When you look at our society as a whole, it seems that more and more people are depressed. They’re walking around with a lack of purpose, hating their life. And because of this, a lot of people are self-medicating.
They are looking for anything that will help them escape their sorry life. We’re not just talking about medications, but also binge eating, binge watching Netflix, video games, pornography. Basically, spending more and more time alone.
We like to blame technology, or the economy, or the entertainment industry for all of this, but it’s none of that. It’s actually caused by something the Bible calls “the spirit of heaviness”. This is a spiritual problem.
In Isaiah 61, there’s a list of benefits that come with salvation. In other words, this is what Jesus came to bring us:
Isaiah 61:3 NKJV – To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
In other words, there is a spirit of heaviness out there. Even though we’re talking about something spiritual, you know that it’s real because you’ve experienced it in your life.
Here’s the thing though. This scripture doesn’t say that Jesus came to take away the spirit of heaviness. No, it’s still there. But He came to clothe you with joy so the spirit of heaviness no longer has an effect on your life.
Let me say it this way. You can have joy in your life even when the things outside aren’t joyful. In the midst of all the political drama, you can put your joy coat on and walk around with peace and a smile.
So, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Let me give you the bad first so we can get it over with.
Our worldly culture is not going to get better. The entertainment industry is not going to clean up its act. Pornography is not going away. Drugs and opioids and all that are not going to disappear.
I know, that brought you a lot of hope, didn’t it?
Here’s the good news. What is on the inside of you is going to get better. It’s a promise from Jesus. He’s going to replace that dark stuff with light. He’s going to drive out depression and bring in joy. He’s going to drive out bondage and bring in freedom.
While the world around us is going downhill, your life can go uphill. You don’t have any control over what goes on outside, but it’s time to take responsibility for what’s happening on the inside.
One of the main reasons so many people are depressed is because they’ve allowed what is on the outside to come inside. And the reason we do that is because we’re promised that all this stuff is going to make our life better.
We’re told that taking the boundaries off your sex life will make you more alive. We’re told that taking the limits off our food and drink consumption is the only way to have fun.
They tell you that ignoring all moral boundaries will bring freedom into your life. But listen to me, it’s a counterfeit. You may feel moments of freedom, but it’s followed by shame, guilt and an overall feeling of heaviness.
If you want a good visual, just think of that nice hangover you get after drinking too much alcohol. It was fun while you were doing it, but the aftermath is not fun at all.
Jesus actually warned us of this deception:
John 10:10 NIV – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
A lot of people have this backwards. They think Jesus came to take away all our fun and make us live this boring life. And that’s exactly what the devil wants you to think while he is stealing the things that matter in plain sight.
The devil steals our joy, our peace, our energy, our relationships. And he does this by distracting us with the lie that Jesus is the one stealing from us.
Hear me on this. The devil is not here to make your life better. His one and only goal is to destroy you by stealing the things that bring life to you.
But Jesus came so that you could have life and have it to the full. Jesus doesn’t want you to just survive, He wants you to thrive. But to experience this “full life” that Jesus talks about, we have to realize that Jesus is on our side.
There’s no instruction in the Bible that takes life away from us. Every instruction in the Bible is life-giving. But, if the enemy can get you to believe otherwise, he’ll succeed in stealing life away from you.
Yeah, he’s a little con artist. Giving in to all my sexual desires sound like freedom, but the Bible tells me to put a boundary around sex. One man, one woman in the context of marriage.
I’m told that buying a bunch of stuff for myself is going to bring me fulfillment, but the Bible tells me that generosity is the road to a fulfilled life.
I believe right now the Holy Spirit just turned on the light inside of you. You’re getting it. And some of you are aggravated that you’ve believed these lies and are ready to go knock the devil out right now.
Well, let’s knock him out together. I am going to give you three things to help you establish truth in your life so the devil can’t steal from you no more.
You see, the devil has one goal: to get you to live contrary to the Word of God. And anything that is contrary to the Word of God is called sin. So, don’t let that word scare you. Sin is simply anything the devil promotes.
And here’s the three things you need to know about sin:
Sin steals our joy.
By joy, I’m not talking about being slap happy all the time. I’m talking about living your life without guilt, without shame. You’re not hiding anything. You’re not worried that someone is going to find out.
