When we come to Christ, some of our longstanding “bad and destructive” habits instantly disappear and we say, “I used to smoke cigarette and right after I invited Jesus Christ into my life, my desire to smoke cigarette totally disappeared. I even tried to smoke but it didn’t feel the same. I hated it. So, from that day on, I quit smoking.”
Don’t you love hearing this kind of testimony? I do!
“I used to view porn for four or five hours a day but after I invited Jesus Christ into my life, I stopped doing that because the desire itself instantly left my body and since that day, I haven’t seen any porn related videos. ”
Lovely! Isn’t it?
What did these people have in common? They did absolutely nothing to break free from the chain of their addiction!
But the question we need to ask is this: Is this the norm? Is this always the case? Is this the way God always deals with all our problems and hardships in life? Is this the way God instills in us good and praiseworthy characters and habits, good and healthy thought patterns?
The answer is “No!” The Bible doesn’t teach us that.
God is the God of process. Justification (crossing over from death to life when we receive Jesus Christ) is an instant phenomenon but not sanctification (“the process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy”).
Our “Before Christ and After Christ” lives may have some clear differences but they also have similarities especially when it comes to our old destructive habits which mainly includes our sinful and wrong thought patterns. These habits and patterns don’t just disappear overnight. They linger. They won’t die easy.
Listen to this passage of Scripture: “These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):” (Judges 3:1-2)
Wow! Did you see that? God could have destroyed all the nations but He purposely left some of them so His people, the Israelites, could get a chance learn how to fight and win.
Listen how Paul addresses this:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Do you see the process? “Do such and such things and then” – There is no instant phenomenon here.
Yeah, our God is the God of process. Some of our old habits and destructive thought patterns tagged along with us as we crossed “the Red Sea” to get to “the Promised Land – Canaan.”
Does God know about them? Sure He does! He is a Sovereign God! Why is He then letting them come along with us? They are “spiritual muscle building tools!”
Listen to this:
“It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” (Psalm 18:32-34)
God uses our old bad and destructive habits to train us how to wage war and win. So, these old habits tend to resurface and linger after our conversion. When they do, we wage war against them, primarily by changing our thought patterns, and kill them all one by one.
Paul writes: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)
My friends, there is no “spiritual gift” that is called, “free from war.”
How does this “waging war” against these bad habits and destructive thought patterns play out in our day to day lives?
We fight against them as we train ourselves to live rejoicing in the already finished work of Jesus Christ and eternal promises of God. As we rejoice in Christ’s finished work, prayer, talking to God, marks our lives. Studying the word of God (which includes reading the word) and meditating on it day and night take the major part of our lives even when we go to school and work. Obedience to the word of God is the challenge we present to ourselves every day. We always worship God and fellowship with others who are leading similar pattern of life.
Do you know the most identifying characters of a Christian who wages war against their own longstanding, “die hard” bad and destructive habits? They are mainly humble. They blame no one for their character flaws and shortcomings. They don’t shift responsibility and blame. They know where their war starts and ends and they are too occupied taking over “the land, the Canaan” that originally belongs to them and enjoying small and big victories God lets them have each step of their way every day.
So, be encouraged, my friend! As long as you are in Christ, all your tears, sufferings, hardships and struggles have greater and eternal purposes and rewards! Just stay the course! Don’t quit! God is in the process of making lots of rare, hard to find, beautiful and shiny gems out of your hard-pressed life! ///