I would like to speak with you about heaving hard habits. Do you have a hard habit that has you all hung up. I hope not. A lot of people do and so; I'm not talking about snoring or anything. I'm talking about a spiritual habit that's not good in your life.
We knew some friends that had a little boy, three years old, and he had this habit of sucking his thumb. And they tried everything. They even tried spanking his thumb and all sorts of things, and somebody said you should yell at him, and you should tie his hands behind his back at night or put mittens on his hand, or put some cayenne pepper on his thumb. They tried everything. They prayed about it. They worried about it and finally he just outgrew it. Wouldn't it be nice if you could just outgrow your habits. You just get too old to do it anymore or somehow you outgrow it. That would be great. As we get older I find we get more entrenched in our habits. Ummm. Not good. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. We just keep doing the same bad things over and over again. And the glue that enables the habits to cling to us only gets stronger.
Is there any hope for us? We wish we could get some red hot pepper and put it on our problem and somehow quit. Have you been looking for the stop button for your habits? Well I'm going to introduce you to it. Zillions of people are trapped in some sin or some evil habit that they just feel like they cannot get loose from. The more they struggle, the more entwined they get into it, and finally they wonder if they'll ever be free from this wretched thing.
Look at Proverbs, chapter 28 in your Bible. You know, some people try to cover up their problem, and Proverbs 28 alludes to that. It says, in verse 13. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whosoever confesses them and renounces them finds mercy.” You've got to open them up. You’ve got to confess them and renounce them. Get rid of them, yourself, through the power of God.
Mary hated to babysit her little brother, but one day she had to. She saw all of her neighborhood friends out there playing in this new house that was being constructed. Her mother said, “You've got to do this till I get back in two or three hours.” And finally her baby brother got sleepy and she put him to bed and ran out the door over across to where they were building this new house and enjoyed playing with her friends. And they were sliding down some of the two by fours that were there. And she did it and there was a splinter, a long sharp splinter that went deep into her leg and broke off and you couldn’y even see it sticking out. And she thought, “Oh, what am I going to do? If I tell mother about that she'll know what I've been up to.” So she decided not to tell and it eventually scabbed over and everything was fine. Years later her leg started hurting. It got worse and worse, and she told her mother, “My leg hurts.” And so at the doctor's office her sin was discovered. The splinter. The day she had disobeyed her mother. It all came out. And you know, you can cover your sinful habits, but you can’t cover them very long. The Bible says, be sure that your sins will find you out. You've got to get over that.
We used to live in Michigan. Up in Hartford, Michigan, and we had a creek in our backyard and you know, Michigan has this problem with lampreys. They are a parasitic, aquatic vertebrate with a toothed funnel-like sucking apparatus on their mouth, and the sea lamprey has invaded Lake Michigan and all the Great Lakes, and is destroying a lot of the fish. Well they were in our creek, and what they do, they find a host fish, attach themselves to it and start sucking, and pretty soon they suck the lifeblood out of that creature. Several of them getting on and teaming up against the fish. And I guess unless the host can shake off the thing, or rub it off or something, it's doomed. Those fish die. These lampreys are killing thousands of fish in the Great Lakes. The only way to get rid of them is to die. The lampreys detach and go find another live one.
And the Bible says in Romans six, verse seven, “Anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” Dead fish don't have lampreys. Dead Christians, people that have died to the old life, the old man of sin, don't have any problem with sin. You've got to die. The apostle Paul said “I die,” how often? “Daily.” First Corinthians 15:31. How do you die? Well the old sinful nature has to be killed. I think the way that you die, is that you simply just ask the Lord, and I do this every day. “Lord please come into my life. I give You authority to come into my life and evict the devil and be in charge of me today. I give you permission. I ask You to do this.” So you won't be in charge, God'll be in charge. God will sit at the steering wheel of your life that day. And then do it again the next day and the next day and the next. That's how you do it. You invite Him to come in, and He’s in charge and your spirituality will be so much easier with God in charge.
Galations, chapter 2, verse 20 says, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” That's the secret. Ephesians 4, verse 22 says, “Put off your old self.” And Colossians 3, verse five. “Put to death what ever belongs to your earthly nature.” And then it lists these things. Sexual immorality. Impurity. Lust. Evil desires. Greed, which is idolatry. Verse six. “Because of these the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways and the life you once lived, but now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these. Anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language.” These are terrible things. You can't go to heaven with those things. You've got to get rid of them. How do you do it? Verse nine. “Do not lie to each other. Since you have taken off your old self.” There is the key. Take off your old self with its practices, and verse 10. “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge of the image of the Creator.” Paul is saying, “Put self to death.”
