10 Principles for Overcoming Stubborn Habits

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© 2003 Boyd Stevens Publications | Published by RU Recovery Ministries | Rockford, IL  61104


Principle One

If God’s against it, so am I!

Galatians 5:19-24

Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works (deeds) of the flesh (humans) are manifest (revealed), which are these; Adultery (sex with other than your wife), fornication (sex outside of marriage), uncleanness (sexual impurity), lasciviousness (sexual excess), Idolatry (things in your life that are more important than God), witchcraft (sorcery), hatred, variance (causing strife or discord), emulations (being jealous), wrath (sinful anger), strife (selfish ambition), seditions (dissentions), heresies (organized divisions or cliques), Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings (excessive eating) and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Throughout the Bible, we see passages indicating behavior that God is against. He has asked that we avoid behaving in this way. He warns that participating in certain behavior will bring sorrow, punishment, and can even lead to a shorter life. We have seen this to be true in not only our own lives, but in the lives of many others as well. It is called the law of sowing and reaping. This simple law says if you sow (or spread) destructive behavior, you will reap (or receive) destruction in your life. But if you spread good behavior patterns, you will receive blessings from God.

The Bible was written to tell us what is right, what is not right, how to get right, and how to stay right. If God’s intention was to inform us of what is, what is not, how to get and how to stay right, then it is our responsibility to conform each area of our lives that is revealed to be wrong. He will help us to do this. He gives new believers His Spirit and a hunger to be right.
This new presence and new desire for good is what God uses to mold our new Christian character. If we draw a line and do not overstep this line of behavior that is considered by God to be wrong, then He will reveal more and more things that He would like to change in our lives. As we continue to adopt these revelations of God’s will for us, we will find ourselves farther and farther from the original line (which is to not indulge in our addiction). Eventually, we will find ourselves so far from our original line in the sand, so to speak, that even when we have a bad day, the thought of using or engaging in our addiction is not even a remote possibility. This is a joyous place to be.

To this end, we see that all who want to be unanimously reformed in their lives must accept Christ’s offer for salvation first and foremost. Then they must draw a line and say, “If God is against it, so am I!”



Principle Two

Every sin has its origin in our hearts.

Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 4:23, Romans 13:14

Before I came to Christ, I tried to overcome my addictions over and over again through regular attendance at group meetings in society. I would spend hours upon hours sulking in my coffee, smoking cigarettes, and discussing my endless desire to drink. Sound familiar? Why didn’t this type of activity help me?

Ephesians 5:11-12 reminds us to … “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” Our sins of the past must be forgotten . To meditate and discuss them openly only gives place to the devil. I decided a long time ago I would rather tell people what God has done for me than to tell people what I had done to God.

Constant meditation (thinking) on our desire to fulfill a fleshly lust will ultimately lead to acting out our desire. If we’re fortunate to avoid it physically, we will seldom avoid it mentally. Proverbs 23:7 reads, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” For me to avoid the seemingly unending desire to fulfill my desire to feed my addiction, I needed to discipline myself to avoid talking about it (in a desirous way) and avoid thinking about it. By thinking about it, I was actually making it easy for myself to do wrong. Romans 13:14 states, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

I saw an old friend at a local grocery store. He had heard that I had stopped using drugs and had “found religion”. I explained how Jesus had changed my life and given me power over my addictions to both drugs and alcohol. He exclaimed his gladness and went on to tell me that he had been sober for three weeks. He had finally quit his job that led to after-hours drinking and had moved out of his buddy’s house (who liked to have drinking parties regularly). Realizing these were both good first steps, I encouraged him to visit church and offered to pick him up. He gave me the address. Unfortunately, the young man had chosen to take up residence in an apartment that was directly adjacent to a popular bar in town. He never made it to church. Why did this man fail in his recovery? He made it easy for himself to do wrong. Even if he never left his house, the constant sounds of the music in the bar beneath him would never let the thought of drinking leave his mind!!

