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Developing Habits Of Righteousness Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 8, 2021 1:00 am

Developing Habits Of Righteousness Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 8, 2021 1:00 am

It’s one thing to resolve to break a bad habit. But what works a lot better is to resolve to develop a good habit. We can jump off the starting blocks into a whole new life with positive habits that can fill the vacuum of our former bondage to bad habits. In this message we learn how.

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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. It's one thing to resolve to break a bad habit, but what works a lot better is to resolve to develop a good habit. We can jump off the starting blocks into a whole new life with positive habits that can fill the vacuum of our former bondage to bad habits.

Today, we'll learn how. 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, why is it easier to maintain bad habits than to develop good ones? Well, Dave, to put it very simply, the fact is that we are actually desire-driven.

I remember years ago reading an article by the great theologian Jonathan Edwards, and he proves that conclusively. People who have a desire for God are attracted to the Word of God. People who have desires toward the flesh will walk in fleshly ways.

And because we are all fallen, we all gravitate to habits that are destructive. Now, here's what God wants us to do. He wants us to understand that there is a different path. It's his path. It involves accountability. It involves acknowledging our sin.

But we don't have to stay where we are. I've written a book entitled How to Break a Stubborn Habit. This book has been a tremendous blessing to a lot of people, and I believe it will help you in your walk with God. It'll not only help you, but you can think of other people also that it will bless and give a path forward.

For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. You go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. or 1-888-218-9337. God does not want you to stay where you are. You don't have to be stuck.

You can move forward. Listen carefully. There was once a man who was involved in an adulterous affair. He was a Christian man.

In fact, he was a Christian leader. And of course, as a result of this relationship, he was deeply, deeply troubled and in much guilt. Sometimes he would take his Bible and he would read long passages of scripture that condemned the sin of adultery, and he would vow that he would never, never, never do that again. There's also another man that I know who decided after smoking for 20 years that he was going to kick the habit. He had tried many, many times before, but this time it was desperately important that he do so. And so he decided that he would.

In fact, he made a schedule of how many cigarettes he was going to smoke per day and decreased that number as time went on. And he had it all worked out that under no circumstances would he do anything else than break that habit. I also know a woman who was under great depression and deep bitterness, and she vowed that she would give up that bitterness. She cried to God that she would give up that bitterness.

And with his help and with his, with committing herself totally to God, she sometimes prayed for hours for deliverance that she might not be bitter. Now one of the amazing things about all of these three incidences, all of which are true, is simply this, that in each case the people were Christians. In each case they returned back to their same habits, and in each case the latter state was worse than the former. In the case of the Christian man involved in this affair, he ended up divorcing his wife, wrecking his family, her family, and causing a tremendous amount of heartache in his own life and in the lives of his children. In the case of the man who was going to give up smoking, he eventually did not hold to his habit but went back to it again and now is more firmly convinced than ever that he can never possibly give up that habit, and he doesn't even want to try.

In the case of the woman who was bitter, she is still bitter, only now her bitterness has turned to deep depression. All three of these called on God for help, and they yielded themselves to the Lord, and they said, Lord, help me! And apparently he didn't.

Isn't that amazing? Now you can't say, oh they weren't sincere, you know, if they would have really, really, really yielded themselves to God that wouldn't have happened. You can't really say that because I believe that they were sincere.

I believe that they were as sincere as it is possible for people under those conditions to be. And the gospel which the Bible says is the power of God unto salvation did not change them. It's startling, isn't it?

But it's true. How can that happen? Why is it that when we become new creatures in Jesus Christ we can sometimes go along in life and develop a sinful habit and even ask God to help us and he doesn't seem to? How do you break those sinful habits?

Well, I'm going to tell you three reasons why. The three people that I mentioned didn't break their sinful habit, and then we're going to turn to the scriptures, which is the place where always the answers come, and we'll see how that the Bible makes provisions for all three problems that I'm going to talk about. Isn't it wonderful? How many of you read your Bibles?

Can I see your hands please? 64. That's not too bad at Moody Church here. It's amazing though how that the Bible has answers to questions that are very important in our lives. Let me give you three reasons why it was that they did not break their sinful habits even though they yielded themselves to God at one point in time. Number one, they misunderstood the purpose.

They misunderstood the purpose of struggles. You see, they didn't realize that one of the things that God wanted to do in their lives was more than simply break this sinful habit. They didn't realize that God wanted to do a major overhaul job on them and that in doing that that they would be driven very, very close to God.

They didn't look at it that way. In the case of the man who was involved in this affair, he was concerned only that God take care of that one situation and leave the rest of his life untouched. You see, God wanted to move into his life and do much more than simply break that sinful habit. God wanted him to establish a new relationship with his wife and get some problems that they had had for many years straightened out. God wanted him to straighten out his relationship with his children and become a brand new man in his mind, in his heart, and in his soul.

But he didn't see that. All that he wanted was deliverance in one little area. He wanted a new spark plug in his car.

