For True Change, Consult the Author of ‘All Things New’

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Revelation 21:5
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Right about now, nine days into the New Year, many of us are already beginning to see with great clarity just how difficult it is to make any sort of meaningful change…and that assumes that we haven’t already thrown in the towel altogether. Accountability is a great way to keep us from giving up easily on a desired change in our lives, but when we’ve been sitting around eating cookies all afternoon, having our best friend innocently ask, “Hey, how’s the new diet going?” can be really annoying.

Jesus Makes All Things NewAs I’m sure you do as well, I know how hard change is. I have been engaged in a full-on battle with my flesh, quite literally, for about seven months, attempting to shed extra pounds since last summer. Outwardly, there have been many rewards, but I am wary of the outward changes to my body simply because I know full well that my heart has yet to come along for the ride. Yes, by God’s grace, I have managed to fumble my way toward weight loss (and better health) and yet I am truly sobered by the theologically-rich film Tommy Boy; in many ways, I am still inwardly a “fat guy in a little coat.”

As an alcoholic who has been sober for 19-plus years now, the process of deeper heart change is familiar enough to me such that if anyone hoping to “dabble” in change were to get my opinion, I would suggest they not even try – at least not until 1) they are ready to examine their hearts for the motives behind the desire to change, 2) test their willingness to be Spirit-led in how and why that change occurs, and then 3) make a full-on commitment to a season of hardship.

My reasons for making these outrageous statements are pretty straightforward.

1. Change is painful. No matter what changes you desire to make, you’re not going to get very far if you are averse to discomfort. One of the bigger mistakes we make going into the process, I think, is underestimating just how much pain we are going to go through. Plan for a rough 6-12 months, not 6-12 days. Rejoice and spontaneously break out into praise songs if you happen to experience authentic heart change in less than six months.

2. Effecting change within the deeper desires of our hearts is not something we can control.¬†Example: I stopped drinking alcohol in July of 1997. I stopped craving it – or secretly desiring it as an escape mechanism – sometime in 1999-2000. All along, I prayed that God would instantaneously remove from me the desire to drink, but in the absence of Him granting that request, I had to fall back onto what my wife and I like to call Raw Obedience: “Man, I really want to stop here and pick up a fifth of Wild Turkey…but I’m just going to grit my teeth and keep driving.”

3. Change can often bring unintended and unforeseen consequences. Having worked in separation and divorce ministry for several years now, my wife and I have been drawn into several stories where a seemingly-good commitment to looking better, making more money or perhaps both has led to the dissolution of a marriage. Having failed to engage with Jesus on the front end of a desired change – a more desirable physical appearance being the most obvious – “change achieved” can quickly puff up the ego and convince the recipient that he or she “can do better,” or something similar. In short, the change brings about a heightened confidence in self, pride runs amok and God’s will in the matter becomes of little or no value.

4. We often desire change for the wrong reasons. Again, do we want to lose weight to honor God with our bodies, the temple of His Holy Spirit? Are we hoping to live longer so that we can continue working for His coming Kingdom with greater energy? Or are we simply craving the approval of our friends, especially members of the opposite sex? Motives should be examined carefully before embarking on any change in course. The plans we make to bring about change are best held loosely until we are certain that Jesus is in favor of them. If anything in our plan violates the precepts of Scripture, we have clearly taken a wrong turn. “Gray areas” should be subjected to the scrutiny of several mature Christians who have been given both the grace and authority to speak boldly into your life.

5. Making changes such that we become more like Jesus is a declaration of war. The Bible is quite clear on the fact that Christians are actively opposed by the world, the flesh and the devil. And that’s just our “default setting.” Now add on top of that an authentic desire to be more like Jesus? Congratulations, you have just gained the “heightened interest” of everything that stands in opposition to Christ. As a carnal Christian, content to indulge your appetites, you were not much of an influence in the world. Now? As someone seeking God-honoring change, you are now someone who can bear witness to the power of God in a dark, unbelieving world. It is a tremendous mistake to underestimate the spiritual forces that will be lining up against that desire to be faithful.

Am I saying that we should abandon all hope of making real, lasting changes? Of course not.

Jesus will make all things new in the future, yes, but He is very clear that the process of renewal has already begun, dating back to His resurrection. Any and all God-glorifying change is done by His grace, with His help and in His name. There is spiritual power and (thankfully) grace to begin making lasting change in your life. “All things,” after all, does include you.

Notice that there’s a putting off and a putting on. Your health really comes down to stopping some stuff you need to stop doing and starting some stuff you need to start doing. Stop putting negative, hurtful things in your body, and start putting in things that edify. Stop putting negative, hurtful things into your mind, and start watching and listening to things that edify Jesus and make you more like him. In the renewal of your mind, you’ve got to put off before you can put on.
Take Off the Old, Put On the New (Jan. 8, 2017)
Rick Warren

Jesus came to remake us in God’s image. Jesus took our brokenness, our hatred, and our curse on himself on the cross. He took the penalty of our sin and in its place gave us a new life and new love. God is in the business of change. He’s interested in making us like Jesus.
You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions
Tim Chester

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