Christian Biblical Counsel: HABITS

Habits

Success in Self-Control

by June Hunt

“You are not born with your habits—you weave them and wear them. Your habits can be the rags of self-centered addictions or the robes of Christ-centered self-control.”

—June Hunt

I. Definitions

Interestingly, in most dictionaries the first definition for the word habit reveals it to be “a type of clothing that is characteristic of a certain calling, rank or function.” Eventually a habit came to be “a pattern of behavior acquired by frequent repetition that reflects the prevailing character of a person.” The Bible is interwoven with the same concept: Your habits characterize your character. If you are a Christian, your calling is to be clothed in the habit of Christ, with the result that your character actually reflects His character.

“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

(Romans 13:14)

A. Basic Inclinations

An inclination is a natural desire that compels you to act a certain way under a given set of circumstances. The Bible says everyone comes into this world with natural inclinations to sin.

“Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.”

(Psalm 58:3)

When these negative impulses are not controlled, they eventually grow into habits, some of which become life-threatening addictions.

“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”

(Genesis 6:5)

     Impulse

An impulse is a sudden, spontaneous inclination to act impetuously.

“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

     Habit

A habit is a pattern of behavior acquired by frequent repetition.

“They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices [habits].” (2 Kings 17:40)

     Obsession

An obsession is a persistent, disturbing preoccupation with an unreasonable idea.

“In my obsession against them [Christians], I [Paul] even went to foreign cities to persecute them.” (Acts 26:11)

     Compulsion

A compulsion is an irresistible, irrational impulse to act against one’s own will.

“But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will … this man also does the right thing.” (1 Corinthians 7:37)

     Addiction

An addiction is a compulsive, overpowering dependence on an object, an action or a feeling, resulting in major life problems.

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” (Titus 2:3)

B. Biblical Beginnings

A habit is either cork or lead. It pushes you up or pulls you down. To understand the potential good or bad of your habits, look at the context of Scripture to draw some helpful conclusions.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word derek, usually translated as “way” or “road,” means “habit or habitual way of behavior.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

(Proverbs 3:5–6)

Conclusion:

•     Habits can be beneficial and profitable.

“Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees.” (2 Kings 17:13)

•     Habits can be evil or destructive.

“He walked in all the ways of his father.” (2 Kings 21:21)

•     Habits can be passed down from generation to generation.

“His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 17:6)

•     Good habits reflect God’s character.

“The righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.” (Job 17:9)

•     Good habits strengthen character.

“What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.” (Job 22:28)

•     Good habits are a choice.

In the New Testament, the Greek word manthano means “to learn” (in any way) or to “get into the habit.”

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” (Titus 3:14)

•     Habits are learned behavior.

“They get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” (1 Timothy 5:13)

•     One bad habit can lead to other bad habits.

The Greek word hodos, which means a “natural path or way,” is used metaphorically in Scripture to mean “a course of conduct or way of thinking.”

“Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.” (Hebrews 3:10)

•     Hearts are led astray by ungodly habits.

“Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.” (2 Peter 2:2)

•     False teachers habitually malign the way of truth.

The Greek noun anastrophe, usually translated “life” or “way of life,” means “one’s conduct or behavior.”

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” (Ephesians 4:22)

•     A Christian is equipped to overcome bad habits.

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

•     A Christian’s good habits are a witness to others.

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

II. CHARACTERISTICS

A. Beauty or Beast

A German shepherd can be trained as the ferocious accomplice to evil intent. Yet, this same highly intelligent canine is also schooled to be a helpful companion for the visually impaired. This is learned behavior! In the same way, habits are learned behaviors that become a powerful force in your life for good or bad. Every habit is either Christ-centered or self-centered … a virtue or a vice … potentially a beauty or a beast!

All Habits Are …

Habitual

occur with regularity

Automatic

happen without thinking

Behavioral

reflect inner morals

Intense

grow stronger and more ingrained

Tenacious

persist and become hard to change

Satisfying

provide a degree of pleasure

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

(Luke 16:13)

B. Bondage Index

Scripture uses words like strongholds, slavery and bondage to paint a picture of being a prisoner to sin. Although you may not be enslaved to the more visible vices (drunkenness or gluttony), you may be held captive to a seemingly “acceptable activity” or to destructive and unChristlike attitudes. Even good behavior, such as church work, can be overindulged in to the degree that it crosses over the boundary of God’s will and becomes sin.12

“For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”

(2 Peter 2:19)

Heart Habits

Sinful thoughts and emotions, if nurtured in your heart, take control and eventually produce negative behavior.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts.”

