Do you desire changes in life, which includes habits? Have you found some patterns unbreakable, no matter how hard you try to put a stop to them? Is it possible to make these changes? Absolutely! It’s easy to quote Scripture, but until you actually believe what you say, it’s nothing more than a platitude. For instance, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Do you actually believe it? Be encouraged, we are created for change. It’s in our DNA. We were not designed to remain the same. Another thing to take stock in is, “That He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). God will get you there! So, what’s been the holdup? While cooperation with God changes everything, part of it has to do with our thinking. In other words, behavior modification will never make the difference. Focusing on the behavior itself is of little or no consequence; except one thing: frustration! In order for changes to happen, it’s necessary to concentrate on our thinking. The way we think influences everything, which is why the renewal of our minds is so crucial to our spiritual growth. What are some steps we can take to make these changes?
For starters, submission. Until you submit to the Lord, you’ll find the right changes impossible. Why? Because with man, they are impossible; but not for God. For instance, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Holy Spirit is the One Who empowers us to overcome the flesh. How are you going to access the mind of Christ without submitting to Jesus? As you may know, a vital component to renewing your mind is reading the Bible. How many unsubmitted people do you know, read it? Grasping Kingdom principles requires Holy Spirit -He is The Teacher (read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
A second thing is mindfulness. By being mindful, we can audit our thought process, actions and words. With Holy Spirit’s help, we can identify how we formed certain habits. Some habits can be very good. In fact, they are mechanisms that greatly reduce stress by removing the constant need to make certain decisions or figuring how to do routine things. For example, what if you had to figure out which of your shoes to put on first and then how to tie them every time you put them on? That would become a great waste of mental energy, especially if you consider all the other routine things done through habit. The bigger question is why did certain habits form? By auditing them, we can deem which are valuable and which need to go. One way to break it down is asking yourself a question: “Why am I doing this?” This begins to disrupt the habit, even if it’s for a moment, which is long enough to bring it into focus and determine its value. Secondly, it will help pinpoint the reason it started. One reason this is important is much of where we find ourselves is connected to our habits. They move people in certain directions. Time to figure out which ones are moving you in the right track.
What new habits can be formed that move the needle in the right direction? How many times have you said, “I should be doing that?” There are numerous things that would be beneficial, it’s a question of creating the habit and allowing them to be altered when the Spirit leads you. Habits create lifestyles, and lifestyles influence how we live -good or bad. For example, people will lose hundreds of pounds at various times, and then gain it all back. Why? They focus on the diet, instead of a lifestyle. In this case, diet alone doesn’t make a permanent change. The focus is behavior; not thought process. By changing the lifestyle, the diet changes permanently; and viola, you maintain the proper weight. Sure, initially there may be some focus on diet, but it will be in the context of lifestyle. In this example, we one might ask: “Does this thing I’m about to eat fit the lifestyle that pleases God? By the way, this is not about diet, dietary laws or any other dead works.
1 Corinthians 10:31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. By being mindful about decisions and choices, our habits and lifestyle are greatly influenced.
You cannot go deeper with God unless you make the decision to do so. Likewise, you will not go any deeper in His Word unless you decide you actually want to know His Truth. These decisions involve change and commitment. Change cannot be done on your terms; it has to be on His. None of us can conform God to our image, as much as some like to try. And we’ve all probably been guilty of that at one time or another. How do you see Him? Is your perception based on biblical truth or your wants? How much of your visual filter is constructed by the aspiration to fulfil your personal agenda versus your desire to do His will?
Some refuse truth because they know they’ll be held responsible for what they know. It’s one of the reasons individuals claim atheism. They don’t want to be held accountable for their life decisions and choices. How many know we’re held liable for refusing to learn the truth? Hosea 4:6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me: seeing thou hast forgotten the Law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Even in day to day living, how many got into hot water simply because they refused to learn the truth about their current state of affairs? There are consequences for turning a blind eye.
Your ability to go deeper with God and His Word is predicated on your willingness to submit to Him. Knowing His Truth requires submission, pure and simple! Good stewards handle their Master’s things faithfully. They carry out the affairs assigned to them in the manner pleasing to Him. In short, everything gets done His way. Can God trust you?
1 Corinthians 4:1-2Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
1 Peter 4:10-11As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Going deeper requires time. Stating the obvious: if you want to know God, you have to spend time with Him. We know this simple principle by our relationships with each other. You never grow close to someone without spending a great deal of time with him or her. If you want to know the Bible well, you have to spend time in it. This is nothing new. One more obvious statement: You have time for what’s important!
Who do you despise? Are you aware of it consciously? Without realizing it, some believers despise unbelievers. A self-righteous attitude creeps in when believers take on an “us versus them” view of life. They begin to judge others for their attitudes, actions and words they use. They forget they themselves were once sinners, and take on an air of superiority. They look down on anyone who doesn’t live up to their standards, which they don’t even keep; in fact, they cannot live up to them either. How does this attitude align with God’s nature? Does God despise anyone? After all, He genuinely is superior to everyone!
