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Summary: The journey of faith is a call to change your habits to those of God.The reality is that people need help in living a healthy and Godly manner. One answer has been the self help books which can be found in their own section at any bookstor

Self Help

Ephesians 4:22-24

Have you ever had difficulty trying to change a habit? Human beings are creatures of habit. The 19th century psychologist William James observed, "All our life ... is but a mass of habits." We develop habits and tend to continue acting as we have acted in the past. Habits not only create routine in our lives, they create safety and security as well. Like a the Mississippi River flowing through Louisiana, the longer a habit continues, the more deeply it becomes ingrained, and the harder it is to change. This is true of all habits. Habits are your mind's way of taking care of the little things that you have to do every day, but you don't want to have to think about. Imagine how frustrating life would be if you had to think about all of these things every day: Where the garbage can in the kitchen is, where the light switches are located or where are the numbers on the phone or the letters on a keyboard located? Because these things do not change very often, your habit learning system takes care of them for you. That way, you can think about more important things. There are good habits which enhance your life and there are bad habits that harm your life like, your health, your relationships, your career and even your life.

The journey of faith is a call to change your habits to those of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” In other words, major changes must occur when we are converted to serve God. Old practices, habits and attitudes must be replaced by new ones. We must eliminate bad habits like foul language, uncontrolled temper, gambling, drugs, gossip, lying, pornography, sexual promiscuity, and replace them with good habits like Bible study, prayer, love, faith, patience, worship, giving, serving, etc.

Since the first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, people have had a host of bad habits and sins to deal with, sins that come with living in a fallen world. The reality is that people need help in living a healthy and Godly manner. One answer has been the self help books which can be found in their own section at any bookstore, even in many Christian bookstores. Thousands of new self-help books are published annually and it’s a booming business. Forbes Magazine writes that Americans spent a total $21 billion last year on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching and stress-management programs. Self help gurus seems to be everywhere. Oprah, Suze Orman, Anthony Robbins and Dr. Phil are everywhere, blanketing bookstores and the airwaves. Covering everything from personal finance to spiritual renewal — often all at the same time — they fill a deep-seated need to feel like we have control over our lives and are growing and improving them. One problem is the lack of proof that they actually help others. The recommended techniques may be good, but no one ever tests them. Sadly, 95% or more of those books are published without any scientific evidence of their effectiveness as stand-alone, self-help materials. And Americans aren't asking for test results either. They just buy and follow the instructions blindly and the buyers of books, speeches, tapes and seminars continue to spend. Self help materials are expected to grow annually by more than 6.2%.

The church has not been immune to this cultural movement of self help. So often, we see a heavily psychologized version of Christianity that promotes the idea that you can help yourself. Many people believe, “God helps those who help themselves” is from God’s word and they follow it religiously when in fact, it was stated by Ben Franklin. Pastors have contributed to this idea of personal improvement through self help by providing inspirational sermons and uplifting recipes for successful living, community, consolation, encouragement and recovery – to meet your needs and satisfy your wants. Like the secular self-help gurus they promise personal growth, "recovery" and other worldly benefits. But the message is the same: through your own efforts, you can achieve salvation, healing, wholeness and personal growth. A generation ago, it was Robert Schuller and his “Hour of Power” whose message could be summed up by “the power of positive thinking.” Today it is Joel Osteen who teaches things like, “Do all you can to make your dreams come true” and “you can change your world” Regardless of the pastor, the message in many is the same: “It is all about your strength. You can do it.” Yes, God is important they say, but then they provide the tools to help yourself, leading people to rely on themselves for change and almost cutting God out of the picture.

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