Thursday, April 22, 2010
You Can Change 4
In chapter 3 of Tim Chester's book You Can Change we're presented with the question "How Are You Going to Change?" Tim Keller says that religion leads to either pride or despair. Chester has so far talked a lot about pride. But at some point, we realize that we can't check off all the boxes. We come to the conclusion that change is not really possible. The pride that we had in our achievements now turns to despair. And that's where the gospel comes in. Chester writes, "The glorious good news of Jesus is that you and I can change" (41).
The problem is that we try to change in the wrong way, and for most of us, this involves the law (legalism). We believe that if we just try harder, or do this and don't do that, or make lists that we can check off, that we eventually will see change. The problem is that the law was never meant to bring change. The purpose of the law is to show us that we can't change ourselves, that something else is needed. And that something else is Christ.
This is why we must not only repent of sin, but repent of our righteousness as well. In other words, we repent of trying to make ourselves "right with God" based on our efforts. This is the foundation for change. It's understanding that it's impossible on our own, that we are completely dependent on God for anything good to happen.
This is where God's sanctifying work through the Holy Spirit comes in (2 Thess. 2:13). Whereas we often try to change our behavior, God goes straight for the heart. That's the only way lasting change can happen. Ezekiel 36 says that God has removed our heart of stone and given us a new heart of flesh.
But not only has God given us new hearts, He also sent Jesus to die on the Cross so that sin would no longer reign. Paul says, "We know that our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin" (Romans 6:6-7).
Because of Christ's work on the Cross, and the Spirit's continual sanctifying work in our hearts, we do not have to be slaves of sin. By the grace of God, we can change because we are changed. We can be led by the Spirit instead of the flesh. We will of course continue to face temptation (Chester says that we're like a former prisoner who still wakes at prison hours, or like a freed slave who still jumps at his old master's voice), but we don't have to sin. The key is repentance, which is a daily activity for God's people. Every day we remind ourselves that it is only through God's work that we that we have abundant life, that we have forgiveness, that we have freedom. And this repentance opens the door for God's Spirit to move in our hearts.