pecaspers: a Blog in transition

August 21, 2013

Old Habits Die Hard

I just got back to my house after being away for a couple of nights. I checked the mail, turned the air conditioner back down, and eyeballed my garden. You know, the usual things.

Then something strange happened. This sense that I needed to check the answering machine hit me. (Pause for effect.) We don’t have an answering machine. We don’t even have a landline telephone. We haven’t had one for years. I might be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never had one in this house. Nevertheless from somewhere in my past, there is still some connection in my brain that says I’m supposed to check the answering machine when I get home after being away.

There’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

Without trying to exhaustively cite passages of Scripture, this is the kind of thing Paul and other New Testament writers are talking about when they instruct us to live according to who we are now in Christ and not live according to our old life of slavery to sin. In Colossians 3, Paul talks about putting off the old man and putting on Christ. John talks in his fisrt and second letters about walking in light and not in darkness. James has a few things to say about our works displaying our living faith. I’m sure there are many other examples.

Now, it’s not sin for me to feel like I need to check an answering machine I don’t have. Come on, this is an illustration. I had a pattern in my life. There was a time when checking the answering machine is something I did daily, even multiple times daily. And then my life changed; we got rid of the landline and the answering machine obviously went away as well. It would be very strange to keep an answering machine without a phone line and stranger still to check it. Checking the answering machine is just not part of my new life. The very thing that makes an answering machine useful, a phone line, is no longer a functioning reality in my home.

That’s how it ought to be for Christians and their sin. God in His goodness came to live and die and rise again so that we could be counted dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Because we have been cut off from sin and sin from us, then we ought to no longer live as though our slavery to sin were still a functioning reality. We should live freely out of the new creation Christ has brought about in us.

Old habits die hard. We spent years living according to our slave-master Sin’s wishes. We did what sin told us to do, and we enjoyed it a large amount of the time. Yes, we have been changed. Yes, our nature is new and our standing before God is established as righteous. However, we still carry the memories, personality, preferences, etc. that we’ve been developing in our life of sin.

The landline is cut off, but we’re still all toting around answering machines. Through community with fellow believers, accountably, spiritual disciplines, and other means, the Holy Spirit aides and allows us to put the old life behind us and to live increasingly in light of the present reality of His presence in us and our new identity in Christ. We must always be careful though. We still live in these same fleshy bodies. You never know when you might find yourself in a situation that feels like one you have been in before, and it’s possible to respond based on an old habit instead of the present reality.

You will be happy to know that I didn’t go looking for my old answering machine to check it… That’s because I got rid of it years ago. Is there any paraphernalia (physical or metaphorical) of your old life that you need to get rid of so that you are less likely to fall back into an old habit?

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