Do You Want To Get Rid Of Your Destructive Bad Habits? Love Yourself.
Would you believe?
I’ve been preaching for over 30 years now.
And in the first fifteen years of my preaching ministry, from 1979 to 1994, I never once preached about “loving yourself”. If you doubt me, look at my preaching notes and you’ll find nothing of this idea. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Why?
Because I felt that loving oneself was another way of saying “selfishness”. So if you told me that I would one day write an article about loving yourself, I would call you nuts. “Blasphemy!” I’d say to you with the vehemence of a snorting bull.
That’s how I interpreted what Jesus said in the Bible, “If you want to be my disciple, carry your cross, deny yourself, and follow me.” Because Jesus wanted us to die to ourselves, how could I tell people to love themselves? Isn’t that the very opposite of what Jesus wanted us to do?
Here was my belief then: The SELF was the enemy of GOD. So why love it?
So I told people to forget their own needs–even their basic, valid, legitimate needs. For if Jesus gave His life on the cross for us, how can we not do otherwise?
But along the way, I got into trouble…
I Was Trying To Love God–
But I Felt Miserable.
What Was I Doing Wrong?
I was trying to love God, but it was as though I was bumping on a brick wall. I failed and I couldn’t understand why I was so miserable. I’d given up everythingfor Him, so why did I feel empty and disconnected?
And here was my bigger problem: Why was I still enslaved by various hidden addictions?
Along the way, I also met a lot of good people like myself. Good, wonderful, spiritual people who wanted to follow God all the way. But they too were mired in hang-ups and addictions that made them discombobulated.
Was Christian life this… bad?
What was wrong with us?
And then there were my special “visitations of God”.
Supernatural moments in prayer that blew me away. These were specific times when I felt God pierce through my belief system–where He would just love me. No ifs, no buts, no conditions. He would love me as is, where is. I would feel so loved, I couldn’t understand it.
And to my horror, it was as though He was inviting me to love myself as well, as is, where is. Naturally, I couldn’t understand it. It went against my rigid legalistic theology and so I would “cast out” that inner voice. Wasn’t I the enemy? Wasn’t I the sinner who needed to be disciplined, chastised, and punished? What was this idea of “just loving myself as is, where is”?
But as the years went by, I began to understand.
It took another ten years–from 1990 to 2000–for this healing to happen…
There Was No SELF To Deny!
Slowly, I understood why I couldn’t love God.
How could I deny myself when I didn’t have a SELF?
How could I die to myself if nothing was alive in me?
How could I give up if there was nothing to give up?
Let me explain: Deep within, I was so broken. I never valued myself. I never felt good about myself. I was filled with shame. So to cover my shame, I’d try to be good. To fill up my need for love, I tried to love God. But the more I tried, the more empty I felt…
Today, I realized that I can never give what I don’t have.
I can’t love God–or anyone else for that matter–if I didn’t first love ME.
My favorite verse in the Bible? We love because He first loved us. That is so true! The only way I can love God is if I receive His love for me. And it is His powerful love that will reconstruct me. Only then can I love Him.
Are You Killing Yourself?
Last week, I said, Don’t focus on your addiction.
Because when you focus on your addiction, you end up in despair.
And despair is the end of the road.
Like Judas, many people commit some type of suicide. They may not kill themselves physically, but in their despair, they kill their dreams, or they kill their relationships, or they kill the blessings that God wants to give to them.
You need to acknowledge your addiction (don’t deny it), but you don’t have to meditate on it. Your eyes should be on God’s love for you.
Focus on God’s dream for you instead.
And you can do that if you love yourself.
Loving yourself means loving the sinner and the saint within you.
You’re a mix of the good and the bad, and you need to love that mix.
Unless You Love Yourself,
You Jump From One Hidden Addiction To Another
Unless this happens, your addictions may never go away.
When we don’t love ourselves, our love tanks cause painful emotions to rise. So we may stop one addiction only to replace it with another, perhaps a more hidden addiction. I know of some former drinkers and smokers who, after removing these vices, unconsciously replaced them with more acceptable addictions, like workaholism and religious legalism, or a food addiction or TV addiction.
If you want to get rid of a destructive bad habit, you need to love yourself.
How should you love yourself?
How should you love the saint and sinner within?
In the next four weeks, I’ll share with you four powerful ways of loving yourself that will change your life forever…
May your dreams come true,
PS. I’ve been homeschooling my kids for 9 years now. I know it’s not for everybody. But for my family, we love doing it. Just in case you’re interested, check out my two letters below:
For homeschooling grade school kids, click here now.
For homeschooling high school kids, click here now.
 1 John 4:19