Today I would like to deal with an altogether mundane issue, one that sometimes annoys us, occasionally bothers us, but is otherwise not a very big blip on our radar screen; habits. We all have them. Whether it’s digging our noses in public, or poking fun at others, or making sure that everything on the table is aligned to perfect right angles; we all have niggly things that we do unconsciously. We try to change the ones we don’t like, but somehow, our habits have become so second nature to us that we commit them without even so much as realizing that we do.

But have you ever wondered how habits develop? By definition, habits are behaviors that are repeated regularly and tend to occur unconsciously. So how did they begin? If you have ever observed children, you will realize that habits start off as conscious actions. Children see someone do something on the tele and they want to copy their behavior. It could be a manner of speech, or a physical quirk. Whatever it is, they see it, they like it, so they follow after it.

Now, when they have picked up something new, they want to show off their new skill in front of their friends. And if their friends like it, they will repeat it, thinking that it makes them popular and ‘cool’ amongst their peers. Think kid who likes to annoy others at the canteen table with sounds made by his body. But you see, there’s the rub. Everyone else can see that those actions are annoying, everyone but him; because all he sees is that his actions get attention from others, and he likes that. So over time, he becomes conditioned by the world, moulded by the things around him, and that action becomes a conforming habit, something he does so often that it becomes unconscious. Not very intelligent, it is?

“With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” Romans 12:1-2 [Phillips]
Isn’t it interesting that Paul alludes to the fact that the very act of worship can become a habit? He calls us to give ‘intelligent worship’ to our Father, implying that there could be worship that is not so intelligent. And if we think about it, there is.

If you have been to a church long enough, you would have settled into their rhythm. There is a certain order to the worship proceedings and the message will be preached in a certain way. There will be particular hymns sung at certain times and rituals performed at particular junctures. And it all gets increasingly familiar until… it becomes a habit. Think about certain routines that you do in church. Do you pay much attention to them? Or do you go through the motions? Do you understand why you are even engaging in their practice? Or have you been squeezed into a mould without realizing it?

Now, I am in no way saying that routines are bad. They have a place and it makes parishioners feel safe and comfortable. But wouldn’t you agree that something is wrong if you are not even aware of what you are doing? When you say grace before a meal, do you mouth certain words time and time again, so much so that it becomes a habit and you don’t think about what you are saying? When you pray in the morning or during your quiet time, do you just go through your routine like you are running through a checklist? Has quiet time become a check list item for you?

Really, the best way to find out if your routine has become a habit is to change it and see if you are still comfortable. After all, whether you are worshiping in church A or B, you should still be worshiping the same God. So it should feel no less comfortable one way or the other. For make no mistake, worship, as Paul describes it, should be a conscious and deliberate act of consecrating yourself to our Father.

Think of it as going home to visit the folks. When you do go home after spending time away in the big city, do you still plug yourself into your computer like you would back home, or do you take yourself away from your daily routine and spend some real quality time with your folks? You would sit and talk with them, listen to what they have to say and share your stories with them, wouldn’t you? So should it be the same whenever we spend time with our Father, for isn’t that what worship really is? Or is worship just about singing a bunch of songs and reading from a really old book?

Now, what if you just realized that your worship, like your other routines, has become a habit? What then? Well, beloved, it’s simple, really, start being conscious of what you are doing, again.

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 [AMPC]

Make a decisive dedication of your very body, and all that is connected with it, to Him. That means, don’t just be there ‘with the lights on but no one’s home’; be there completely, awake, conscious of everything that is going on and be thinking about what you are doing, what you are saying and most importantly, what He is saying to you. In the same way that you just don’t fall asleep in front of Grandpa when he’s talking to you because it’s just plain rude, don’t fall asleep in your mind, or worse, in your body, in front of God when you worship.

And in terms of your other habits, that also means that as you go about your business day to day, be equally conscious of each and every thing that you are doing, word that you are saying, gesture that you are performing, and ask yourself what exactly are you doing, and why are you saying the things that you are. That is the first step to breaking bad habits, be they bad habits in worship, or bad habits in behavior. For when you are perfectly conscious and deliberate in all that you do, you cannot possibly

“…be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs]…” Romans 12:2 [AMPC]

UNLESS you consciously want to be.

Now, once you are aware of everything that you are doing, once you are being deliberate about each and every action, you will start to realize that there are things that you are doing that you just don’t like. That is when you are being

“…transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude],…” Romans 12:2 [AMPC]

When you are conscious of all that you are doing and letting Him show you the flaws in your habits, you are letting Him

“…re-mould your minds from within,…” Romans 12:1 [PHILLIPS]

And when you do, you will be able to

“…discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 [ESV]

You see, when you

“…Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it….” Romans 12:2 [MSG]

“…God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2 [MSG]

And your age old dilemma of ‘what does God want me to do’ and ‘is this what God really wants from me’ and ‘is this from God’ will all disappear. Because now, after He has filled you with His wisdom and revealed to you His paths, you will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, just what His ways are. And how can that happen if you are not even conscious of what you are doing?

So then, once you have identified areas and habits that needs changing, what do you do next?

“Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all.” Romans 12:3 [PHILLIPS]
Don’t “misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Romans 12:3 [MSG]
Get rid of that ego and stop thinking that you can change that habit on your own. Think about it, before you took the deliberate step to be conscious of your actions, before you decided that you no longer wanted to be ‘lights on but no one’s home’, you didn’t even realize you had those bad habits. So do you think you can change it on your own steam, by your own strength? If you could, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.

But this is where the unfathomable love of our Father for us, the immeasurable love of Jesus for us, is manifest.

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:18

Beloved child of God, because you have put your faith in Jesus, because you have received Him into your life; you have received full remission of sins by His blood, you have been set free from the bondage of sin by His death, and you are now living a new life in Him by His rising again.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

And that means that you are a good tree. Sure, your fruit may have dropped and rolled in the mud for a bit. Sure, the factory next to you may have been spewing smoke from its chimneys and the soot has covered your fruit. But that does not make your fruit bad. Wash your fruit with the word in the same way that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, for why were only the feet washed?

“Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean…” John 13:10

Jesus has made you clean. But when you walk down life’s road, the dust of this world gets on your feet, so once in a while, you just need to give your feet a rinse with The Word, remind yourself of His love for you and how right He has made you with our Father, and you’ll be alright.

So be conscious of everything that you are doing. Don’t go about your day in a daze. When you spend time with our Father, be present, so that you can benefit from His leading. After all, it would be rude of you to be there only in body but not in spirit. And when you find bad habits in your life that you want to kick, remember,

1. Turn it over to Jesus.
2. Remove your ego and follow His lead.
3. Rest in the fact He has made you a good tree, and you WILL bear good fruit.

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