(Matthew 15:19)

•     anger

•     arrogance

•     criticism

•     disrespect

•     envy

•     fear

•     greed

•     jealousy

•     lust

•     materialism

•     prejudice

•     rebelliousness

•     resentment

•     sarcasm

•     selfish ambition

•     stubbornness

•     unforgiveness

•     worry

 

Hidden Habits

Some habitual actions are often not recognized as harmful addictions because—

•     You are unaware that a negative way of responding has become habitual (arguing).

•     The world does not see your habit as negative (workaholism).

•     A seemingly good behavior is controlling your life, thus becoming a sin (rescuing others).

“The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:18)

•     compulsive arguing

•     compulsive collecting

•     compulsive competing

•     compulsive credit charging

•     compulsive cleaning

•     compulsive entertainment

•     compulsive exercising

•     compulsive gambling

•     compulsive horoscope consulting

•     compulsive Internet usage

•     compulsive indecision

•     compulsive messiness

•     compulsive organizing

•     compulsive perfectionism

•     compulsive procrastination

•     compulsive reading

•     compulsive rescuing of others

•     compulsive religious works

•     compulsive rituals

•     compulsive shopping

•     compulsive tardiness

•     compulsive time wasting

•     compulsive TV viewing

•     compulsive working

 

Hard Habits

Destructive habits create an unhealthy emotional climate and have the potential of damaging you and/or others.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

(1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

•     alcoholism/drug abuse

•     anorexia/bulimia

•     cheating

•     codependency

•     gossip/slander

•     immorality/vulgarity

•     irresponsibility

•     lying

•     occult obsession

•     overeating

•     overcontrolling

•     profanity/verbal abuse

•     rage

•     self-abasement

•     self-aggrandizement

•     self-mutilation

•     sexual addiction/pornography

•     stealing

•     tobacco addiction

•     violence

 

C. Boundary Markers

Most of us become adept at justifying our behavior. So proficient are we at rationalizing that many undesirable habits remain hidden … even from ourselves! Perhaps you’ve been denying the truth by thinking, If it really isn’t making waves, what’s the matter with it. The Corinthians had as their own slogan, “Everything is permissible for me.” However, Paul warns that although we are free from the condemnation of the law, we are accountable for habits that can be “out of balance” … habits that become out of control. Consider the telling question: “Does your habit have mastery over you?”

“ ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”

(1 Corinthians 6:12)

Q  “How do I know if I have a destructive habit or a hidden addiction that is not consistent with God’s will?”

Desire to be accountable before God, and take an honest appraisal of your life. Ask yourself if you have any habits or desires that would cause you to answer yes to the following questions.

The Compulsive Checklist

Are my thoughts consumed with it?

Is my time scheduled around it?

Could my health be harmed by it?

Does my guilt increase following it?

Are my finances affected by it?

Am I defensive when asked about it?

Are my relationships hurt by it?

Am I upset when I can’t do it?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

 

III. CAUSES OF DESTRUCTIVE HABITS

Unless an activity we do on a regular basis moves from providing temporary pleasure to creating personal pain, we usually don’t desire to alter our behavior. But if your life is now a “bumpy road,” maybe you are ready to take responsibility for change. The first step on this journey is looking at what fuels negative habits.

A. Misguided Choices

Since one common element in all habits is some degree of satisfaction, activities that provide pleasure can act as a buffer between you and your deepest inner feelings. Choosing to escape from painful emotions and circumstances, thus trying to avoid the realities of life, may start you on a road to ruin!

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

(Proverbs 14:12)

Are you choosing to …

•     escape from Anxiety?

•     escape from Worry?

•     escape from Guilt?

•     escape from Boredom?

•     escape from Depression?

•     escape from Insecurity?

•     escape from Stress?

•     escape from Responsibility?

•     escape from Feeling Controlled?

•     escape from Shame?

•     escape from Physical Pain?

B. Misplaced Dependencies

Your deepest longing is to have intimacy with God through a loving personal relationship with Him. God created each of us with this desire to seek Him because He knows that anything else will ultimately fail us! Uncontrolled habits often represent our own attempt to meet the God-given emotional needs for love, for significance and for security through unhealthy dependencies on people, things or activities.

•     Are you seeking to meet your inner need for unconditional love through sensual pleasure (overeating)?

