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Breaking Stubborn Habits Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 3, 2021 1:00 am

Breaking Stubborn Habits Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 3, 2021 1:00 am

Some people try to explain away their bad habits. They say, “It’s just the way I am. I can’t change.” But these explanations are excuses, and these excuses conceal a lie. The Apostle Paul calls our bad habits “footholds for the devil.” In this message we learn how we can resolve to say no to these habits—and say no to the devil as well.

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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. Some people explain away their bad habits. They say, it's just the way I am. I can't change.

But that's a lie. The apostle Paul calls our bad habits footholds for the devil. Today, you can resolve to say no to those habits and say no to the devil as well.

To find out how, 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, for many of us, the process of getting to know seems too hard to even attempt. Yes, Dave, and of course what you mean by that is getting to say no to the devil, no to sin, and yes to God. And getting there is difficult, but it is possible. You know, as you listen to this series of messages today, you might notice that it is an older series preached here at the Moody Church, but we wanted you to hear it for this reason. We believe that it has great relevance to where you find yourself today. Because no matter how long we have walked with God, there are still areas of our life that must be captured by Christ, victories that must be won, and we believe that this series of messages will help you.

I've written a book entitled How to Break a Stubborn Habit, and it can be yours for a gift of any amount. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'll be giving you that contact info again at the end of this message. For now, I want you to just listen as we lay some groundwork for transformation of the human heart using the promises of God. 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.

What does the text say? Limit your conversation to that which is good for edification according to the need of the moment. Say, my, if we did that, it would be very silent. Well, maybe we need some silence, that it may give grace to those who hear. When I was in Bible school, there was one of my colleagues in the classroom who suggested I memorize Psalm 141, verse 3.

And it was a good rebuke. I guess in those days I spoke a lot because it says, set a watch before my mouth, guard the door of my lips. Have you ever done that? And you know it only happens when hell is taken out of the human heart because the Bible says that the tongue is set on fire of hell. Your tongue which wants to gossip, which wants to cut, which is so interested in faults of other Christians, you just want to sniff out everything you can. See, there's a real problem there.

Well, the answer is limit your speech to what is edifying. Then notice also it lists bitterness, verse 31. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you.

You say, well, what is the answer to that? It's in verse 32. Be kind one to another. Choose to forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven you. And just as Jesus Christ absorbed our hurt so that we would be off the hook in our relationship with God, in the very same way we must be willing to absorb the hurt of those who have wronged us and set them free that we might be free of all bitterness.

And the answer to be free of bitterness is for us to be focusing our attention upon Jesus Christ and what he has done in our behalf. So what does Paul say? He says, first of all, you have a new nature. Secondly, he says, you need some new clothes.

Cast off those old habits. You say, but Paul didn't list mine. He doesn't say anything about alcoholism or smoking or perhaps some form of immorality.

You can fit in whatever you want to fit in here. It works the very same way. You begin to live up to the new nature that has been created within you by a miracle of God if you're a believer in Jesus Christ. Then notice third, he says, you need a new sensitivity. Verse 30, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by which you have been sealed unto the day of redemption. Isn't it tragic to live with a roommate that you can't speak to? Just no communication at all between the two of you. You sit there and you have long discussions about nothing, total silence, because there are all kinds of hurts and feelings that are unresolved.

Isn't it tragic to have a marriage where there is no communication? But isn't it even more tragic to have the Holy Spirit of God within you, but he is grieved and therefore there's no communication at all? Notice that the Spirit does not become angry, the Bible says, but the Spirit becomes grieved. And the word that is used there for grieved indicates the real sensitivity of the Holy Spirit of God. Just to think that when we go on in our sinful habits, we are, as it were, running rough shod over the Holy Spirit, acting just as if the fact that he is within us doesn't matter at all. Thinking to ourselves that we can do things in secret that we would never do in public because we are more concerned about what people think about us than we are about what the Holy Spirit of God thinks about us, and in that way grieving him for he is a person and he feels hurt when his inner promptings are disregarded. Pulses don't grieve the Spirit.

And how do you do it? By not casting off the old life. The Spirit of God is hurt. Now I can imagine that there are some of you saying, you know, pastor, what you're saying is probably right, but there's one thing wrong with it. It just doesn't work. We've heard it all before.

We know that we're supposed to stop lying and put away bitterness and control our temper, but you don't understand. I have tried it dozens of times. I've asked God to help me. I have done everything.

It doesn't work. Well I have one more bit of advice for you. Notice when the text of Scripture says in verse 27, a verse I deliberately omitted a moment ago, notice Paul throws this in, and do not give the devil an opportunity. The Greek word could be better translated, do not give the devil a foothold. Don't give the devil a foothold.

