Give up. Probably not what you expected to hear on your first day. And this isn't some ploy to tell you to "give up" so that you will be emboldened to not give up. We actually need you to give up.
Give up "trying harder" to not sin.
Give up thinking you will never be able to stop.
Give up trying to do it alone.
Give up thinking you can deliver yourself.
Give up shaming yourself and blaming others.
Give up living in secrecy and isolation over this area of your life.
We've got some good news and some bad news for you. It's the same news actually. No matter how hard you try, you cannot stop your addictive behaviour. That's actually the definition of an addiction - continuing to do something despite wanting to stop doing it.
There's a good reason that the first step in traditional recovery programs is giving up: "We admitted we were powerless over [our addiction]— that our lives had become unmanageable.” (Alcoholics Anonymous)
Trying harder to not sin doesn't work. The Apostle Paul wrote about this almost 2,000 years ago when he said:
"For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing."
That's the bad news. But it is also the good news. It means we get to stop carrying the burden of trying to dig ourselves out of the pit we are in. Someone in a pit with a shovel can only dig themselves deeper. You are in a pit and you need rescuing. You need a Savior and someone to follow.
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."
"It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy."
Every morning from this day on, spend time in quiet solitude with God as the very first thing you do in the morning. Before checking your phone, before making coffee, before brushing your teeth. First thing.
You may have prayed your whole life or only during mealtimes or when you wanted something from God.
Prayer is an integral part of our relationship with God. Jesus explained how we are to pray to the Father:
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Throughout the Bible we see people praying on their knees and falling down before God:
"When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'"
Praying on our knees puts us in a physical posture of humility and submission to our creator. Quieting our hearts before him.
Beginning our prayers with praise and thanksgiving for what God has done sets out hearts and minds in the right place. Petitioning or asking God is part of prayer. So is sharing our true feelings with him, no matter how difficult they are. Thanking God for who he is and expressing love to him for his character and attributes and promises are also part of Biblical prayer. There's no emotion too strong for God to hear. As you read the Psalms and Job you'll see people expressing all kinds of difficult emotions to God.
The more we pray honestly and consistently, the deeper our relationship with God will become.
Each morning, thank the Lord if you stayed clean the night before (since it's only by his grace) or confess to him if it wasn't. Ask him to keep you clean for the day ahead.
Christian meditation is not about emptying your mind of all thoughts. Rather, it is focussing your mind on God, his attributes, character, the images we see of him in the Bible, his promises, and his love for us.
"...Be still, and know that I am God..."
Being still before God, we begin to let go of trying to control and hold our lives together. We give up trying to fix ourselves or the problems or people around us. We come as children before our Father.
Meditation is also a time we can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the sin in our life and the improper motives we have even when doing things that are good.
"Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent."
This kind of silent, quiet time for God to speak into our hearts means we need to intentionally make time and space for him to do so.
Don't be discouraged if your mind starts to wander off to other things like the day ahead. Just gently come back to thinking about God and ask him to reveal to you anything that he has for you that morning.
Remember, if you feel God is sharing something with you to test it against what he has already said in the Bible because God doesn't contradict himself. You can also seek the counsel of another Christian, elder, or pastor in your church.
Sometimes our times of meditation may seem like we are simply alone with our thoughts. That's okay. Sin disrupts our relationship with God, but he still loves us and wants us to return to him.
Continue to seek him, day after day.
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
Less than half of professing Christians in the United States say that reading the Bible is an essential part of being a Christian for them.
Many of us who claim to be, or think of ourselves as, Christians have never read the foundational religious text that is the basis for our faith. And the Bible is more than that - it's the very word of God. It is an astounding realization if we step back and think about it.
Reading the Bible out of a sense of duty, shame or guilt is not going to work. It's not why we read the Bible.
Why read the Bible? Because it is the word of God and it is the most direct and clear way to know with certainty what God is saying to you today, right here, right now.
Can we trust the historical reliability of the Bible? If this is something you've asked, that's good. You may be surprised to find the wealth of evidence supporting it. A good starting point is reading The Case for Christ or watch the film it's based on by the same name. For more academic sources, check out the bibliography here.
How do we read the Bible? There are many plans out there. The easiest is to simply start reading the New Testament, beginning in the book of Matthew. Once you're done reading all the books that follow up to and including Revelation, do another pass or two of the New Testament before diving into the Old Testament.
The first time reading the Bible, you can read through it more quickly to get the basic facts, teachings, and ideas in your mind. Then read it more slowly (e.g. reading just a chapter or even part of a chapter each day multiple times in one sitting). Expect God to reveal things to you. Don't be afraid to get a pencil or ballpoint pen to write notes or underline passages in the margins. You'll be incredibly surprised not only with what you read but how it will begin to change your heart if you read the Bible to know and deepen your relationship with God.
After all, the Bible is God's love letters to you as your Father.
"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
"For the word of God is alive 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."
We need to talk about screens. They're a sleep killer and a gateway to temptation.
The National Sleep Foundation explains: "The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep."
Their advice: "give yourself at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before hitting the hay. Even better: Make your bedroom a technology-free zone."
Instead of zoning out on your screens before bed, identify one or two other healthy things you can do to help you wind down in the final 30 minutes before bed (e.g. reading, stretching, talking with your wife if you're married, listening to relaxing worship music).
Make prayer the last thing you do before going to bed. Thank the Lord for what he's done for you that day and to keep you in his hand the next day.
Pray for the Lord to give you not just sleep, but rest whether you are sleeping or awake. The peace that comes from experiencing his presence and love in your heart.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Today, you've put in place the first building blocks of your Recovery Plan. The key is consistently doing these activities day after day, prioritizing them.
As we go through the next six weeks of Bootcamp, you will add to your plan and personalize it as you continue to grow in your recovery and walk with the Lord.
MY RECOVERY PLAN
(Version: [Today's Date])
Prayer, Meditation & Reading the Bible
2) DURING THE DAY
No screens 30 minutes before bed; set alarm to be up at least 1 hour before usual; get to bed at least 7 hours before I need to be up; Pray before going to sleep
[We suggest creating a Word document and cut and paste the above into it, making the changes you would like to make it your own - we will be adding to it as we move forward in Bootcamp]
"Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance."
"...Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."
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