•     Are you seeking to meet you inner need for significance through achievement (workaholism)?

•     Are you seeking to meet your inner need for security through another person (codependency)?

Unfortunately, many of our own efforts to meet these inner needs have little or no resemblance to the provisions and promises of God! If you have become dependent on anything or anyone other than your heavenly Father … you can find freedom by seeking Him now!

“ ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’ ”

(Jeremiah 29:13–14)

C. Misaligned Beliefs

We lose the war with temptation when we prioritize pleasing ourselves over pleasing the Lord. The root cause of a self-defeating habit is failure to develop self-control as a result of wrong thinking.

Wrong Beliefs:

•     “This makes me feel better and, besides, I deserve it.”

•     “A lot of people do this—after all, no one is perfect.”

•     “I really can’t help it. This habit is caused by my past.”

•     “I have tried to quit but continue to fail, so why even try?”

•     “I can control this anytime. I’ll think about changing tomorrow.”

•     “I don’t want to try to quit and risk finding out I have no control.”

“They followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” (Jeremiah 7:24)

Right Beliefs:

•     “I want to take responsibility for my behavior.”

•     “My deepest desire is to please God, not myself.”

•     “I can overcome a bad habit with a good habit.”

•     “I have the Spirit of Christ living in me to help me.”

•     “I can yield to Christ’s control through me.”

•     “My new habit will be to reflect the character of Christ.”

“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

 

IV. STEPS TO SOLUTION

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

(Philippians 4:13)

B. Key Passages to Read and Reread

1 Corinthians 6:9–20

Almost every child has played “tug-of-war” and has been pulled over the line to defeat. In the same way, adults who sincerely desire to please the Lord experience a heartbreaking “tug-of-war” with unwanted habits. Have you given up hope? Do you feel that the struggle is in vain? In this passage, we are reminded that “with Christ on your team” you can win the war for self-control.

Remember Who You Are!

If you are overpowered by the pull of a habit, understand your identity in Jesus Christ. As a Christian, you are already “washed,” “sanctified” and “justified” by the Spirit of Christ. As a child of God you have been given a precious gift—the power to live a holy life. It makes no sense to lose a war you can win!

“You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.… ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything. ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”

(1 Corinthians 6:11–14)

Realize That Christ Lives in You

Much of a habit’s power to pull you over the line rests in your belief that you are “on your own” during times of temptation. Because of your guilt, you can feel that God is far away and His power is gone. However, if you are a Christian, you are never alone. You have “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27) to win the victory through you. The Bible says we are “united” with Christ, that we are “one with him.” This means that if we yield ourselves to be pulled down by a negative habit, we pull down the name of Christ with us! This understanding can be a life-changing motivator for you to reconsider your choices!

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”

(1 Corinthians 6:15–18)

Render Your Body for the Glory of God

Losing the struggle in “tug-of-war” can be the result of a strategic error. Were you thinking, I belong to myself, or I’m accountable only to me? The Bible says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price, and that price was the blood of Jesus. Since you belong to the Lord, honor Him by letting go of your harmful habits and replacing them with godly habits.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

(1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

C. Success in Self-Control

To have self-control you must first know what self-control is NOT. It is NOT “pulling yourself up by your own boot straps.” It is NOT overcoming one bad habit, only to replace it with another bad habit. The essential quality of self-control is a restraint of desires that may pull you down so that you may achieve your goals. It is saying no to a negative habit so you can say yes to a positive goal. Self-control is a gift from God that empowers you to fulfill the will of God.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

(Galatians 5:22–24)

Steps to Self-Control

•     Start with a commitment to God.

—  Believe that God is good and just.

—  Believe that God wants only what is best for you.

—  Believe that God does not delight in punishing you.

—  Believe that God has the desire and power to help you.

Personalize:

“[My God] is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)

•     Separate yourself from sin.

—  Repent and confess that your habit is sin.

—  Realize that yielding to your habit makes you a slave to sin.

—  Review in your mind on a regular basis the negative consequences of your habit.

—  Read and memorize Psalm 1.

Personalize:

“What shall [I] say, then? Shall [I] go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! [I] died to sin; how can [I] live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1–2)

•     Set a new goal.

—  Make it your goal to know God.

—  Make it your goal to please God.

—  Make it your goal to depend on God.

—  Make it your goal to learn more about God.

