Seven Healthy Habits, Part 2

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We’ve looked at the first three healthy habits every Christian should possess and cultivate. They were:

Trust in God, Galatians 2:20
Pray to God, Philippians 4:6
Remain in Christ, John 15:4

You may refresh your memory here if the details of each habit are a bit fuzzy. We’ll pick up right where we left off with healthy, helpful habit number four:

Walk as Christ walked, 1 John 2:7, 8 and 1 Peter 2:21

Dear brothers, I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new, and works for you just as it did for Christ; and as we obey this commandment, to love one another, the darkness in our lives disappears and the new light of life in Christ shines in. (1 John 2:7, 8 TLB)

In this section of John’s first letter, the apostle writes about three tests for his readers to take to make sure they really possess eternal life. It may seem strange to you that some Christians, from time to time may doubt their salvation. Or maybe it doesn’t; perhaps you’re a Christian like that. Doubt doesn’t have to be sin. Doubt can actually confirm your faith, if you’re smart about it. John’s readers were doubters because they had been entertaining the notions of some false teachers. To help his readers smarten up – and to help you doubters reading this – is John’s purpose in writing about these three tests. The three tests include: moral, social, and doctrinal tests.

The second test, the social test, is really just a call to have a loving attitude.

For he who dislikes his brother is wandering in spiritual darkness and doesn’t know where he is going, for the darkness has made him blind so that he cannot see the way. (1 John 2:11 TLB)

So, as John taught, if you don’t get along with fellow believers, you aren’t “walking in the light.” In fact, it’s worse even than that. If you have unresolved problems with other believers – even just one – you are on your way to becoming spiritually blind! Can you imagine that? A rift between two Christians is that serious.

And the third test, the test of a believer’s doctrine, is all about the what the believer believes.

So I am not writing to you as to those who need to know the truth, but I warn you as those who can discern the difference between true and false. (1 John 2:21 TLB)

A believer whose relationship with Jesus Christ is healthy and whose relationship to the Body of Christ is healthy will be able to discern between true and false doctrines.

But it’s John’s first test, the moral test, that’s the healthy habit that should be developed in the lives of all believers. The key to this test, and in fact all three tests, is this verse, which introduces them:

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (1 John 2:3 NIV)

There are two Greek words that translate into English as “know.” They are ginosk and oida. The false teacher of John’s day, and common way of thinking today, is characterized by the first word, ginosk. This is a very odd word that speaks of intellect or intellectual knowledge gained through experience and, as the false teachers used it, the experience was a kind of pseudo-spiritual mumbo jumbo. But John wants believers to know that we can KNOW God in ways other than merely through the intellect or through some weird voodoo-like trances. John’s word for knowing God speaks of the kind of knowledge that comes from an intimate relationship with God. So believers’ knowledge of God comes through the mind and through experience, and part of that involves keeping God’s commands. Or, as we would say today, living right. That right living must be based on God’s Word. So we have the intellect and the experience involved.

This is a very important test because anybody can claim to be a Christian. But are they really? Anybody can go forward during an altar call, but did they really change? The proof, John wrote, is in their knowledge of God’s expectations as revealed in His Word, and in their behavior.

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:5, 6 NIV)

A healthy habit to practice is that of living as Jesus did. That takes knowing how He lived and knowing how He expects you to live, then simply doing what you know to be true. We can know for sure – beyond the shadow of any doubt – that we are saved if we cultivate the habit of living as Jesus did. And we can’t do that without knowing what the Word of God teaches.

But, what if we don’t? Are there believers who have heard the truth, but then refuse to practice it? What happens to people like that? Peter tells us the bad news:

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:21 NIV)

There’s a high price indeed to be paid for refusing to put into practice what the Lord has shown you. Jesus taught as much:

The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. (Luke 12:47 NIV)

That’s pretty severe, and it serves to point up how seriously our Lord takes obedience to His revealed will. Here’s the point: Not only does He expect us to obey it, He expects us to know it. At least in keeping with our spiritual maturity level.

That’s why this fourth healthy habit is so important. Develop the habit of walking as Jesus walked. It will become more than just a habit.

Find what you need in Christ, Isaiah 27:4, 5

My anger against Israel is gone. If I find thorns and briars bothering her, I will burn them up, unless these enemies of mine surrender and beg for peace and my protection. (TLB)

Here’s a habit that’s difficult for our self-absorbed culture. Christ should be the first Person we turn to for every need we have.  These verses are part of a song about God’s care for His vineyard – His people – or more accurately, it’s the interpretation of Israel’s sufferings. Contrast Isaiah 27:4, 5 with what he wrote way back in chapter five:

I have given you the story of God’s people. They are the vineyard that I spoke about. Israel and Judah are his pleasant acreage! He expected them to yield a crop of justice, but found bloodshed instead. He expected righteousness, but the cries of deep oppression met his ears. (Isaiah 5:1 – 7, verse 7 cited TLB)

Back there, God the Master Gardener is seen as being really peeved with His garden; with His people. And who could blame Him? God treated His people as carefully and tenderly as a gardner cares for his special garden, but the people essentially spat in His face.

What more could I have done? Why did my vineyard give me wild grapes instead of sweet? I will tear down the fences and let my vineyard go to pasture to be trampled by cattle and sheep. I won’t prune it or hoe it, but let it be overgrown with briars and thorns. I will command the clouds not to rain on it anymore. (Isaiah 5:4 – 6 TLB)

Yes, that’s God talking and He’s peeved. Yet here, a few chapters on, everything is different.

Israel is my vineyard; I, the Lord, will tend the fruitful vines; every day I’ll water them, and day and night I’ll watch to keep all enemies away. (Isaiah 27:3 TLB)

It’s a startling change-of-attitude on God’s part. The condemnation is gone. Instead of abandonment, there is constant care. Instead of drought, there is more than enough rain for the vineyard. The Lord is seen guarding His precious vineyard day and night. His anger against His people by chapter 27, is gone. Of course, there is a whole eschatological side to this passage, which we won’t get into here. That’s a discussion for another day. But for now, take another look at verse 5 –

…let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. (KJV)

This verse is really an Old Testament promise of forgiveness to those who ask for it. In it, God’s enemies are offered refuge by the great Gardener. The key to forgiveness is for God’s enemies to lay hold of it ; “let him take hold.” God’s enemies are encouraged to receive what God is offering: peace, which is essentially forgiveness. God offers it, but they must take it. It’s a picture of God’s mercy in action. He cares for His vineyard and even makes a way for His enemies to have a part of His mercy. Can you imagine God offering His mercy to His enemies? It’s incredible.

And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6 – 8 JBP)

And if He’ll do that for penitent enemies, how much more will He do for His children? God has what you need. All you have to do is ask.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11 NIV)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but I’m so far from being blameless.” That may be true, but that’s not what’s important. Here is what’s important:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

That’s you Paul is talking about. If you are “in Christ,” then you are “the righteousness of God.” It’s a statement of an accomplished fact. What would God withhold from you? But here’s the point: You have to ask. Remember the words of Isaiah?

…let him take hold…

Make it a habit to “take hold” of what you need from God. He’s offering exactly what you need at no cost to you; the price was paid. You’re needs have already been met. Just “take hold.” It’s not the natural thing to do. That’s why it’s the fifth healthy habit that you need to practice.

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