When we are honest with ourselves, we will easily recognize that we have a lot of “growing up” to do in regards to our relationship with God. Though delivered from the ultimate consequence of our sin – everlasting torment and separation from God in hell – we may often feel as though we are in a struggle to actually live up to the standards and principles that we have been given through the scriptures. This growing realization of inadequacy and failure, despite being assured of God’s unfailing love for his children, can tend to push us in two directions:
- Frenzied activity – trying to do more for God while attempting to hide our mistakes
- Complacency – settling for the status quo which may likely lead to rejection of our relationship with God since it doesn’t seem to be relevant or make much of a difference in our lives
However, we need to understand that it is normal to experience a daily, continual, strenuous battle with your own selfishness and repeated failure; the apostle Paul himself described such an experience (see Romans 7). God has given us a valuable resource for implementing his desired change in us, because ultimately God is focused on your character and lifestyle beginning to reflect Jesus himself. This process has three areas that work together to produce lasting change within us at a character level:
- the mind/heart
- the Spirit of God
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” -Romans 12.2a
First, we must understand that change begins in the mind and heart. Essential change is not the result of behavior modification techniques but is through a transformation of your belief system and values. The goal is a changed lifestyle – one that more accurately reflects God’s own character as seen in Jesus – but the process must begin within.
“we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” -Colossians 1.9a-10
Second, we will begin to experience change when we exchange our present beliefs and ways of thinking for God’s. The Bible is not primarily a book of rules or principles but a narrative of God’s interactions with humanity. It presents an alternative story than what we are given by the society around us. Through scripture, we learn God’s values and priorities, his character, his goals and purposes. This is the content which renews the mind and gives us the opportunity to understand God, ourselves, and the world around us.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” – John 16:13a
Finally, we cannot forget that true change is not simply an academic or intellectual process, but a renewal of myself by the Spirit of God. In order to accomplish this, the Spirit gets involved in the process of transformation. He works within us at a level that is “beneath the surface” and often hard to distinguish because he is working within our very thoughts and beliefs. He is the one who brings conviction and enlightenment to remind us of the truths in scripture and bring us into an ever-closer resemblance of Jesus.
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12