Why does Paul put that in? He's speaking about anger. But I think it does apply to all of the other habits. And I think that is the key right there.

See what happens is this. Here's a person who begins to become involved in a sinful habit and he's at a point where he could stop if he wants to. In fact, he does stop at times. And he doesn't realize that that's the worst moment of his life. Because he says to himself, you see, after all, I am not controlled by this habit. I can stop.

And it sets him up for a gigantic fall. This is what happens to alcoholics all the time. They'll be so tired and so sick of themselves, they'll say never again. And sure enough, they go for a whole month without it. And then they say to themselves, see, I'm not an alcoholic. After all, I've got it licked. I can stop whenever I like.

And they are on the most dangerous slide that one could ever imagine. You know, it was Mark Twain who said, of course I can give up smoking. I've done it 500 times, he said. Now, in those cases, Satan, and by that I mean a personal demonic spirit, will attach himself to an individual and will gain a foothold. And that foothold, even in the life of a believer, will be so strong, Satan will entrench himself.

This demon will stay there and will simply say that as long as you are in my territory, I will capture that territory and I will hold it and I will not give it up. So here's this Christian who reads Ephesians chapter 4. Paul says, put off the old man. And he tries to put off the old man and he can't. He can't break these habits. And he cries to God and he says, God, I ask you to help me.

And he's still defeated and he can't put off those habits. And he even begins to say, Satan could be involved in this and he rebukes the devil and the devil doesn't leave. And you do that a few times and pretty soon you'll just simply say, Pastor, it's all right for you to preach these things but it just doesn't work. Because it's the role of the devil to get you to believe that change is impossible and it's his responsibility to bring up images and experiences in your mind in which you have failed to prove that what he is saying is right. Well, why doesn't the devil leave? Why is it that you can say, be gone Satan and you're back in the very same habit, sincere though you were?

Well, the answer is not only do you need a new sensitivity and a new nature and a new set of clothes but you also need new submission. Would you turn to James chapter four for just a moment? James chapter four verse seven.

I'm going to give you enough time to find this so that you see it in the text of scripture. James four seven says, submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Do you notice the sequence of events there? James says, first of all, submit to God then resist the devil and he will flee from you. If you do not submit to God first, you can resist the devil and he will keep that foothold.

He will not leave. You see, what God wants us to do in all of the experiences of life is he is very desirous that we be fully submissive to what he wants. In fact, if you want to know what God is after in your life, it is that he might be able to take you and to break you in total brokenness before him. And you are not broken until you are broken in the area of your strength. Scripture says that Jacob, the Lord touched the sinew of his thigh.

One doctor said that that's the most important sinew and it's the strongest in the whole body. God says that's where I want to touch a person. Here's a man, for example, who is known in the business world because of his tremendous ability in business, a God-given gift, but he is unbroken, he is unsurrendered, he is doing his own thing. God will take a man like that and put him through bankruptcy if he has to. I've known one man, I think he's on his fifth bankruptcy and he still does not understand that it is because he is unbroken, unwilling to yield to God, that the hardness of his heart, despite the fact that he is religious and saved, the hardness of his heart prevents God from doing what he really wants to do in his life. You see, I have the ability to preach and to teach the word of God, but if I am unbroken, and you know God's got to continually work on me, but if I am unbroken, people will leave and they will say we enjoyed it, it was interesting and it was even helpful, but no permanent fruit will ever come of it until I am smashed to smithereens before God in the very area of my strength. Now there are people who resist God.

They make up their own mind, they say I am going to be so stubborn, I don't care what God does, I don't care how much pressure he puts upon me, I will not submit and they are bound by their habits, they have given the devil a foothold and they command him to leave and he will not leave and it is because they are unsubmitted to God. You know one of the best illustrations of this in all the Bible, a man who remained unbroken to the end was Jonah. God sent Jonah to Nineveh, Jonah says I'm going down to Joppa, and when he was there in the boat he said to the men when it was found out that he was the culprit, he says cast me into the sea. Now do you realize that Jonah didn't realize that God had prepared a fish to swallow him? He thought that in being cast into the sea he genuinely believed that he was going to drown in the Mediterranean Sea and that's what he wanted because Jonah said I am so stubborn, I am so angry at God sending me to those Ninevites whom I hate so much that I would rather die and be cast into the sea than to be obedient. And there in the middle of that fish you remember he finally cried out to God and we read it and we say well God finally got Jonah. Well I say to you not quite because it is true that Jonah went to Nineveh later but do you know he still was unbowed and unbroken. Outwardly he obeyed God but when God sent that great revival to Nineveh Jonah was complaining about it and he was sitting there waiting for the destruction to come on the city and he was so angry he told God to kill him.