Personalize:

“So [I] make it [my] goal to please him, whether [I am] at home in the body or away from it. For we [I] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that [I] may receive what is due [me] for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10)

•     Stand on the truth.

—  Know that in Christ you are set free from the penalty of sin.

—  Know that in Christ you are set free from the power of sin.

—  Know that in Christ you are “dead to sin.”

—  Know that you no longer have to be a slave to sin.

Read Romans chapters 6, 7 and 8 and write down every verse in which Paul indicates that you are free from sin.

Personalize:

“For [I] know that [my] old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that [I] should no longer be [a slave] to sin.” (Romans 6:6)

•     Substitute God’s thoughts for your thoughts.

—  When you are tempted by a habit, remember …

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

—  When you think you are powerless over a habit, say …

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

—  When you think you’ve had the habit too long to change, claim …

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

—  When you begin to rationalize that the habit is okay, admit …

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

—  When you think no one will know about the habit, understand …

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

—  When you have given in to a habit, realize …

“The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (Psalm 145:14)

Personalize:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. [I will not] conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but [will] be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind. Then [I] will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1–2)

•     Surrender your will.

—  Acknowledge that you belong to God.

—  Acknowledge that God has authority over all your thoughts, words, desires, time, money and possessions.

—  Acknowledge that the decision to change is yours … you are making a choice!

—  Acknowledge that you have the actual presence of God’s Spirit in you to help you make the right choice!

Personalize:

“Just as [I] used to offer the parts of [my] body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now [I] offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19)

•     Stay on track.

—  Avoid taking pride in the victory over your habit.

—  Avoid thinking you have control over what caused your habit.

—  Avoid thinking it will be okay to occasionally indulge the habit.

—  Avoid moving out from under God’s grace into self-sufficiency.

Personalize:

“Therefore, since [I] have been justified through faith, [I] have peace with God through [my] Lord Jesus Christ, through whom [I] have gained access by faith into this grace in which [I] now stand.” (Romans 5:1–2)

D. Hitting the Bull’s Eye

Have you ever said to yourself, I’m not going to eat that chocolate pie … then all you can think about is chocolate pie! In the battle with temptation, you will shoot the arrow through your own foot if your thoughts are aimed downward. Don’t dwell on the negative. Rather, focus on the positive. Set your thoughts high on God’s character-building truths, then with Christ’s strength, you can hit the target every time.

Missing the Target

•     “I must quit smoking!”

•     “I’ll never pick up a cigarette again.”

•     “Christians look down on smokers.”

•     “I will stop thinking about cigarettes.”

•     “God is ashamed of me for smoking.”

•     “God will punish me for smoking.”

Living under the “Law” never changes you. If you focus only on what you shouldn’t do, you will be pulled more powerfully to do it.

“The power of sin is the law.” (1 Corinthians 15:56)

Hitting the Target with Positive Truth

Target #1 … God’s purpose for me is to display Christ’s character.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

•     “Christ lives in me to conform me to His character.”

•     “I want to be the best representative of Christ.”

•     “I will yield to His control and do what is best for my body.”

Target #2 … God’s priority for me is to change my thinking.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

•     “Nothing is too hard for God. I know I can change in His strength.”

•     “I will enjoy getting rid of my guilt and gaining self-control.”

•     “I will replace my defeated thinking with positive promises of victory.”

Target #3 … God’s plan for me is to rely on Christ’s power to change me.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

•     I can give Christ increasing control of my life in order to taper off gradually …

—  by carrying a limited number of cigarettes for each day along with a gradual cutback schedule

—  by limiting buying cigarettes to only certain days of the month

—  by buying only one pack at a time

—  by giving my cigarettes to a friend to keep so that I have to ask for one

—  by setting restrictions on when, where and around whom I can smoke (on the patio after a meal, when I take a walk around the block, not around loved ones)

—  by making myself accountable to someone who is willing to help

—  by memorizing 1 Corinthians 6:19–20

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

(1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Although I don’t feel I have the strength to quit smoking on my own, I have Christ’s strength within me.

•     I can give Christ total control in my life in order to quit “cold turkey …”

—  by refusing to purchase cigarettes

—  by avoiding looking at cigarette ads—by choosing not to dwell on the “comfort” of smoking

—  by doing another preplanned activity when I desire a cigarette (especially something with my hands)

—  by finding a substitute for wanting something in my mouth (chewing gum, hard candy, ice or a toothpick)

—  by eliminating the activities that cause me to want to smoke

—  by memorizing Romans 14:21 and 1 Corinthians 6:12

“Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.” (1 Peter 1:13)

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

(Philippians 4:8)

Q  “What is the truth about tobacco”

Tobacco smoke contains more than 200 known poisons. Those who smoke two packs a day shorten their life expectancy by eight years.

