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Breaking Stubborn Habits Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 2, 2021 1:00 am

Breaking Stubborn Habits Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 2, 2021 1:00 am

Many of us are stuck in a rut of bad habits. But we should think of today as the starting line for a new race, and we should learn how to turn our backs on behavior that slows us down. In this message we learn that freedom is possible, even for those trapped in deep darkness.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many of us are stuck in a rut of bad habits. Let's think of today as the starting line for a new race and learn how to turn our backs on behavior that slows us down.

Freedom is possible even for those trapped in deep darkness. To find out more, stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, all of us have stubborn habits, ingrained behavior that's hard to stop.

Tell us where we're going in this new series. Well Dave, on one level we know that God transforms us through the new birth, and that transformation is permanent. But living the Christian life is one of struggle. And so what I think we need to do is to understand that God's program is to change us over a period of time.

It's called sanctification. It doesn't happen all at once, but there are steps that we can take to enable God's transforming power in our daily walk. And that's what this series of messages is all about. And I trust that as people listen that they will be encouraged. I hope that they will be given some direction that you don't have to be in that rut that you spoke about just a moment ago, Dave. We do need to move beyond that, and God grants us the grace to do it. And the principles are in His Word. That's why I'm asking all who are listening to listen carefully now as we discuss the struggles that we all have and God's direction for our future. Let me begin by asking you a question.

How do you go about changing human behavior? Here's an alcoholic. He makes many promises that he's going to change. Some of you wives may live with a man like that. He says that this is going to be the last time I'm ever going to get drunk, but you know and God knows that those promises aren't going to change you. Here's a man who has the vice of gambling, which is a form of stealing.

You heard about the man who went to Las Vegas in a $16,000 Cadillac and came back in a $200,000 Greyhound bus. And he gets this into his blood and he sees that he's wasting his paycheck, but he's just there and he can't stop. Or you think of a man in some form of immorality. He really means well when he says, I want to change, but no matter how well he means, he never does. You think of criminals who go through certain behavioral patterns and they do everything within their power to say, next time I'm going to live differently, but next time they slip back in their old ways.

How do you change a man like that? Now you know that behaviorism, which is the common accepted philosophy taught in our universities today, says that a man does what he does because of his environment, first of all. Skinner and others have done some work with rats and with chickens and they found that when you reward them and when you punish them for certain kinds of behavior, they can be made to fit into a certain pattern. Therefore all of life, all of behavior is conditioned, determined if you will, by preceding causes of environment.

So the feeling is that there is no such thing as a criminal, there is only a criminal environment. Now there's some truth to behaviorism. We spank our children, we reward them and we punish them in order to guide them along certain ways, but all of that can never make a life changing transformation. And then of course there are those who say, no, it's in your heredity, it's in your genes. That's why you behave the way you do. Those of you who read The Trib will know a couple of weeks ago it had an article on sex offenders in which it says that a new drug has now been invented which when given to a person can help that individual, will lower their drives and their passions.

But the article went on to say that it is indeed only a temporary measure and doesn't solve the basic problem of motivation and change of behavior. Now let's remember in order to understand what's happening. Man is a tripartite being, a body, a soul, that is to say a mind, emotion and will, and then he also has a spirit. And the spirit is the deepest level of human existence. It's in the realm of the spirit. The spirit can inform and control the conscience.

It's also the spirit that can be in contact with God. And the spirit of man, an unsaved man, that spirit is cut off from God, so man is dead toward God, but it is quickened and it is made alive when regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Now the great difference between the way that human beings change behavior and the way God changes behavior is simply this. Man begins from the outside and he hopes that what happens on the outside will work itself in.

You take drugs to change your hormones, a chemical change of the body hopefully will cause a change in the soul and perhaps also at the level of spirit. God may use these outer influences, but God's way is totally different. God's way is to begin in the inner man. He begins at the very rock bottom of our personalities. He begins with the spirit down deep inside and then, having changed that behavior, begins to work itself out from the inside. Now you turn to Ephesians chapter 4, the passage of scripture that was just read to us. Let's notice how God changes us. First of all, he gives us a new self, a new self. The text says in verse 24 of Ephesians 4, Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

The new self created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. That means that when a person accepts Christ as a savior, God does a miracle within and he actually changes the person at the level of the spirit by doing a miracle, creating a new nature, and making the dead human spirit alive before God. Do you realize that when you accept Christ as your savior, there is a miracle that happens within you that can be done only by God and there's no contribution that you can make toward that miracle? When God creates, he does not use human power.