I love how the Psalmist wrote about this:
Psalms 32:1-5 NLT – Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
Wow. This is so good. And the next part is actually equally as encouraging because you find out that you’re not the only one who’s tried living contrary to God’s Word:
Psalms 32:1-5 NLT – When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
We all know what that feels like. But there’s a way out:
Psalms 32:1-5 NLT – Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord .” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
The lie we believe is that keeping our sins secret will keep us out of trouble. But the only way to get rid of the guilt is to bring your sin out into the open. Simply say, “Hey God, I own it. I messed up. Thank you for forgiving me.”
Here’s how the Psalmist sums all this up:
Psalms 32:10-11 NLT – Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
Hold onto your sin and you get sorrow. Confess your sin to God and it’s going to bring great joy into your life. You think confessing your sin is going to bring sorrow. But no, no, no. It’s going to bring freedom.
Here’s the next one:
Sin kills our relationships.
You think it only affects you, but it’s only a matter of time before it affects your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, your church. Sin will always lead you down a path of loneliness because it slowly chips away at every relationship.
The most interesting thing about this is, relationships are what keep us out of trouble in the first place. Take a look:
Hebrews 3:13 NIV – But encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
If the enemy can kill your relationships, he can cause you to become numb to sin. Like, you don’t even care that you’re stealing from someone else. You no longer feel shame when watching raunchy TV.
But there is a way out of this. There’s a way for you to find freedom:
James 5:16 NLT – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
Can you see it? Relationships are how we find and stay in freedom. We need a relationship with God and we need relationships with other believers.
It’s no wonder there’s an all out attack on our relationships. If the enemy can kill your relationship with your spouse, get you frustrated with the people at work and make you mad at me for confronting you with the truth, he wins.
There’s no freedom without relationships.
If you’ve believed the lie that building relationships is a waste of time, your eyes have now been opened. The key to living a life of freedom is building open and honest relationships with other believers.
Here’s the last one:
Sin destroys our identity.
You were created in the likeness of God. You were created to stand tall, to reign in life, and walk around with confidence as God’s child. Yet, most Christians have an identity more like this one:
Psalms 38:4,6 NIV – My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. I am bowed down and brought very low.
You’ve taken on this identity of, “Well, my parents lived a poor, miserable life, so that’s who I am.” Or, “My dad was a drunk, so that’s who I am.”
I was talking to a friend not too long ago about being a parent. We both have multiple kids and have realized we’re not really parents, we’re referees. “Time out. We don’t pull our sister’s hair. We don’t take things out of the trash and eat them.”
You get the idea. Kids are in constant need of direction. They tend to make the wrong decisions quite frequently. But when they mess up, the thing we need to remember is, “Yes, what they did was wrong. But what they did is not who they are.”
And I want to tell you the same thing today.
What you did was wrong, but it’s not who you are.
I love how Joyce Meyer says it:
“Learn to seperate who from do.” -Joyce Meyer
What somebody does has nothing to do with who they are. What you’ve done has nothing to do with who you are. What your parents did has nothing to do with who you are. What your parents said about you has nothing to do with who you are.
You are a child of the living God. You were created on purpose for a purpose. Because of Jesus, God sees you clean and without fault. That’s who you are. You are God’s masterpiece.
I think we all get it. Sin sucks. Like, it literally sucks the life out of you. So, what can we do to get out of sin and live in freedom? Well, it’s actually really simple.
This word I am about to show you in the Bible has a lot of negative connotations. It’s been used a lot by Christians to make people feel bad who aren’t living their lives for God.
This word can even make you feel like it’s not even possible to please God. Whether you’ve been in church for long or this is your first time, you’ve probably heard this word before:
Acts 3:19-20 NLT – Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
The way we normally hear this word is, “Repent or you’re going to hell. Turn or burn!” But you know what the word really means?
“Hey, you’re headed in the wrong direction. Turn around! God is this way.” It’s kind of like when you’re going the wrong way and the maps app on your phone says, “Please make a U-turn”.
It’s as simple as that. This scripture is simply saying, “Instead of heading towards sin, turn around and head towards God. Then your sins are going to be wiped away.” And in the very next scripture is the benefit of doing this:
Acts 3:19-20 NLT – Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord.
We tend to think that repenting of our sins is going to weigh us down, but it actually frees us. It brings times of refreshment that washes away all the guilt, all the regret, and all the shame.
This is what it feels like to repent of your sins:
Psalm 32:1-2 TLB – What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.
Happiness… Joy… Relief… All of this can be yours if you simply learn the art of repenting instead of hiding.
I want to break this down into a few things you can do every day. Because I don’t know about you, but I need some practical steps. “How do I apply this to my life?” Here’s the first one:
Daily pursue God’s plan for my life.
