By Meredith Mills
Why can’t I just say “no”?
I was a slave, bound by my own desires and cravings. Food was my master and I regularly did its bidding. Hungry or not, it didn’t matter. Delicious food or mediocre, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop myself. I was powerless to change.
And I hated it.
Guilt, shame, even despair, clung to my soul like my kids’ backpacks on the first day of school.
Here’s the crazy thing – I knew Jesus. This isn’t a pre-salvation story. I’d been a Christian for years. I knew the right answers:
- Christ in me is greater than the evil one (1 John 4:4).
- I’m more than a conquerer through Jesus who loves me (Romans 8:37).
- Sin shouldn’t have dominion over me, since I’m living under grace now (Romans 6:14).
But that’s where it stopped – in my head. New year’s resolutions, diets, shaming myself…none of it worked.
Finally, in desperation, I literally cried out to God. I remember two different nights, sobbing on my knees before Him, admitting my helplessness and begging Him to set me free.
And He did.
Not in an instant, but over time. He taught me to think differently and began transforming me on an emotional and spiritual level. I learned to recognize His voice as He talked to my heart, saying things like “You’ve had enough food” or “That’s a healthier choice.”
He satisfied me with Himself as He broke the chains of addictive sin.
And that’s what He’s willing to do in each sin struggle we face.
“You will again have compassion on us, and will subdue all our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depth of the sea” (Micah7:19 NKJV).
He takes captive those things that once held us captive. He makes them subservient to Himself.
And He flings those sins into the deepest depths of the ocean.
Kinda takes the sting out of temptation, doesn’t it?
It’s nice to know when we feel like we have to give in, our feelings are lying to us.
If we’re being real, though, we’d probably all admit victory is not an everyday reality. The above story happened years ago and honestly, I still struggle to obey Jesus in the realm of eating, though the addictive hold has been broken. It’s a battle I’ll most likely take with me to the grave. (I think of it as my ever-present reminder that I still need Jesus.)
But I know now that I don’t have to sin.
I know that “freedom to do whatever I want” isn’t true freedom at all.
And I know I want Jesus to be my Master – not self and sin. Jesus is good and kind, unlike the sin that seeks to destroy me. Jesus carries my burdens with me. He equips me for this spiritual battle and doesn’t leave me defenseless or alone.
He never meets me with condemnation, even when I fail, but rather with the mercy that triumphed at Calvary. He is instantly ready to pick me up, to redeem the mess I’ve made and help me move forward.
This life of freedom is a process. We must learn to walk with Jesus, to recognize His voice and trust that His heart for us is good. It takes practice to rely on Him for the strength (and sometimes the desire) we need to step out in faith.
There are no methods that can take the place of relating to Jesus – not even the spiritual disciplines.
Reading my Bible didn’t set me free.
Praying didn’t break sin’s hold on me.
Telling lots of people about Jesus didn’t inoculate me from addictive sin.
Nope. All of those things are empty when we look to them as our source and hope.
The Pharisees did all those things, but they missed Jesus and remained unchanged.
Walking in victory isn’t a matter of mustering the strength to obey or setting up strong enough “fences” to keep us on the straight and narrow. Nothing but an ever-deepening walk with Jesus can transform our hearts.
And yes, that does include the irreplaceable spiritual disciplines mentioned above. These and other disciplines are essential tools for knowing Him. But they are not the source of change – Jesus is.
What are you facing today? Does a particular sin hold you in its grip? May you find freedom in the nearness of Jesus, in acknowledging your powerlessness and in surrendering anew to the love of Jesus.
In what areas has Jesus set you free? I’d love to hear – please leave a comment below!