It is totally divine power. Your responsibility is only to believe and the miracle of the new birth is done by God and by God alone, without any contribution of human effort, because the miracle is so special. Many of us, when we accepted Christ as savior, if we did it as children, we can't perhaps remember that miracle very well or maybe the transformation wasn't that dramatic.

We may not have even felt different. When I was a little boy, I used to pray every night that Jesus would come into my heart and was convinced he never did. At about the age of fourteen, I was so miserable and my parents asked if they could pray with me because they could see my misery. It was at that time they explained that I had to receive Christ by faith even if I couldn't see any change in my feelings. I remember the next day I had so much peace and I had a sense of belonging to God that I never experienced before.

I thought to myself, this is conversion and I believe that it was. Some of you have had that experience. You've heard testimonies where people have said, you know, I just had this weight of sin and this misery and suddenly I saw that Jesus was the savior of the world and I put my faith in him and cast myself upon his mercy and instantly I knew I had met God. Just like Dori Vanstone in that orphanage, sitting there never having heard of God except through swearing, knowing nothing about what Jesus had done for her. Some students come and tell the gospel to the children at the orphanage and she sits there and says, God, nobody has ever loved me, but if you love me, you've got all of me. That night when she went to bed, she cried because it was the first time in the 13 years that she had ever experienced a sense of peace and thought to herself, this must be God.

And it was. It's conversion. So you see what God does is he does a miracle within. He quickens that human spirit and makes it alive to God, gives us that new self and then of course he gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the area where the human spirit is. So difficult to talk about these things because we're not talking about a spatial relationship.

That's to say we can pinpoint it in space where it is in the body because it exists in what philosophers call the realm of metaphysics, namely that which is beyond the physical. But the Spirit of God comes to indwell believers therefore having been changed from the inside out, we then also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within us. That's the first step in changing behavior. You receive a new self. But there's a second step and that is you now have to put on a new wardrobe. Paul here uses the imagery beginning at verse 25 of laying aside, just like you might cast aside an old garment. Paul is saying that it's time for you now to live up to the new self that God has created within you and you can do that by casting aside your old habits and you put on some new ones.

Because if you've been changed in the inside, you now can see that behavior work itself out in terms of experience, in terms of changed habits. And so he says live up to who you now are. You're a child of God, begin to live like one. You've been taken out of prison, shed those prison clothes and get on with the business of putting on some new clothes, clothes of freedom. Now with your Bibles open, let's very quickly look at five habits that Paul says we should get rid of and these clothes should be cast aside and you ought to put on some new clothes as a believer.

Notice what they are. Number one, lying. Verse 25, therefore laying aside falsehood. Falsehood is the way of the world. Falsehood belongs to the old life.

What do you do? You put it aside and instead you are clothed with what? You begin to speak truth. You see the answer for falsehood is truth. That seems so basic but you know that that's true because if you were to speak truth every time you were tempted to lie or every time you did lie or exaggerate, you were to say to the person excuse me and you go back to them and confess your sin and ask them to forgive you for what you've said. You would soon begin to speak truth. And there are people today who find it so hard to speak truth because they are still bound by their old life. And you know it's so easy for us to speak error not just by outright lying but by exaggeration. God has sometimes had to rebuke me for that. You know you're telling a story and if you just add a little detail that's just an addition but it makes such a better story.

I mean something is missing unless you add that little bit that really didn't happen. Now notice that the motivation ought to be he says because we are members one of another. That's why we ought to tell the truth. You begin to lie, you hurt yourself and when you hurt yourself you hurt the body.

There's just no way about it. If my body began to lie, if I began to say if my brain and my mind to speak more accurately were to say to my hand would you please rise and the hand deceives and doesn't rise I'd be in trouble. You think it's tough watching me now.

You just see what it would be like then. So Paul says lying cast it aside speak truth. Number two what about your temper? It says be angry and do not sin. It's all right to be angry. Mark chapter 3 verse 5 Jesus was livid with anger when he saw the hardness of their hearts. One of our problems is that we can't get angry about the things that ought to stir us and make us angry. But Paul says that when angry do not sin. So you see you cast off that outer garment called the hot temper and particularly in marital relationships how important it is that that be cast aside and the answer is deal with all of the issues that come up through communication, learn to communicate, learn to solve the problems that cause the anger and do it before the sun goes down. Don't let that anger fester. My wife and I have sometimes had disagreements and we've gone to sleep without them being resolved and that's tough, that's tough. Oh I feel so sorry for marriages where that happens all the time and how I thank God for my wonderful wife who's sitting right over there because I'll tell you when God gave her to me he gave the most precious gift he could ever give to a man. And we have had to learn that when difficulties arise and she and I do not always agree that when difficulties arise they must be dealt with immediately because if you let them fester they will always grow and be magnified and it will be totally out of proportion.

