to you. Do unto others. You reap what you sow. And also, the law of liberty. If you go out and do what you have heard, if you live according to the truth, freedom, grace, and power you keep hearing about, then you will operate within the law of liberty. But, if you keep enslaving yourself to addictive sins and selfish desires, you operate outside the law, and you lose the effects of liberty.

Some people call this “depression.” But in essence, you’ve lost your identity.  You’ve forgotten who you are after just being reminded.

“That was a great sermon.”

“Yeah, sure was.  Let’s see who’s winning.”

“Whoa. Check out that cheerleader.”

If our identity is not in Christ, then what will we say to people when an opportunity suddenly arises to share the gospel, or speak into someone’s life, or help a friend or coworker, or show love to an unsaved person?  We’ll be uncertain, hesitant, wavering in discomfort.  You know the feeling.  The same one the other eleven disciples felt as they watched Peter jump into the sea and walk on water–the only man other than Jesus ever to do this.  Sure, he didn’t last long.  But those few seconds taught him more than the others could ever learn standing safely in the boat.

On the contrary, an effective life sees opportunities, and with the confidence and boldness Paul regularly prayed for, steps up and takes advantage of it.  An effective life sees a chance to reveal something about God’s nature and love to another person, and seizes the moment.  An effective life gets up in the morning and goes to work or school, and knows the reason why it’s doing this.  An effective life sees the prize waiting at the end, and knows that’s worth putting aside all the distractions of the world.

In short, an effective life makes a difference.  And we want freedom from sin, because otherwise we will not have an effective witness, and our impact in the world will be minimal at best, negative at worst.

Reason #5: Victory Breeds Confidence–The Good Cycle

Those of us who are or have been mired in addictive sins probably understand the word ‘cycle’ all too well.

You go to church, repent, feel good and strong.  One week passes.  Maybe two.  Then a moment of weakness.  A beautiful woman walks by.  A picture calls to you from the magazine rack.  You fight it.  It’s not the pretty woman’s fault.  You can do it.  Be strong.  But oh, the feeling.  I want to see more.  I need it.  I’ll just go online where no one can see me.  I’ll just look at one page.  One picture.  Before you know it, your hard drive bulges with gigabytes of folders devoted to women who are not yours.  And you hate yourself.  The guilt.  The self-loathing.  The gross, sick feeling.  I’m pathetic.  God would never want me near Him like this.  I can’t go to church.

One week passes.  Maybe two.  Then a moment of weakness.  The good kind.  The kind Paul speaks of numerous times, often referred to as godly sorrow.  I’m helpless and weak, but God can save me.  You repent, you go back to church.  You worship.  You start reading your Bible again.  You feel good and strong.  One week passes.  Maybe two.  And then….

We know this cycle very well.  Far too well.  We know the favorite verses people use that express it in some measure, such as Romans 7.  If you look at the Israelites in Exodus and Numbers, and even after they take the land in Joshua and Judges, you see a similar pattern.  Judges 2:10-23 offers a sobering and depressing picture of how this cycle can play out over centuries, generation after generation. Read it and realize you are not the first to go through this.

But there is another cycle.  A good one.  Imagine a sports team that won zero games the previous year.  Like the Detroit Lions of 2008–the first NFL team in history to lose all 16 games.  Pretty depressing, even for a Lions fan.  I remember the next year, however, when they finally won a game, the first one in over a year.  The team left the field, and the fans thanked them.  It was a rare moment in sports.  But those fans, and that team, have more appreciation for the feeling of one single victory than all the fans and all the members of a perennial winner will ever know.  And that first victory led to another, and another.  Now, they didn’t make the playoffs, or even have a winning record.  But it’s that first victory that must happen before anything else good can follow.  The first one is the hardest.  When you’re at the bottom, the only way to go is up.

Victory breeds confidence.  The same is true in our spiritual walks.  God isn’t going to ask us to become a missionary, or start a church, or take over a ministry, or get a new job, or do anything else that will have a big impact in the world if we can’t manage to get out of bed until noon because we masturbate all morning long.

So the first victory for that kind of person is very simple.  Get up.  Especially on the weekends.  If you’re a student, especially on the breaks.  Have a morning.  Read the paper.  Eat something tasty.  I remember this battle in my own life.  My goal was to get through the three week Christmas break without reverting to my sinful tendencies.  It’s often harder when you return home (if you went to a different city for college) to keep up your spiritual progress.  The first time I successfully made it through a break, it was a big deal.  I felt stronger and emboldened.  Later, I made it through a summer break.  Success in the small things leads to bigger goals, which leads to bigger successes.

Now, don’t misunderstand.  As I’ve said, you won’t find freedom obsessing over stuff like this.  Obsessing over your longest purity streak will not lead you to freedom.  But my point is simply this: when you taste a little freedom, and discover how much better it is, then any failures after that hurt just a little bit more.  Once you’ve been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land, you don’t really like being shoved back down the wrong side of the hill.

And one day, when you realize that you in fact already possess complete and total freedom given to you in Christ, you will know the taste of victory, and will fight like mad to keep it.  You will want to know what the armor of God is for, and how to use it.  You will want the word of God to be your sword, and your faith your shield.  You will hate sin with a new kind of hatred that is different from the loathing, helpless, hopeless feeling of ‘not this again.’  Hebrews 6 tells us that hope is like an “anchor of the soul.”  It is from a strong position that we can fight and advance.  Once you’ve taken some ground, you want to hold it.  But if you never even try, what do you have to fight for?

So we want to have freedom, because it will lead to greater freedom and the confidence to start doing things for God.  We want to start experiencing the Good Cycle so we can experience the freedom that was bought for us by Jesus Christ. Then we can work on advancing His kingdom, rather than being stuck in our own self-absorption for hours and hours at a time.