Kicking Kne-Jerk Reactions to the Curb

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We all need to be aware of our tendency for knee-jerk reactions rather than Christlike behavior, especially the words we speak. But don’t beat yourself up if you mess up.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

One day I was driving home from the beach in July 4 holiday traffic. It was muggy, and cars were a throng of metal on wheels. Everyone was going faster than the posted speed limit, and I was trying to keep up.

I was also young and distracted. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was crying my eyes out.

When my front right tire slipped off the asphalt and onto the gravel shoulder of the road, I heard the voice of my driver’s ed teacher in my head: “If you run off the road, do not jerk your car back on the road. Slow down to a stop, and then gently guide the car back onto the road.”

As I was thinking, do not jerk the steering wheel, I promptly jerked the steering wheel. My car flew across two lanes of traffic to the left, and then, overcompensating, flew back to the right. Finally, I went down an embankment, flipped over several times, and landed upside down in a ravine. I crawled out unscathed — a miracle for sure.

Reflexes are strong. I knew what to do, but I did just the opposite.

The Bible tells us that when we come to Christ, we are a new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). However, there’s no delete button to erase our old habits.

These old patterns are like ruts in the brain, formed by 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.

There’s 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’ first miracle at the wedding of Cana, He traveled to Capernaum to celebrate Passover. As He approached the temple, Jesus saw the haggling and exchanging of coins. The temple had become a free-for-all rather than a house of prayer, as the money changers took advantage of travelers by charging exorbitant fees.

“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, 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! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:15-16, NIV)

Jesus cleaned the temple that day, but it wasn’t long before the corrupt money changers crept back in with their wares. Three years later, during His last week of life on earth, Jesus came upon the unholy mess again. Here’s the report in Matthew:

“Jesus entered the temple courts 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 mayhem of the temple happen the second time? Scripture doesn’t say, but 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 then one by one, the buyers and sellers returned.

Sometimes I am that messy temple, swept clean by conviction! Then caustic words start itching to creep back and be spit out. A word here. A reaction here. The next thing I know, I’m rolling down the embankment of trouble.

We all need to be aware of our tendency for knee-jerk reactions rather than Christlike behavior, especially the words we speak. But don’t beat yourself up if you mess up. Apologize quickly. Repent sincerely. Move forward confidently, knowing “… that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).

Lord, help me replace my old patterns with new, Christlike 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’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:2a, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Did you know your words are shaping other people’s lives? To become a woman who uses her words wisely, see Sharon Jaynes’ updated re-release of The Power of a Woman’s Words! When you pre-order before April 21, you’ll also receive a free e-book download of Enough: Silencing the Lies That Steal Your Confidence.

CONNECT:
Visit Sharon’s website for a FREE printable of 25 Bible verses about the words we speak.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What’s one old habit that snuck back into your life that you need to sweep back out again? Share with us in the comments section!

© 2020 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

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