How can one change bad habits?
The person who entrusts his or her life to Jesus Christ receives, not only forgiveness for our sin, but victory over slavery to sinful behavior. Put differently, Jesus not only pays our sin debt so that we can be forgiven by God and go to heaven after our physical body dies, but also provides the power, through the Holy Spirit, for good conduct and great joy while here on earth. A person who places his or her trust in Christ is set free from slavery to bad habits and a lifestyle that is destructive to himself and others.
Christ Himself is the One who sets us free. Just as Jesus was crucified, buried, and then rose from the dead; those who place their trust in Him are crucified and risen with Him. That is, our old self and sin patterns are crucified and buried. We are raised to new life—Christ in us—through the Holy Spirit. Our unrighteousness is replaced by Christ’s righteousness.
Review these verses, bearing in mind that flesh refers to the sinful desires of a person’s physical body, or a person’s efforts to live independent of God:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
Jude 1:24,25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Theoretically, the old self patterns will crumble merely by reckoning ourselves dead to them and thanking Jesus for the new life He has given us. For most people, though, struggles in life that bring suffering are required to train us to submit to the control of Christ, to seek fellowship with God instead better circumstances on earth, and to live by faith in God's awesome power and love. Ask God to give you understanding of the following verses, particularly the connection between our weakness and Christ's power:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
2 Cor 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.
2 Cor 4:16,17 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison
In 2 Cor 4:7-12, Paul explains that suffering brought about death to their own wills (the dying of Jesus), which in turn allowed the life of Jesus to be manifested through them, which in turn brought a blessing to those to whom they were ministering. Given this context, the eternal weight of glory mentioned just four verses later in 4:16,17 must be referring to the power of the Spirit of Christ manifested as self is removed upon submission brought about by suffering.
Suffering makes us realize who God is and who we aren't. Humility is not merely modesty; humility has nothing to do with our words or actions. Genuine humility results from being brought into reality with the truth. Say a 16-year-old boy was boasting about his basketball skills while playing one-on-one against a 7-year-old. He steels the ball from the 7-year-old, blocks all his shots, and crows about his superior ability to score on the 7-year-old at will. Then Michael Jordan walks onto the court. The 16-year-old boy freezes; he is silent. No more boasting. Instantly humble. Why? Because he is faced with the reality of who his not. He is no longer able to trust in basketball as his identity and source of value. Similarly, suffering often clarifies to us that we are dependent on God. We get a glimpse of the ugliness of our efforts to be self-sufficient instead of trusting God.
We cannot change bad habits and live holy lives in our own strength. We were never meant to do so in our own strength. Nor were we meant to do it by our best effort plus God's help. We were never meant to do it at all. Only Christ can live the Christian life. We simply need to get out of the way so that Christ can live through us by way of the Holy Spirit.
Trust Christ to make you righteous and live through you. Don't be deceived by the feeling that the task is impossible. It is indeed impossible for you but it is not impossible for Christ:
"With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
Remember that Christ specializes in impossible situations—like feeding more than 5,000 people when only a few scraps of food and little money were in sight. When we trust in God, He loves to perform works in and through us that we think are impossible. It glorifies Him. We can do nothing more than submit our wills, say Yes to God's request to control our lives, and simply thank Christ for filling us and working through us.