How do you do that? Where is the source of our problem? Where is the source of our idolatry and our sexual sins and our lying and all of these things. It's right here between our ears. It's our brain. That's the problem. That’s where an adulterous lifestyle comes from. That's where bad habits come from. We have an ax. We want to get rid of these bad habits. Where is the root that we chop into? It’s our thoughts. You've got to get rid of bad thoughts. The source of our problems is our mind.
You history buffs, you've heard of Iwo Jima, during World War II. February, 1945. There was a terrible battle there and the Americans lost 6 thousand 8 hundred and 21 soldiers. The Japanese lost 21 thousand 7 hundred and 3 soldiers and both countries knew that the entire war hinged on the battle for Iwo Jima. On this tiny little island. It was strategic.
Today we are in the midst of another war called the great controversy between Christ and Satan and it is being fought on a tiny piece of land. You know where it is? Your brain. Your brain is that island. Your mind. That's where the war is raging. Romans chapter 12, verse two says. “Be ye transformed by renewing your mind.” That's how you win the battle over sin. When you change your thinking, you change your life. I don't know about you but I need a major mental makeover.
You know, we have people that go and get made over. They get tummy tucks. They get implants. Liposuction. You know what your greatest asset is? Your greatest asset is not your looks, but your character. That's true. Your character. Invest in whatever it takes to have a major mental makeover and transform your thoughts to think good things. That's how you make changes in your life. You change your thoughts. That's how you heave a hard habit. Don't work on a hard habit. Work on the thoughts that produce that habit. When you win the battle for this tiny, vital island, you will eventually win the whole war. Ephesians 4, verse 23. “Be made new in the attitude of your minds.” How? You need a new attitude. Do you parents ever say to your kids, “You've got a bad attitude?” Something's wrong in the mind.
You need to be made new in your mind and there’s special knowledge that can help you. Colossians 3, verse 10 says, “Put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him who created you.” The old man will eventually fade away. It’ll become clean.
I have something up here in the pulpit, I want to show you how this works. Steve come up and help. I have here a small bottle of black, ugly stuff inside. Liquid. Let's imagine that this is your brain, this is this tiny island and these are dark, bad thoughts that you have. How do you get rid of those? You can't just unscrew the cork and pour out the bad thoughts. You can’t just do that. So how am I going to get this out of here without pouring it out? I am going to do it by pouring in something good. Now hold that so people can see that and just pour in some water. That's all that is, is water. Now what is happening to the liquid in the jar? Can you see any change in that liquid? What is happening to the dark? Look at that. The bad is all gone. We have new thoughts. We have a new mind. How did we do it? Thank you Steve. How did we do that? We just put in new.
There's a text for this in the Bible. Look at John 15. You may want to mark this. This is the key. John 15, verse three. Margaret Halverson gave me this text this morning. John 15, verse three. It says, “You are already clean because,” here's the way you get cleaned up. “You are already clean because of,” what? “The word.” You pour the Bible into your mind, you read this every day and what will happen to those evil, dark things that are in your mind? They will be, they’ll disappear. They'll be gone. You need to put the Bible in your mind. Everyday I do this. It's so important to read the Bible. To study the Bible. It will displace the evil thoughts and replace them with good, clean, pure thoughts. That's how it happens. There’s a purifying process. When you dump this into your mind the other will go out.
Now of course you slow down the process when you start pouring more dark liquid into your brain again. That slows down the process an awful lot. But just keep rinsing your mind with the powerful, pure, clean word of God and you will renew your mind. Refuse to fill it with evil, filthy rubbish and daily saturate it with the Word of God. Those are the two clues.
Now how do you do that? How do you fill your mind with the Bible? Preachers need to not just say, “Please do this,” but how do you do that?
Well, number one, you have to uncork your mind. I had to unscrew the cap off of that bottle. Have an open mind. Be open-minded. Number two. Read this every day. Read it daily. Study the Bible dogmatically. Believe the Bible deeply. Memorize the Bible dutifully. Share the Bible diligently. Get into the Bible.
