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So I'm a Christian, Now What 2 The Power of Habits

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“SO I’M A CHRISTIAN…NOW WHAT?”

#2: “The Power of Habits”

Pastor Greg Henneman

February 11, 2007

Text:          Colossians 3

Theme:      Christ can change your life –if you cooperate!

Goal:          To inspire us develop the basic habits that will help us grow spiritually.

Introduction

Last month we talked about WHY I AM A CHRISTIAN.  We looked at various worldviews such as atheism, Hinduism, and Islam. And we learned that the Christian worldview makes the most sense. You don’t have to put your mind into neutral to be a Christian. You don’t have to be stupid to follow Jesus Christ.

This month I want to follow up that series and talk about SO I’M A CHRISTIAN, NOW WHAT? Ok, so I’m not an atheist. I’m not a Hindu. I’m not a Muslim. I believe that following Jesus Christ makes sense. I’ve taken that step of faith and I’ve asked Christ into my heart. I look to the cross and I say, “Thank you Lord! I believe that you died for my sins. Come in to my life and let’s do life together!”

That’s great! So I’m a Christian! NOW WHAT? What does that really mean? How does that change my life?

Last Sunday Pastor Bonita started this series when she talked about the FIVE ESSENTIALS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. She talked about five major habits that Jesus gave us that will transform our lives and help us grow closer to God. We’ll look at those five essentials briefly again today. But today I want to emphasize the POWER OF HABITS.

Habits are amazing. Have you ever thought about the power of habits? Habits help us do things without thinking, like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes. When a little kid is learning to tie her shoes, she’ll stick her tongue out and have to focus and think, “Now this loop over here, and then this one.” But after a while it because a habit and she can do it without thinking!

You ever try to brush your teeth with your opposite hand? It’s difficult! I tried it the other day because I was thinking about habits. No problem with my right hand: back and forth, up and down. Easy! But with my left hand, woe! Up…down…this way…and it’s so slow!

Illust: How many of you, sometime when the electric was out, you kept flipping the switch when you walked into a room? We’ve all done that, right. Electric is out for a couple of hours at home. You walk from the living room into the kitchen and flip the switch. “Oh man! I knew the electric’s out! Why’d I do that?” Habit! Habits are powerful!

Illust: A lady named Rose wrote to Dear Abby…

Dear Abby: I am forty-four years old and would like to meet a man my age with no bad habits.   -- Rose

Abby wrote back:  Dear Rose: So would I. (BI Habits)

We can have good habits and we can have bad habits. Someone said, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

That’s true! Thousands of people start to smoke, thinking they can quit whenever they want; but it becomes such a habit they can’t break it! Habits are powerful!

Illust: It’s interesting how the habits differ between the generations. People over 35 generally know their Social Security numbers by heart.  People under 35 memorize their credit card numbers. People under 15 generally have all the cable channels memorized. (BI Habit)

Habits. Everybody has them.

Turn in your Bibles to Colossians 3 and take out your outline.

Let’s talk about some powerful habits that Jesus wants to build into our lives. So you’re a Christian, now what? What do you do? How do you live? What needs to change? What doesn’t need to change?

READ COLOSSIANS 3:1-4.

In the first two chapters of Colossians Paul has talked about the centrality and the sufficiency of Christ.  Christ is the center of God’s plan! Christ is sufficient to meet all your needs. So don’t let that philosophy teacher get you sidetracked! All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ! Don’t get caught up in some New Age stuff where they want to give you a bunch of extras. “Oh you need Christ and these rituals. You need Christ and these special secrets. You need Christ and these rules and regulations.” No! You have fullness in Christ!

You are in Christ and Christ is in you. And your baptism meant that just as Christ died for your sins and rose again, you are to die to your sins and rise to a new kind of life!

Beginning in chapter 3 Paul says, “Since you have been raised with Christ”…here’s what you need to do. You’ll see on your outline that I’ve shaped what Paul says around the word GROW. Here are four things we need to do in order to grow in our relationship with Christ…

G – Get new habits.

