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Breaking A Stubborn Habit Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
August 29, 2023 1:00 am

Breaking A Stubborn Habit Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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August 29, 2023 1:00 am

How can people change, especially when they are gripped by addiction? When God makes us a new creation, we are no longer merely products of our environment or heredity. In this message, Pastor Lutzer reveals three real motivations as to how we can live differently. Once God begins a work within us, He will complete it.

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 


Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Runners know that extra weight slows them down.

Attaining top speed means losing those extra pounds. The Bible says, lay aside every weight and the sins that so easily beset us. Today, a remedy for the stubborn habits that keep us from the winner's circle. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Wanting to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, bad habits can be addictions, and some might say there's no way to break them.

So, why try? You know, Dave, I found it very interesting that in your intro, you mentioned the passage in the book of Hebrews that talks about losing weight as we run the race of life. But it goes on to say, looking onto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. So, what we must do in the midst of our sinful struggles is, first of all, to look at Jesus Christ in the Word, in our meditation, because let us always remember that we become what we gaze at. But more than that, desperation oftentimes is the gateway to receiving help. And to all who are out there, I trust that you will be desperate before God, that you will know that in your desperation, there are other people who can come alongside of you because stubborn, sinful habits can be broken.

We here at Running to Win, as you already know, are deeply committed to helping people run that race of life that we've been speaking about. And this is a very special month, and we're near the end of the month. Any gift that you give during this month will be doubled.

Imagine that. What an opportunity to help us get the gospel to more people. Here's what you can do. Go to

That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let us remember to run this race successfully. Let me begin today by asking you a question. How do you go about changing human behavior?

How is it done? Some of you women, bless you, you live with an alcoholic, and you know what it's like for him to come home someday after losing his job, taking a look at himself and saying, I'm not going to do this ever again. I'm finished with alcohol.

Does your heart rejoice and you say, well, at last? Don't rejoice too much, because he has no idea of the depth of his need. He's far worse off than he thinks he is to make a promise like that. What about those of you who lived with someone who struggles with sexual addictions of various kinds, and he says, never again.

That's it. Can you trust him? Some of you live with a gambler, and he just loves to gamble, just loves to gamble. Gamble your college fund away for your children. By the way, gambling is a curse that is on our society. Someday I'm going to preach on the topic.

I feel so deeply about it, and you can bet on that. Can you trust a gambler when he says, never again? I don't think so.

I don't think so. The causes of human behavior are too deep. The behavioral ruts run very deep. Now the question is, of course, how can people change? When I was in college, we studied Skinner who came to the conclusion that we are just the product of our environment, and all that you need to do is to change our environment, and all of these problems are going to take care of themselves. There's really no human responsibility.

He said, we don't take somebody with a clubbed foot and we put them in jail. Why should we put someone in jail who's committed a crime? Because one is the product of heredity and environment just as much as the other. So Skinner was stressing the environment. Well, there's something to environment. After all, we help our children behave by making the environment somewhat painful when we give them a much deserved spanking.

You know, we're trying to use the environment to help them along to do what is right. But that's not really the ultimate answer to changing human behavior. You say, well, it's just in my genes. It's a genetic problem. If I had not had an alcohol gene, I wouldn't be an alcoholic, and surely there must be a gambling gene. And I know that with us today, there are people who struggle with homosexuality, and I'm not speaking about you folks, but if I might say a word about the radical homosexual community, they want us to say that because they think it is genetic and therefore you're born this way, that that justifies the behavior. Not so, not so.

I don't care how much genetic information you have, it does not justify it. I remember dealing with a man who was a kleptomaniac, a person who just stole everything in sight. He would steal even when he knew he was going to be found out. And I remember him saying, I was just born that way.

He said, ever since I was two or three years old, I was stealing. He said, I'm born that way. Well, we should say, wow, you're born that way? Well, then you're off the hook. I mean, if there's a kleptomaniac gene, what else can we do?

Sure, go ahead, steal. And there's the people who say, well, there's a gambling gene. I want you to know something. Of course it's in our genes. Not Calvin Klein's, but it's in our genes. Because we are all born with a sin gene. And does God leave us off the hook because we are born constituted sinners?

We are by nature the children of wrath. Does God say, oh, well, let them sin? I mean, they were born with a sinful nature. I mean, birds sprout feathers and sinners sin. Let's go on to another topic.

Listen to me. God holds us responsible for our sins, even though we are genetically constituted sinners. God holds us responsible, but he doesn't just leave us there. What he says is, I want you to know that there is hope. You can be different because of my direct, specific intervention in your life. Yeah, some of you alcoholics out there, you can change.

But the intervention has to be direct and it has to be powerful and it has to be strong and God has to work in your heart to make you even willing to consider it. Now, here's the good news. The good news is this, that when God created you, he created you with a body, which is, by the way, what you brought to Moody Church this morning.

Thank you for bringing it. He created you with a soul that has to do with the other part of us, usually the mind, the emotion and will, but we also have a spirit and this is what sets us off from the animal world. People say, well, won't Fido be in heaven?