You see, the heart can accustom itself to sin. An act that once would seem terrible and undeniably wrong can, by contemplating it too often, become attractive. Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Everything I ever searched for in life—the important issues of life: Love, Joy, Peace, Happiness, Friendship, Financial Freedom—were always witheld from me during my times of addiction. Why was that? Because the important issues of life are given by God and He never entrusts them to those who do not work hard (diligent) to keep (guard) their hearts from being hardened from the deceitfulness of sin.

Remember, before you ever did it, you thunk it!!!



Principle Three

It is easier to keep the heart clean than it is to clean it after it has been defiled.

Proverbs 22:3 & 6:27-28

Oh, what a truth this is! When my wife and I were first married, I had quite a few lessons to learn. I was a 28-year-old bachelor and was not accustomed to cleaning up after myself. My favorite meal was Chili-n-Fries Surprise (the recipe is available for a small charge). My wife refused to cook it because of the extreme mess that the grease and chili sauce would make on her white stove. I was forced to suffer. However, a friend of my wife’s asked her to work a few hours every Monday afternoon at her beauty supply store. She consented and I was left to fend for myself in order to obtain dinner on Monday nights. Praise the Lord, Chili-n-Fries Surprise! In my desire to consume this long awaited meal, I overlooked the cleaning of the stove. When the next Monday rolled around, I found the chili sauce and grease stains from the previous week’s delicatessen still splattered on my wife’s stove. It was gross, and there was no way I could prepare a meal on this filth. When my wife arrived home later that evening, I asked her when she was planning on cleaning the stove. BIG MISTAKE. Our first fight. I learned a valuable lesson that night. After an hour of scrubbing, I learned it is easier to keep a kitchen stove clean than to clean it after it has been stained.

This is the same truth we are taught in the Bible. Over and over again we are faced with examples of people who chose to associate with sin with hopes that it would not lead them to a sinful condition. Lot was a righteous man (II Peter 2:8) yet he chose to associate with ungodly men (Psalm 1:1a), he had day to day contact with sin (Psalm1:1b), and he allowed the people around him to decay into moral wickedness with no good use for God (Psalm 1:1c). Yes, Lot’s life was ultimately spared by God. However, he in no way prospered (Psalm 1:3). The last we hear of him, he is getting drunk and committing terrible sins (Genesis 19). How can this mistake be avoided in your life? Follow these two simple verses:

Proverbs 22:3, “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

Proverbs 6:27-28, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?”

Remember: If you do what you’ve always done, then you will be what you’ve always been.

Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues (important things) of life.”



Principle Four

It is not possible to fight a fleshly appetite by indulging in it.

Ecclesiastes 5:10, James 1:14-15

Disregarding this principle has caused such great pain and failure for many years. It is also this very same principle that God will bring to our remembrance every time we feel like indulging in any fleshly desire. This principle has done more to discourage the desire to wander than any of the others.

If the truth be known, the failure to recognize and apply this principle to our lives is usually at the core of every besetting sin.

An appetite is a dangerous thing. If disciplined, it can be controlled. If not, it can control an individual. God has given within each of His children a power to control our appetites. The need for food, drink, and sexual satisfaction are all God-given, legitimate needs. However, Satan will twist them into lusts which, when coupled with enticement, lead to a life of sin and spiritual and sometimes physical death (James 1:14-16).

Remember the old commercial that advertised KOOL cigarettes? The ad (falsely) stated that “They Satisfy”. Well if this were true, then we could all smoke one KOOL cigarette and our appetite would be satisfied and we would never need to indulge that appetite again. The truth is that KOOL cigarettes (as do all cigarettes) never satisfy you. The appetite created with indulgence will only intensify. Indulging in any fleshly appetite only makes it stronger, never weaker.

Not too long ago, I listened to a documentary on starving children in the third world. My heart was broken as the narrator explained that though the children were starving, they do not feel the hunger pains that we feel right before dinnertime. Rather, they have suppressed their appetite for so long, that their starvation is not accompanied with the pain of hunger.