Colossians 3:1-4 “…set your hearts on things above…set your minds on things above…”

What’s he talking about? He’s talking about your heart! He’s talking about your mind!  Your heart used to be set on certain things and your mind used to be focused on certain things. But now that Christ is in you, he wants to change your heart and your mind so that you become more in tune with God’s agenda and God’s purposes in the world!

You see, being a Christian is NOT a new law to follow but a new life to experience! God didn’t give us a set of ideas to kick around and debate. He gave us himself. He comes into us and lives in us. Paul says in Colossians 1:27 that it’s a mystery how Christ can live in us –but he does!

Now how does God change our hearts and our minds? Two primary ways: One, directly by his Holy Spirit, and two, by developing new habits. And most of the time it’s a combination of the Holy Spirit working in us as we cooperate with him by developing these habits. What are these habits? Pastor Bonita talked about the…

 

          Five Essential Habits  …that God gave us to help us grow.

·       Worship: Will I thank God every Sunday?

Worship is where we honor God and thank God and acknowledge that everything we have is from him. We are to worship God every day; but Sundays are special days where we all come together and worship God together! And once you become a follower of Christ you need to develop the habit that Sunday is the Lord’s Day! Sunday is the day I’m going to worship God with my brothers and sisters in Christ! It’s a habit that I will build into my life! So when Sunday comes I don’t wonder, “Well, am I going to church today or not? Well, it’s kind of cold outside. Well, I stayed up late last night watching that movie. Well, I have some chores around the house to get done.” No! Sunday is the day I go to worship God. It’s a habit that God wants me to build into my life! Worship is how I set my heart and mind on things above! Another habit is…

·       Ministry: Will I use my gifts to make a difference?

Many people think ministry is just for pastors. But it’s not; it’s for every Christian. God saved you so that you can serve others. God has given you gifts and abilities to make a difference. Lots of people go to church for what they can get out of it. God wants you to go to church for what you can give to it. So ask yourself, “Will I use my gifts to make a difference? What will I do to strengthen God’s church and spread God’s message?” God wants every Christian to have the habit of serving. It may be as an usher or greeter or Welcome Table server. It may be as a teacher or assistant or nursery worker. It may be as a singer or musician. It may be serving on the Visitation Team where you go to a nursing home and visit the elderly. It may be on a Missions Team where you visit a prison to encourage the lonely or go to Honduras on one of our trips. It may be on one of our Prayer Teams where you pray for the pastors. There are hundreds of ways to serve; but God calls every Christian to have the habit of serving.

There’s the habit of…

·       Witness: Will I tell the Good News to others?

·       Fellowship: Will I develop Christian friendships?

·       Discipleship: Will I learn and grow?

…more about God through Bible reading and prayer. These are five essential habits that will help us grow closer to God and stronger in our faith.

Would you take out the brochure entitled “   “?  I want to tell you about an opportunity that I’m really excited about. You know that Easter is coming up in early April. That means the month of March is the season we call Lent. It’s that time as Christians where we prepare ourselves for Easter. In some church traditions they deny themselves something –maybe a certain kind of food. Maybe they pray more or go to church more –out of devotion to Christ.

Well here’s what I’m asking us to do the month of March, as we prepare for Easter. Normally we offer our School of Discipleship just at the 11:00 hour; but for the month of March we’re going to offer it both hours. The same classes, but different teachers. And I’m encouraging you to take advantage of this opportunity to grow closer to God. Here’s an opportunity for you to develop the habits of discipleship and fellowship. Come to worship the one hour, and then get some discipleship and fellowship the other hour.

Will you do that? Listen: Spiritual growth is not automatic. Develop habits (like the SOD) that will help you grow spiritually.

So the letter “G” stands for “Get new habits.”

R – Relate to new friends.

Once you become a Christian God doesn’t want you to be a solo Christian! He places you in his family! He gives you new friends who will encourage you and strengthen you in your faith! READ COLOSSIANS 3:12-16.

