One of the biggest mysteries to me when I first got saved was how God could actually change who I was.
I always thought: but isn’t it actually me who is changing myself? Aren’t I the one making the decisions to change?
I think part of the reason we become so confused about the concept of God changing us, is that we confuse obedience with a legalistic form of trying to attain our own righteousness apart from Christ. Obedience is really quite simple, while attaining our own righteousness is impossible.
On one hand, sometimes God will command us to do something that we can do, it’s just that we don’t really want to. Any example of this is when God prompted me the other week to shut down my Facebook account. Sure, I had about twenty good reasons to listen, from privacy issues, to wasted time…but on the other hand, there were just as many why I didn’t want to do this.
What will become of my blog? I wondered. Most of those who read it are reading it because of Facebook.
His answer? You were never supposed to be writing for them anyways…
Ok, God. I hear you. Loud and clear.
I deactivated the account. Not because Facebook is wrong, but because God saw something that needed to be accomplished in my life away from the spotlight of Facebook.
This is the one aspect: God commands, we obey.
The second one is harder though, because it happens when we recognize that our deeply imbedded habits are not lining up with God’s will for our lives. It’s these habits, these behaviours that we turn to when we’re broken and weak, tired or full of shame. This can include things such as addictions to alcohol, media, food, etc. Or it can be attitudes such as pride, bitterness or shame. It can also be reactions like anger, lying, and gossip.
Now, we can try to stop them (in other words try attain our own righteousness) but usually we just continue to fail and indulge in them all them more. Sometimes, the harder we try to stop them, the worse they seem to get. It’s these things that we are powerless to change without remaining in God. We can not do it. We simply will fail again and again.
We can not change our sinful nature. Only the work of Jesus on the cross can. If we actually think we can change ourselves, we have no business pretending that we need the cross.
A week ago, I had a picture while spending time with Jesus. We often talk about laying our sin and burdens down at the foot of the cross, but the picture I received gave me so much more insight into God’s grace.
Here is the picture: I was sitting on a picnic blanket covered in garbage. Not just wrappers and empty soda bottles, but the real rotten, disgusting garbage – representing my sin. The stench of it stung my nose and the horror of the fact the it was all sitting out like this in the open, where everyone could see it brought me into a panic. I quickly scooped it all up so that it was hidden within the blanket and I held it over my shoulder like a sack, looking desperately for a place to get rid of it. I couldn’t carry the load much longer it was so gross and heavy too. In the distance, I saw the cross and I knew what I had to do. Wearily dragging along my garbage, my sin, I came to Jesus. But instead of setting it at his feet, I lifted the load over my head and placed in on his shoulders. The weight of it pulled on the nails in his hands and he groaned. The garbage leaked through the bags dripping down his back. It was soiling him and causing him excruciating pain.
And it was here that the cross became unbelievably personal: MY SIN CAUSED HIM PAIN. ACTUAL PAIN.
It wasn’t just a casual moment like, “Oh hey Jesus, while you’re taking out the trash for everyone else can you take mine out as well?”
It was very real. Very personal. Very humbling.
But the picture didn’t stop there. As I look up with shame, Jesus then calls out my name. He looks at me with eyes of love and speaks the words, “I love you, Heather. This is why I came.”
This is the view we must have of the cross. Our sin matters a LOT. It caused him pain. But he wants us to come and bring it to him. That was the whole point of the cross! Not a licence to sin more. Not a reason to cower in shame…but a reason to come and repent, to find true freedom and lasting peace!
He didn’t do this all so we could go on living in darkness like the world, doing whatever we please, but so that we could live in light, for him. ALL for him.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I’ve lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I might gain Christ.” Phillipians 3:7-8
It’s at this point where we cling to him, admitting our absolute inability to do anything good at all. In this state of weakness and clinging to him, God begins to work, which is why this confuses us so much…because God’s works cannot be explained!!!
That’s why we call them miracles.
Salvation itself is a miracle. The greatest of them all.
We think of raising the dead, in the flesh, as being one of the “big” miracles, but in reality I think that is very easy for God to do. He just has to speak the words and life comes forth. But forgiving our sins?? That came at a great price…he had to give his very life!
It’s this ongoing work of the Spirit in our hearts that requires us to cling to him for all we are worth. If we part from the vine, we shrivel up and die. We are fruitless, lifeless, worthless – like a twig snapped off a tree. But when we remain attached to him, we grow, we flourish and we begin to bear fruit.
As much as the world tells me that I can do anything if I just try harder, the cross tells me otherwise.
It says: YOU can’t…but I can.