It is the same way with any fleshly desire that we struggle with. Whether it be cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, overeating, adulterous thoughts, pornography, gambling, or any other crippling appetite, if we do not feed it, do not give in to it, it will die. The only way to destroy the appetite is to starve it. That is a promise from God.

So the next time you feel that urge to indulge in a sinful fleshly desire, resign yourself to just “skip that meal”. When you skip a meal, you will see that after a few minutes or hours, you have lost your appetite for that meal. You may not skip every meal, but eventually, your desire will starve itself to death and the hunger will be gone. Don’t let the devil tell you if you just have one more cigarette or just one more drink or one more chocolate bar, you will be satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 5:10, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.”



Principle Five

Small compromises lead to great disasters (otherwise known as little sins lead to big sins).

Luke 16:10, Matthew 6:24, Romans 6:16

So many students and friends of the ministry have asked me questions like this, “Brother Steve, I have stayed away from my old friends, I have stopped acting the way I used to, I even go to church at least once a week, but I still ended up engaging in my addiction. Why doesn’t this work?” Such a difficult question to the student, but such an easy answer from God.

I will usually ask them where they are in their Bible reading, scripture memory, prayer life, mid- week service attendance, witnessing, and what they are doing for service to the kingdom (bus route, cleaning the church, nursery work, helping others, etc.). Without fail, they have fallen away in almost everything. Oddly enough they have fallen away for only two to three weeks…then bang! The devil acquires a foothold.
How does this happen? Well, here’s God’s easy answer… (Read Luke 16:10) God says if we are consistent (faithful) in all the little things (questions asked earlier), we will be consistent (faithful) in the big things (remaining victorious). However, if inconsistent in the little things, we will fail in the big things. The reason is simple: God loves the little things. You see, this list of small things determines your master. You cannot serve God and earthly lusts. (Read Matthew 6:24) You will have no choice but to love one and hate the other. The more you do for God, the more you will learn to love Him. (Why do we love Him? Because He first loved us!)



Principle Six

Those who do not love the Lord will not help us serve the Lord.

John 5:18-20, Proverbs 25:15

John 15:19, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

Will my friends want anything to do with me now that I am a Christian? That was the question I asked after I gave my life to Jesus. It wasn’t long before I found the answer….if I acted like them, they would accept me. When I acted like Christ, they would reject me.

I struggled to determine the correct path. You see, I wanted Christ in my life but I also wanted Christ in my friends’ lives. If I broke my ties with my worldly friends, they would lose their opportunity to learn of Christ. So I tried to live as a child of God while hanging out with the devil’s kids. As you would expect, more often than not, they would tempted me to do the things that I did not want to do anymore. Eventually, I would give in.

It was at this time God showed me why misery loves company. You see, if I lived right and remained right, my old friends would feel guilt and shame for their behavior. But if I lived wrong, they would prove that Christ has no affect on a person’s life. The guilt for their lifestyle would be removed. They would lay the snare (temptation) and wait for me to fall. Proverbs 24:15 says “Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:” They would work hard to lure me back into the world. They wanted to see that the Christian life doesn’t work!

I found that when I got right and stayed right that they went left. However, when the law of sowing and reaping would kick in and they found themselves at the bottom, they would not look to their friends who did the things they did. Rather, they called on me. They would ask me what I did to change my life because my change was real. Others were not. What a blessing! I have been able to counsel with literally dozens of friends from the past, in God’s timing, and tell them that Christ died for their sins. It has also led to prosperity in my Christian life and blessed happiness. Just like the Bible promises in Psalm 1: 1-3, “Blessed (or Happy) is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful (listens to critical people). But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

Don’t forget it…THOSE WHO DO NOT LOVE THE LORD WILL NOT HELP YOU SERVE THE LORD!



Principle Seven

Our sinful habits do hurt those who follow us.

