Question: do we really believe the Bible? How congruent are our words with what we say we believe? Perhaps, it is time to compare our words with what God says, and find just how much we actually agree with Him. After all, From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (see Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45). When it comes to our identity, behavior and habits, this is important. Proverbs 18:21Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
What we say actually reinforces our beliefs. Likewise, what we repeat creates thoughts which we can receive, and consequently, come to believe. We’ve all heard of “self-fulling prophecy.” If what we say bolsters what we believe, what we believe about ourselves is also reinforced by the words we use. As a person thinks in his or her heart, so is he or she (see Proverbs 23:7). The result is strengthened habits and behavior, since our behavior tends to coincide with what we believe.
Again, our brains are like computers, only far more superior. Just as computers are programmed to operate in certain ways, our thought processes are programmed to function in certain modes. Like those machines, whatever software is used will determine what those functions are. In most cases, each piece of software have periodic updates installed. What we say over ourselves, and others for that matter, hardwires into the brain. In turn, corresponding behavior results. Our abilities or lack of abilities are also influenced. For instance, if you believe you can succeed, you are correct. Likewise, if you believe you cannot succeed, you are also correct.
Some of you believed lies about yourself, and because of it, you have abilities or talents of which you are unaware existing within you. When someone points one out, you tend to reinforce the lie: “Oh, I could never do that! I’m not that smart.” How many of you say things like, “I always do that” (whatever “that” is)? Your mind will send messages to your brain, which in turn, sees to it that you always accomplish what you say. Your brain is the hardware, and your mind is the software, so to speak. Words work like installers of the thought process. Your subconscious is powerful, and can override your conscious thoughts. Here are a couple examples.
Fred finds himself always running late; even though, consciously he wants to be on time. His late arrivals are reinforced by his words, “I’m always running late.” Somewhere in his past, he picked up that belief about himself and has been strengthening it ever since.
Henry has a hard time studying because he believes he is not smart enough to be in school. By the way, that thought which he believes to be true is a lie. One thing Henry consistently says about himself is, “I never could do very well in school.” He wants to do well, which he is actually able; but, his lack of focus is the result of the reinforced lie. In a sense, our words can bring death to our abilities, while bringing life to the lies spoken over us.
Our words can reinforce truth, if we use the right ones! By embracing the Word of God and using words God says about us, we can awaken and fortify our God-given abilities. Why do you suppose Scripture tells us to put our minds on things above, and not beneath? By placing our minds on the things beneath, it actually leads us to operate beneath our abilities. Conversely, the more we focus on spiritual things, the more we operate in our God-given gifts and talents. Decide whose report you will believe, God’s or the world’s, then choose to speak things congruent with the decision. God’s words are spirit, life and truth. They override any lie. Choose life!
Part of our identity is connected to emotions. As we well know, emotions can be very powerful. So much so that they can affect our habits. Do you have a favorite emotion? If left unchecked, that favorite emotion can vastly affect your life in ways you would never expect. It is one reason to connect to your identity in Jesus Christ. There is nothing in it that is destructive, because God is absolutely for you! We want to experience various emotions. The proper ones at the proper times. However, chasing particular ones and clinging to some will not bring you emotional intelligence or balance. Nor will they connect you to God, much less your true identity. Chasing emotional experiences will not bring you closer to God; however, being close to God will cause emotional experiences. While our design includes having emotions, none of them should hijack your life. Let’s examine some examples to clarify the above statements.
