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John 6:68 “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Paul writes in Romans that my destiny as a Christian is to be conformed to the image of Christ—to spend my life allowing the Holy Spirit to bend me, mold me, and shape me until I resemble the Son of God. I should, in fact, always be aware of some sin or bad habit that God is targeting for change. Change, however, is hard. After all, as a culture, we do tend toward cynicism and self-centeredness, both of which inhibit my willingness to die to myself and submit to what God wants. So, when He begins putting pressure on me to crucify the deeds of the flesh, I have often squirmed my way to the edge of the Holy Spirit’s presence, where the compelling and louder voice of the flesh eases my guilt by excusing, rationalizing, and watering-down my sins. But when I am honest with myself, I know that God will not settle for this, that He wants total submission and transformation. Christ’s life made that very clear.
When I have been stuck in sin patterns or earthly ways of thinking for most of my life, how can I break free? Debates, arguments, and logical opinions alone often make me more obstinate and unyielding because, for pride’s sake, I don’t want to appear brow-beaten or out-reasoned by another person. This is a favorite ploy of the enemy because it allows me to focus on how my wife, family, or friends confront me rather than the truth of what they say. Knowing the depths of my foolishness and the extremes to which I will go to avoid dying to self, God mercifully gave those in my life a powerful tool which, when used in conjunction with love, lays bear all my self-deception and fleshly pride—the Truth. John 8: 30-36, Hebrews 4:12, and Ephesians 5:26 give us a clear overview of the power and role of God’s Truth: “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin, but if you hold to my teaching you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. For it will make you holy, cleansing you by the washing with water through the word. For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (condensed).
Here is the story of how God transformed me with Truth. I’m the third child in a family of four children, so by birth order, I am the peace-maker and have a strong urge to help others. I am introverted and sensitive, and I tend to trust people and want their approval. This does not sound so bad, but the enemy plays to his advantages and our weaknesses. By the time I was a teenager, these character traits that God intended for good purposes were fast becoming twisted into something destructive. As often happens with introverted people, I only wanted a few very close friends and began pouring myself into those relationships. Unfortunately, some of these friends had intense family conflict and emotional problems, and I felt the need to solve their issues and “fix” them emotionally. Thus, I spent more and more time with them, if for no other reason than to try to cheer them up. When they were happy, I was happy. When they were sad, I felt like it was my fault and that they were unhappy with me, and therefore I felt depressed. I was a slave to other people, and neither I nor they knew it. It was an emotionally unstable, confusing, and self-centered time.
My other relationships were affected as well. Because I was so dependent on my depressed friends for approval, I spent too much time and emotional energy in those relationships and was not a good friend to others. I did not care about the feelings of my healthier friends as much because they were not the ones with problems and therefore did not need me to fix them. I would thus often make them feel unimportant by prioritizing my problem-relationships. When my healthier friends began to confront me, I, hating and fearing conflict and not wanting to think ill of the friends I was trying to save, would avoid the issue, feel angry, and push those feelings down until they festered into bitterness and resentment. At the same time, I was aware of my failings in my healthier friendships and so loathed myself for not being able to please those people. The enemy’s deception was simple and suited to my weaknesses—I was miserable and truly deceived. It did not take drugs, sex, or violence to get me off track, just a few well-placed lies. People had become my gods, controlling my emotions and decisions.
God was not willing that I should remain a slave, however. Several adults began to speak truth into my life when I was sixteen. They pointed out my fear of rejection and drive for approval, and they made the link between my dependence on others and my unstable emotions clear. Initially, I rejected their perspective. Their opinions, after all, were just that—opinions. But as they also applied God’s Word to my situation, I could not deny the conviction of the blatant truth pressing on my heart. Soon, the foundation for all the deception began to crack.
I learned that I did not have to indulge, nurture, and be subservient to my feelings. I learned that fearing rejection and idolizing approval was sinful and destructive, and that I could look to God for approval rather than fear man. I also found that it was not my job to fix other people. As these issues became clearer, I began discovering my identity as something unchangeable, predestined, and rooted in Christ. Once this was more solidified, the Holy Spirit continued speaking the Word through people to teach me the way of forgiveness. These lessons were not learned all at once or so neatly. Whenever my reading of the Scripture decreased and my isolation from God’s people increased, the same old deceptions were waiting to enslave me once again. I am a slow learner, and God, knowing my weakness, continues to show me new opportunities to overcome these problems each day. But the remedy never changes. It is always a matter of filtering my thoughts and perceptions through the truth of God’s Word and conforming my mind to Christ’s thoughts.
As Peter stated so clearly, since Christ has the words of eternal life, where else can we go to be free of our flesh and transformed? Nothing else will so break us free from our worlds of deception like the Word. If you are a believer who is stuck in fear, addiction, depression, or confusion, or if you just feel that your spiritual and emotional growth is nominal or non-existent, listen to Godly counsel and trust in the Truth of God’s Word to cut through your feelings and lay the root of your problems bare. And trust that the work Christ began at your salvation will be completed not by your merit or strength, but by your submission to God’s Holy Word.
 Eph. 4:31; 2 Corin. 4:8; Rom. 5:3-5
 Is. 51:7; Prov. 29:25
 Psalm 124
 Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 15:5
 2 Tim. 1:7; Jer. 1:5
 Matt. 6:14; 18:21
 Phil. 1:6