When you boil life down to the nubbies, the name of the game is change. Those who flex with the times, refuse to be rigid, resist the mold, and reject the rut—ah, those are the souls distinctively used by God. To them, change is a challenge, a fresh breeze that flows through the room of routine and blows away the stale air of sameness.
Stimulating and invigorating as change may be—it is never easy. Changes are especially tough when it comes to certain habits that haunt and harm us. That kind of change is excruciating—but it isn’t impossible.
Jeremiah pointed out the difficulty of breaking into an established life pattern when he quipped:
Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil.(13:23 NIV)
Notice the last few words, “accustomed to doing evil.” The Hebrew says, literally, “learned in evil.” Now, that’s quite an admission! We who are “learned in evil” cannot do good; evil habits that remain unchanged prohibit it. Evil is a habit that is learned; it is contracted and cultivated by long hours of practice. In another place, Jeremiah confirms this fact:
I warned you when you felt secure,
but you said, “I will not listen!”
This has been your way from your youth;
you have not obeyed me.(22:21 NIV)
All of us have practiced certain areas of wrong from our youth. It is a pattern of life that comes “second nature” to us. We gloss over our resistance, however, with the varnish of excuse:
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“I’ll never be any different; that’s just the way I am.”
“I was born this way—nothing can be done about it.”
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Jeremiah tells us why such excuses come so easily. We have become “learned in evil” . . . it has been our way from our youth. In one sense, we have learned to act and react in sinful, unbiblical ways with ease and (dare we admit it?) with a measure of pleasure. Admittedly, there are many times we do it unconsciously; and on those occasions, the depth of our habit is more revealing.
It is vital—it is essential—that we see ourselves as we really are in the light of God’s written Word . . . then be open to change where change is needed.