I want to list for you 10 keys to hard habits. You may want to write some of these down. 10 Keys on how to heave a hard habit. You've already got a lot of ideas.
The very first thing is, you need to admit to yourself that it is a bad habit, that you cannot go to heaven with that habit in your life. Whether it's drinking, drugs, nicotine, cigarettes. There’s something you're doing. Admit that it is bad. I will never be able to be in heaven with this habit. This thing is killing the good in me. I’ve got to get rid of it.
Number two. Come over here to Romans six, verse 12. Number two. Try hard. Romans six and verse 12. It says, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you may obey its evil desires.” Who is not supposed to let? You! Don't let it reign. You have to try hard. Anticipate; Sister White says, “Hard, stern battles with self.” In fact, your motto is simply found in 10 two letter words. I’m going to mention one sentence. Every word in this sentence has two letters, and there's only 10 words in this sentence. ‘If’. That's a two letter word. “If it is to be, it is up to me.” If you're going to get rid of a bad habit, can your mother-in-law do it for you? Can your wife do it for you? You have to do it yourself. If it is to be, it is up to me. So you’ve got to try hard.
Number three. Establish a no habit zone. I will never ever do this again in this place. And if you happen to slip and fall, “Well I can't do it there, I made a promise to myself.” So, you know, eventually it gets wider and wider and finally there's no place to do it. “I can't smoke here, can't do this there. There’s no way I can overeat here. Where am I going to get this candy bar into my mouth?”
Number four. Pray. Pray hard. Pray fervently and urgently. Ken Oliver is here. My buddy Ken. Ken come on up. I want you to share with us something that happened in your family.
Well I've got an older brother, and when he was a teenager he got hooked up in smoking and well he should be, because dad was a two pack smoker a day, and we all grew up smelling and reeking the stuff. It kind of got normal. We didn't think much about it, but as we got older it became a habit of my older brother. Well through the years as he got married and had kids, he realized that it was really hurting him, because not only did it bother him socially because he didn't dare, he didn't like to go out to any social event because he smelled smoky, and it was bothering his kids too because his kids were in school and in church and all that and he just wouldn't hardly go, because everybody knew that he smokes. Well, he tried and tried for years to quit. He quit one time for a whole year and one of his kids got playing around and got hurt and that did it. He went back to smoking, and he said the first drag off the cigarette was something that was just like it happened yesterday. He had the craving the whole year and couldn't get rid of it. It was just there. So years went on and one day, of course I'd met Don here a few years and he came over to the shop one day and my brother happened to come walking in and he was smoking a cigarette, and I introduced them. And Don said, “Well, I see you smoke.” And Julian said, “Yeah.” He said, “I smoke.” He said, “I’ll smoke till I die.” He said, “I’ve tried to quit several times.” He said, “It's bad.” He said, “But I can't quit. I just can't.” And Don just looked at him and said, “Well I’ll pray for you.” “Yeah, well ok.” So, a couple of weeks later he was there again and Don happened to be there and brother came in smoking and Don looked at him and he said, “Well, I see you haven't quit.” He says, “No.” He said, “I ain’t quit.” He said, “If I did, I’d probably get fat.” He said, “So that’d be just as bad as smoking,” he said, “so I'll smoke till I die.” He said, “That’ll probably be what kills me.” Don just looked at him and said, “Well. I'll pray for you.” Well it went on for three or four weeks, and all of a sudden one day he was up in his backyard and he pulled out his cigarette and put it in his mouth and he lit it up. He took a drag off of it and he said, “That was the nastiest thing I ever put in my mouth.” He said, “It hurt so bad.” He said, “It tasted bad,” and he said, “I looked at it and I took another drag off of it and it tastes worse.” He said, “I dropped it down,” and he says, “That was it. The desire was gone.” He said, “I laid the cigarettes down and I never picked another one up.” And the two-part fold of this thing was that he didn't get overweight. God had given him the victory over cigarettes and the victory over not gaining weight over it and he doesn't smoke today. He is really more faithful going to church. He’s a deacon at the church. He takes part. And it’s helped his kids and it’s helped me cause I see that thing every day and I marvel at the miracle that God gave him over that cigarette.
A true story. I enjoyed praying for him. You know, prayer works. You need to pray yourself and you need to get people praying for you. You can quit! You don't have to go to damnation through your bad habit.
