Overcoming Bad Habits

Written by M. Larson

“I wish I could change, but I no matter how hard I try, I can’t.”

“But I just can’t help it…”

“Everyone does it…”

“It may be wrong, but you’d do the same thing if you were in my situation.”

“But I’m really a good person…especially compared to…”

Defense mechanisms

Why do we find ourselves saying – or at least thinking – such things? Psychologists say we try to protect our self-esteem through “defence mechanisms.” We “rationalize” our failures, our “shortcomings,” and our manner of speaking and acting toward others by assigning some other motive for them or making excuses for them. We “project” our own motives or way of behaving onto others, even though in reality they may not have those motives or behave that way at all.

In “reaction formation” we fool ourselves as to our motives for doing certain things. Through “repression” we conveniently forget the things that might make us anxious or uncomfortable. Some of us spend our lives “running” in one way or another, and mess them up in doing so.

Using alcohol or drugs is a form of running that has resulted in more broken lives, families, and fatal accidents than one could imagine. Some quit jobs, churches, and places – but never find peace. All forms of running reveal a deep-seated need to find peace and satisfaction.

We never overcome our hang-ups when we resort to such devices. These devices may help us protect our egos, but they don’t make our lives happier. And while we’re busy protecting ourselves with these gimics, we hurt and offend others. Thus we impair relationships with relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances – and God.

James 1:8 says that double-minded people are unstable in all they do. The Apostle Paul had this dilemma: “The evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:19, 24-25, NIV.)

Paul found the secret of victory over sin by recognizing that he was a sinner like everyone else and that only Jesus Christ could save him and give him a new heart. Complete victory over sin comes when we abhor it as God abhors it.

Two natures

I have interviewed hundreds of Christians who have told me how their lives were transformed when they came to Christ. Many were delivered from alcohol, drugs, tobacco addiction, bad tempers, bad language, and various hang-ups that had flawed their lives.

In view of this transforming experience, why then do many Christians fail to continue exhibiting victorious, above-reproach lives? Well, when we receive Christ, we receive a new spiritual nature; that’s what transforms our lives and gives us power over sin. Nevertheless, since we’re still in the flesh, we still also have the old nature which may assert itself after we become Christians if we don’t follow Christ closely.

This is what happened to the Ephesians. So God inspired Paul to write and tell them, “Put off the old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV.)
So in order to have victory over our hang-ups, we not only need Jesus Christ as Savior, but also as our Lord – the One we follow faithfully and obediently.

The new mind

Psychologists tell us that it’s almost impossible for people to control their physiological reaction at the moment something happens. But the control is attained by setting our minds in advance as to what we’ll do and say in certain situations that may come up. Thus, if we’ve been convicted of a certain sin or shortcoming in our lives and have turned from it in abhorrence, then we will set our minds to react in a Christian way instead of a wrong way.

The Bible advises us not to hold grudges or judge others, but to forgive and love people, to think about things that are good; for our thoughts determine our actions. Christ taught that sin is conceived in the mind before it becomes an action (Matthew 5:21-28). Bitter, lustful, selfish, covetous, angry, unkind, jealous, hostile, and prideful thoughts will produce like fruit.

Our hearts retain a great deal of ego in them even after we come to the Lord. If we turn them over to the Lord, He will fill us with His Spirit, who in turn will give victory in all areas of our lives. That is Christ’s joyful abundant life. Christ came to set us free!

Are you ready to ask the Holy Spirit to direct your life? Why not pray this simple prayer right now and by faith invite God to fill you with His Spirit:

Dear Father, I need You. I acknowledge that I have sinned against You by directing my own life. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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