God wanted to give him a major overhaul. You know, you take the man who was interested in breaking his habit of smoking. You know why he wanted to break that habit? Because the doctor said that he might die of lung cancer.

Now that's a good reason to try to kick a habit, but that wasn't radical enough. God wasn't interested merely in dishing out a little bit of victory to this man so that he could overcome that. Here was a man who was basically carnal, who had taken no spiritual leadership in his home. Here was a man that God wanted to use going through this process of victory to develop him into a mature, godly individual with a very close walk to Jehovah the Lord God. But he wasn't interested in that. He was interested in kicking a habit so that he won't die of lung cancer. You see, God wanted to use this as a stepping stone.

I was speaking recently to a homosexual who was able to overcome those habits and become normal in his relationships. He is one of the most godly men I know. I don't know of any man who is as sensitive to the Lord and sensitive as to how to handle temptation as this man.

Why? Because in the process of overcoming that bad habit, he was driven into the scriptures, and he was driven close to God, and he learned principles that branch out into all areas of life. And that's what God wants to do to you.

If you're here tonight and you've got a bad habit, you can rejoice because you've probably got some company sitting very close to you. And if you're here tonight and you've got a bad habit, you can rejoice because God wants to use it as a tremendous stepping stone to develop character in your life and to make you a man and a woman of God that you've never been before, that in the process of overcoming that, you might be driven close to the arms of the Almighty. In the case of the woman who was bitter, she wanted to overcome her bitterness because she found out that being bitter is not a whole lot of fun. But God wanted her to confess her sins of self-pity that led to that bitterness, and he wanted to get all sorts of things straightened out, but she wouldn't let him touch that.

All that she wanted was to feel better. And God isn't in the business of just making people feel better. Number one, they misunderstood the purpose of trial. Their goal was too limited. They didn't see the total picture. They didn't see what God wanted to do radically in their hearts. Number two, they misunderstood the principle, or they didn't understand at all the principle of replacement. Now, that's a word that I've just thrown in for want of a better one.

Maybe you can think of a better term, but let me explain what I mean. Jesus once said that when a demon goes out of a man and is exorcised, that demon may travel seeking rest and finding none, and then he finds out that the man whom he left, that his whole life is empty, clean, and available. And so that demon goes and gets seven others that are more wicked than he, and they inhabit that man, and the latter end of that man is worse than the former.

Now, what was wrong? It is not enough merely to exorcise a demon unless you put something in its place. It is not enough simply to be able to say, I will not do the works of the flesh. My friend, you will do the works of the flesh unless you realize that God's principle is to take a life and to fill it with the Holy Spirit and with his word to push out the work of the flesh. And if you leave a vacuum, if you simply renounce sin and then do nothing else, that sin will be back just like that and you'll be worse off because you'll say, ha ha ha, there is no victory.

And your latter end will be worse than your former. And they misunderstood that. Do you know that the Bible doesn't talk about breaking habits? You say, well, why did you call your series then Breaking a Sinful Habit? Well, preachers do something sometimes that aren't necessarily biblical. No, I called it Breaking a Sinful Habit.

But do you know what the Bible speaks about? Not so much breaking habits as we'll see from the word of God. It talks always about replacing them. It always says do not do this, but do this, this, this, this, and this.

Because there's no such thing as victory in a vacuum. There's no such thing as simply trying to renounce a certain sin without filling your whole life with a whole lot of other things that will replace it. There's a third thing that these people misunderstood and that is they misunderstood the futility, the futility of self-effort. Did you know that one of the worst things you can do when you want to really break a habit, really get a hold of a temptation, one of the worst things that you can do is determine that you will never, never, never, never do this thing again? Did you know that that does not help?

I was just amazed. I was thinking that this past week and then I was listening to a tape and I heard a psychologist say, and he's supposed to know whereof he speaks, doesn't he? He said, self-effort is the most useless step in overcoming an undesirable habit. A resolution not to fall into a previous behavior pattern actually causes us to do it and reinforces that behavior. You take a man for example who says, I am not going to take another drink.

No, not me, not another drink. And all the while he's thinking of that bottle and thinking of how nice it would be if he could. Take a man for example who says, I'm never going to lust again. I'm never going to lust.

I'm never going to lust. And all the while he's beginning to think of what it would be like if he could. And pretty soon he's back into the same behavior patterns. Self-effort actually, according to this man, and I think he's right, reinforces the very things that we determine not to do.

And that's why it is that so many people who really determine that they're going to be different never are. Now what I'd like you to do is to take your Bibles and turn to the third chapter of the book of Colossians, because in Colossians chapter 3 I think that we find here an answer to all three of these things that God wants to do in our lives in breaking a sinful habit. Colossians chapter 3.