Job 36:5Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any (but despises no one): He is mighty in strength and wisdom. Again, God is superior in every way imaginable, indeed, beyond our imagination. He is Love and because He loves, He reconciled us unto Himself through Jesus, not inputting our sins against us (see 2 Corinthians 5:19). If God decided to hold us accountable instead of forgiving us, Jesus would have never come. Why did He come? For Love’s sake. Love does not despise!
Let’s take this one step farther. How many despise fellow believers because they don’t know as much; are not “spiritual enough”; or, because they’re from another denomination or have a different affiliation? For those who despise others: you are not being spiritual; you are being carnal (see 1 Corinthians 3:3). Question: does despising others cause division? Of course it does. So, why is there division in the Body of Christ? Think about it.
Philippians 2:5-8Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.
Jesus humbled Himself and took on, not only the form of man, but of a Servant. He stepped into our shoes and walked in them without sinning. He empathizes with us; He does not despise us.
Here’s a take away: For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations . . . Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand . . . But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ . . . Let us not therefore judge one another any more . . . Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another . . . (Romans 12:1-23). We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself . . . Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God (Romans 15:1-7). Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself (Galatians 6:2-3).
If we love God and truly are Kingdom minded, how can any of us despise another? If you despise others, are you holding them in unforgiveness?
One way to enter into compromise and cripple faith is leaning on your own understanding with the addition of relying on others’, which in reality, is nothing more than human opinion. That’s not to say we cannot learn from one another as we receive revelation from God. It’s the conjecture that gets us in trouble. What muddles the understanding is listening to someone who speaks with “authority” about something of which he or she is completely clueless. People get lost by leaning on their own understanding and the results can be devastating. It leads to unhealthy questioning and independence which may actually be outright rebellion. Questions are good when they are connected to gaining insight. But, those questions need to be attached to the desire for the actual truth in order to gain true insight.
God is mysterious, but some the mysteriousness comes from not knowing Him and His ways. If you don’t know His heart and nature, His ways will also be foreign. He does have mysteries, but He also wants us to search them out, because they lead to a better understanding of Him. In reality, if you can totally figure out God, you may be serving the wrong one. Some tend to make God in their own image, instead of conforming to His. Mystery can lead to intimacy. The more you search out what you don’t understand about Him, the better you will come to know Him as He reveals Himself to you. And that leads to a question: how well do you want to know Him?
James 1:5-8If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
When you lack wisdom or understanding, who’s the first person you ask for help? If it’s not God, why not? Do you have difficulty believing He can and will give them to you? Some are afraid of the answer they may get, and that may be the result of wanting things their way. James 4:2-3 . . . yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
If you want real answers, you have to be brutally honest with yourself. In extreme cases, people claim to be atheists simply because they want to do what they want without being held accountable in the end. How many of us did things in life without first asking for permission? Why didn’t we ask? We wanted it our way and we did not want to hear “no!”
Proverbs 3:5-8Trust 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. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Reproach, disrespect and accusation from others is one thing; but, when it comes from your own heart it’s quite another. When catastrophe struck Job, and his friends came to minister to him as it were, he made a very profound statement: “My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live” (Job 27:6).
While it’s important to avoid self-righteousness, it is equally important to avoid self-degradation, which goes beyond the stereotypical false humility some like to exhibit. This is downright self-condemnation coupled with self-shame. These ungodly mindsets do not lead to repentance, much less, please God. Furthermore, they do not benefit the individual or the Kingdom. A catastrophe does not necessarily mean there’s a need for repentance. Things happen! In Job’s case, his severe loss and hardship were not the result of sin. It wasn’t something he “deserved.” By the way, be careful about judging others who undergo hardship. We’ve all heard someone say, “He deserved it!” When it gets down to it, we all deserved the wrath of God, but what’s His take on the matter?
And all things are of God, Who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Casting aspersions on yourself may be a form of self-righteousness, because it is not centered on the true righteousness found in Jesus Christ. Is your sin greater than the Blood? Can your unrighteous acts undo the righteousness of Jesus? Will self-condemnation change things for the better, or even begin to make things up to God? If He decided to forgive you and cleanse you of your sin (see 1 John 1:9), who are you to condemn yourself?
The way to eliminate condemnation and self-condemnation is simply to stand on the righteousness of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Ephesians 4:24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Self-degradation along with self-sabotage and destruction do not please God. If you want to please Him or feel the need to “make up for a thing,” do things His way. Repent, receive His forgiveness and live for Jesus. If something goes wrong, do not assume it’s because of sin or that you somehow asked for it. Of course, bad decisions can lead to negative consequences, but bad decisions are not who you are. Ask for wisdom when you lack clarity, and do remember, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).