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Changing The Habits Of A Lifetime

Colossians 3:7-8
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (NIVUK)

’Walking’ is one of the ways Bible writers describe living and lifestyle.  Paul, Peter and John all use Greek words that describe day-to-day living as personal step-by-step travelling.  Non-Christians ‘walk’ alone to their own satisfaction and towards their judgement.  The Christian walks in company with the Lord who is always there to lead and guide (Matthew 28:20), teaching them to turn away from sin and embrace holiness.  

We all have a track record of wrong behaviour, with bad habits of thinking, speaking and behaving.  But when we start to walk with Christ, we realise those things must change (Ephesians 5:8).  When we see how much He hates our old self-serving attitude, the sin for which He died, He gives us new desires to please Him and the ability to do so (Isaiah 26:12; Philippians 2:13).  However, some people believe that whatever we think, say or do is acceptable to God, because He loves us.  Others will take that further to say that because God wants us to be happy, He understands our need for personal satisfaction and supports whatever route to happiness we choose.  That is not true: although He loves us, He does not expect us to go back to the old ways which took Him to the cross (Isaiah 59:1-8).  That would abuse His loving grace (Romans 6:1-2).  

One of the first evidences of real faith is in the way we react to difficulty.  Anger and rage show our rebellious nature, frustrated that we cannot get our own way; they are signs that we do not believe that God holds the key to every locked door.  Malice wants bad things to happen to others, and slander is a way to make ourselves look good by making others look bad (Ephesians 4:31).   Filthy language is the overflow of an impure heart that is out of control (Matthew 15:19).  Changing these reactions is not automatic.  Habits are hard to break.  They are formed over time and become part of the comfortable furniture of our lives, especially those habits we rely on to feel safe.  But they must go.

The verse says, "Rid yourselves ...": it is a personal responsibility to cooperate with the Lord.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and then helps us to change our attitude as we realise that our ungodly behaviour is wrong.  The Holy Spirit convicts and motivates us ... we decide to change ... He helps us ... and we take action.  In that way we learn to walk in step with Him (Galatians 5:24-25).  A practical way to start is to repent every time you fall back into the old reactions; be honestly accountable to a good Christian friend; delight yourself in the Lord and be still before Him.  Then trust in Him and replace those old reactions with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - the evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in your life (Galatians 5:22-23).

Righteous God. Thank You for walking with me. But I am sorry that I often react to problems and difficulties in an ungodly way, not trusting that You are in command of everything. Help me to recognise my wrong habits and trust in Your ability to keep me safe and provide for me, despite people and circumstances which oppose me. Please fill me again with Your Holy Spirit so that I may be confident in Your love and bold to break bad habitual reactions. And please minister Your healing to those who have been injured by my wrong reactions in the past, so that they too may enjoy Your love. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams