Thursday, May 27, 2010

You Can Change 11

Whereas the last chapter I blogged on (almost a month ago) was on the truths that we need to turn to, this chapter is on the desires that we need to turn from. Remember, behind every sin is some kind of lie. That's why we need to go back to truth. But that's just a part of it. As we turn to God, we are in effect turning away from sin.

Chester writes, "We sin because we desire or worship idols instead of worshipping God" (99). When we think of idols we usually think of some type of shrine or statue. But an idol is anything we look to to give us meaning and satisfaction. The Bible says that our first sin wasn't choosing idols. It was rejecting God (Jeremiah 2:12-13; Romans 1:25). And then, because we rejected God as the source of ultimate satisfaction, we had to look elsewhere. And that's where idols come in.

It's important to remember that an idol doesn't have to be something bad. It's normally something good. What makes it an idol is that we believe that if we don't have it, our lives are meaningless, and though that doesn't sound too harmful, it is in essence us saying that God is not enough.

And that's why Chester says that changing behavior is not enough. Instead, change will come as God transforms our hearts and gives us new desires (102). This of course is something that only God can do, but we do have a role to play. We are called to repentance. As I wrote earlier, repentance involves turning. Turning from idols and turning to God. The tragedy is that we've been led to believe that repentance is something that we do once in our life, at the point where we first turn to Christ. In truth, repentance should be a daily occurrence.

As God begins to change our hearts and give us new desires, we have another role to play. The Bible speaks of this role using the word "mortification", which simply means to put something to death. In this case, that "something" is sin (Romans 8:13). Sinclair Ferguson describes mortification this way:
It is the constant battle against sin which we fight daily - the refusal to allow the eye to wander, the mind to contemplate, the affection to run after anything which will draw us from Christ.

When a sinful, idolatrous desire creeps into our minds, we can either feed it or kill it. (I should point out that the only reason we have that second option is because of Christ's death and resurrection!) Chester gives a few examples of how this works. Here's one of them:
I feel myself getting bitter. Once I might have fed my desire by reflecting on all the wrongs I endure. But I realize now that bitterness is grumbling against God's goodness. And so (in my best moments and with God's help) I try to stop it before it grows.
As you can see, on one hand this sounds pretty simple. But on the other hand it takes intentionality and requires that a new habit be formed. Once again, we go to the Gospel. Paul says in Galatians 5:1 that it is for freedom that we have been set free. That is how we have the ability to form new habits.

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