I’ve always wanted to do this; write you an epistle. I kind of fancy myself a good letter writer. I am sorry I had to write this in public here, but I figured some other people might be nosy enough to want to know something. So…
I thank God for you every time I remember you. I am really grateful that I had a friend like you to help me through NLS. You are indeed a blessing to every person who meets you. As I am not much of a dreamy person, I find it odd that I constantly think of the future when you will live close by (or not). Of course, I will be hosting you a lot. You don’t look like you can cook! So when you come over, I’ll order food. But then, I wonder if that dream will ever happen. You might just send me a wedding invite soon enough. In which case, I will be coming over for food. (Madam, take note).
Okay, that’s that.
I like how God has blessed you to be a friend in season and out of season. You have been blessed with words of wisdom. And you intervene right on time. It is a great blessing, one that a man like me appreciates. You should be called Joel-On-Time. I have many examples, but let me share this one:
There was this executive meeting where you stood up and shared my model of handling the Bible Study meeting. I blushed that day, honestly. But what you did not know was how much I was struggling with God over that model. I was once a hardliner, so it was a bit difficult for me not to require attendance and punctuality in my meetings. I was at that time wondering if my unit members were at all serious, or we were just fooling ourselves. But your words that night, glorious. I went to thank God after that meeting. Your words are seasoned with salt, walahi. I was measuring from the outside, but you helped me see the inside truth. I’m all the better for it.
I very much appreciate how you rate me. Believe me, I think you’re deluded about who I really am most times. But then, it really does not hurt to think of myself in a good way for the times you actually say I’m good. I’m not as good with the Bible as you may think. And I really don’t like everybody like you say I do. Not because I can’t, but because I don’t know everybody, and I usually don’t have time to form a liking for people. But I love everybody, including Pius; you think I don’t like him. Well…
You know I sent him an epistle recently (you can request a copy). And since then, I’ve channelled my time, likes and dislikes, to worthy stuff. There is so much in the Word of God to get into, I cannot afford the time to enter into claims and counter-claims. I don’t know if I told you, but at one time in my life, it was great joy for me to read and contribute to arguments against Islam. What a waste of time it was!
Rather than spend time growing my character, I just tarried at one point. The life that was supposed to be the living proof of the faith I have was spent on Facebook, acting all noble and pious, trading pointless words in a search for supremacy. God made me realise how wrong my motives were, because I set about proving myself, and not proving Jesus. And we prove Jesus by our lives. Words are good, but our living speaks the most volumes. That is what James said in his letter to whoever he wrote it to:
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? (2:14 MSG)
So I left that.
Today, it is arguments within the body of Christ. People throwing words one way and the other, calling some law preachers and others grace preachers. They end up spiting each other, and looking down on each other, because each corner feels they are the real deal and that the other is teaching nonsense. Again James has this to say:
Don’t bad-mouth each other friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. (4:11 MSG)
That is what I see in The Church today. And the Gospel is suffering. Outsiders just look at us with contempt, because we really look ridiculous. We are ridiculous actually. But I have decided to focus on what lies ahead, and obtaining the fullness of the glory of Jesus, proving daily that this is indeed the truest faith, God helping me.
Yes, I’m quoting a lot from James. This year, I want to finish again the New Testament. I know the ideal is to finish the Bible in a year, but in reality, I’m in no hurry. I will delve into the Old Testament again soon but not without digesting the NT to a large extent.The OT is so big, you cannot decipher without the NT.
And James, to me, is a very relevant letter at this particular point in Christian history.
By the way, I hope you are getting time with your Bible. Life is getting busier. I am trying as much as I can. I have fallen in love with Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible. And the New Living Translation is just bae. Nothing can be more important now than to personally delve into the Word. It saves a lot of stress, and you can just block out the unending cacophony that graffiti on the Word can create.
Your question about bad habits has left me pondering since yesterday.
I outrightly would say a categorical N O. I personally don’t think that God allows a bad habit to persist with any person. Period. But I also cannot claim a full knowledge on the many ways of God. I have come to realise over time that God is a vast sovereign, and His ways are far beyond our comprehension. He is unquestionable because He can do and undo. He is not bound by my puny little understanding of how things are or hopes of how things ought to be. He is God, and no less.
So I know that in teaching people, His methods are His exclusive preserve, and it varies from persoon to person.
While I don’t think He will allow a bad habit persist in a person’s life, I have seen Him teach me in many ways before, using my habits a teaching aid. For example, pride has been an issue in my short life. I think it keeps recurring at every stage I attain. And I must confess it is difficult to contain as a person. It is a fleshy and natural response to advancement; our egos are counter-spirit.
