Holy Habits

Alas, 2013 has come to an end. Between all the church services and fireworks and excitement of the soon-coming new year, take some time to reflect on the past 12 months. But don’t stop there.

Think about your whole past. And then consider your present state. Just take a moment to make a quick comparison of who you have been in the past and who you are now. And then answer these questions: Is the person you are today someone who fears the Lord? Is the person you are today someone who knows the Lord intimately? Is the person you are today someone who pleases the Lord in all things? Or is the person you are today just someone who is “better” by the world’s definitions? Is the person you today just someone who is “good” and “mature” according to society?

We have a tendency to start thinking we’re “okay,” that we’re “safe,” that we’re “good” just because we change a few things in our lives. I may not be the party girl that I used to be, but that doesn’t make me any better of a person today than I was back then. I may not be the impatient and spiteful person I was years ago, but that doesn’t make me a righteous person right now. I may not be the arrogant, prideful, self-centered, hypocritical gossip that I was at one time, but I am no more holy today than I was then simply because I put an end to a bad habit. No, if there is ANY good in me, it is my sweet Jesus and Him alone.

Habits aren’t what make us holy or unholy. Actions matter but our hearts matter more. Simply breaking a bad habit isn’t enough. Simply picking up a good habit isn’t enough. It’s great that I’m no longer that selfish, arrogant, gossiping party-girl, but that is not enough. I have to examine where my heart is in all of this. Actions without intention are futile. Meaningless. Superficial. Deceptive. And when I say “deceptive,” I mean that we deceive ourselves when we allow ourselves to believe that simply changing a few habits makes us a better Christian.

For so long, I thought I was “good” with God. It’s something I find that I am constantly struggling to keep in check. Why is that? Because of the pride in my heart. Because as humans, we like to see a checklist of things to do to reach a certain goal. And as we check things off our list, we begin to convince ourselves that we are right on our way to reaching that goal, to claiming that prize. We become so consumed with our actions that we don’t realize our heart hasn’t followed. “I want to be a good Christian. I want to serve the Lord. I want to honor Him. And these are things I need to do/change/fix so that I can reach this goal. Okay self. You are going to do this. Ready, set, go!” Or at least that’s how it happens in my head. My motives are pure. My desire is to please the Lord and to serve Him in the most God-gloryfiying way possible. But sometimes, I get too task-oriented and forget that my heart should be playing the leading role in this transformation process. I forget that Christ is the director of this story, not me.

As you examine your life and reflect over the past year(s), consider closely whether the changes you made in your life to honor the Lord were simply items on a checklist or genuine heart changes that truly brought Him glory. Examine your heart. Are you deceiving yourself by thinking you’re “all good” with God? Are you deceiving yourself by allowing pride to hinder you from being cautious about the fact that you are capable of falling to sin? Because sometimes, when life is going well, when I’m not struggling, when I’m having consistent quiet time with the Lord, when I am doing everything I “should be doing” as a Christian, I become prideful and forget that I am human. I forget that I am not only capable of falling to sin, but that I am so very prone to it.

In this new year, let us remember to carry our hearts with us as we embark upon the next leg of this journey to become better servants of the Most High. Let us remember that actions must be intentional and that change must both start and continue in the heart.

If we truly love the Lord, if we truly understand the Love with which He ransomed our souls, we would live each moment with such great intention. We would examine every thought that enters our mind, every emotion that springs up within our hearts, every word that escapes our lips, every action our bodies make. If we truly love the Lord and understand that He gave ALL, that He is ALL, we would be sure to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called.

I hope that you will join me in committing to live intentionally for the Lord in this new year. My prayer for each one of you and for myself is this: That we would find matchless joy in the friendship that is offered to us when we walk in the fear of the Lord (Psalm 25:14). That we would take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). That when we respond to the conviction of the Lord in a particular area of our lives, we would do so with a genuine heart and sincere spirit – that they wouldn’t simply be empty actions to appease a holy God, but that they would be intentional actions done as an outpouring of love for a gracious and merciful Father. My prayer for us is that every fiber of our beings would be used for the glory and purposes of the Father, who is “over all and through all and in all.

Today, 2013 comes to a beautiful end. Tomorrow, 2014 begins with endless possibilities. A year from today, when we again examine the past year(s), may we be able to say with all confidence that we ARE people who fear the Lord, who know Him intimately, who please Him in all that we do. May we be able to recognize the transforming work He has done in and through us for the glory of His name. And may we boldly walk as children of light.

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:8-10a

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