The Benefits of Good Habits
As you grow up, your parents and teachers do their best to teach you what is good and right. They teach you what is good for your body, your soul, and your mind. Your parents cannot guarantee perfect health and strength for you, but teaching you good eating habits and making sure you get enough exercise and rest gives you the foundation for good health. In the same way, your parents, teachers, and church leaders cannot give you salvation, but they can teach you what God requires of you and what habits tend to spiritual health and which ones tend to death and destruction. We cannot earn our salvation since it is a free gift from God through Jesus Christ.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.Titus 3:5
Doing good works or “being good” will never bring you salvation. That does not mean, however, that we should not try to obey God’s laws. God created man perfect and commanded him to obey Him and glorify Him perfectly. God’s commands did not change because we fell into sin. “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 20:7). We must be obedient. We must glorify God. Some people try very hard to be good and make the deadly mistake of becoming satisfied with their good deeds. Other people may be tempted to think, “If I am totally depraved, incapable of doing anything to please God, then why should I even try?” Both of these are wrong. What must we do then? We must try to obey God’s commands and discipline ourselves to keep up godly habits. Certainly, we will commit many sins and often neglect to do what God commands, but that should drive us toward the Lord, asking for forgiveness and a new heart that seeks to glorify God in obedience to Him.
The Bible tells us very clearly how we ought to live. There are many “good habits” we should develop to help us seek the Lord. A habit is a pattern or routine that we do over and over. There are habits or routines that God commands us to do; they are not optional. One of these is to spend time reading God’s Word. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (psalm 119:11). How can we know what God is telling us if we don’t read His Word? We can also find many wonderful promises in the Bible that encourage us to keep seeking the Lord. Another thing we must do is to gather with God’s people, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). We must attend worship services on Sunday, but we must also choose our friends carefully. Do your friends draw you closer to God or pull you away from Him? Do your friends help you obey God’s laws or do they hinder your obedience to Him?
A third thing we must do is make time to pray. “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (psalm 55:17). We hear from God in His Word and in church, but we may not ignore Him and refuse to answer Him. God wants us to confess our sins and ask Him for a new heart. He wants us to ask for His help in daily things but also spiritual things. We simply cannot obey God without His help; we cannot obey Him without receiving a new heart through the work of the Holy Spirit. God does not want outward obedience; He wants obedience that flows out of thankfulness for the gift of salvation.
A fourth thing we can do is sing or listen to other people sing. “I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (psalm 104:33). Singing psalms and hymns focuses our mind on the Lord. Some of the psalms are prayers and others are songs of praise. Singing can help us express our thoughts to God and bring us hope and joy when we are feeling discouraged.
Developing these good habits of prayer, Bible reading, gathering with godly people, and singing will not ever earn you salvation, but these habits will help prevent you from developing bad habits that will lead you away from God. These good habits are sometimes called the means of grace. The means of grace are the ways most often used by the Holy Spirit to save people. Though you cannot buy your salvation by having good habits, you have a responsibility to use them. There are many passages in the Bible that instruct us to live in obedience to God. The Israelites had many bad habits: they had a habit of worshiping idols and doubting God's power. This led them away from God and brought His anger upon them. Their lives would have been much more blessed had they lived in obedience to God. True, their hearts and ours are inclined to all evil, but if they would have cried out to God for help, He would have sent His Spirit to give them willing and obedient hearts.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!
Good and godly habits are not meant to make us proud, for there is nothing in us that is pleasing to God. As we try to live in obedience to God, we will hopefully soon realize that everything we do is full of sin and selfishness. This should not stop us, however, from trying to obey God, but it should make us go back to the Lord again and again to ask for a heart that obeys Him out of love and thankfulness. We must ask the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us all things necessary for complete obedience and love. We need a new heart so that we can have the right heart attitudes. Then we can truly glorify God, because then our obedience flows out of a thankful heart, and not out of mere duty.
Dear children, it is so important to establish these good habits in your youth. It will become more and more difficult to seek the Lord as you grow older. No time in your life is so full of temptation as your teen years. You are children now, but soon you will be teenagers. You are not strong enough to resist the temptations of your own heart, of Satan, and of the wicked world around you. You must establish a habit of using the means of grace. You need good habits, but, most of all; you need the Holy Spirit and the cleansing blood of the Lamb of God. You must develop a habit of calling out to God, reading His Word, gathering with His people, and singing His praises. You will save yourself much grief, sorrow, and pain if you seek the Lord in your young years. Do not let anything or anyone come between you and the Lord. Do not turn away from the godly habits that your parents, teachers, and church leaders are attempting to teach you. Flee daily to the Lord; cry out for the Holy Spirit to work in your heart repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then your good habits will be habits of praise and thanksgiving, and you will serve the Lord with gladness.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:14-15