And I'm going to take out time to read the first ten verses, and I want you to notice very carefully that as I read, Paul is not only saying what we shouldn't do, but he's saying what we should. He said, If you then have been raised with Jesus Christ, keep seeking the things which are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked when you were living in them. But now you also put them aside—anger, wrath, malice, slander, abuse of speech from your mouth. Do not lie one to another, since you have laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.

Let's just read that far for a moment. Now I want you to notice three observations from this passage of scripture regarding the way in which we should live our lives. The first is this. If you are interested in breaking that sinful habit, number one, you must readjust your values.

Notice this. If you have been raised with Christ—and you are in the Greek text, incidentally, there's no doubt about the fact that you have been raised. It could be translated, since you have been raised with Christ—keep seeking the things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. In other words, one of the things that God wants us to do is to so readjust our values in life that we realize that the important things are the things that are not seen.

Like Moses, you remember, who endured as seeing Him who is invisible. And to so readjust our lives that we will realize that our temptations and our struggles and our bad habits are to be broken by the Spirit of the Lord so that we will be more and more conformed to what God wants. It's not a matter of God simply dishing out a little bit of victory here and a little bit of victory there.

It's a matter of God taking us through a process, a process of struggle and development and maturity that ultimately we might reorganize our entire lives. That's what God wants. And what a thing it is when God wants to do that in our lives and He uses the bad habits to do it.

That's right, I'm not justifying the bad habits, but as you overcome some of the things that you have begun to do, God will see that He wants to do something much more than simply clean up one little area of your life. Think of Abraham. The Bible says in Genesis 22, verse 1, that God did tempt Abraham. You say, Oh, no, no, God doesn't tempt people.

Well, yes, He does. He leads them to the place of temptation. Now, I realize that in James the Bible says that God does not tempt anyone. And if you read the rest of those verses, you'll find very clearly it says that in that context, temptation means a solicitation to evil. God does not cause us to sin. When we sin, we must take responsibility for that. But God does lead us to the place of temptation, just like the Holy Spirit drove Christ into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And so the Bible says that God tempted Abraham, tempted him to do what?

Well, threw him a challenge and said, Are you going to obey me or are you going to obey your own desires? Are you going to be willing to slay your son or are you not? What a tremendous temptation for Abraham to say, I will not obey God. I won't kill my boy. Don't you think he was tempted to do it?

Of course. But you remember that when Abraham was finished that temptation and he won and he chose in God's favor that the angel of the Lord came out of heaven and spoke to him. And you remember that the angel of the Lord told Abraham not to sacrifice his son. And eventually, you remember there was a ram caught in the thicket and Abraham took that ram and offered him for a sacrifice to God. But the Bible says that Abraham named that place Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide.

What does that mean? It means that Abraham received a new revelation of God. Think of all of the new thoughts that Abraham had in his mind as he left that mountain. Think of all of the new insights that he had into God and into his working as a result of that struggle.

His knowledge and his appreciation of the Lord God Jehovah was enlarged and that's what God wants to do when he rids you of that sinful habit. God wants you to readjust your values that you might see that the important things are the things that are not seen and the unimportant things are the things that we work for every day, the things that are seen. Now you'll begin to see then that God has something much broader and much more important in mind. You know what God's will is for us, don't you? You know sometimes we quote that verse, Romans 8.28, we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the cold according to his purpose. You know what it says in the next verse?

Whom he did for no, he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son. That is the good that is referred to in the preceding verse. And you see God works all things together for good, that is to say he takes all of the struggles of life, why? That we might be conformed to the image of his son. That's what God wants to do in your life. It's not just a matter of giving you victory over a sliver of your existence.

It is that he might be able to begin a much larger work and you have to readjust your values and say, do I really have my priorities in life straight? Have I really allowed God to show me what is important? Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer and those are very important questions, aren't they?

I've written a book entitled How to Break a Stubborn Habit, but I want you to know it's more than just talking about stubborn habits. It's really how to live a life of holiness, how to move in the right direction. I believe that this book will be a great blessing to you and I also think that you already know people who also would benefit from it. Now for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. You go to

That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you that info again, give you time to get a pencil, but at the same time, I want to thank you so much for your support of this ministry. If you've been blessed as a result of the ministry of running to win, it's because other people have made investments in this ministry and that enables us to spread this good news throughout 20 different countries in three different languages. You are a part of what we are doing. I want to thank you so much for helping us and our desire here at Running to Win as you frequently hear is to help you make it successfully all the way to the finish line and the book I've written entitled How to Break a Stubborn Habit, I believe will help you do just that. Remember, it's a bigger picture as to what God wants to do in the life of every one of us.

For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Meanwhile, let us take heed as we walk with God that we might do so in obedience, always desiring his will, knowing that in the end it is best. Following him is the way to fulfillment and to look back on a life that has been well lived.

I think this book will help you how to break a stubborn habit. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Next time we'll get into Colossians chapter 3 with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, who has brought part one of Developing Habits of Righteousness, the third of four messages in his series on Getting to Know. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-07 19:41:28 / 2023-11-07 19:50:34 / 9

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