Well, I don't think Fido is going to make it. And dogs may have personality. Cats, I'm told by the experts of personality, never discerned it, but cats have personality, other animals have personality, but they do not have a spirit. They cannot relate to God. Now listen up, everybody, because I have some good news. What God did is this. He created us with a part of us that is not subject to the pushes and pulls of our environment, not subject to calcium and phosphate and not subject ultimately to environment or genetic control. And he says there is a part of you that is independent of all that and that's why I can expect biblical behavior from you, despite the fact that you were constituted a sinner when you were born. Some of you here have had a terrible environment. I know people even now as I look over the audience who have had a history of child abuse in your life. You've gone through some awful things, but you're not reproducing that behavior. Some of you might, but others of you have a sense of meekness and contentment in Christ and even though it still hurts, you know that God has redeemed you from all that. You don't have to be a prisoner of your environment. And some of you were definitely born with the wrong genes, no question about that. All of us were, but some of you maybe have more wrong ones than others. That's okay. Okay in this sense that God says I can do a work in your heart that is so deep that you do not have to be constituted by having been born into a certain environment where your father had a hot temper and his grandfather did and now you have to too because after all, look at who your dad is.

No. God has a plan that is over and above that, not subject ultimately to environment or heredity. Now with that introduction, I ask you to take your Bibles and turn to the fourth chapter, the book of Ephesians, Ephesians chapter four. And by the way, today's message on breaking a stubborn habit, today's message really has to go along with the one that I preached last time on the renewing of the mind.

You need to hear these two together because they are a part of a whole. And I want you to notice that there are three real motivations as to why you can live differently. For example, the first one is this, that God has given you in Christ, and now I'm talking to Christians, okay? So those of you who do not know Christ as savior, I want you to listen in but I also want you to understand that you're not going to buy into this very much because for you it's new territory. God says first of all, I have given you a new self.

That's in verse 24 of Ephesians four. And to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. You know that I stressed that in the last message, the new self.

This is not 30 days to a new you where you're the same old person just wearing the right kind of makeup. It is a creation of God because after you are saved, and that's a good biblical word by the way that we don't hear much about, but it's a good word, after you are saved, there is something within you that was not there before you were converted. God created something. He created the new self. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. And then of course, there is also, bless God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God comes to live within us, as we shall see a bit later on near the end of the message.

The Holy Spirit of God comes and lives within us. Now all of that happens in just a moment of time. Conversion is a crisis, but it is a crisis that leads to a process.

That's a whole lifetime of applying it. But the gift of God is given to you immediately, directly, and it is yours instantly the minute you transfer trust to Jesus Christ and give up all hope of saving yourself and know how desperate you are apart from his intervention and grace. Now, so we have a new self. We have a new self.

And that is yours already if you're a born-again Christian. But now secondly, I want you to notice that there is something else that is new, and that is we have a new wardrobe, a new wardrobe. Last time I told you that if you are in prison, you have one suit of clothes, and after you get out of prison, you get a new set of clothes, and so you do not have to live like a prisoner anymore because you are even dressed differently.

Now notice the progression. Once God does a work within us, giving us the new self, he now says you can live differently outwardly. It is God's intention to begin with the inward and changes from the inside out, and now he says you can put on a whole new set of clothes. And now he gives five habits that you can shrug off and you can replace, remember the principle of replacement that I explained last time, and you can replace it with something brand new. And here's your new wardrobe. Let's go into the closet and see what God has.

Are you ready? Number one, lying. Now that's a coat that you have to throw off and you have to speak the truth.

Verse 25, therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truth fully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Lying. You know that America lies. There's a book written, which I have in my library, which I've read part of entitled The Day America Told the Truth. And then it goes on to say that we took a survey and discovered that 90 percent of all Americans say that they lie essentially every day.

Well, of course, I'm a skeptic and I want to know if they're all liars, how can you trust the survey? But that's something else. Fact is, even if we don't tell direct lies, we still are often guilty of exaggeration. Sometimes when we tell a story, you've done it and I've done it, we add that extra twist to make it come out the way we want it to come out.

We add that little bit. It's tragic, you know, to tell a story and to keep it completely true when an extra 10 percent could give it that oomph that we really want it to have. So we exaggerate. And for many people, they lie. We lie to others, we lie to ourselves, and we convince ourselves that we are right because of rationalizations, and eventually we end up lying to God and actually think that he's believing us until he shows us what hypocrites we really are. Now there are some of you who struggle with deceit from morning till evening because you were brought up in homes that were essentially dysfunctional and the family, all the little dirty secrets in your family had to be hidden. So you learned a pattern of deceit. Deceit was a way of life.

You lied about the issues in the family, you lied about the way things were, and now you are in your own marriage and you lie about the way in which reality is there, too, and your whole life is one of deceit. I want to tell you today that you can break that habit in two weeks' time, just like that. You say, really?

Yeah, really. Here's what you do. Every time you catch yourself lying to someone, you stop in the middle of the sentence and you say, wait a moment, I want to apologize to you. I've just lied to you. And I want to tell you the truth.

