Q10: Can desires be habitual?

By David Powlison 2007
from Chapter on “I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire” in “Seeing With New Eyes

10. Can desires be habitual?
Paul describes a former manner of life characterized by deceitful lusts. Peter tells his readers not to be conformed to their former desires. [Eph. 4:2 (cf. 4:17-19, which reinforces the notion of a characteristic lifestyle); 1 Pe. 1:14.] Like all other aspects of sin–beliefs, attitudes, words, deeds, emotions, thoughts, fantasies–desires can be habitual. You will counsel people who typically and repeatedly seek to control others, or to indulge in the pleasures of sloth, or to be seen as superior, or to be liked. Jesus’ call to die daily to self recognizes the inertia of sin. God is in the business of creating new habitual desires, for example, an active concern for the well being of others before God.
Many counseling systems are obsessed with locating the reasons for current problems in the distant past. The Bible’s wordview is much more straightforward. Sin emerges from within the person. The fact that a pattern of craving became established many years before–even that it was forged in a particular context, perhaps influenced by bad models or by experience of being sinned against–only describes what happened. For example, past rejections do not cause a craving to be accepted by others any more than current rejections cause that craving. The occasions of a lust are never its cause. Temptations and sufferings do push buttons, but they don’t create those buttons. The brings huge hope for change in the present by the grace of God.

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