In Part 2, we briefly touched on what’s often referred to as the ”Put Off/Put On” principle mentioned in Ephesians 4. As we help teens evaluate the false thinking patterns that influence their behavior, and as we help them evaluate the sources and purge their lives of major negative influences, we need to be sure to help them replace falsehood with Truth.
Even after all possible purging, we’re all bombarded with temptations — both from within and from without. It’s simply part of having a sin nature and living in a sin-cursed world. While we can anticipate the freedom from such influences as we’ll experience living in Heaven, we need to establish healthy ways to deal with those temptations, when they do occur (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Just like certain sounds or smells or situations can evoke strong emotions when they remind us of past experiences, we can renew, or re-train our minds (Rom. 12:12) to allow certain false thoughts to trigger a related biblical Truth. This kind of discipline is not easy to acquire, but it is fairly simple.
A new believer with whom I had been doing a Bible study admitted that she realized her chain-smoking habit was rooted in sinful thinking: It had become her go-to method of dealing with fear and anxiety. When she read Philippians 4:6, she realized that she was allowing nicotine to replace God in her life by relying on it to calm her anxious heart. Certainly, she recognized the addictive nature of the drug involved, and she had tried all kinds of physical remedies (the patch, gum, etc.).
Through studying God’s Truth, she had realized that her smoking habit (the behavior) was rooted in a false belief (that only a cigarette could help her when she was worried). She tried purging herself of cigarettes as well as extra money she kept in her purse. However, her husband also struggled with the same addiction, so removing all negative influences was clearly not possible.
In addition to “putting off” the false thinking that led to the problem behavior, my friend recognized the antidote to anxiety, found in Philippians: prayer. So when anxiety would strike and the felt need for a cigarette would surface, she would (at first) pull out her verse card and read Philippians 4:6. She would sometimes read it out loud to herself. Then she would pray, asking God to calm her heart.
In time, she memorized Philippians 4:6, and reciting it and praying became as automatic a reaction to her anxiety as smoking a cigarette had once been. She had learned to “talk to herself [with Truth]” instead of “listening to herself [and falsehood].” The result was victory over what was once an overpowering behavior pattern in her life.
As we help teens respond to temptations by triggering biblical Truths, we can be part of God’s design for them to have victory over their sin.