The Word is a sword that slays our sin (Eph. 6:17). If we say we want to fight sin than we must have our sword. We can’t fight sin let alone experience any victory if we don’t always have the Word ready at hand.
We see this truth attested to in various places in Scripture:
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.” ~Psalm 119:9
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” ~John 17:17
“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” ~Hebrews 4:12
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” ~James 1:21
We also see that Scripture is our bread, it is life supporting. We need it desperately. We need it to live (Ps. 119:144). We need the “words of life” (Jn. 6:68). If we think or act any other way we are ripe for a fall. The soldier who doesn’t have his weapon dies just as the person who doesn’t eat the life-giving bread.
We need the Word. We need bread. We cannot live any other way.
- “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov. 1:10 cf. v. 17-18)
- “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on” (Prov. 4:14-15)
- “The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray” (Prov. 5:22-23)
- “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Prov. 10:17)
- “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded” (Prov. 13:13)
- “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Prov. 13:14)
- “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20)
- “The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways” (Prov. 14:14)
- “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Prov. 14:27)
- “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die” (Prov. 15:10)
- “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1)
- “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1 cf. 23:29-35)
- “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead” (Prov. 21:16)
- “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (Prov. 21:17)
- “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day” (Prov. 23:17)
- “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags” (Prov. 23:20-21)
- “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28)
- “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Prov. 26:11)
- “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling” (Prov. 26:27)
- “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Prov. 28:13-14)
My book Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin just got released! Here are a few of the things people are saying about it.
“As the title of this book makes clear, a gospel-centered approach is, in the long run, the only effective way to combat sin and addiction. Any resource, like this one by Paul O’Brien, which helps us fight our sinful compulsions by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one I recommend.”
—Dr. Donald S. Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Gospel-Centered War is for those who struggle with life-dominating sin and for those who counsel them. Instead of simply addressing behavior modification, Paul O’Brien gets to the heart of the matter. This book addresses the issues that provide freedom from destructive, self-defeating behaviors by helping the reader understand how God can change their heart and passions. Read it, devour it, and then be changed from the inside out.”
—Pastor Mike Wilson, Lincoln Heights Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ohio
“Paul is a genuine man of faith who has dedicated his life to Jesus and his calling. As a former heroin addict who was mentored by Paul, I had the privilege to witness his passion for Christ and his desire to help people through God’s word. This book shows that same passion.”
—Ricky Upton, Louisville, KY
- “Start Over” – Flame feat. NF
- “Relief” (Acoustic) – Wolves At The Gate (feat Toby Morrell)
- “Redeemed”- Big Daddy Weave
- “Break the Cycle” – For Today
- “Killa” – Lecrae
- “This Is Amazing Grace” – Phil Wickham
- “Lord, I Need You” – Matt Maher
- “Rock of Ages” – Ascend the Hill
- “Your Great Name” – Natalie Grant
- “Sweetness of Freedom” – Citizens
East of Eden, this trance in which were caught. Serpents all around, lies within, lies without. Death, death, unspoken though it be, prevails. Prevailing misery, wrapped in supposed ecstasy. Whisper, whisper; slither near, they speak the lies into my ear. Sell it all, the order built tall, fails. Embrace it all, accept all, end null. Trudge on and live and die, for what do we expire? Only all we desire. Endless cycle of misery, never free. Eat the apple, embrace the noose. Slither near, oh yes, my dear. Come here, constrict me. Worthless cycle, the viper of this world, strikes fast yet the venom kills slow. How strange, but the hand that feeds me, bites me. Diluted profit, fruitless field, this the futility that we yield. Strive for the Garden, yet we embrace the curse; oh, the contradiction that is humanity.
East of Eden, for a season, the King will soon return. Every foe vanquished, for every thorn a rose. The King, He soon shall reign! Then, the refrain, forever remain, “life, life!” The serpent is gone, we sing a new song forever of our Savior. We ate of the tree, He died on a tree to be the curse we created, and with His death, death’s defeated.
A Consuming Life Passion?
Instead of feigning for a substance or porn we need to have a new and better all consuming passion. We need to have a new purpose with a new goal as its end. We need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We need a reason to be.
One of the fundamental questions that psychologists face is what is to be the motivational force in our lives? Is it to get rich? Propagate are genes? To enjoy as much pleasure as we can? What is to be the fuel for the engine of our lives? Do we have anything that can propel us through the sufferings and struggles of life?
This question cries out to be answered, and how it’s answered will have profound implications for the way that we live. Many, I’m sure, are unaware of their motivations and could care less about them. However, I’m sure that this is a great mistake.
The athlete, for instance, competes for a price and are very much aware of what that prize is. We, like the athlete, must not only be aware that there is a prize but what that prize is. We must seek to live with the intentionality of an athlete.
An athlete will discipline their body and bring it under subjection in pursuit of the prize. And when focused on the prize the athlete will gladly do away with hindrances. However, the athlete must have a goal, be competing for a prize, and have an idea of what that prize is if they are to have motivation to compete well.
Christians have Motivation to “Compete”
The language of running the race and competing for a prize were frequently used by the Apostle Paul. He was someone that clearly had a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. He had a consuming passion. He said, “I count everything as absolutely worthless compared to Christ.” Paul suffered the loss of all things in order that he could gain Christ. We also see that Jesus Himself raced the race and endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.
We too need motivation. We need to be motivated like the Apostle Paul. We need the love of Christ to be the fuel that burns and propels us through the sufferings and struggles of life. Christ alone is sufficient motivation. Christ Jesus, as the Apostle Paul, Augustine, and Brian “Head” Welch, and many others make clear, alone satisfies and is it worth living for.
