Habits Part V

Ps Dermot Cottuli
24 March 2019

Excerpt

“Aside from uncontrollable life events, where you are today and the person you’ve become, is a result of the habitual things YOU do, day in and day out.”

“Your habits are key to who you are and the change you want.”

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us”

“Change the bricks you’re building your life with and you’ll change the house you end up living in.”

Download PDF – Habits Pt IV

Habits to help you flourish through 2019 and beyond. – Part V

Ps Dermot

Aside from uncontrollable life events, where you are today and the person you’ve become, is a result of the habitual things YOU do, day in and day out.

“Your habits are key to who you are and the change you want.”

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us”

Change the bricks you’re building your life with and you’ll change the house you end up living in.

A few weeks back we had a bit of fun describing what the perfect Christian looks like. As I mentioned it’s a waste of time worrying about the habits you want to work into your life if you have no idea where it is that you want to end up. All habits take you somewhere so you need to be sure that the destination your habits are taking you to is where you want to go. We looked at the characteristics that Jesus and Paul along with Peter identified as being needed in a person’s life if they were to experience life to the full. We realised that most of the characteristics described stemmed from habitual behaviours that were engaged in day in and day out.

For those who missed that message here’s what we came up with for a person who actually does what the Bible encourages them to do.

They will be a person who prays constantly, gives thanks all the time, obeys the commands of Jesus to love God and others, spends time studying what God has said, looks for opportunities to do good, tenderly cares for the weak, warns the lazy, lives humbly, meets together with other Christians regularly, encourages others, lives generously, holds onto their hope, does what the Lord wants them to do. They don’t get drunk, they’re being filled with the Holy Spirit constantly, they avoid evil, they don’t give up, and are growing in faith, goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love.

So if you want a life that ’s characterised by peace, faith, hope, kindness, love, resilience, generosity, goodness, humility, joy and strength. A life that’s a breath of fresh air to everyone who comes in contact with you, a life that pleases the heart of God and leaves a mark on eternity, then you’re in the right place this morning.

The key that unlocks all of the above is found in the habits we engage in day in and day out. As we saw in our previous messages, most of us have a problem, we’re not where we want to be in life. We see the promise and it makes the present so much worse because we’re consumed with our problems. The link between any problem and promise in your life is a simple word called process. Process simply describes the steps you need to take to move out of your problem and lay hold of the promise. The steps that will take you to the promise predominantly are made up of the habits you engage in, day in and day out.

In themselves they look kind of insignificant but as Paul so wisely told us, when we don’t give up doing good we will always end up reaping a harvest. That’s the power of good habits! It’s also the power of bad habits . . .

The last time I spoke I talked about developing the habit of being consciously aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life. I called it the super habit because it makes all the other habits so much easier to follow through with. If you weren’t here for that message can I encourage you to log onto our website and download my notes.

Today I want to talk about another habit that has the power to completely transform your world and the way you perceive it.

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably just about given up on the media and the biased reporting that disguises itself as news. The reason that the term “fake news” gets bandied around so much these days is because of the lack of impartiality often demonstrated by those reporting it. Trying to work out what the truth is, is becoming increasingly more difficult even though we have access to more information than at any other time in human history. Sorting through all the rubbish to get to the pearls buried underneath is a tiring and sometimes overwhelming task, that we can feel just isn’t worth the effort.

The problem that we’re facing isn’t new. Pontius Pilate when grilling Jesus, asked the question, “What is truth?”

John 18:37, 38
Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognise that what I say is true.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.

Jesus when talking to his disciples said that the truth would set them free.

John 8:31, 32
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Truth has always fascinated me.

The dictionary describes truth as “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” The word true means “in accordance with fact or reality”, “rightly or strictly so called; genuine, real or actual.”

Truths are the facts and beliefs that you believe to be genuine. They shape your responses to life events, your dreams for the future, your thoughts about yourself and every interaction you have with others.

The beliefs you hold to be true are incredibly powerful because they shape every aspect of your spiritual, mental and emotional life. They also have a spillover effect on your physical wellbeing as well.

Vincent Price tells the story of wandering through a marketplace one evening in China many years ago and stopping in front of a tattoo parlour to admire the various examples of tattoos displayed in the shop window. He was stunned to notice the word Loser as an example of something that a person had had tattooed on their body. Entering the shop he spoke to the tattoo artist and pointed to the picture in the window. He asked “Who would get Loser tattooed on them?” The old tattoo artist, in broken English replied, “Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind.”

The apostle Paul in Romans 12 talks about the power of our thinking to transform our lives and their outcome.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Verse 2 in the NLT version puts it like this

Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The Passion Translation puts it this way

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

In computer speak, our minds are being programmed from birth and we all follow set patterns of behaviour dictated by the programming we’re running. You can totally transform a person and what they achieve in life by changing the programming of their minds. Their expectations can change, the way they respond to others can change, their experience of life can change, their concept of themselves can change, their sense of security and peace can change. Everything that you experience as real within you and the world around you can change simply by changing the things you believe to be true about you and the world. Your thinking and your experience are inextricably linked. Inextricably simply means to be linked in a way that is impossible to disentangle or separate.

If you’ve gone through your whole life believing that you’ll never amount to anything, that you’ll just repeat your family history, that life will always hand you lemons, then that will be your reality and it will become your ongoing experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Change is possible.

Proverbs 23:7
For as he thinks within himself, so is he.

