by Erwin W. Lutzer
Do you have a habit you've been trying to break? Have you tried many times to stop the behavior, only to succumb to rationalization or old patterns? Do you excuse your behavior because you're just human or because everyone else is doing it? Are you convinced that you'll never be able to change?
God can change people, but always on His terms. Before you can take steps toward positive change, there are three basic conditions you must accept. If you falter in accepting any one of them, you will not progress toward freedom from your sinful habit.
1. You must believe that God is good. Because of the evil that exists in the world, the goodness of God is one of the most difficult doctrines to accept. Yet unless you wholeheartedly believe in it, you are paralyzed in your Christian growth. It is no surprise that Satan's first move in the Garden of Eden was to cause Eve to doubt the goodness of God-that He did not have her best interests at heart. Satan uses similar strategy to make us dissatisfied with God's will for us. Anger at circumstance and rebellion against God's commandments stem from a lack of confidence in God's goodness.
If you doubt God's goodness you will not want to change. You'll be convinced that God wants to rob you rather than enrich you.
If you accept the fact that God is good, you can surrender to Him without reservation and you will thirst for change.
2. You are fully responsible for your behavior. People are born with a propensity to avoid blame, inventing excuses for their misbehavior. In the Garden God asked Adam, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" Adam responded, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." Adam first blamed God and then Eve. Both Eve and Adam made a choice and bore full responsibility for their choice.
Each person is responsible for his/her own actions. No one makes you drink, take drugs, be promiscuous, or gives you an ulcer. These behavioral patterns are not caused by circumstances but rather by your response to circumstances. And even in those instances when you are propelled by passions seemingly beyond your control, you still do the choosing.
Take responsibility. As you assume responsibility for your sin you find that you are a candidate for God's mercy and power. God did not create you as a victim of your circumstance, nor even as the slave of your genetic makeup. You can rise above your past and need not be pushed into any mold-whether it be one of environment or heredity.
3. You must believe that deliverance is possible. To Adam and Eve, who sinned flagrantly, God made a promise that Satan's power would be crushed: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen. 3:15). Victory over sin and Satan is a possibility for the Christian. You cannot plead that your case is special. Your basic struggle against the passions of the world, your sinful nature, and Satan are the same as those others have faced (1 Cor. 10:13).
God will give you the resources to cope with all temptations. He supplies the needed strength. If you say, I know what I have to do, but can't, God is ready to send you His people, His strength, and His hope.
From How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit by Erwin W. Lutzer.
Copyright (c) 1979, 1994 by SP Publications, Inc.
Used by permission of Chariot Victor Publishing, a division of
Cook Communications, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Erwin W. Lutzer is senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.
Dr. Lutzer's other books include Living with Your Passions,
Managing Your Emotions, Satan's "Evangelistic" Strategy for this New Age,
Overcoming the Grasshopper Complex, Growing Through Conflict,
and Keep Your Dream Alive.