Colossians 3:12-16 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…each other…one another…unity…peace… thankful… sing…giving thanks…”

God has made us social beings. It matters who we hang around with! Now you don’t have to dump all your old friends who not Christians. In fact, the ideal is for you to keep your relationships with them and you try to influence them for Christ. However, it may be that they end up influencing you more than you influence them. They wonder why you don’t swear and cuss and drink and cheat anymore, and so they kind of turn on you. This is where Paul’s advice in…

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

As a follower of Christ you may have to say, “Hey, we used to be friends. But now that I follow Christ we’re just so different that it’s not going to work anymore. Our values and our goals in life are just too different. I still like you and I hope the best for you, but we just can’t be buds anymore.”

That takes courage. That takes commitment. But that’s how you grow! “G” – Get new habits! “R” – Relate to new friends.

O – Own up to your struggles.

Just because you ask Christ into your life does NOT mean that you won’t have any struggles! In fact, it may mean that you have more struggles than you did before! READ COLOSSIANS 3:5-10.

Colossians 3:5-11 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires…”

Before you came to Christ…

·       maybe you slept around with lots of women…

·       maybe you enjoyed pornography on the internet…

·       you had an anger problem and swore a lot…

…but now that you’re a Christian, you can’t do that anymore! So you’ve got some work to do! And the transformation may not happen overnight! You may have some struggles and some slips and sins! And the last thing you need to do is to pretend that you’re not struggling!

This is why we have small groups. This is why we have a Men’s Group on Wednesday nights. This is why you need to relate to some Christian friends! So you can own up to your struggles and say, “Man, I’m trying to follow Christ but I am struggling! Some of the old habits just don’t want to die!” And you Christian friends can give you some comfort and some advice and accountability.

Nobody’s perfect! You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. Let’s own up to our struggles and be honest with each other! That’s how we grow! “G” – Get new habits. “R” – Relate to new friends. “O” – Own up to your struggles.

W – Walk with Christ.

So you’re a Christian. Now what do you do? Just walk with Christ! Day by day, moment by moment, let him guide you! It’s not about rules or rituals or regulations! It’s a relationship with Christ where you let his life flow through you!

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So you’re at work, so you’re at home, so you’re school –what do you do? Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

What does “G” stand for…?

[PUT ON SCREEN]

 

G – Get new habits.

R – Relate to new friends.

O – Own up to your struggles.

W – Walk with Christ.

Build these four habits into your life, and you can’t help but GROW in the faith.

 

PRAY.  Father, thank you for the difference you make in our lives. Thank you that you can make our lives so much better –if we cooperate with you. Help us to understand the power of habits. Some of us may be new believers, and we need to get some new habits! Maybe we’ve been Christians for a long time, but we haven’t grown in a long time either. And it’s time we get new habits, relate to new friends, own up to our struggles, and really start walking with you. Lord, I pray that we’d have so many people attend the SOD classes in March that we have to find more rooms to hold all the people. I pray that you would give us such a hunger for worship and discipleship and fellowship, that fresh vitality sweeps over us. Don’t let us stagnate, Father. Don’t let us run in the same old ruts. Empower us by your Spirit to grow in Christ for your glory. Amen.


EXTRA MATERIAL:

Here in Colossians the Apostle Paul is writing to the Christians in the city of Colosse. [SHOW MAP].  Paul went on several missionary journeys where he traveled town to town. He would tell the people the Good News about Jesus –how he died on the cross for our sins and rose again to conquer sin and death –and how we can be reconciled to God and enjoy a relationship with him through faith in Jesus Christ. As a result churches would form. Paul would appoint a few leaders to kind of get the churches organized, and then he would take off. And every now and then he would write a letter to those churches to give them some instructions. And that’s what we have in the NT. We have Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, and the church at Thessalonica, for example.