Number five. Replace your habit with something positive. Replace your evil habit with something positive. OK? Don't focus on not doing it, but focus on something better that you going to replace it with. Instead of thinking about that, missing that piece of chocolate cake or that chocolate cookie, instead of thinking about that, think about how good it's going to feel to take a long walk without huffing and puffing. Think about the positive things and replace your habit with something positive in your life.
Number six. Reward yourself. Once you've gone a week or so with no more swear words or whatever the habit is, buy yourself a book, or go shopping. Spend five dollars, or six. Eat at a favorite restaurant. Whatever wholesome activity that makes you happy.
Number seven. If you slip, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself. Don't think, “Well, I slipped. It’s over. I'm going to die smoking a cigarette. I'll die of lung cancer, I guess.” Forgive yourself and go on. Pick yourself up. Try again. Your efforts haven't been wasted. You haven't lost much ground. Just keep at it. With every genuine attempt, you make yourself stronger. Keep at it. You can do it.
Number eight. 30 days. Focus on changing that bad habit for 30 days. Stop it for 30 days. That helps you to modify. That helps you to reset the automatic programs in your mind. If you can do it for 30 days, you're probably going to make it. And most of what we do are habits. We do the same things today that we did yesterday, that we did the day before, on Thursday. So chart your progress on a calendar. A month is 30 days, and mark, put a star on there for each time that you were successful, and do it for 30 days, and after that, you’ve pretty well, you've decreased your chances of going back to the old life.
Number nine. Remove the trigger. You know, every gun has a trigger. Take the trigger off of the gun. Now what do I mean by that? You see, before we actually carry out a bad habit we pull the trigger. A trigger is a short ritual that you perform before you do what you don't want to do. Let's suppose it's eating. Well, you approach the refrigerator. Remove that trigger. That's forbidden ground. Except at 7 a.m. when I eat breakfast and 12 noon and six, I don't go near that thing. Remove the trigger. Whatever it is. Find the trigger or triggers and eliminate them, one by one. Trash them. Clean out your bookshelves. Maybe it’s a book or maybe it's a magazine that you subscribe to or that you get at the newsstand. Whatever it is that triggers you, ditch it. Clean out your refrigerator. Cancel your TV channels on that thing that you watch that triggers your sinful behavior. Ruthlessly eradicate from your life any and all triggers that you can find.
Number 10. Visualize the new you. You're going to be a new person. Think about how you will be, without this habit. See the new you. See the new life. Feel the new life. Hear the sounds of success. Hear the compliments. “Oh, you're looking so much different.” “You don't act that way anymore.” Just imagine your new life and how great it feels to have made this change. Feel the new freedom that you have in your life. Feel how proud you will be of yourself. Experience what you think God would feel about you.
Ephesians chapter 4, verse 22 says, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” You've got to kill those desires and the Lord will help you. He really will. Your life is in your hands. Nobody can save you against your will. Not even Jesus. So it's up to you.
And I want to close with Philippians, chapter four. Philippians 4, verse 13. I want you to look at the very first word of that verse. Philippians 4, verse 13. Look at the first word. There is the key. It says, “I can do all things through,” Who? “Christ.” So you've got a dynamic duo here. You’ve got your best efforts linked with the awesome power of Jesus Christ. Those two put together, your going to win. It’s going to happen. You are going to break that bad habit. The good life is just a choice away. You have to make that choice and you can through Jesus Christ, Who strengthens you. So choose Jesus and Jesus will give you strength. He'll change your whole life. He'll give you victory in the battle over this tiny island, which is not Iwo Jima. It’s your brain. Your mind. You can replace your thoughts with good thoughts. You can clean out the evil, dark, black thoughts that have infested your mind by pouring in the good, pure, clean thoughts of God. So I invite you to give your vice to Christ, and He will help you.
I tell you, we need a Savior. We need a Savior from our sins. We really do. In Times Like These, We Need A Savior. So we want to sing our closing hymn at this time.
Dear father in heaven. The devil has sent his troops to conquer us and drag us down with evil habits. But You have sent Your Son to die for us and be our Savior from these habits. The choice is ours. Dismiss us with victory. With determination to be overcomers through Jesus Christ and His awesome, mighty power. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #250, O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing Scripture: Psalm 51:2,7-10 Hymn of Response: #593, In Times Like These
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 6/29/09