And that's what he's saying. He says cast aside that hot temper, that anger and put on, what does he say, the ability to resolve the issue. Now parenthetically some people have a hot temper because the issues that cause them anger are deep down inside almost at the level of spirit. Perhaps it's rebellion against their circumstances. They may be rebelling against their parents. They may feel that they are failures. They may hate God because of the way they look. All kinds of things and suddenly here's a man who's a volcano just waiting to go off.

The slightest thing sets him into a tizzy and the real root cause could be any one of the things I've listed or guilt but down there he's to deal with the things that are causing the anger. Third, stealing. It says in verse 28 to let him who steals, steal no longer.

Punctuation is very important. You heard about the thief who read this verse this way. Let him who steals, steal.

No longer let him labor with his hands. You know it's easy for us to say well I haven't broken into a store so I don't steal but you know there are people who steal from their employers because they don't work a full eight hours. There are people who steal from the government.

We'll hurry over quickly when we speak of that. There are people who steal from God. Malachi says will a man rob God?

The answer is yes. People often do it in their tithes and offerings. There are people who gamble.

They steal in these ways and notice what the answer to stealing is. You cast that garment aside and what do you put in its place? He says let him work with his hands. You say well I don't have a job. I'm sorry but it doesn't say unless of course the economy is bad and you don't have a job then don't work with your hands. That is not in the text of scripture.

It might be in the reversed vision but it's not in my translation. There are too many people today who aren't willing to do absolutely anything to have a job and I mean anything unless of course it's immoral or wrong. And as a result they fall into the temptation of stealing not because of hunger. You know there are a lot of people who are wealthy who steal. It is because first of all because of laziness and secondly because of greed. And so the answer is work with your hands says Paul and give.

That's what the text says. You have a temptation to steal. You begin to work at whatever thine hand find is to do.

You do it with all your might and then you begin to give generously and every time the offering is taken give a little bit more than you think you can afford. And you know that that will take care of your habit of stealing. That's what the text of scripture teaches.

Well let's keep moving on. What about blasphemy? Verse 29 let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth. Somebody who can't control his tongue just seems to be out of control. I just say whatever comes into my mind. I give people a piece of my mind. Listen don't ever give someone a piece of your mind unless you're absolutely sure that you can get by with a little bit that you have left over. Well my friend this is Pastor Luther. You and I know that we aren't what we want to be but we're on our way.

I've written a book entitled How to Break a Stubborn Habit. You know Seneca who was a philosopher said oh that a hand would come down from heaven and deliver me from my sins. Aren't you glad that a hand has come down from heaven? I believe that this book will give you a blueprint to grow in your Christian walk and to be rid of the things that bind you that hold you back.

For a gift of any amount it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The title of the book is How to Break a Stubborn Habit and I believe that over a period of time God indeed as we cooperate with him through our obedience brings about incremental changes so that we can move beyond our past that we are not burdened down by things that really are detrimental to our walk and as you frequently hear on this broadcast God enables us to make it all the way to the finish line and that is my desire for you. We here at Running to Win are committed to give you resources to help you in your Christian walk. Ask for How to Break a Stubborn Habit and once again that contact information go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337 and thanks in advance for helping us.

As a result of your help, Running to Win is heard around the world 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Tithing, it means giving a tenth of your income to God through the church and through other ministries. Cornelius wants to know Pastor Lutzer's take on tithing. He puts it like this, I want to know what Moody Church believes about tithing. I've heard some say this is an Old Testament concept that has been done away with.

Cornelius, thank you for asking. In the New Testament there is no emphasis on tithing and I'll tell you why. Because under grace we have a brand new relationship with God and therefore we should give as God has prospered us. We should give with joy. We should not be bound by a law that says you must give. That takes out the actual heart of what giving is all about. In the Old Testament the 10% was a kind of a tax. It was used in the temple, it was used to pay the priests, etc.

etc. And in the New Testament we don't have that and therefore tithing is not a requirement. But Cornelius, I do need to add that 10% is a good way to begin the giving process.

It's a good benchmark. And if we give generously we'll want to give even more generously and according to 2 Corinthians, God is going to prosper us so that we can give more. So it's a whole matter of the heart, not of the law. So go in peace Cornelius, but be generous and God will bless you. Thank you Cornelius and thank you Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9336 or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Dr. Erwin Lutzer has brought part one of Breaking Stubborn Habits, the first of four messages on Getting to Know, a series designed to set you free from that which binds you. Next time, more on removing footholds the devil can use. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-11 08:09:17 / 2023-11-11 08:17:41 / 8

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