How many love to feel depressed or melancholy? If so, where did that come from? Is that affinity for depression linked to one’s self-worth? Perhaps, your old identity says, “You don’t deserve to be happy or joyful. Maybe some of you received attention from others when they saw you lower than dirt, and felt the need to rescue you. Thus, you feel the only way they paid attention to you now is by feeling sorry for you. As a result, you look for reasons to be depressed (or sick for that matter). Hey, some have pity parties in hopes people will party with them. It’s a form of manipulation. If you’re one who feels unworthy of joy or even have a taste of happiness, you might find self-destructive habits haunting you, no matter how hard you “try to succeed.” And that’s the rub: the attempt to develop new healthy habits is a charade, because there is no real intention to succeed. You will find a way to torpedo your progress, so you can sink back into depression. This is a reason some do those destructive things of which they should know better. That is correct, some will do things that everybody knows better than to do, in order to self-destruct. For some, the root of it can be traced to someone very close, such as a parent, who shattered their self-worth early in life. Maybe some dark event took place and they are too ashamed to talk about it, even if they were innocent victims. The devil seeks to destroy young lives. The younger, the better. That is why there is a strong link between one’s early life and the present state of affairs. Know this: Jesus made you worthy of a joyful life. You are a well-loved child of God. You do realize ABBA (Daddy), Father wants you to succeed in life more than anybody, don’t you?
Things can get lodged into our brains that can interfere with who we’re called to be. Our physical brains are like computers, only far superior to the machines of modern technology. There are certain thoughts stored in our memories that can be the equivalent to viruses. They need to be dumped and replaced. Some came in like Trojan horses, which are life events that appeared harmless, only to wreak destruction because we let down our guard. There are individuals who are addicted to fear because it helps them keep watch (of course, there are other reasons). They simply won’t let fear go, because of pain they suffered runs deep. It collides with the ability to love and walk by faith. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). In some instances, people are robbed of love, because they are afraid to love. Of course, if they do not feel worthy of love, they will find ways to sabotage relationships.
Then, there are those who relish anger and wrath. Why? Because they give them a sense of power and certainty; but, that is a false sense of security. Anger and wrath can lead to guilt because of explosive behavior that usually follows. Fear and anger go hand-in-hand. Fear causes anger, because a person will use it as a shield against the fear. The Bible clearly tells us to get rid of them both (see Ephesians 4:31). These carnal weapons lead to self-defeat.
An inconsistent lifestyle can lead to anger because it lacks the certitude people crave. Frustration often accompanies the mania of a dysfunctional life. When all these things are bottled up in the attempt to “be normal,” depression stand is lurking in the shadows. Do you want to have a normal lifestyle? Become abnormal. Be the anomaly. What does that mean? Become who God says you are, and you’ll never be normal by world standards. How many in the world have peace that surpasses understanding in the midst of chaos? “What’s the matter with you? How can you remain so calm with all this stuff going on?” God never intended for you to be fearful, constantly angry, depressed or filled with hate. He designed you for love. Think about it: God is love, and you were created in His image. Submission to the Lord includes believing Him. The renewal of the mind is crucial for your success. Look in the Bible, and find who you are in Jesus Christ. It may surprise you, and you may find your emotions yielding to the Holy Spirit, while habits change for the better. By the way, God absolutely loves you apart from your performance!
Has it occurred to any of us that the use of labels and titles may have played a part in people’s inability to win in the realm of habits? Misapplication of them have short circuited their ability to connect to their actual gifts and callings. Labels can actually become a proverbial box in disguise. Some find themselves pigeon holed by those labels and titles, while completely overlooking gifts they possess. The search for identity has led them to rely on labels and titles to define who they believe themselves to be, or wish to be. “I’m this, so I cannot be that.” Sometimes the labels and titles exclude people, simply because of their use of exclusivity insinuates only certain people are special enough to hold them. It all boils down to human reason.
Try this one on for size: how many of you are creative? Some of you may have had said, “I am,” while others did not. In fact, some of you might have thought of someone whom you consider to be very creative; hence, “I’ll never be like ___.” You fill in the blank. Consider these passages of Scripture, and let’s see how accurate you’re looking at yourself in relation to this label.
Genesis 1:26-27Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
2 Peter 1:2-4Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.
Are you created in the image of God? How did He first reveal Himself? As the Creator. Part of His nature is creative, and that makes you creative as well. He made us partakers of His divine nature. Even science has shown that children are actually born creative geniuses, and uncreative behavior is learned. That means you were born a creative genius, and for some, you have lost touch with your genius because of what you were taught.
