It is hard to let familiar thought patterns go. We are comfortable with them and have spent years building, supporting them and developing habits that depend on them. Like a man who has worn eyeglasses so long that he forgets he has them on, we forget that the world looks to us the way it does because we have become used to seeing it that way through a particular set of lenses.
When I mention the word habit it sets off all kinds of images such as New Year’s resolutions or working on bad traits we display. I know when I think of these things I think of my lack of self-will to follow through on the changes I need to make. To most of us it does not take much self-introspection to discover the things we need to change since they nag at us on a daily basis. We want to change, but we somehow seem like the proverbial dog, which returns to his vomit.
The question we have to ask is change possible? If it is possible then how can we position ourselves for change? Yes change is possible, but we all know self-will can only take us so far and that being the case where do we muster the power to live in consistent change? I could talk about creating a plan, writing it down, breaking it down and repeating it till it becomes a habit. I think these things are good, however even the non-believer can apply these principles of self-will and see change in their lives.
Let’s look at what I see as the ultimate goal of changing. I see two aspects and it goes into everything that I write. The first is our ultimate goal, which is being transformed into the image of Christ, and the second is fulfilling the will of God for our personal lives. The two are tied together and when you untie them you always get into problems. If there is one thing that I have learned over the last 20 years of walking with the Lord and that is that we must keep the main thing the main thing. If we want true and lasting change then we have to be motivated from the right source.
The place of consistent change is learning to live from a place of rest, which sounds like a contradiction, but it is not. The book of Genesis is the book of beginnings and has all of the teachings of the Bible in it in seed form. In the first 3 chapters we see the creative nature and power of God as the source of all life. The book of Hebrews picks up on this theme of God’s creative power and source of life. In chapter 4 of Hebrews it says, “vs. 4 And God rested on the seventh day from all His works…vs. 9 There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Vs. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested form his works, as God did from His. Vs. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest.”
What is the rest of God and how do we live our lives out of this reality? The rest of God is the finished work of Christ. It is our total identification with His death, burial and resurrection. We are connected to the one who overcame death, hell and the grave. You can’t do anything more to gain God’s approval except to be still and marvel at what He has done for you. Your striving to be something or change yourself does not please Him. If you are living a life trying to please Him then you don’t understand the Father’s heart. Our identity as new creations in Christ is pleasing to Him. The Father sees you as one of His own with the very nature of His Son in you. When the Father looks upon you He sees you through the eyes of His Son.
How do you see yourself? The way you see yourself affects and reflects your actions. Your habits reflect what is inside of you. Your habits are a result of the way you see yourself. I have discovered that to walk in the will of God then I have to be willing to lay down my thoughts for His thoughts, my view for His view, my ways for His ways.
In Part II of this blog post I want to show you what it means to live life out of the new creation. What I have found is far too many that have been born again have never grown up into the identity of who they really are in Christ. Too many are still living in the shadows of the old man with a dirty pair of lenses barely able to see where they are going. We have to understand our new identity and develop the habits of living from that inward life of the Spirit to live life from the rest of heaven.
In preparing for this next lesson I am praying what Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus. Pray with me out of Ephesians 1:18-19, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory, of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
Agriculture and the kingdom
In the time that the Bible was written agriculture was a daily part of people’s lives. Jesus frequently used parables from nature and agriculture to illustrate the nature of the kingdom of God – the lilies of the field, the seed that grows by itself, the growth of the mustard seed, the four soils, the tree and its fruit, the laws of sowing and reaping. In all of these examples it brings to light things that every farmer understands, which is energy, preparation, conditions, nutrients, seasons, and dependence. You might be asking what does this have to do with change? I want to first of all look at the one thing that remains constant in all of this and that is the seed.
The Power of the Seed
The seed is where the power of change is located. Let’s go back to the book of Genesis, which in Part I of this post I said is the book of beginnings. When God created all things He put within the seed the very power to reproduce after its kind. It is this same principle that gives power to the believer to see change produced from the inside out. Religion is our attempt to produce change through our own self-effort. It is trying to force change, but instead of setting us free it actually produces bondage.
Jesus taught us through His parables that change comes from the inside out and it is due to the power of the kingdom of God in our hearts. The power of the kingdom has been planted in the hearts of those who have learned to yield to its power and it is that power alone that can bring true change. Our response as believers is to understand how the kingdom of God operates then to simply cooperate. Jesus told us in Matthew 6:28 to “see the lilies of the field, how they grow.” The word ‘see’ is a Greek word katamathetemeaning to learn, observe, study or research. What are we to diligently study? It’s not the lilies’ beauty, but rather how they grow. We are told that we need to do these things in order to understand the principles of the kingdom of God.
Change is not a Formula
Growth does not come by strenuous activity produced through self-effort, but it comes through a relationship. As we are energized from within we may do strenuous activity, but it will be life giving not the drudgery of dead works. Long-term consistent change is not a formula, but an abiding relationship with the giver of all life. In our technocratic society we want a formula for everything, but the kingdom of God is not about formulas, but relationships. Today it seems we want the quick fix, the quick growth and instant results. Could this be why our world is cracking at the seams since we are trying to build more like Babylon than the kingdom of God?
Personal transformation is what brings true and lasting change in our lives. We can try and work on the symptoms, but it is more productive to go straight to the heart of the matter. It may take more time to go through the process of growth, but in the end it is lasting. In finishing this post up I want to help you to focus on three things.
- The power to change is not about self-will (You can’t change yourself).
- The power of change is within the seed itself (God’s power at work in you).
- The power of change is released, as we understand the principles of growth (It’s a relationship not a formula).
In my next post I will help you to realize how you can learn to cooperate with the power of God in your life. You can’t change yourself, but you can learn how to cooperate with the reproducing change the seed brings as it is planted in your life.