All Christians struggle with evil desires. It is a part of the inward Christian battle to achieve the righteousness that we have already received through Christ Jesus. Self-gratification is in the core nature of human flesh, and wicked habits do not lie down easily. Before we were saved, we were only vaguely aware of the battle. Sin took us through subtle infiltration of our weak moral consciousness for we were without power to withstand it. Scripture, recording through the pen of Paul, words it like this:
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
To be “quickened” is to be taken from death and given life, awareness, and understanding. In our previous, limited grasp of the situation we had no knowledge of the battle. Our best effort to do good things was ever hampered by our desires for fleshly gain. When we shared, it was accompanied by an inner quest for recognition. When we helped, it was governed by either a desire to be acknowledged or by an unexpressed expectation of future return. When we loved, it was so that we would be loved in returned.
You do not believe this to be so. Why then, do you become angry when those you have helped fail to respond as you have expected? Why then, do you remind people of your good works when seeking a favor that they do not wish to return? Why then, does your love so easily become your hate? Why then, do you blame God when you think yourself good yet something seemingly bad disrupts your life?
Acknowledging A Habit Does Not End The Wickedness
From here on, I give personal testimonial. I cannot proclaim the measure, the degree, or the extent of your private confrontations with evil. But herein is one of my past struggles.
After several months behind the bars of various county and city jails, I was shipped off to the federal prison that would be my home for the next three years. I had already given up TV; the disrupted nature of many men sharing few controls had revealed my fighting instinct. I had once threatened two other inmates over my supposed right to watch a Christian TV show. It was a real Christina thing to do.
I spent most hours reading the bible, praying, and witnessing. But at times, I also loved science fiction, fantasy, and detective novels. One day I picked up the first of what would become a series of detective books. [Naming the author and the series is unnecessary and unfruitful for this story.] That first read was really good. Great characters. Great plot. Excellent writing. The author knew his craft well.
The second novel began to include some very crude language and a graphically wicked villain. But I read it through. A hook had been planted. For the two hours I could spend in that novel land, I was free from within the confines of the prison.
The third novel turned very ugly. The language was foul, the villain pure evil, and even the main characters, those who were supposed to be good, began to lose any trace of morals and rightness. But now, I was fully hooked, trapped within the desires of my own flesh.
In that past conversation, I would never have known that evil had taken me. But now, within me resided the Holy Spirit, and He groaned at my sin. This wicked book, this evil series of gradual moral decay had no place in the mind or life of a Christian. Yet I continued to read the novels. I remained a slave to sin.
At that time, our prison library contained eight books in the series. In the aftermath of each read, I would weep and promise not to read another. Yet in time, a week, maybe two I would go again to the library for yet another fix from the world of black thoughts. When I finished the last novel in the series that remained in our library, I thought that now I am free.
Satan was not finished with me. The sifting had more to go.
Two days later, the head librarian, a dear friend, came to my bunk with a new book in his hands. “Here,” he said. “This just came in today. I knew you would want it.”
With an inner groaning, I reached out my hand and took again the temptations of worldly living, the false peace from a false promise.
I did not read it then. I let it sit, struggled to return it to the library, wanted so much not to read it even as I longed to open those pages. Such a simple thing, it may seem, this battle over a written word. But the measure of that battle is greater than I can ever explain. Submission to a false promise through false words had brought me to this place of punishment. Surrender to written words of evil, both my own and those of others had nearly cost me all that I truly loved. Yet here I stand to battle it once again. Perhaps you can understand what is a besetting sin.
Next day, I went to my job in the fifth floor library. I left the “book” on the locker in my cube. And through the day I prayed, read scripture, and asked God that he would release me from the power under which I had once more positioned myself.
That night as I sat on my bunk, I placed the bible to my side and the “book” next to it. “Jesus,” I said. “I’m going to read the prologue of that ‘book’ and if you do not stop me, I will also read the first chapter.”
Then I did as I said. I read the prologue. It was foul, the worst yet as two rogue cops raped a fourteen-year-old girl. Six pages, I believe, and I read them all.
Then I closed the “book” and lay it back beside my bible. “Jesus,” I said. “I told you that I am not strong enough to prevent this. I have read the filth that is before me, and now I shall read again. I will read the first chapter, and if you do not stop me I will not ask again. I cannot live with this awful force alive within my mind. If you do not take it out, I will surrender to it. Though I hate this sin with all my heart, and though I love you with all my heart my flesh is strong and my mind is weak. You said ‘come unto me all who are heaven laden and I will give you rest’. For this mercy I plea; let not my strength be tested but yours, for I have already fallen. “
I lifted the “book”, the agent of wickedness, and I began to read the first chapter. When my eyes settled on the top of the third page, I closed the “book”. The battle was finished. The triumph came quick and easy. I finally understood. It can never be in my strength that the battles are fought. Victories are won through the power that came through an old wooden tree, a stone grave, and a restructured Savior.
I lay aside the “book” and lifted my bible. Perhaps you think that I should have destroyed it. I am not enabled to cleanse the world by force. I am empowered to cleanse the world by the Word of God that brings forth salvation to all who will come.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up,” (James 4:7-10).
How Do We Lay Down A Wicked Habit
It is not enough to recognize evil; you must also know Jesus, submit to his authority, and resist wickedness through the power of God’s word.