I began to realise that the ease with which I slip back into bad habits is a reflection of how powerless I am, on my own, to ward off sin. Most times, these slips come off the back of great spiritual victories. I’m ecstatic, and feeling like I’ve arrived. In my mind I’m heads above others, and infallible.
And then bam! I’m off into some silly habit. And every time, it makes me realise how fallible I am, and how I must totally rely on Jesus every time. So now, when I discover I’m getting ahead, I don’t get ahead of Jesus. I humble myself even more and subject myself to the control of His Word.
If I have learnt lessons from my bad habits then, it is that the flesh with us is still very weak, and it is God that keeps us by our agreement with His Word. Our abilities are limited to the extent that we agree with God’s Words, and our actions are propelled by our understanding of our victory. if for a moment I think I’ve had it conquered, and I’m a champion, my subtle pride is dealt a fantastic blow. I slip back, and realise I’m not of myself perfect.
It’s the same thing when I fall sick. I learn how our mighty selves can be greatly subdues and brought under by the unseen viruses that cause flu, and the malaria parasites that bring us near death.
Everything teaches me that I am never to trust in the arm of flesh, but in the victorious arm of God and in who I am in Him, not merely who I am.
But then, that is my personal experience.
Bad habits are not God-made. In fact, our knowledge of habits we know as bad coome from the knowledge that we are now new creations and that some habits are just not in comformity to our new status. Else, we could care less about bad habits, so long as our pleasure is unabated. The consciousness of what Christ has done pushes us towards ending bad habits.
Our bad habits are the results of two major forces. The first is the world around us, and the second is our desire in us, which I tend to call the world within us.
The course of the world is set in such a manner that we are beset by so many temptations. These temptations are like the world throwing us bait, hoping we latch unto one at least. It is the ensnaring tactic of the devil from time. He did that to Eve, in order to dominate her. Now that the dominion is severed, the ensnaring tactic is back in play. The temptations are designed to lure our desires into a lusty rage that seeks immediate gratification.
Get this: Our desires are not bad in themselves. However, the world tempts us into gratifying them outside of God and His ordained ways.
I find James to be quite instructive on this matter. In fact he addresses it right in the first chapter of his letter. He talks about the first force (the external force) in verses 2-4, when our faith is being tried. The idea of our faith being tested is not merely in circumstances around us that may make us feel persecuted like not having a job or an apartment, or stuff like that, but also in dealing with issues that our new found faith tells us we have overcome. Issues like sin and bad habits. Our agreement with Jesus suggests to the world that those things are not of us anymore, but the world would still bait us on them. It is actually an opportunity for us to pick the victory of God, and assert our personality as new creations, to prove the reality of Christ’s victory. The less we fall for the bait of the devil, the more joyous we become, seeing we are indeed living the true life we signed up for.
The other force is in verses 13-15. There James describes our desires pouring out and seeking gratification. It is to me the outpouring of desires in response to the external temptations. So our desire for something gets hooked to the bait of the world saying it is available right now in forms that are ungodly. In falling for these, for example, our desires for sex manifest into masturbation and fornication and pornography, for example. Our desires for wealth manifest into fraud and corruption. Our desire for a good image in the eyes of man manifest into lying and manipulations. And so on like that.
Essentially, our desires are fanned into raging fires by the world’s bait, and when they latch on to each other, we find ourselves saddled with many “bad habits”.
The quickest thing our minds project is to push the blame away from ourselves, Adam-style. But James is quick to point out where the blame truly lies: US.(Not United States o). Verse 13.
Uncontrolled desires are bound to find an opportunity to be expressed. The world will make sure of it. This is the birthplace of bad habits: seeking gratification outside of God.
And deep down, it burns us. We know it is wrong because we have the Holy Spirit. We know we are wrong. And it has the ability to impede our worship until we acknowledge our wrong and tap into the ever-present Grace of God, and the subsisting sacrifice of Jesus.
God gives us these desires for appointed times and purposes. The world baits us. We give in, and that’s it. God didn’t create the bad habit. We did. We do, because we do not walk taller than our temptations. We do not walk in victory. We cave in, and submit to the instincts of the flesh, rather than walk as those who are victorious over sin.
Our bad habits are our own creation. We must hold no one else responsible.
That we learn from our dealing with bad habits is a great handwork of God. It is what He does all the time. We create a sticky mess for ourself, and he gets us out when we cry for help. In the same way, we get bad habits. But His sovereignty means He can turn your situation into a learning experience for you.
He is God, and He can do whatever He wants.
Oh well. This is really just what I think. Let me try a James farewell:
You can live without bad habits. That is the glorious message of the Grace of God. We are free to live as righteous as Christ as made us in spirit, and the earlier we begin to realise the enormous power of Grace in our daily lives, the easier it will become for us to walk in it.
Remember, this great power is great responsibility.
Okay, that was adapted from Spiderman.