Romans 14:7
Have you ever wondered if anybody cared? Have you ever thought about trying something drastic to get yourself noticed? “Maybe then they would know I needed their help!”, you might say.

One of the lies from the father of lies (the devil) is that no one is watching or caring, so no one is affected by our behavior. Since the dawn of time, he has deceived us into believing that our behavior will only affect, hurt, or damage ourselves. He did it in the beginning with Eve. Little did she know that her sin would then be shared by her husband, which in turn would lead to the fall of man and woman. Little did she know that a curse would be placed on herself and her husband and all generations to follow.

The devil deceived in the life of Lot. Not realizing that having day to day contact with sinners was damaging to his family, he stubbornly left his homeland. His lack of leadership over his family led to the death of his wife and uncontrolled behavior by his daughters and himself.

The devil deceived in the life of David. Little did David know that if he stayed home from battle (where he belonged at the time) that he would suffer a temptation that would lead to adultery. The consequence would be a woman would lose her husband to a plot of murder and her son would die as a newborn infant. Over and over again in scripture we see that sinful behavior has a profound effect on those who follow us.

Who, pray tell, are the ones who follow you? That is simple: those whose lives are spent in relationship with yours. If you were to die today, would you have 100 people at your funeral? Most people would like to think so. How about 50? Or 35? Or 20? How about one? Would you have at least one person at your funeral? Yes, I believe we would all have at least one and probably closer to 100. Well, whether they actually say it to you or not, those are the people you hurt with your behavior. Those are the people affected by your sinful habit. They may not feel the pain you feel, but they feel pain. They may not say the things to you that you need said that will help you, but they think them and wish they could find the courage to say them.

Romans 14:7 says, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” Your life affects others the same way your death would affect others. Choose today to let your life have a profound effect of good on others. No matter the cost. No matter the sacrifice. Make the choice. Today and tomorrow and onward from this point, your good habits will help those who follow you. Choose today to be a regular learner at church. Choose to read your Bible. Choose to talk to God in prayer. Choose to arm yourself with memorized Bible verses that will help you overcome. Choose today to be helpful to those who come to Reformers. Choose today to make a difference in the lives of your congregation, the lives of your community, a difference in the Kingdom of God.



Principle Eight

It is not possible to fight a fleshly temptation with fleshly weapons.

II Corinthians 10:3-5, I John 4:4
Oh, so many times we have lost students either temporarily or permanently because they believed the lie of the devil that the world had something to offer their recovery. Whether it be the patch, secular counseling, evaluation of childhood, methadone, Prozac, or any other fleshly (worldly) weapon that is intended to curb our stubborn habits and inappropriate behavior, it will not (WILL NOT!) cure us of our affliction. Praise God, the battle is inside of us and that is exactly where Christ has chosen to take up residence in our lives! You see, the battle cannot be won with a fleshly (worldly weapon) because the battle is spiritual. II Corinthians 10:3-5 says… “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (fleshly), but mighty through God (spiritual) to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations (in your mind), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

It is simple to believe but hard to apply. Whenever we have a stubborn thought, we must cast it down. Remember, as a man thinks in his heart, so it he…Principle #2 says every sin has its origin in our hearts. It is our responsibility to protect our hearts with all diligence because out of the heart are the very most important issues in life. If there is going to be any good or anything worth commending come out of our lives, we must first concentrate on things that are true, honest, just, lovely, pure, and of good report (Philippians 4:8) To avoid a habitual action or reaction to your negative thoughts you must cast down the thought and bring your mind under subjection to the obedience of Christ. You will have a lot of help with this, you see, because….I John 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

The world has nothing to offer you in your quest for recovery. You can believe what you are reading or you can try the world yourself. But with Christ, all things are possible, if you only believe.



Principle Nine

We lose our freedom to choose when we give in to temptation. Our consequences are inevitable and incalculable and up to God.