Here’s Brain “Head” Welch:
Take it from me, nothing you chase after on this earth will satisfy you like a real, everyday intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing. Trust me. While I was in Korn I had people waiting on me left and right. Anything I wanted, I got. Anywhere I wanted to go, I went. All I had to do was give the word, and it happened. I had the world in the palm of my hand, people; and I have to tell you one last time, there’s nothing there. I promise you. Jesus Christ is the only one that can make you complete. (Save Me from Myself)
The end of the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, tells us in chapter 21 what our ultimate goal is. To see God face to face, to be in the eternal temple where He will make all things new. Where He will wipe away every tear from our eye. Where there will be no more pain or crying anymore. Where we will have pleasure forevermore in His presence.
So we see that we have much that God has called us to do. We have much purpose. We have a reason to be. We would do well to set God’s truth before us so that we are motivated to live for the prize.
A verse that God has used to wake me up to the unseen realities and motivate me to purposeful living to His glory is 1 Corinthians 15:58. It says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” This verse, when understood in the context of chapter 15, shows us that it makes sense for us to be motivated to labor for the Lord because of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
The Bible verse that says, “Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do you all to the glory of God” is not just a Bible verse. It is not just a good tagline under the name of some private Christian school. It is the way that it makes sense for us to live in light of the glorious gospel.
In a similar way, the oft-quoted phrase “our chief end [or main purpose in life] is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” is not a mere tagline but a phrase that gets at a biblical motivational reality.
Create Your Own Motivational Purpose Statement
We have laid a little bit of groundwork. Now it’s your turn. I want you to write out a biblically infirmed motivational purpose statement for your life.
Just write something down. It does not have to be able to stand the test of time like the Westminster Shorter Catechism on your first attempt. Your purpose statement can adapt and grow as you do.
My own purpose statement is not the best and I certainly could do better about purposely keeping it in my head so that it will be lived out through my hands. However, the purpose behind the statement is not to make it timeless or flawless. It is to be purposeful about our purpose. We have a purpose and it is great. We have a reason to wake up in the morning. A reason to be. I reason to say no to whatever sin it is that calls our name.
Greet the reaper as he reaps and weep because of the same This silly game We do this to ourselves We’ve mapped out our whole mission We sketched the whole thing out The plan for our destruction The black hole that is you It will consume you More, more is your mantra The only thing that will not go is “no” Inject the pleasure Digest the pain Is it all a game? You dance, You dance to your own dirge
Sin, Resulting in the Fall, Explains Humanities Wretchedness and yet Greatness
I think it’s accurate to say that “any viable worldview must successfully explain the seemingly paradoxical nature of the human condition.”[i] The philosopher Blaise Pascal lamented, “What sort of freak is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, the glory and refuse of the universe!”[ii]
“the inexplicable phenomenon of mankind: unquestionably corrupt, subject to inconstancy, boredom, anxiety and selfishness, doing anything in the waking hours to divert the mind from human wretchedness, yet showing the vestiges of inherent greatness in the mind’s realization of this condition. Mankind is also finite, suspended between twin infinities revealed by telescope and microscope, and aware of an inner emptiness which the finite world fails to satisfy. No philosophy makes sense of this. No moral system makes us better or happier. One hypothesis alone, creation in the divine image followed by the fall, explains our predicament and, through a redeemer and mediator with God, offers to restore our rightful state.”[iii]
Human greatness split the atom, human wretchedness uses the same to kill millions of people. A great, though wretched, leader, Adolf Hitler, will lead a nation to slaughter millions. A great leader, Winston Churchhill, will lead a nation in their defense. As much as we are great, we bare God’s image. As much as we are wretched, we bare Satan’s. Ben Carson, with his intelligence, will fight for cures; others will inject poison. Humanity is simultaneously great and wretched. What explains this paradox? We all innately sense it but why is it here?
Humanity is fallen. So “the line between good and evil is never simply between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The line between good and evil runs through each one of us.”[iv] We are made in God’s image and thus can do fantastic things and fantastic good but we have been marred by the Fall and often reflect Satan so we can also do acts of unbelievable wickedness.
Thus, sin is not good because it wreaks havoc on our greatness, on the fact that we were created in the image of God, and distorts it to evil ends.[v] How sad that we who are capable of exploring the limitless expanse of the sea, the mind, space, and biology so often content ourselves with razing and rioting. How sad that though we as humanity are capable of such good, there is such grave injustice. I’ve read for example that a woman born in parts of South Africa is more likely to be raped then to learn to read.[vi] This surely should not be!
[i] Robert Velarde, “Greatness and Wretchedness” “How can one species produce both unspeakable wickedness and nearly inexplicable goodness? How can we be responsible both for the most disgusting squalor and for the most breathtaking beauty? How can grand aspirations and self-destructive impulses, kindness and cruelty, be interwoven in one life? The human enigma cries out for explanation” (Thomas Morris, “Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life” as quoted in Robert Velarde, “Greatness and Wretchedness: The Usefulness of Pascal’s Anthropological Argument in Apologetics”).
[ii] Pascal, Pensees, 131/434.
[iii] D.G. Preston, New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wells, and J.I. Packer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), s.v. “Blaise Pascal” as quoted in Robert Velarde, “Greatness and Wretchedness: The Usefulness of Pascal’s Anthropological Argument in Apologetics.”
[iv] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, 38.
[v] Sadly, “human nature itself, with its vast and mysterious amalgam of capacities to think, feel, supervise, love, create, respond, and act virtuously—that is, with its vast capacities for imaging God—has become the main carrier and exhibit of corruption” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 30-31).
[vi] Yet how strange and how sad that we hate the thought of this and yet many still struggle with the wickedness of pornography. Most of humanity hates the thought of human trafficking but yet enjoys the very things that feed that market.