Tobacco …

•     is the most common cause of lung cancer

•     causes emphysema, making breathing very taxing, which in turn causes death

•     is a major cause of hardening of the arteries, which in turn causes strokes and most heart attacks

•     is a major contributor in mouth and throat cancers, which can disfigure a person for life

•     produces chemicals that erode the lining of the stomach, which in turn causes gastric ulcers

•     increases the risk of bladder cancer

•     produces carbon monoxide and retards the growth of a fetus in a mother who smokes, which also increases the risk of premature birth and infant death

•     is the leading cause of death in men

“ ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but everything is not constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

E. Dressed in the Robes of Christ

The definition of habits hints at their ultimate value! Because habits reflect the underlying character of a person, good habits become the apparel you wear to reflect the character of Christ (see Romans 8:29). Begin today! Take off the tattered rags of sin and replace them with the beautiful robes of Christ.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

(Galatians 3:26–27)

Put on the Habit of Faith

•     Faith is developed through hearing God’s Word.

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

•     Faith is strengthened by believing the promises of God.

“He [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.” (Romans 4:20)

•     Faith is displayed by living under authority. (Read Luke 7:1–10.)

Put on the Habit of Goodness

•     Goodness is developed by storing up what is good in your heart.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.… Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Matthew 12:33–35)

•     Goodness is strengthened by measuring everything you do by God’s standard.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth).” (Ephesians 5:8–9)

•     Goodness is displayed by acts of kindness and generosity to others.

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18)

Put on the Habit of Knowledge

•     Knowledge begins with a healthy fear of God and a recognition of the consequences of sin.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)

•     Knowledge is developed by studying God’s Word.

“Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1 Timothy 3:16–4:1)

•     Knowledge is strengthened by seeking God’s will for your life.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9)

•     Knowledge is displayed by a willingness to accept discipline.

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)

Put on the Habit of Perseverance

•     Perseverance is developed through trials and testing.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2–3)

•     Perseverance is strengthened by keeping your eyes on Jesus.

“By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27)

•     Perseverance produces maturity.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

Put on the Habit of Godliness

•     Godliness is developed by turning away from the pursuit of evil and worldly gain.

“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:8–11)

•     Godliness is strengthened through knowledge of God’s truths.

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” (Titus 1:1–2)

•     Godliness is displayed through the power of Jesus living His life through you.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

Put on the Habit of Brotherly Kindness

•     Brotherly kindness is developed by loving the brotherhood of believers.

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

•     Brotherly kindness is strengthened by honoring others above yourself.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

•     Brotherly kindness is displayed by showing hospitality and sharing with others in need.

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)

Put on the Habit of Love

•     Love is developed by recognizing that God first loved you.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

•     Love is strengthened by obeying God’s commands.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

•     Love is displayed by loving your enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43–48)

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(2 Peter 1:5–8)

F.  Harvesting Good Habits

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love.”

(Hosea 10:12)

Many habits are the result of our childhood experiences. Family and friends have a powerful influence on us. But as we grow older, we can decide for ourselves the values and behaviors we want to cultivate. No longer a child, you do not have to be controlled by the attitudes and actions of others. You can choose to plant, cultivate and harvest good habits that are desirable and pleasing to God.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

(1 Corinthians 13:11)

•     Sow the Seeds of Moral Sensitivity

—  Study the Scriptures daily so that you can know God’s standards.

—  Write out the Ten Commandments and apply each one to your life (Exodus 20:1–17).

—  Consider what it means to “have no other gods before me.”

—  Memorize the Beatitudes and rehearse them in your mind (Matthew 5:3–11).

—  Measure all your behavior with the scriptural yardstick.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

•     Sow the Seeds of Accountability

—  Be open to the truth when others criticize you.

—  Say with appreciation, “It takes courage to point out where a person needs to change.… Thank you for taking the risk.”

—  Think about your negative attitudes and each day review their consequences.

—  Confess your failures to God, and ask forgiveness from those you have offended.

—  Daily or weekly, talk with a friend who will help you “kick the habit.”

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

•     Sow the Seeds of Gratefulness

—  Memorize Psalm 100 and meditate on its message.