If you missed it, here it is again in Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

The bible wasn’t getting all romantic here. The writer of Proverbs is telling us that the thoughts and intentions that we have, the values that we hold onto, determine our experience of life.

The things you think upon, the beliefs you hold to be true about yourself and the world, all play a part in creating the reality that you experience.

Which leads us to the million dollar question,

“Where are we getting the truths that we are living our lives by?”

For most people this is where they come from . . .

  • Family
  • Personal experience
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Our own reasoning and deduction
  • Our successes
  • Our failures and disappointments

And everyone of the things I just listed are subjective and could be slightly off kilter or completely wrong.

Where can we find truth when everything seems so biased and subjective?

We need someone who knows everything about everything and can view it all in its entirety from both the outside and the inside without partiality.

Jesus in John 14 is having his final conversation with his disciples before his crucifixion and he touches on some things that are pertinent to what we’re talking about this morning.

John 14:6
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Verse 15-18
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

Verses 25, 26
I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Remember the passage of scripture we read out earlier

John 8:31, 32
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So here we have Jesus saying that his teachings represent the pinnacle of truth and they will lead people to life and then later on he says that the Holy Spirit will remind us of His teaching and through them lead us into all truth. That truth will then set us free. We have an incredible promise here. This is worth whatever price we have to pay to receive it. The ability to know the truth and to be truely free.

Truth is a huge issue to Jesus and one that God is deeply concerned about. So big that he said it was the reason he had come – that we might know what the truth is. He wasn’t talking about photosynthesis in plants or how many planets were in our solar system, he was talking about much weightier and important issues such as the character of God and His heart toward His creation, our identity and what we mean to our Creator. He talked about the things we needed to do if wanted to experience life in all its fullness.

So the question is . . .

“Where can we find this truth and what does this have to do with our habits?

I’m glad you asked.

Every day presents us with an opportunity to become more aware of the truth and to allow that truth to influence our lives.

Unknown truth has very little power to change behaviour. It won’t stop you being effected by the consequences of the truth acting on your life, but you’ll only be aware of the outcome and not why it was that you ended up where you did. If you don’t understand the power of gravity and step off a cliff it won’t stop gravity working and you reaping the outcome of your actions.

The person who lives just for themselves may wonder why there aren’t people in their lives wanting to help them and often you’ll hear them criticising others and blaming those around them for the life they’re experiencing.

Their experience leads them to a conclusion that isn’t true. They think that the world is full of mean people who are out to get them. You even hear it happening in churches, the one place where people are hardwired to be nice to others.

But the truth is

Proverbs 11:25 (TPT)
Those who live to bless others
will have blessings heaped upon them,
and the one who pours out his life to pour out blessings will be saturated with favour.

So the truth is that it’s not that others are mean and self absorbed, it’s that I’m not living to be a blessing to others and that’s why my experience isn’t all it could be.

But as I mentioned earlier, if you don’t know this truth it won’t change your perception of the world around you and you won’t experience all that life has for you. Your current thinking will continue to direct your life and consequently the outcomes that you experience.

The number one repository of truth is found within the pages of your bible, in the teachings of Jesus, the books written after his resurrection and the wisdom books from the Old Testament, the books of Proverbs, Psalms, Job, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.

The habit that will take the truth that Jesus was talking about and allow it to transform your life is daily reading of, or listening to, writings from the Bible. Consider it your daily reprogramming and overwriting of faulty past programming.

Jesus’ teaching are the clearest depiction we have for right living that leads to flourishing, and also God’s love for His creation which totally transforms our feelings of self-worth and the way we treat others.

If you make a daily habit of spending time reading and memorising the bible it will transform your life and in doing so, transform your experience of life itself. It’s not rocket science and it’s not difficult.

Simply set aside time twice each day for the reading of your Bible.

Why twice a day??

Dr Matthew Walker, author of the NY Times best selling book, Why We Sleep. Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California Berkley and Director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science, along with his team have discovered some fascinating data about sleep and the way it effects our memory.

They’ve found that studying immediately after you wake up is far better for the absorption of information (in fact if you pull an all nighter your ability to recall information drops by 40%) and studying just before sleep ensures that when you’re sleeping the data that you last took in is filed away the best. During sleep you shift memories from the Hippocampus, the vulnerable short term storage reservoir of your brain (which according to Dr Walker, holds about 16 hours of data before it fills up) and you move them out to the cortex, the long term storage site of the brain. The last things you take in before sleeping are the strongest memories that your unconscious mind has to work with and so they become quite crucial in the formation of long term memory.

So if you want to get the very most out of your study of the Bible and your pursuit of truth, spend the first part of your day and the last part of your day in its pages. I’m not talking hours here either. Because this is going to become a life habit. It’s going to have a cumulative effect over your life so the key here isn’t how much time you spend doing it but rather that you do it consistently. But you do need to concentrate. This isn’t just a brief scanning over of a chapter. This is consciously engaging with the text and the Holy Spirit asking Him to speak to you from what you’re reading.

Every time you do, you’re laying down new code or reinforcing old code that you’ve already established so that when life calls for a response from you, you’ll find yourself going down a biblical path optimised for human flourishing rather than a historical one if that historical one was faulty in the first place.

Psalm 119:9-11
How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying your word.
I have tried hard to find you—
don’t let me wander from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

You can’t obey what you don’t know. If you’re ignorant of the truth it won’t stop you from experiencing the consequences of contravening it so it’s far better to know the truth and be free to choose the path your feet take.

Make a habit of reading your bible every day and you will go a long way to ensuring you are living the type of life that is the very best for you.