He said I can't stand it. Even there in the belly of the fish though he prayed and though he besought God and told God how sorry he was he still wasn't broken before God. And do you know that there are Christians today who are just that stubborn, just that stubborn. There are Christians who say Lord I would rather that I die of a heart attack, I would rather commit suicide with all of its ugly circumstances connected with it that even suicide is more attractive than absolute submission to your will and purpose.

And as long as they are unsubmitted to God the habits stay, the behavior doesn't change and they ask the devil to leave and he doesn't because he has a foothold and says I can stay here because you are unsubmitted to me. You know I would say in the last six weeks God has really taught me some things about submission. One of the things he's taught me is that you can never submit in a hurry.

I used to always think all that you have to do is sing a song. You know I surrender all and mean it and if you had a tear in your eye it really counted. I find that I can't submit in a hurry. Sometimes I have to struggle and agonize before God. That's the first thing God has taught me. The second thing that he's teaching me is that I can't submit only once. I have to submit in the morning before nine o'clock and then I have to submit at noon and then I have to submit in the afternoon and I have to submit in the evening because unless we are willing to submit totally in total agreement with God we become unbendable. God may use us as he used Jonah but it will always be with a sense of purposelessness because of our own stubbornness and I think today of people, Christians, who are put on the shelf whom God has been trying to break for years and they just will not bow.

They will not bow. God may use the most precious thing that a man has. He may even use his children and those children go astray and the parents curse God because after all those children were reared in the church and they were taught verses of scripture and now they aren't following the Lord and the parents say we deserve better than that and really what God was waiting for is for those people, those parents, to be totally, totally submitted to God on every point and still they don't bend because their heart is stubborn just like mine and just like yours.

You know I read many books, too many maybe, but I find that there are so many writers today who say, you know, we're just human and we just have to understand that God remembers that we are but dust and all that is true but sometimes we sell the Lord Jesus Christ short on his ability to deliver his people from their sins and there are Christians with habits and they've learned to live with those habits and they have compromised and they've said that the word of God is not true and they have been so stubborn that God has brought all these things into their lives and they still fight and they still argue and they are unbowed and unbent though they may pray like Jonah in the belly of the fish and because of that the devil never flees from them. How does God change people? He gives them a new nature, a new self. He gives them a new set of clothes, a new sensitivity, a new submission, and when they are fully submitted the devil loses his foothold and they are free. Remember that God has not come to rob you. God doesn't want submission just so that he can humiliate you.

He wants it that he might bless you, that the garments of the old life would be cast aside, that you might walk in freedom, in joy and in victory. Of course, of course he can deliver you from that sinful habit. And you know my friend, I've written a book entitled How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit. Sometimes you say to yourself, I don't have an addiction. I don't know even what my stubborn habits might be. I believe that this book is for you anyway and I'll tell you why. Because all of us have deficits in our lives. All of us struggle with issues and I think that this book actually gives you a road map to help you in personal transformation that God wants to bring about.

For a gift of any amount it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now you say, well Pastor Lutzer, who would this book be good for? Well, as I've mentioned, it might be very good for you.

I think it will be. But you know someone who is struggling. Somebody who needs direction and hope. I believe that this resource will be of tremendous help. It's entitled How to Break a Stubborn Habit. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And thanks in advance for helping us.

It's because of people like you that the ministry of running to win is found in more than 20 countries of the world. Thanks in advance. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Coping with life's hard knocks is today's focus. We'll ask Pastor Lutzer to offer his counsel to Karen, who emailed us this story. Karen, my heart goes out to you.

And I'm sure that our entire listening audience, I hope that all of them pray a prayer right now in your behalf. What you need to do is to tell your husband that you're going to confide in some friends about his drinking problem. He's going to become angry. He's going to become defensive because I know something about alcoholics, but you have to do it. What you need to do is to understand that he will not change until there's pressure. You know, sometimes it is said that people don't change until they see the light. That's not true.

They don't change until they feel the heat. So what you need to do is to show here some really tough love. You also need to enlist some people to pray for you. You need to get some wise counsel. Go to your pastor, go to a counselor, and find out what it is that you should really do in this situation. You know, your husband may be helped.

I pray that he shall be. But I think that you're at a very critical time because people who begin to find their comfort in drink usually go in that direction. Alcoholism is a curse, and this man needs to be confronted with reality as soon as possible.

that's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's road map for your race of life. Dr. Erwin Lutzer has concluded Breaking Stubborn Habits, the first of four messages in his series, Getting to Know, a series designed to set you free from that which binds you. Next time, tune in to learn about three prerequisites for change. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-10 01:28:34 / 2023-11-10 01:37:05 / 9

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