The Tabernacle Scroll

Issue 39

"Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness" (Rom. 6:19, emphasis mine).

As unbelievers, we formerly submitted ourselves to developing habits of unholiness - what Paul called "ever-increasing wickedness". Every time we sinned, (that is, lusted, envied, bore malice, cheated, lied, slandered, gossiped etc,) we were developing habits of ever-increasing wickedness. These repeated acts of unrighteousness became habits that made us, in fact, slaves to sin. But now, Paul declared, in the same way that we used to give ourselves to these wicked habits, so we are to give ourselves to developing habits of holiness. We are to put off our old self (which is our sinful disposition or inclination and its habits) and put on the new self with its character and habits of holiness. We are to train ourselves in godliness

(1Tim. 4:7) - that is, we are to discipline and structure our lives so that we develop godly habits. Paul calls putting off these sinful habits "mortifying the deeds of the body" (Rom. 8:13).

Why do we need to examine our habits? Habits are thought and emotional patterns that are engraved on our minds. They are behaviour patterns that are acquired by frequent repetition. Habitual thought patterns exert a powerful influence on our external actions. That is why we are called to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (i.e., changing the way we think).

The problem arises when we try to deal with these habits of unholiness in our own strength. Sheer human determination cannot break the chains of sin. Breaking sinful habits must only be done in co-operation with the Holy Spirit and in total dependence upon Him: "For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose" (Philippians 2:13). The Holy Spirit begins His work firstly by convicting us of sin. Then, when we acknowledge and obey His prompting, He begins working in us to conform our wills to His own (Philippians 2:12,13).

There is a part God requires us to play in this transformation. We ourselves are responsible to guard our minds and our emotions. David said: "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word" (Ps.119: 9). David guarded his way by living according to the word of God. The Bible appeals to our reason; that is why it is vitally important for our minds to be constantly brought under its influence. There is absolutely no short cut to holiness that bypasses or gives little priority to a consistent intake of God's word - and obeying it!

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