Now it’s very likely that Paul himself had never been to the town of Colosse. We know from the book of Acts that Paul did go to the towns of Philippi and Ephesus and elsewhere; but it seems that a guy by the name of Epaphras became a Christian because of Paul, and Epaphras went home to Colosse and started a church there.

Paul writes this letter to the new believers at Colosse because Epaphras has come to visit him in prison. Paul was most likely in jail at Rome at this time, about 60 AD.  Why was he in jail? Well, when Paul was in Jerusalem at the Temple, his fellow Jews accused him of starting a riot. The Romans arrested him and Paul was about to be killed so he appealed to Caesar to get a fair trial. So Paul is in Rome, under house arrest, waiting for his trial before the court of Caesar.

Epaphras comes to him from Colosse and says, “Paul, the new believers need help! They need some basic instruction in how to grow in Christ! Not only that, but there’s a lot of controversy going around! There are some strange ideas about God and Jesus floating around, and Paul, you to clear things up!”

So Paul writes this letter to address some issues. We don’t have time to get into those issues today, but I want us to look at Colossians 3 and focus on four themes that will help us grow in Christ.

Illust: Sometimes habits that helped us at one time become useless and don’t help us anymore. Did you notice that the Bayer Corporation stopped putting the cotton wads in their aspirin bottles a few years ago? The company realized the aspirin would hold up fine without the maddening white clumps of cotton in there. Why did they keep putting the cotton in the aspirin bottles? Because they’ve always done it that way since about 1914!

Chris Allen, Bayer's vice president of technical operations, said, "We concluded there really wasn't any reason to keep the cotton except tradition.  Besides, it's hard to get out." So even companies can get into the habit of doing things that don’t really help. Habit is a powerful thing. (BI Habit)

 

Closing Illust: Gregg Easterbrook writes in The New Republic:

“Recent studies indicate that men and women who practice in any of the mainstream faiths have above-average longevity, fewer strokes, less heart disease, less clinical depression, better immune-system function, lower blood pressure, and fewer anxiety attacks, and they are much less likely to commit suicide than the population at large. These findings come from secular medical schools and schools of public health.

“In the most striking finding, Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical Center has calculated that, with regard to any mainstream faith, 'lack of religious involvement has an effect on mortality that is equivalent to 40 years of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day.'...

“Another new study, conducted mainly by researchers at the University of Texas, found that those who regularly attended worship services lived an average of seven years longer than those who never attended.” (BI Habit)

 

Illust: I’ve seen it dozens of times. Somebody comes to faith in Christ and they’re on cloud nine! They are up! I remember when I came to Christ at the age of 11. I cried and just the emotional high was awesome!

A year or two ago Jim Stuenkel received Christ by watching “The Passion of the Christ” at a movie theatre. He was overwhelmed with emotion! He felt the love of Christ wash over him. For months he came to our Saturday morning men’s prayer breakfasts, and it was like he was on drugs! He felt so free and forgiven and passionate about the presence of God in his heart. He made us happy just being around him!

Now it’s not always that way. Everybody’s different. But oftentimes when someone first comes to Christ it’s like they’re high on the love and freedom and joy that God injects into their hearts! And that’s great!


 

“SO I’M A CHRISTIAN…NOW WHAT?”

#2: “The Power of Habits”

Pastor Greg Henneman

February 11, 2007

Text:          Colossians 3

We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.

G – Get new habits.

Colossians 3:1-4 “…set your hearts on things above…set your minds on things above…”

          Five Essential Habits

·       Worship: Will I thank God every Sunday?

·       Ministry: Will I use my gifts to make a difference?

·       Witness: Will I tell the Good News to others?

·       Fellowship: Will I develop Christian friendships?

·       Discipleship: Will I learn and grow?

R – Relate to new friends.

Colossians 3:12-16 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…each other…one another…unity…peace… thankful… sing…giving thanks…”

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

O – Own up to your struggles.

Colossians 3:5-11 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires…”

W – Walk with Christ.

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Application:

What habits will you start today?

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