By Scott Lee
A big part of becoming a disciple of Christ is to establish the lifestyle habits of a disciple. By that, I mean the things you learn to do on a regular, habitual basis that help orient you to a life of following Jesus daily. Let’s face it, the things you do on a regular basis are the things that will shape your life. That’s true whether we’re talking about binge-watching Netflix each evening, or reading your Bible each morning. Your daily habits are what shape your life for good or ill. This is why weekly church attendance is good and helpful, but if that’s all there is to it, and there is no daily follow-up to the things you sang and confessed and heard on Sunday, it will only have a minimal effect on your daily living. What is needed is some kind of plan for the daily application of the truth you’ve heard and learned on Sunday.
That’s where the conscious choice to establish “holy lifestyle habits” comes in. Because, it’s the things you do on a regular, habitual basis that truly begin to shape your life. Here’s an easy example, if you’re in the habit of beginning your day with a big breakfast followed by a long day at work characterized largely by physical inactivity behind a desk, your life (and body) will take on one shape. If, on the other hand, you learn to begin your day with a quick workout and a light breakfast while finding ways to up the ante on physical activity throughout the day, then your life (and body) will begin to take a different shape. That’s true physically. It’s just as true spiritually. The lifestyle habits you practice are what will shape your life.
And let’s face it, we all have such lifestyle habits – some we have chosen, others we’ve just settled into without thinking (And it’s the ones we settle into without thinking that usually do the harm!). So part of the process of growing in Christ-likeness is learning how to choose the kinds of daily, lifestyle habits that will shape your life by bringing you face to face with Christ in the Gospel on a regular basis.
In other words, you have to have a plan. For me part of that plan has meant establishing a specific place in my house (a chair in my basement) and a time of the day (first thing in the morning) when I will open the Bible to read, worship, and pray. What I’ve found is that by having a plan to do these things, even when I don’t get to them due to crazy busyness or unexpected interruptions, I always come back to them because they are now so much a part of my life. They’ve become such a habit that I can’t imagine living without them. They’re so “baked in” to me, that I no longer feel like “myself” without them! That hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when I did not have such a plan. Oh, I still “hoped” to read the Bible daily and pray. I knew I needed to. I really wanted to. But I usually didn’t because it just wasn’t an intentional part of my day. It wasn’t built in to the habit of my daily lifestyle. Changing that habbit took a series of conscious choices on my part. It took an effort on my part to change the daily routine that had become my habit by accident, and replace it with a new daily routine that pointed me in the direction I needed to go. And sure, it felt odd at first, even fake. This wasn’t how I lived my life! But over time the “new habit” took over and worked its way into the rut of my life in a way that I truly can’t imagine living without today (nor would I ever want to, now that I’ve begun to experience the benefit!).
So what are the lifestyle habits that you have fallen into by accident? Take a look and see. They might be morally neutral, like having the television or iTunes on all day or binge watching old MASH episodes every evening. But if they are distracting you and stealing time away from you that could be redirected to something that helps you draw near to Christ (or point others to Him), perhaps you need another plan?
Or you may have adopted habits that are leading you to sin, or they are sin in themselves. I’ve seen many people, even professing Christians, fall into the habit of regular porn use, or gambling, or even just sitting mindlessly in front of a “screen” flipping through websites or watching videos that only stoke a sense of depression and discontent about life. These things become habits. They’re what you turn to when you’re bored or upset. They begin to shape your life. But isn’t it time for a change? Isn’t it time to be done with these things that clearly are doing harm and replace them with new things, holy habits that help bring you again and again into the presence of Jesus to renew your mind and refresh your soul by reshaping how you see the world with God Himself at the center of all. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2 ESV)
Scott Lee is a professor of Bible at Missouri Baptist University and pastor of Rockport Baptist Church in Arnold, MO. He is also an occasional speaker at the annual Southern Baptist Founders Conference Midwest. If you would like to more information about Founders Midwest or the annual Midwest conference, be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website for more information.