This is the second of three messages under the heading of “Undoing”, meaning, God’s ability to undo all those things that are tangled and messed up in life. Are there some rock solid principles that God uses to undo the past and build something wonderful in it’s place?
Okay, we’ve all got them. Bad habits. Some of them are kind of innocuous. They may be irritating, but not really toxic. I have one that drives the church staff, and my family, crazy.
I click pens. Yeah, I’ve pretty well been banned from having them. Pastor Mark, with his sensitive ears is particularly sensitive to this. See, if I’m thinking about something it just helps me to do something sensory. So it goes like this. I’m at my place at staff meeting. We’re in deep discussion about something. I’m thinking and praying quietly and then it happens. The funny thing is that I don’t even notice. Until someone says, Uh, Bruce…, and then I stop. I usually have to toss the pen to someone else to guard and get a stick pen, because I’m going to start it all over again.
And then there’s the bouncy chair thing, the tapping my fingers thing and a couple of others. Those are kind of innocent though, and hopefully they don’t ruin anything or anyone’s quality of life. My family’s integrity is not challenged by these. Maybe my personal safety… but that’s another issue entirely.
But what if my habit involves opiates, alcohol, tobacco, sex, violence or something else? And I’m lying, stealing and abusing others because of it? Ah, that’s not just a bad habit, it’s an addiction. It’s toxic. And it’s crushing the people around me. I’ve dealt with all of those things in people I’ve ministered to over the years. Whole families skewed out of shape, lives in ruins, for generations, because of those kind of habits.
Can they be dealt with and done? We spend billions on treating these addictions. But are those treatments successful? Sometimes, always with great difficulty. But is there a freedom from bad habits that we can see in the Scriptures? And are there some principles we can learn for ourselves and others? Yes.
Acts 9.7-9 says:
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Habit breaking principle #1: Healing begins when you know that you can’t go on like this.
You’ve heard the term, reaching rock bottom?
Saul reached rock bottom rather suddenly, don’t you think? God Himself confronted Saul. He knocked him to the ground with a blinding light. And a Voice. And a confrontation with the Almighty that left him physically blind, realizing for the first time that he had been spiritually blind all this time. And for the first time, Saul knew that he couldn’t go on like he had been going on.
You can’t break a life habit until you’ve reached that same point. No more excuses. The dead end, it’s my fault, I’ve been totally wrong and I can’t fix it, point. Physical blindness wasn’t the greatest concern on Saul’s mind. The greater concern was that he was totally given over to something totally wrong.
Habit breaking principle #2: You cannot break a habit or addiction alone.
The men who journeyed with Saul? They stood speechless themselves, having heard a voice but seeing no one. I think they were pretty transformed too, but this is Saul’s story.
But catch this. Saul couldn’t go on. But these men led him by the hand into Damascus. From the very beginning of his journey to transformation, undoing what he had been doing so passionately, he needed others. Other humans. And in particular, other humans that God specifically sent.
Acts 9.9-17 says:
10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”
And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” 13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
There are those who have been prepared by God and sent to you in order to help you. But here’s the humbling thing. Even someone you used to think jailworthy is the very one God is going to use. What does it require of you to be free enough to allow people in to actually help you? Humility. You used to think you’re just too good for them. But now, they, he, she, are the keys to your freedom.
Habit breaking principle #3: You need to be taught new ways of thinking over time.
Time is the great equalizer. And it is what you need to build on. Because if Saul has this experience on Sunday and by Wednesday he’s up to his old antics, it won’t be pretty. You have to put more and more time between you and that habit, that addiction. I agree with those who will tell you, if it’s honest, “I’ve been 3 years sober.” for example. It’s good to count the days. But while you’re counting, you need to replace the old with the new. That’s why you need people to instruct you over time.
The disciples in Damascus, and I’m assuming that one of those was his new best friend Annanias, did nothing but teach him and pray with him. I’m picturing his reactions. Oh, that’s what that means. How could I have been missing that? Imagine re reading the Bible and seeing all these truths. They replace his old thinking.
Habit breaking principle #4: You need to receive power from God.
The power to change originates, not from within, not from friends, but from God Himself.
Ananias laid his hands on Saul, but it wasn’t Ananias who was responsible for what happened next. Ananias prayed alright, but the Holy Spirit flooded Saul’s soul. Immediately this blind man was healed physically and filled with the Holy Spirit. You can do nothing unless the power of God is at work in you. You can’t. Jesus said “Apart from Me you can do _______ !”Undoing begins and ends with God. We didn’t talk about other factors, including good healthy food and even demonic influence, but suffice it to say, as we did last week: Undoing begins and ends with God.
Do you or someone you love, have a life dominating habit? If you look closely, there’s always something that the Lord is working on. These same principles apply. And the result will be the undoing of what’s wrong and replacing it with what’s right.