Proverbs 9:17-18, Isaiah 55:7
When we first take hold of a vice, it is extremely pleasurable. At times, it may seem to be the only time we feel happy, the only time we experience any comfort in our lives. However, the Bible warns in Proverbs 20:17, “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.” You can clearly see that while deceitful and wrong actions may bring temporary pleasure, afterwards it leaves a very bad taste in your mouth. The consequences for your behavior then belong to God. Proverbs 9:17-18 indicates that “…Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.” No matter how much enjoyment we may receive from our stubborn habit or addiction, we can be sure that the consequences are never worth it.

We must realize that God is watching us. He watches every single thing we do. Prov 5:21 says… “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.” That word “ponders” means to weigh or consider. What does He consider? He considers the proper actions that should be taken against our behavior to bring a proper reaction from us. His desire is for a repentance and a dependence on Him, rather than on some vice that only brings temporal advice. Look at the warning that is given in the very next verse and ask yourself if you are in this position….vs. 22, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” This verse clearly indicates that once we grab hold of a wicked vice that it will begin to wrap itself around us. Though, at the beginning we may be able to get out of its hold, eventually, the cord will be tightened around us and we will be held in bondage with the cords of our sin. Oh, how that is what happened to me! Next is the important warning to those of us who struggle to fight back. The next verse… 23, “He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.” This consequence (going astray, which leads to a premature physical and spiritual death) cannot be monitored by us. It is determined by God. Until that unfortunate time that we experience this untimely demise, we will live among consequences that are designed to bring us back to God. The cure is very simple and is recorded in Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way (#1), and the unrighteous man his thoughts (#2): and let him return unto the LORD (#3) and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” We need Gods mercy (not getting what we deserve). We need God’s pardon (penalty removed for what we’ve done) so that we may start over. That is accomplished by simply turning from our way of doing things and from our way of thinking and returning to the Lord. Reformers Unanimous is here to show you how to do this. I hope you listen to what God has to say to you. God bless.



Principle Ten

God balances guilt with blame. Accept the blame for your actions and god will remove the guilt.

I John 1:9
As a young man trying to get away from the strongholds of my addictions, I sought the counsel and help of people in secular programs. Time and time again, they searched for hidden meaning in my behavior. They explained how my rebellion and desire to please myself was most assuredly to be blamed on my parents, that I had been forced into my sin by what they referred to as bad surroundings. Many in society today are teaching us to shift the blame for our shortcomings on our parents, our upbringing, our economic background, our race, our minority status, and many other things. By shifting the blame to others, it temporarily removes the guilt.

You see, God designed us with a spiritual equilibrium. When we commit sin, we experience guilt and it throws our spirit off-balance with our emotions. When society teaches us to shift the blame (or if we naturally shift the blame), we actually can circumvent that off balance feeling of guilt temporarily. However, when the sin returns, the guilt is so much worse. Our feelings of failure increase to even higher levels. God’s design is to administer guilt through His Spirit that lives within the believer. That guilt needs to be released and God designed a formula for that to happen. It is found in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a beautiful promise! If, Big Word. If we do, He will. If we don’t, He won’t!! If we confess (proclaim to God) our sin, He is faithful (for sure, 100% of the time, over and over again) to forgive (full pardon) our sins. He doesn’t stop there. You see, we have been pardoned for our wrongdoing, but we are not cleaned from it. We still have the guilty feeling. We must be cleansed of all unrighteousness. If my daughter got dressed for Sunday school and then went outside and fell in the mud, I would not only forgive her for playing outside when it was raining and she was dressed for Sunday School. I would also clean her. I would give her a bath and all new clothes. Why? Because when I bring her to Sunday School, I don’t want anyone to know that she fell in the mud!! That is what God wants to do for us. He wants to give us a full pardon for everything we’ve done in the past and He wants to clean us up and put us in a new set of clothes. And He is faithful! That means He wants to do this every time we sin against Him. He loves us that much. So, today, accept the blame for what you have done in your life. Confess it to God and He will clean you up. Praise God!