There are only two more posts to go and this book club will be done. Then I have two book reviews to do. I am aiming to get these posts all done by June 8th – my kids’ last day of school. I’m considering a blog hiatus for the summer, or at least not committing to a regular schedule. (If you’ve been following the book club, you’ll know that I’ve ended up not posting on the same schedule I intended. For that, I apologize.)
“For it is God Who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
This week, we’re looking at chapters 13 & 14 of the book, “The Pursuit of Holiness,” by Jerry Bridges. This is about holiness and our wills and habits. We need to determine in our wills that we’ll form habits of holiness. Jerry points out that each time we give into temptation and sin, it becomes easier and easier to keep giving in and sinning. But the converse is also true – whenever we choose holiness and habits of discipline, it becomes easier and easier to choose that. Soon, (either way it goes), those repetitive choices will form habits.
We need to understand our wills – why they choose to sin or obey, and learn how to bring our wills into line with obedience to the will of God.
“It is the will that ultimately makes each individual choice of whether we will sin or obey. It is the will that chooses to yield to temptation or to say no. Our wills, then, ultimately determine our moral destiny, whether we will be holy or unholy inour character and conduct.”
Our hearts = our faculties of the soul => the mind, the emotions, the conscience, and the will. God gave us these things. But with the fall of man in the garden, these faculties started working in conflict with one another and with God. Our wills have become stubborn and rebellious – being selfish, self-centered and self-serving. Our emotions wreck havoc, taking over and drawing our minds and wills away from obedience. Our minds are clouded, our desires are tainted and our wills are perverted, thanks to sin.
Our wills are what ultimately determine our choices and those choices are made based upon the forces acting upon us. Our wills can be influenced by the enemy, the world, our own sinful nature, our conscience, suggestions of other people, or the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Whatever way these forces come to our wills, they must pass through our reason (minds) or emotions.
So again, we see that we must guard (diligently) what enters our minds and what influences our emotions.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.”
It is vital to stay plugged into a habit of reading the Bible. The Word reaches us mainly via our reason so it influences our minds. The Lord, the Word gives wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-5 points out that He gives wisdom and understanding to those who:
- receive His sayings
- inwardly treasure His commandments
- make their ear alert to wisdom and heart ready for understanding
- seek understanding as if it were hidden treasure
The Word give us protection by its influence on our minds and wills. It gives spiritual information and practical application for daily living.
While most often God influences our wills through our minds, Satan usually attacks our wills through our desires and emotions. This is why we need to guard our emotions and check our desires through the lens of Scripture. We need to be aware of our desires and emotions and work proactively on the offense by setting our hearts and desires on God and His will – things above – spiritual values – and delight in God.
Our faculties should work by way of reason first, then our wills, then our emotions. However, oftentimes, they work in the reverse order. Therefore, we come back to the need for a structured plan – discipline. That’s why we need to stay in the Word – to get the head knowledge, but as we grow closer to God and experience His love and presence, it moves from the head to the heart. Our emotions, wills and desires will be for God and will keep us motivated to holiness.
I love Philippians 2:12-13 and this is how Jerry wraps up chapter 13:
“In the final analysis it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose. But we are expressly told by Paul to work at this ourselves (Philippians 2:12). Our responsibility regarding our wills is to guard our minds and emotions, being aware of what influences our minds and stimulates our desires. As we do our part, we will see the Spirit of God do His part in making us more holy.”
“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.”
John Owen said,
“Repeated acts of the consent of the will unto sin may beget a disposition and inclineableness of the will unto a proneness and readiness to consent unto sin upon easy solicitation.”
We need to understand how our habits influence our wills.
Habit = “prevailing disposition or character of a person’s thoughts and feelings.” They are in our minds and probably the most forceful influence on our wills. I have heard in the world of neurology that there are actual neuron pathways that are developed when we do something or think something – and the more we do or think that thing, the stronger that pathway becomes and the more our brains use that pathway. That’s the process of a habit taking hold in our brains. But when we stop using that pathway (doing or thinking that thing), the pathway begins to fade and over time, will disappear if not used. That’s when a habit is broken.
The easiest and best way to break a bad habit is to not only stop the bad thing, but to also then replace it with a good habit. We can’t just clear out all the junk and leave ourselves bare. Emptiness and idleness can be a doorway for the enemy to move in. So break those undesired habits and replace them with good habits of obedience.
We put off the old self and put on the new. Just remember that it’s futile to attempt this in our own power. We need the power of the Holy Spirit – working in cooperation with and dependence on Him.
Jerry gives us four principles we can follow to train ourselves in godliness:
- Frequent repetition – focus on saying no to sins that we are most vulnerable to. Then God leads us to other areas. Along with saying no to those sins, develop thinking thoughts that are pure, true, and good, and habits of prayer and reading Scripture. (This lets the bad habit pathways fade away and reinforces the new good pathways.)
- Never let an exception occur – don’t fall for a “just this once” temptation.
- Diligence in all areas is required to ensure success in one area – if we indulge a habit that we think “isn’t too bad,” it weakens our wills in all other areas.
- Don’t be discouraged by failure – we’re only failures if we give up and stop trying. If we keep working, regardless of how often we fail, we can see progress.
Jerry closes chapter 14 with this paragraph:
“It is vain to guard our minds and emotions against that which comes from without if we do not at the same time deal with habits of sin which are within. The battle for holiness must be fought on two fronts – without and within. Only then will we see progress toward holiness.”
For your journal:
1. How do the following verses describe our responsibility concerning our reason, emotions, and will? Romans 6:19, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-2, James 4:7-8
2. Carefully read Proverbs 2:1-12. If we desire to guard our minds from evil, what must we do?
3. Review the four principles for acquiring or breaking a habit. Select a habit you want to acquire or break, and write a plan and how the four principles can help you.