Where do I need to change?
The short answer is: probably everywhere! But thankfully, God does not go for everything all at once – if he did, it would blow us apart! Nor does he always get to work on the same things in all of us in the same order or at the same time. (Remembering this stops us looking down on other people!) What he tends to do is to start with those things that are especially spoiling our own life and are threatening to our friendship with him.
Take a few moments to reflect before going any further. Ask God to show you just one or two things that he particularly wants to work on in your life at this time. (The things that start to rise up in your thinking are probably the ones!)
Remember: when God points things out to us it is not to condemn us or to remind us how bad we are, but how good he is in being willing to work on those areas and to bring change to them.
It’s not about lists!
When we become a Christian, God does not give us a list of the things that we cannot do now, as though he were some heavenly spoil-sport. Rather, he gets to work by beginning to write on our heart the things that please him. God wants a relationship with us that is based on the heart, not on rules and regulations. And if we have seen how much he loves us, and have truly committed ourselves to loving him, then these things will not be a burden to us but a delight. We will want to do what pleases him.
One of the prophets of the Old Testament, who lived some 600 years before Jesus, looked forward to the day when people would live right, not because they had to obey some laws carved on stone tablets, but because they wanted to obey out of what God had done so powerfully in their hearts.
Read: Jeremiah 31 v31-34
What does the word ‘covenant’ mean?
Where does God promise to put his law? (v33)
What would be the results of responding to this ‘inner law’? (v33-34)
It is this inner law, written on our hearts, that God uses to underline the things that need to change in us.
The external plumb-line
However, since our hearts can be very good at deceiving us when they want to, however, God also gives us an external plumb-line to check that what we are sensing within is right.
This is where the Bible comes in (which we look at more closely in the study Growing). The Bible is the record of God’s dealings with men and women who wanted to walk with him, and the revelation of those things that both please and displease him. Doing what pleases him will always bring blessing and fulfilment – no matter how hard it might seem at first. Doing what displeases him will always be to our ultimate harm and loss.
Whenever our hearts tell us that something is OK that the Bible says is not OK, we can be sure there is something wrong!
What do you think we should do if –
a) we feel we want to do something that is contrary to what the Bible teaches?
b) we discover something in the Bible that God says is wrong, but that we have been doing?
Having seen how eager God is to change us, so that we can become more and more like Jesus, let’s look now at some practical areas where change is needed.
Considering how I think
One of the biggest, yet perhaps one of the least obvious, areas where we need to change is our thinking. For years, most of us have had our minds filled with stuff that had little, if anything, to do with God. Yet our thinking shapes everything we do. If we want to change our behaviour, therefore, we need to start by changing our thinking.
Read: Romans 12 v1-3
In what ways can we so easily be ‘conformed to the pattern of this world’? (v2)
What does Paul say is the key to being ‘transformed’? (v2)
But how do we get our minds or our thinking renewed? Let’s use an illustration.
When a large building is to be erected, it is usually made from reinforced concrete. Steel rods are first fastened to one another, and around these, wooden ‘formers’ or boxes are placed and the concrete is poured in. When the concrete has set, the formers can be removed, because something is now firmly in place and they are no longer needed. The building can stand firmly in its own right.
If we are going to change our thinking, we need to provide formers in our life, into which the Holy Spirit can pour his life for something new to take shape. At first these may seem clumsy or strange. But eventually they will produce a structure that carries life.
These formers will vary for each of us, but they may include things like:
- not reading certain things any more
- avoiding certain movies or TV shows
- choosing not to share in certain attitudes to things or people
- deciding not to use certain language or to tell certain jokes
- not clinging on to worries
What other things could you add here (including things that may be especially relevant to yourself)?
Done on their own, these things would just be attempts to change ourselves by self-effort. But done with the help of the Holy Spirit, inviting him in to fill each area, it becomes a life-changing force.
Of course, change comes not just by avoiding things that do not help, but by pursuing things that do.
What sort of things do you think could be positive formers to change the way you think as a new Christian?
As we make these decisions, and ask the Holy Spirit to come into them, we find that our thinking begins to change. And when our thinking starts to change, our living starts to change also.
Are there areas of your thinking that you recognise need to start changing? If you are studying this in a group or with someone else, can you share one or two things with them so that you can pray with one another about these?
© Oxfordshire Community Churches 1999