We all must come to terms with the way we are. But there are two ways we must do this. The first is to cultivate contentment with who God designed us to be, which results in a wonderful liberation from trying to be someone we’re not. The second is to lay aside the burdensome weight of the fatalistic resignation that we’ll never be any different than what we are, which results in an enslavement to our sin-infused predilections.
Cultivating Contentment and Fighting Fatalism
Cultivating contentment in the person God designed us to be is based on our belief in the glorious gospel truths that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3) so that we are now a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) who lives by faith (Galatians 2:20) in the God who provides all we need (Philippians 4:19) so that we can exclaim with joy, “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10)!
Believing these things sets us free to increasingly pursue living in the freedom that Jesus has provided us (John 8:36).
But they can be hard to believe in the face of our persistent sins and weaknesses, things we are so keenly aware of. Instead, we are tempted to believe the horrible, heavy lies that God’s grace toward us must, in fact, be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:10) or else simply withheld by a disapproving, unsatisfiable Heavenly Father, because we keep stumbling in the same old “many ways” (James 3:2) and we’ll never, at least in this age, ever really be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).
Believing these things confines us to living in fear, shame, and the apathy of fatalistic resignation. We buy into the seductive, hope-sucking, energy-depleting, self-pitying deception that “I’ll never change.” The destructiveness of this lie goes beyond a particular sin or weakness. It creates a mindset of surrender that leads to further kinds of self-indulgence, compounding our problem and sense of defeat.
We must fight to take these lies captive and destroy their fatalistic arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5) so that we can lay aside the weights of their sins (Hebrews 12:1).
The Key to Transforming Power
The truth is that what keeps us from experiencing change is not a lack of power but a lack of belief. When Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), his point was that we “can do all things through him who strengthens [us]” (Philippians 4:13). For “all things are possible for the one who believes” (Mark 9:23).
In the battle against sin and pursuit of transformation, the Bible appeals almost exclusively to our belief as the conduit through which the Spirit’s power flows. Here’s a well-known example:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
The key to not being pressed into worldly sin, the key to transforming power is a change (a renewal) of mind. What does this change of mind look like? It looks like a change of belief. It’s believing and choosing to act on what Jesus promises and not what the world and all of its enslaving vices promise.
Get Fed Up!
Now, if you’re a regular to this blog or been a Christian for a while, you know this. What you might find yourself saying is, “A lot easier said than done.” Point granted. We all admit it: Sin habits and addictions are difficult to break, some more than others. I’m a sinner with terrible indwelling sin. I know from personal experience that the fight to change a mindset can be hard. And I have loved ones who have walked or are walking through very difficult sin issues, some of them the effects of unspeakable sins committed against them.
But let’s also all admit this: We need less whining and whimpering about how hard it is to change and how we don’t know how or where to start and we can never maintain our resolves, etc., ad nauseam. This has too often been a smoke screen for our lack of desire to make a change. Or we’ve been cowards, letting sin hold us prisoner because we hold our precious reputations so dear that we don’t ask anyone for help. Too often our attempts at transformation have been half-hearted because we’re proud, indulgent, and self-pitying. And we haven’t believed Jesus.
We must get fed up with teeny-weeny mud puddle happiness.
There comes a time when we don’t need more sermons or seminars or books or how-to’s laid out for us. What we need is some righteous indignation that we have allowed ourselves to be held captive to habitual sin and indulgence by a mindset — an evil argument (2 Corinthians 10:5)! We need to get fed up with “struggling” and start believing God. We need to resolve to stop disbelieving Jesus and start believing (John 20:27) and begin to take texts like these seriously:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. . . . For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12, 14)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
We must get fed up with teeny-weeny mud puddle happiness! Jesus’s promises are ten thousand times better and they are worth bearing some discomfort or suffering to obtain!
The Grace of Slow Change
Pursuing transformation through a renewed mind doesn’t mean change will necessarily come quickly. Change is often very slow. Sometimes this is because we are “slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24:25). But God also has his wonderful purposes in sanctifying us slowly.
Slow change produces spiritual fruit in us that God values highly, maybe more than we do, fruit like patience, humility, kindness, gentleness, perseverance, and self-control. And faith. Slow change often drives us to ransack the Word for promises to trust, an exercise which has loads of benefits.
Slow change also gives us insight into other purposes of God. There is a strong, consistent motif throughout the Bible of the saints waiting on God. Think of how God called Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Israel in Egypt, Hannah, David, Daniel, and many others to wait on him. Think of how long Israel waited for the long-expected Jesus. And think of how the church has waited for the long-expected “revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7).
There is often more in our waiting than we understand. God’s concept of time is different from ours and therefore God is not slow, as we tend to think (2 Peter 3:9). He is at work patiently conforming us into his image (Romans 8:29), and therefore very good work is being accomplished in our waiting. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him” (Lamentations 3:25); they “shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
Lay the Lie Aside
There is no need for us to carry the lying weight that we will never change any further. We can lay it aside today and run the race believing the joyful promise that “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
And today’s work: Be done with excuses and be transformed by the renewing of your mind.