4-habits3-front300The Bible says, “Overcome evil with good.” It does not say to overcome evil by thinking about how much you would like to do that forbidden thing, sitting on your hands and doing nothing. It says overcome evil with good. This is the principle of replacement. Nature abhors a vacuum. Paul said we must put off the old and put on the new. We don’t put on the new over the old. We don’t put off the old without replacing it with the new. How is the new different?

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:25-29 (NIV)

Replace falsehood with truth. Replace bad anger with good anger. Replace stealing with honest work and generosity. Replace unwholesome talk with helpful talk. Verses 31 – 32 say to replace bitterness, rage, anger, and so forth with kindness and compassion.

Jesus told the story of a demon possessed man whose demon was cast out. It left him and went to find a place to rest. It couldn’t find any. When the demon came back, it found the house (man) swept clean and empty. The demon goes and gets seven of his demon buddies and they all occupy the man together. Jesus says, “And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:45b (NIV)

The emphasis of the story seems to be that the man’s life was unoccupied when the demon came back. Had he filled his life with other things, the demon would not have come back.

How the anti-fat pastor lost 100+ pounds

Steve Reynolds weighed a hundred pounds before he started grade school. He ate a bowl of ice cream every night of his life until he was forty eight years old. Through the principle of replacement, he lost 100 pounds. He has written an excellent book on the subject which includes a program for churches to use that includes a “Biggest Loser” style contest. Fox news dubbed him the “Anti-fat pastor.” What is his secret formula for weight loss?

  • Replace a bagel with a health bar
  • Replace ice cream with non-fat yogurt
  • Replace a hamburger and fries with a chicken salad
  • Replace mayonnaise with mustard
  • Replace beef with fish and chicken
  • Replace white bread with wheat bread

Steve doesn’t teach a complicated diet. His is a common sense approach that has helped thousands of people lose weight. It comes down to habits. It comes down to a thousand little decisions. It comes down to the principle of replacement—of replacing a healthy food for an unhealthy one. Most of us know how to lose weight. The formula is actually pretty simple: eat fewer calories and exercise more. Through the principle of replacement, eating fewer calories can become a reality. It can become a habit. Through the principle of replacement, exercising more can become a habit in your day-to-day life.

The principle of replacement doesn’t just apply to eating and exercise. James Macdonald says:

None of us can overcome evil by simply renouncing it. Rather, we must substitute that which was evil and replace it with that which is good. Sinful habits cannot be broken without replacing them with righteous ones. Try this simple experiment: Think of the number eight. Have you visualized it? If yes, then use your willpower to stop thinking about the number eight right now.

Were you able to do it? Of course not. Can you, by sheer willpower, stop thinking about the number eight? By no means. Trying to push it out of your mind actually causes you to focus your attention on it.

Although we can’t stop thinking about that number by sheer resistance, we can push it out of our minds quite easily. Here’s how: Think about a few bits of information you remember about your mother while growing up. Reminisce about your place in the family, whether you are still connected with them or disconnected. Concentrate on this new information, and you’ll stop thinking of the number eight.

It is not hard to imagine a number of areas where the principle of replacement might apply. Here are a few:

  • Replace a meal with a meal replacement shake.
  • Replace nicotine for cigarettes with nicotine gum or a nicotine patch. People who do so are two or three times as likely to kick the habit.
  • Replace one thirty-minute sit-com with thirty-minutes of reading.
  • Replace French fries with a side-salad.
  • Replace complaining with gratefulness.

Lutzer, E., & Lutzer, R. (2011). Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.

This five-week lesson series is available as part of the Good Question membership series. You can get this and thousands of other lessons for as low as $12 per teacher per year (church plan), or $40 per year for an individual plan. Other plans also available. For more information, see http://mybiblestudylessons.com/