—  Acknowledge the gifts of God for which you can be grateful.

—  Keep a prayer journal, and give thanks for answered prayer.

—  Always express gratitude to those who are helpful to you.

—  Thank God for what He is teaching you through each trial.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)

•     Sow the Seeds of Forgiveness

—  Know that forgiving others is required to have the forgiveness of God.

—  Choose to forgive others even when you feel justified in your anger.

—  Remind yourself of the many times God forgives you.

—  Read the story of Joseph for insights into the heart of forgiveness. (Genesis chapters 37–50. The key verse is Genesis 50:20.)

—  Seek to reconcile broken relationships in person or by letter.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15)

•     Sow the Seeds of Selflessness

—  Set a high standard for yourself, and expect less from others.

—  Ask God to shine a spotlight on your acts of selfishness.

—  Avoid talking about yourself or bragging about your endeavors.

—  Resist the urge to criticize or give unasked-for advice.

—  Perform an act of kindness toward someone else each day.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

•     Sow the Seeds of Communion with God

—  Seek out time every day to be alone with God.

—  Acknowledge unpreventable noise and remove other distractions.

—  Slowly say in your heart, “Lord, I do love You.”

—  Close your mind to invading thoughts, and focus on God’s presence.

—  Be quiet in your spirit, and wait on God to reveal Himself to you.

“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” (Psalm 104:34)

Sowing and Reaping

You   can’t sow a bad habit and reap a good character.

You   can’t sow lying and reap trustworthiness.

You   can’t sow negative words and reap positive relationships.

You   can’t sow unforgiveness and reap forgiveness.

You   can’t sow neglect of God and reap the peace of God.

by   June Hunt

 

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

(Galatians 6:7–8)

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, Neil T. A Way of Escape. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994.

Backus, William D. Finding the Freedom of Self-Control. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1987.

Chapel of the Air. Reversing Self-Destructive Patterns. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1990.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. “The Sin in Self-Discipline.” Discipleship Journal, no. 44 (1988).

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for People. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Gillham, Anabel. The Building Up & Tearing Down of Strongholds. Fort Worth, TX: Lifetime Guarantee Ministries, na.

Gillham, Bill, and Anabel Gillham. Building Up and Tearing Down of Strongholds. Fort Worth, TX: Gillham Ministries, 1992. Audiocassette.

Hart, Archibald D. Healing Life’s Hidden Addictions: Overcoming the Closet Compulsions that Waste Your Time and Control Your Life. Ann Arbor, MI: Vine, 1990.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Kelfer, Russell. Tough Choices: Secrets to Bringing Self Under Control from the Book of Proverbs. San Antonio, TX: Into His Likeness, 1991.

LeSourd, Sandra Simpson. The Compulsive Woman. Old Tappan, NJ: Chosen, 1987.

Lutzer, Erwin W. How to Say “No” to a Stubborn Habit: Even When You Feel LIke Saying “Yes”. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1986.

Lutzer, Erwin W. Seven Snares of the Enemy: Breaking Free from the Devil’s Grip. Chicago: Moody, 2001.

May, Gerald G. Addiction and Grace. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1988.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Freedom: Demolishing the Strongholds that Diminish Your Faith, Hope, and Confidence in God. Ann Arbor, MI: Vine, 1995.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

Moore, Beth. Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000.

Moore, Beth. Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life (workbook). Nashville: LifeWay, 1999.

Ryan, Dale, and Juanita Ryan. Recovery from Shame: 6 Studies for Groups or Individuals. Life Recovery Guides. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990.

Walters, Richard P. Counseling for Problems of Self-Control. Resources for Christian Counseling, ed. Gary R. Collins, vol. 11. Waco, TX: Word, 1987.

Wilkes, Peter. Winning the War Within: How to Stop Doing What You Don’t Want to Do. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995.

Wilkinson, Bruce H. Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs. Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1999.

Wilkinson, Bruce H. Personal Holiness in Times of Temptation. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1998.

Wilkinson, Bruce H. Personal Holiness in Times of Temptation: Course Workbook. The Biblical Manhood Series. Atlanta, GA: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1997.

The World’s Best Anatomical Charts: Diseases and Disorders. Skokie, IL: Anatomical Chart Company, 2000.

Wright, H. Norman. Making Peace With Your Partner: Healing Conflicts in Marriage. Dallas: Word, 1988.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Habits: Success in Self-Control (1–22). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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