Have you ever had a verbal knee-jerk reaction that got you in trouble? The kind that you knew what to do in your head, but then you did the opposite? I know I have.
Reflexes are strong, especially when it comes to the words we speak.
The Bible tells us that when we come to Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, no one pushes the delete button to erase the old habit patterns that have been formed over time.
Old flesh patterns, or habit patterns, are like ruts in the brain that have been formed by years and years of thinking the same thoughts and repeating the same actions. The only way to replace those ruts is to form new ruts—renewing our minds with God’s truth and our practice. And I can think of no more difficult rut to change than the words we speak. It takes practice for the knee-jerk reaction of old habits not to sneak back in.
Shortly after Jesus’s first miracle at the wedding of Cana, He traveled to Capernaum to celebrate Passover. As He approached the temple, Jesus heard the bleating of sheep, smelled the stench of the cattle, and saw the gypsy-like haggling and exchanging of coins. The temple had become a free-for-all rather than a house of prayer.
“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:15-16).
Yes, Jesus cleaned out the temple that day, but it wasn’t long before the money changers began to creep back in with their wares. Three years later, during his last week of life on earth, Jesus came upon the unholy mess again.
“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13 NIV).
How did the messy mayhem of the temple happen the second time? I don’t think it happened all at once. After Jesus cleared out the temple initially, I suspect it stayed that way for a time. But one day, a money changer set up his table. Then another brought in a few birds, followed by a couple of sheep, and then here came a cow.
The next thing you know, the temple wasn’t any different than it was before Jesus cleared it out and cleaned it up three years earlier.
Sometimes I am that messy temple. Swept-clean by conviction! Then caustic words start itching to creep back and be spit back out. A word here. A reaction here. The next thing you know we’re rolling down the embankment of trouble.
We all need to be aware of our tendency to revert to knee-jerk reaction rather than Christ-like behavior, especially with the words we speak. But don’t beat yourself up if you mess up. Apologize quickly. Repent sincerely. Move forward confidently knowing “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 NOLT).
Lord, help me to replace my old habit patterns with new Christ-like behavior. As I renew my mind with Your truth, I pray I will put into practice what I am putting into my head.
In Jesus’s Name,