Habit is stronger than reason

The blog title is a quote attributed to George Santayana. And I would agree with it. I will do something because I’m used to doing it, even if I don’t “think” I should do it.

Chapter 14 of The Pursuit of Holiness is about our Habits. The downside to habits is that “the more we sin, the more we are inclined to sin.” The upside is that we can defeat old habits and build new ones. Bridges pulls in discipline and structure again, with the encouraging note that we can put off the sinful habits and develop godly habits. We need the frequent reminder that no one can do this in their own strength. We are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and depend on the Holy Spirit in all of this. We put in the time and effort to stick to reading the Word, meditating on it, applying it to our lives. The Holy Spirit will work the fruit in us.

Bridges lists a few principles about habits. First – they are “developed and reinforced by frequent repetition.” So, building a habit of reading the Word, memorizing Scripture, thinking about what we’ve read when making a decision to act, is dependent on our doing it each day, throughout the day as appropriate. The second principle is a bit tough – “in breaking sinful habits and acquiring new ones” it is necessary “to lever let an exception occur.” In the context of the entire chapter and book, Bridges is not saying that we must be perfect, but that we cannot get into the habit of thinking “just this once” where we avoid admitting that it will be even harder to defeat the habit tomorrow.

Third principle is that “diligence in all areas is required to insure success in one area.” We can’t ignore or indulge one sin thinking we will be successful in any other area. The more we sin (of any type) the more inclined we are to sin (of any type). And last, he reminds us to not be discouraged by failure. We are not a failure unless we give up. We are to stay in the fight.

Chapter 15 is about Holiness and Faith. Holiness is not just about separating us from the World. As we’ve seen through the chapters, it is about obedience to God. Even when that obedience is costly and even painful. Bridges talks about the difference between Cain and Abel and how Abel offered his sacrifice by faith. God told them how he wanted sacrifices done and Abel took God at His word and offered a sacrifice as required, even if he didn’t understand why it needed to be a lamb. Cain didn’t see any real reason it had to be a lamb so he offered his grain and his sacrifice was not accepted. We are called to take God at His word and obey Him, even when we think it doesn’t really make sense or even make a big difference.

We talked about this last Wednesday night talking about Samson in the book of Judges. Some of the comments (including one of my own) lead to Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place. Corrie told about times she fudged the truth or lied to protect someone – her motivations were good and it usually worked out well. But her stories about her sister were electrifying. Her sister never lied, she always told the truth even to the bad guys. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to protect and help people, it was that she trusted God to be faithful and honor her obedience to tell the truth. And God did in amazing ways. So, sometimes we lie or at least shade the truth from good motives. And often God accepts that and even blesses the person (think the midwives in Exodus) But the examples of people who obeyed wholeheartedly and told the truth while still having the motivation to protect and help others but the ultimate motivation to glorify God, are examples that should inspire us and convict us. They do convict me of my small weak faith.

Bridges, on page 143, says:

The path of obedience in the pursuit of holiness is often contrary to human reason. If we do not have conviction in the necessity of obeying the revealed will of God as well as confidence in the promises of God, we will never persevere in this difficult pursuit. We must have conviction that it is God’s will  that we seek holiness – regardless of how arduous and painful that seeking may be. And we must be confident that the pursuit of holiness results in God’s approval and blessing, even when circumstances make it appear otherwise.

In a world with very different values, it can be a challenge to live this way. But it is what we are called to do.

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