If you wake up in the morning and your first thought is, “God, today I choose to follow your plan for my life. I don’t want what the world has to offer. I’m not going to live how other people think I should. I’m going to pursue your plan for my life.”
This is like the ultimate decision of repentance. You’re starting your day by turning towards God.
Here’s how the Bible explains it:
Romans 12:2 NLT – Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
If you’re sitting there wondering, “I’d love to pursue God’s plan for my life. I just don’t know what it is.” Well, in this scripture is your answer.
It starts by saying no to the world and its way of doing things. You do a complete 180 and say yes to God and in this process God is going to change the way you think. When He does this, He will reveal His good and pleasing and perfect plan for your life.
Living your life for God is not boring. It’s not a substandard life. You’re not missing out on anything. No, God’s plan for your life is good. You get to live with joy and peace even when the things outside aren’t perfect.
Because the work that God does inside of you is perfect. He knows exactly what He’s doing and exactly what you need. You just have to trust that the instruction He gives us in the Bible is right even when the world says their way is more fun.
Here’s the next one:
Daily release my past.
One way to to take this to the next level is then to ask God, “Is there anything in me that shouldn’t be there?” In these moments, the Holy Spirit may reveal some unforgiveness you’ve been holding onto, or that mean thing you said to your coworker yesterday.
And when these things come to mind, you simply say, “God, thank you for revealing this to me so I can bring it out in the open and receive healing. I thank you for your forgiveness.”
Remember, what you did is not who you are. So, every day, take a moment to release those things that you did that you know you shouldn’t have done so they don’t become your identity.
So, start every day making a decision to pursue God’s plan for your life. Then take it a step further by releasing your past and receiving forgiveness.
Finally, you can actually take it one more step further:
James 5:16 MSG – Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.
We live in a culture that values individuality. “You do you. I’ll do me.” On top of this, we have our devices that give us a false sense of connection with those around us. Everything is surface. Meaningful conversation is rare.
Yet, the Bible tells us to be so real with each other that I confess my sins to someone else on a regular basis. And this is what brings healing.
So, confessing my sin to God brings forgiveness. And then confessing my sin to another believer brings healing. The two go hand-in-hand.
That’s why this last one is so important:
Daily invest in godly relationships.
If you are not spending time building relationships with others who are pursuing God’s plan for their life, you’re not going to have anyone you feel comfortable getting real with.
I don’t know if you realized this, but you don’t go share your deepest secrets with those who you only see for an hour on Sunday. You ain’t that tight!
You’re not sure if you can trust them to encourage you instead of bash you when you tell them that you’re stuggling with pornography, or over-eating, or whatever it is.
You have to build that relationship first before you get to a point where you can confess your sins to each other and find healing. That’s why you have to daily invest in these godly relationships, because you’re going to need them.
This is why small groups exist here at NoLimits. So every week you can get together with about 6-8 people and build these relationships.
Then, you’re going to have people looking out for you. They’ll notice when you’re headed in the wrong direction and they’ll bring you back in so you can confess in a safe place and receive healing.
You need these relationships. I need these relationships. We can’t do this on our own. God designed us to need each other.
Seriously, if you want to find and walk in freedom, you can’t opt out of this one. You have to be intentional about building these relationships. And the best way for you to do that is to join a small group and show up every week.
Let me show you it to you in scripture one more time:
Hebrews 3:13 NIV – But encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Daily pursue God’s plan for my life. Daily release my past. Daily invest in godly relationships. Do those three things, make them a habit, and you’ll find yourself walking in freedom.
Maybe you’re here today and you realized that you’ve been living your life without God and you’re ready to make a change. Today you want to put a stake in the ground and say, “Today’s the day I start living my life for God. Today is the day I turn away from my sin and turn towards Him.”
When you pray the following prayer, the power of Jesus is going to make you new. You don’t have to worry about everything you’ve done wrong because it’s all about to disappear.
Because of Jesus, God will bring you into His family and give you new life. And you’ll get to spend eternity with Him.
Pray this out loud:
Jesus, I want you to lead my life. Forgive me for trying to live life without you. I want you to come in and make me new. I thank you for adopting me as your own. Help me to find and walk out your plan for my life.
Congratulations on making the best decision in your life! Giving your life to Jesus is a personal decision. But there is a time to take it public. The way you do that is through water baptism.
Learn more about water baptism on our Next Steps page.