Do that for a week. You say, well, where's that in the scripture? Notice it says, let each man speak truthfully to his neighbor. Tell the truth. And stop hiding behind rationalizations and lies and just come out and just tell the truth.

You say, people can't handle it. Well, give them a chance. They might so admire your honesty that pretty soon they begin to develop confidence in you because finally the denial has been shed and you tell the truth. Now, that's your responsibility. That's my responsibility as a Christian because we shed the old life, which is one of deceit and lying, and we put on the new set of clothes, which is truthfulness. And some of you bless you in your marriages.

You're never going to have a happy marriage because of the distrust, because of deceit. What you have to do is to come clean and deal with truth. Well, are you ready for more or is that enough for today? Should I pronounce the benediction and say enough of that? Well, I'm not going to do that.

I'm going to continue on. Secondly, anger, anger. In your anger, do not sin.

Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and don't give the devil a foothold. Well, anger. Here again, we have to understand that some of you are struggling with years of latent anger.

Some of you women bless you. You've been misused by men and you are angry at men in general and you're taking it out on your husband. Some of you have gone through situations that have been so excruciating that that you have all of this anger and it's like a volcano and nobody quite knows when it is going to erupt and when it is going to blow. Now, it's okay to be angry if it's righteous anger. God is angry every day with a wicket, it says in the Psalms. But when you are angry, do not sin. My experience has been that when I'm angry, I do things that I later regret. I sin.

The Scripture says, don't do that. Handle your anger constructively. Resolve it.

Take care of the issue. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. I've often jokingly said that after 29 years of marriage, Rebecca and I had the rule that said that we would never go to bed angry. And we've kept that.

Though I do recall one summer when we didn't go to bed for two weeks. And when it says don't let the sun go down upon your anger, I had somebody who said, you know, if that's what the Bible says, I'm moving to the North Pole during the summertime. Notice what he says, three things. Don't sin when you're angry. Secondly, resolve it. And thirdly, do not give the devil a foothold. Why does Paul say that there?

A tapas, a place. Stranger comes to your door and the minute you open it, he puts his foot in it and you tell him to leave and he's got his foot in it and you can't get rid of the guy. That's the way the devil is. Now, I think that that would apply to all of the issues that are listed here, but to anger, especially in this sense that anger does something in rupturing relationships that is very, very difficult to buy back. You get angry over and over again, you ask forgiveness over and over again, the forgiveness is granted over and over again, but pretty soon it means nothing because your relationships have been so frayed and your credibility is so shot. And anger often does it. The Bible says that when you're angry, sometimes the tongue gets involved, obviously, and it is set on fire of hell.

Wow. Now, how do you get rid of anger? You get rid of anger by resolving it and saying no to the devil and getting rid of the foothold that has some of you bound for years. You can't even hear a message. And the reason that you can't hear is because your mind is so filled with this anger that you don't even acknowledge is there, but it's been there and it's still there, angry at God and angry at others and angry at circumstances and anger, anger, anger, and it destroys and it breaks and it ruptures and it messes up relationships. Do not give the devil the devil a tapas.

Don't let him have the foot in the door. I don't have time to tell you, but you know, there are people who ask the devil to leave and he doesn't. And the reason he doesn't is very clear. The scripture says in the book of James, it says, dearly beloved, submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. There are all kinds of people who have not submitted to God and they're expecting the devil to flee because they throw a verse of scripture at him.

Not necessarily. As a matter of fact, in the New Testament, we read that when Jesus asked the devil to flee after quoting scripture, it says that the devil left him seeking for a better opportunity. We never get away from satanic attacks and it's so important that we renew our mind in the word of God. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who says, dear pastor Luther, I'm grateful to you and for your ministry. I've drawn great encouragement from your preaching of the word of God during some dark days in my life. And here's the critical part now of the letter.

The word of God has transformed my life. Thank you. And my friend today, letters like this are really your letters. Those of you who support this ministry and perhaps you already know that at the end of this month, which is just a few days away, it's the end of our fiscal year here at Running to Win.

We'd love to be able to end strong. Now, any gift that you give during this period of time will be doubled. Here's what you can do, and I'm giving you enough time so that you can get a pencil or a pen to write this information down. And in advance, I want to thank you for helping us. Some of you perhaps have been supporting this ministry for a long time. Others are new.

Would you consider helping us? Here's what you do. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

If you're like me, sometimes you want to write down information and then it comes too quickly. So because this is so critical, it's a great opportunity doubling your gift and our fiscal year ends in a few days, I'm going to be giving you this contact info again. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Join what I like to call the Running to Win family. Become a part of all that we are doing in 21 different countries in four different languages, and we continue to expand.

Right now, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 2004. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Pastor Erwin Lutzer was getting close to home for many of us as he brought part one of Breaking a Stubborn Habit. This is the fourteenth message in a series on Between Heaven and Earth, taken from Ephesians. Next time, tune in for some final thoughts on practical ways to put on the new man and put off the old. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-29 03:16:27 / 2023-08-29 03:25:27 / 9

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