Difficult life experiences have a way of keeping a person from walking in freedom. Poor decisions and harmful events can contribute to ongoing bad habits and character hang-ups. How can a person redefine their life and release thoughts, feelings, and patterns that have dragged them down?
Bible Gateway interviewed Nancy Alcorn (@nancyalcorn) about her book, Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Freedom (Charisma House, 2015).
Describe the work of Mercy Multiplied.
Nancy Alcorn: Mercy Multiplied is a nonprofit Christian organization that helps young women break free from life-controlling behaviors and situations, including eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, unplanned pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. Our residential program is voluntary, biblically based, and completely free of charge to young women ages 13-28. Our goal is to help residents permanently stop destructive cycles, discover purpose for their lives, and become productive and thriving individuals. Our outreach programs and resources are based on the same biblically based, life-transforming principles used by Mercy homes.
What main need are you addressing in Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life?
Nancy Alcorn: It doesn’t matter how put together or “un-put” together somebody looks. We all have pain. We all have fear. We all have problems. But we don’t all have freedom in Christ! Again and again I’ve asked myself, what can we do? What can Mercy do to help all these thousands upon thousands of hurting people who can’t come to our homes? Now, this year, I believe God has provided Mercy with an answer. That answer is to expand our outreach efforts in deeper and broader ways to help others outside our residential homes realize lasting freedom. Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life is a big part of these outreach efforts, and it has one simple message that some people have been waiting a lifetime to hear: you were born to live free.
Explain what the title means.
Nancy Alcorn: For some people freedom means walking away from a terrible memory or experience such as divorce or other emotional trauma. For others, freedom means getting unstuck from thoughts or behaviors that are blocking them from living the life of true freedom that’s their birthright in Christ! Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life is a practical way of saying you can redefine your life and walk in freedom, no matter what you’ve been through or what issues you’ve faced in your past.
Why do you say behavior modification is not the answer?
Nancy Alcorn: In secular treatment, the focus is on changing the behavior, which is temporary and gives surface results. I’m here to tell you that behavior modification is not the answer. It offers no heart change. I spent eight years working in a correctional facility for juvenile delinquent girls in Tennessee and not once did I see behavior modification lead to lasting life change. That’s why I left to start Mercy in 1983. Since then we have helped thousands of girls find freedom. Jesus did not come to modify our behavior; he came to transform our lives. He promised that “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). He meant that your heart can flow with the freedom and peace he makes available to you right now.
You say the first step is total commitment to freedom. Why would someone only partially commit to wanting freedom?
Nancy Alcorn: Those who try to have a part-time relationship with God fall into several traps. Some people treat salvation like a relationship of convenience, taking only the things they like—rescue from hell, no more guilt, better friends—and avoiding the rest. Some people find it hard to accept God’s gift as free and feel like they need to get their act together first. Some come into relationship with God and want to define the terms, set the schedule, give him their list of goals, and pretty much decide how it’s going to work. The point is, when people try to go part-time with God, the inside stays really messy. Choosing total commitment to Christ will guard your freedom. Every one of us is tried and tested in this life. You don’t know when that next test or temptation will arrive. When it does, partial commitment to Jesus isn’t going to do much for you.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness being less of an emotion and more of an act of the will?
Nancy Alcorn: Just as we’re saved by faith and not feelings, we’re also empowered to forgive by faith and not feelings. We can forgive without even wanting to! In fact, that’s exactly how it works—by choice. Paul wrote that “our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the ruler of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Forgiveness, then, is not just about our emotional health, it’s about spiritual warfare. God has put it within our grasp to stop the devil’s plan by forgiving.
What role should the Bible have in a person who is struggling with past or current issues?
Nancy Alcorn: The Word of God helps us get God’s perspective and renew our minds to the truth when we’re struggling. When we meditate on the Word and choose what we think, we’re empowered to take a much more active role in changing our perspective. “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” (Rom. 12:2, NLT). God never promised that no weapon will be formed against us but that no weapon formed against us will prosper (Isa. 54:17). When we continually renew our minds to the truth of God’s Word, the weapons—the lies, fears, and hurts—will not prosper.
What do you mean by declaring the need to “break generational patterns”?
Nancy Alcorn: All of us inherit patterns of living and thinking that are passed down to us whether we like them or not. The family patterns we inherit can be positive or negative, life-giving or life-destroying. When we come to Christ, we’re literally born again by the Spirit and have a new spiritual bloodline that supersedes the natural bloodline into which we were born. Jesus provides freedom from generational patterns for everyone who is born again—but it only “works” when we appropriate and claim his victory. 1 John 3:8 says, “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” This means that the destructive generational patterns in our families can be broken once and for all through Christ. Freedom comes through the power of Christ at work in us because of our inheritance in him. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” we are assured (1 John 4:4), and that goes for our family patterns as well.
What Bible insights pertain to a person who wants to develop principles of lifelong success?
Nancy Alcorn: At Mercy we teach what we call the Four Stay-Ins:
Stay in Prayer
Stay in the Word
Stay in Church
Stay in Fellowship with Other Believers.
These are all biblically based principles foundational to maintaining lifelong freedom. The Bible makes it clear that if we consistently practice these stay-ins, we’ll strengthen our faith and relationship with Christ.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Nancy Alcorn: Bible Gateway is an extremely valuable resource! I use it often to research, study, and share God’s Word, especially as I travel. I particularly like that in a few clicks I can immediately view multiple parallel versions of one Scripture passage. Bible Gateway meets an important need for today’s seekers and believers in providing a contemporary, relevant way for people to engage with the Scriptures.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Nancy Alcorn: I would just like to encourage people—no matter what stage of life you may be in or what position you may hold—to have the courage to face those things in your life that may be keeping them from complete freedom and wholeness. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”! He’s already paid the price for your freedom and for your life—not just for your eternal life but for a life of fullness today! No matter what’s happened to you or what you may have done in your past, there’s hope and there’s an answer! So don’t settle for a life in bondage; have the courage to face your issues. Your freedom is worth it!
Bio: Nancy Alcorn is the Founder and President of Mercy (@MercyMultiplied), a free, faith-based residential program for troubled young women ages 13 to 28. For over three decades, Mercy, under Nancy’s leadership, has seen exponential growth and impact across the globe, generating a transformative movement of hope and healing and leading thousands of women to the restoration found in Christ. An accomplished author and speaker, Nancy travels extensively, empowering audiences with practical applications of biblical truth to walk in life-long freedom. A Tennessee native, Nancy resides in Nashville.