Before going further, while searching for your strengths, don’t limit God. He can place you anywhere He desires, in spite of your so called weaknesses. Especially because of your weaknesses! Have you ever read, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
1 Corinthians 1:27-31But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
In light of these verses, your weaknesses may actually be your strengths. Think of the Twelve Apostles. How many of them were considered well educated? How do you suppose they would score on some sort of strength finder test? Would you have considered them to be future world shakers? You may actually be called to something for which you have no apparent aptitude. How many wound up pastoring a church or teaching Bible classes, that were the least expected to so? Even the label, “strength,” could actually become a liability, especially if you rely more on it than God. Remember, grace is God’s unmerited favor that enables us to do the things we cannot do in our own strength. Obviously, use the gifts He has given you for His glory, but don’t rule out those things you don’t think you’re cut out for. Do get caught up in human reason, let God define who you are.
Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
Have you found that while some unwanted habits disappeared when you got saved, there were others still present? Do you find even now, you can’t seem to get rid of some regardless of how hard you try? Perhaps, you are trying to develop some new habits, but they don’t’ seem to stick. All this flies in the face of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” There is one thing that might possibly be holding you back, or at least someone you know; your identity. Biblically, we know those who are in Christ are made new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), but mentally and emotionally you may still be attached to your old identity. And that is one reason to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2). So, why would such an attachment affect your habits?
As a person thinks in his heart, so is he (see Proverbs 23:7). What you believe about yourself affects what you think and do. Therefore, whatever is attached to your identity will affect your habits. That means there will be the tendency to hold onto habits that coincide with the identity. “This is who I am, so this is what I do.” “This thing has always been part of me, so this is what I will always do.” It’s what you’re comfortable with. It’s a mindset planted in your brain that your conscience side may not be aware of. It’s a stronghold, and it exalts itself against the knowledge of God (see 2 Corinthian 3:10:3-5). It is what you take comfort in. For example, if you lived a certain way to please someone in order to get his or her affection, there would be certain attitudes and behaviors you would develop over time to meet his or her criteria. You would seek to become who he or she wanted you to be in order to get his or her affection. In many cases, it’s either a mom or a dad. Don’t confuse this with loving one more than another; it’s simply the desire for the attention and affection -the affirmation one has to offer. In general terms, it may be the one who gave the least attention. Regardless of who it may be, you would form certain habits that conforms to that identity. If you believe you are a certain way, it may be difficult to change even for the better. In the development of new habits, you may start out well, but something inside says, “Hey, wait a minute that’s not me!” And the habit is dropped like a hot potato. For some, they feel if they change, they would somehow betray the one whom they’ve been pleasing all these years. In short, they’re afraid to change for the better, so they hang onto undesired habits.
The things you tell yourself, affect what habits you keep, and which ones you develop. If you’ve been one who always put yourself down for whatever reason, you may find it difficult to let go of the mindsets that hold you back from moving forward. You may allow yourself to rise up to a certain height, but you will not ascend beyond that ceiling you set for yourself, because you can’t see yourself rising any higher. For instance, you may learn a lot about the Bible, but not as much as you could, because you constantly say to others and yourself, “I’m not a scholar.” That statement turns into an actual statement of belief, and viola, a stronghold is born! You will not dig as deep into the Word as you could, because it does not fit your thesis.
Philippians 3:13-14Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (read verses 7-12).
At some point, it is important to make the decision for follow Jesus full heartedly. With that decision comes the intentionality of conforming to His image. In order for that to happen, we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him (see Matthew 16:24). If you want to gain true life, then you have to let go of the old -you have to lose it. Matthew 16:25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. The more you conform to His image, the more you will think like Him. This is part of the renewal process.
Romans 8:14-17For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.
The more you believe this passage of Scripture, the more your habits will change. One thing you can do that may help you with the renewing process is simply look into the mirror, and say, “You are everything God says you are -nothing more and nothing less!” “You can do everything God says you can do, and with Him all things are possible.” In short, the more you identify with God, the more change for the good you will experience.