Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Turning from bad habits . . . ........................... Parables 180

August 30, 1989

My mother was thirteen years old when she tried her first cigarette. She was forty-something when she smoked her last. Now, in her seventies, she confesses she was years fighting the desire to start again.

It wasn’t easy for her to quit, as any smoker will testify. Any habit is difficult to break, especially one that seems to give a measure of calm to the nerves or comfort to the body.

When mom decided to quit, she analyzed her habit. When did she crave a smoke the most? She decided it was right after meals and before she did the dishes. (A stack of dirty dishes from a farm family of six, plus whoever else may have been there, might send anyone into a bad habit!)

Now some who enjoy doing dishes might head right to the sink and forget things like cigarettes, but mom felt a need of a break right about then. However, she decided the only way to beat the craving was not to forsake her short time of relaxation and get at the dishes, but sit down anyway and do something else with her hands. So instead of picking up a white cylinder of nicotine, she took out some longer cylinders -- knitting needles and crochet hooks.

Over a dozen crocheted table clothes, uncountable sweaters, afghans and the like mark her success at breaking the habit and give visible evidence that her lungs have been cleared. She is to be commended.

Actually, mom’s idea originated in the Bible. Some call it the principle of replacement -- putting off an undesirable habit, trait, or characteristic by putting on something else. The New Testament first deals with something very basic that we need to get rid of -- our sinful nature.

Mom may have been able to go to a craft store and pick up a replacement for her problem, but picking up a new nature isn’t that easy. Stores don’t sell them. Self-help books and seminars try, but they don’t do anything more than dress up the old one. Resolutions or turning over a new leaf or trying harder may make some changes, however we cannot change who and what we are all by ourselves. Back to the Manufacturer we must go. The One who created us in the first place can restore us to the condition He originally intended. He does it through what the Bible calls regeneration, that is, the bestowal of new life, the life of His Son, into those who place their faith in Him.

The Apostle Paul referred to it this way, “Those who are in Christ Jesus are new creations; old things have passed away, all things are become new.” The life of Christ replaces the old nature, thus a Christian has a new nature, but is not automatically without sin. The old nature is still able to draw believers into sin. Part of the problem are those enslaving habits that may have formed before regeneration took place. This is where the replacement principle again comes in. Paul wrote, “Now put off the old nature which is corrupt... and put on the new nature which is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

He goes on to give some examples: “Don’t lie -- speak the truth. Don’t steal -- work so you have something to give to others in need. Don’t speak foul words -- say words that minister grace to your hearers. Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice -- and be kind to others, tenderhearted, forgiving even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (See Ephesians 4)

The key is concentration on the new. Trying not to do the old habit gets us nowhere but frustrated. Begin with asking God for new life, then take up the challenge of being truthful, hard working, generous, gracious, kind, tender, forgiving -- and we won’t have time for the other things!

The results? Paul calls it “an eternal weight of glory” and an “inheritance that is incorruptible and will never fade away.” Sounds even better than table clothes and sweaters!

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