Golden Nuggets
For Spiritual Growth

How To
Break
Old Sinful
Habits

Another in a series of tracts
for the edification of
born-again believers.

To the born-again believer who has been saved by repentance toward God and
faith in Jesus Christ, a great promise is given:

    "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them
    that believe on his name:"
    John 1:12.

With this promise the Christian has the potential to be conformed to the
image of Christ (Romans 8:29), but sometimes his old sin nature gets the
best of him and hinders his spiritual growth.   At times like this it is
good to have some golden nuggets from God's Word and someone willing to
point them out - as illustrated in the following dialogue.

How can I help you?
I keep wrestling with sin and I can't seem to grow spiritually the way I should.
Have you had any victories over sin?
Well, that's just it.   The victories are few and even those don't seem to last as long as they should.   I end
up sliding right back into my old sinful ways.

Have you ever doubted your salvation?
No, besides would I be so overly concerned with spiritual growth if I wasn't saved?
Most likely not, but tell me, how have you gone about obtaining your spiritual growth?
Well, I always try to obey God when He says to stop sinning.
Give me an example.   Show me from God's Word a sin that you have been trying to stop doing.

The man turned to Ephesians 4:29.

See, it says "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" so I try not to snap at my wife or
talk down to her.

Please finish reading Ephesians 4:29.
Okay, it says "but that which is good to the use of edifying."
What do you think God is trying to tell us in the second part of Ephesians 4:29?
I guess He's reenforcing the command not to speak corrupt communication.
Actually, Ephesians 4:29 has two separate commands.
What do you mean?
Look at Ephesians 4:17-24.   Paul is telling us to put off the old man and put on the new man.   The old
man is our old way of behaving.   It is our old sinful habits.   The new man behaves in a Godly fashion with
Godly habits.
You mean we tend to sin by habit?
Yes, habit forming abilities are God given.   They can be a blessing or a curse.   We are all sinners and a
lot of the sinning we do is by habit.   It has become second nature.
You mean like snapping at my wife under certain conditions.
Right!   God says put off those sinful habits and replace them with Godly habits.
Did you say replace?

Yes, that's why you keep sliding back into your old sinful ways.   All you are doing is putting off, but not
putting on something in its place.   You are not trading habits.
You mean like when I stopped the habit of chewing my nails by developing a new habit of chewing gum?
Exactly!   Look through the Scriptures and you will find that when God says to stop sinning He normally
says to start acting Godly in its place.
But how do I develop Godly habits?
The same way you developed sinful ones - by practicing.   In fact, Paul tells us:

    "But refuse profane and old wives fables and exercise thyself
    rather unto godliness
    ."
      I Timothy 4:7

This explains a lot!   I've always expected my spiritual growth to occur somewhat by itself and when it
didn't occur I would get frustrated.

The Bible teaches that as born again believers we are a new creature in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17), we
are given the power to become the sons of God (John 1:12) and to be conformed to the image of Christ
(Romans 8:28-32), but we still have a free will and a sin nature (Romans 6:16).   We must partake of God's
power and grace and put off the old man and put on the new man through a dehabituation and
rehabituation process
.
A what process?
That's what some Christian counselors call the process of replacing sinful habits with Godly habits until
the Christian is reprogrammed to act Godly.   Godliness can actually become second nature.
Praise God!   That's what I want.   How do I get there?
First, ask God to help you catch yourself sinning.   As you do, confess it and ask forgiveness in repentance.
As time goes on you should be catching yourself sooner and sooner.   Eventually you will catch it at the
source, when the sinful act first occurs to you.   This is called dehabituation - the putting off of the old
man.
I believe with God's Spirit and grace I can do that.
Good, but that's only HALF of it.   You must also at the same time practice acting in a Godly manner.
For example, Ephesians 4:29 says don't cut down people but build them up instead.   So practice
complimenting people.
But that doesn't come up often enough.
Then go out of your way to do it.   You don't have to lie.   If you look hard enough you will always find
something positive to tell someone.
I guess you are right.   It's just that by habit I tend to took at the negative and bring those aspects to light.
Right! but change that habit.   Tearing down is selfish.   We are called to love others. that means building
them up.   Since it is not our nature to do that, we must practice until it becomes second nature.
That gives me hope.   I've always come down on myself for not being what God wants me to be, but now
I see that the God given potential was there when I got saved.   It was just a matter of putting it into
practice.

That's right, just don't quit.   Habits take awhile to break and develop.   Pray to God everyday that He gives
you the strength and persistence to keep at it.   Don't even let feelings get in the way.   Act Godly even if
you don't feel like it.   Obedience without feelings does not make you a hypocrite.   Everyday we do things

we don't feel like doing because we have to.   God commands us to be Godly.   So start
exercising Godly behavior and practice, practice, practice!!!
  The following verses contain
more commands to put off and put on in its place.

Ephesians 4:25 says to . . . Break (put off) the old sinful habit of lying and instead through daily
practice develop (put on) a new Godly habit of truth telling.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says to . . . Break (put off) the old sinful habits of acting bitter, angry,
disagreeable, nasty and malicious and instead through daily practice develop (put on) the new
Godly habits of kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness.

Practice, practice, practice!!! until Godliness becomes second nature and you get closer to
acting like the new creature in Christ that you became at salvation.   The potential to develop
Godly habits is in you (John 1:12).   Through God's Holy Spirit you just have to partake of it.

REMEMBER!   If you put off without putting on a new habit in its place you will slide right
back in to the old sinful habit.

Likewise . . .

If you put on without putting off you will act hypocritical.

True Biblical change requires both a putting off and a putting on.   For example: A liar does not
stop being a liar because he stops lying.   He stops being a liar when he is transformed into a
truth teller.

Always strive toward true Biblical change, which is the result of a renewing process (Colossians
3:9-10; Romans 12:1-2).

(The reader should look up the following verses on their own for more examples of what to put
off and what to put on - Ephesians 4:28; I Peter 3:9; Hebrews 10:25; Matthew 16:24.)

I'm going to start exercising Godliness as soon as I get home.
Great!   Remember, next time you go to snap at your wife, stop and compliment her instead.
Reprogram yourself to be an edifier and not a degrader.

Practice, practice, practice!!!

LET'S SUM IT UP:

1.   God made us creatures of habit.   This
      enables us to perform things by second
      nature, such as driving a car or tying
      our shoe laces.

2.   Habits can be sinful or they can be
      Godly.

3.   Breaking a sinful habit is not enough.
      God wants us to develop Godly habits
      in place of sinful ones.

4.   If we do this long enough, Godliness
      can become second nature.

REMEMBER:   You don't grow spiritually as
you stop sinning, you grow as you become
Godly.

 

For more information please contact:

FARGO BAPTIST
CHURCH

3303 23rd Avenue SouthWest
Fargo, North Dakota 58103
(701) 232-5500

Pastor T. C. Scheving

[Christian Helps Ministry (USA)] [Christian Home Bible Course]