Last night, one of our pastors spoke about how he has observed that God usually takes him by way of a long route to change him because, if the short cut were taken, he would not be ready in so many ways. His character would not be ready. His personality would not be ready.
His words have had me thinking about my own spiritual journey and the change that has already taken place and the change that is being worked out by the Holy Spirit.
When we first believe, a major change does take place in our life. The most critical is that we have been reconciled to God through Jesus. In that conversion experience, we repent from our practice of following ourselves, and we make a commitment in our heart to follow Christ, and that entails following what the Word of God says. But the change in us isn’t complete in that initial act of commitment…it’s where it begins. We don’t instantly become perfect in thought, word, and deed.
I think it is like marriage. Before marriage takes place, we make a commitment in our heart to a person. Then, a ‘formal’ commitment takes place (the wedding). And it is then, after our commitment and the formal acknowledgment, that we start fleshing out that commitment. The marriage undergoes changes…changes that should deepen the commitment. And we undergo personal changes. Again, changes that should strengthen and deepen our original commitment.
Which is where the Holy Spirit comes in. His work is to empower us…to comfort us…to convict us…to finish the work begun at the altar of salvation.
And in regard to my spiritual journey, I think of myself as an old rusty junk car that someone comes along and sees value in. So they purchase it and begin the task of giving new life to it, transforming it part by part into the beautiful and perfect automobile the owner envisions.
God saw the value in me. Jesus paid the price for me. The Holy Spirit transforms me, one part at a time until I become the beautiful and perfect woman God envisions for me. The final transformation…the final cleaning and polishing taking place when I arrive in the ‘car show’ in Heaven.
The entire process takes time. And, admittedly, I
sometimes often lose patience. I want the change to happen immediately. So, I try to take matters into my own hands and believe I’m going to change myself. I think we all know and understand what I’m saying. We make a sincerely-felt statement that we’re not going to do this or that anymore. We’re not going to react this way or that way anymore. We’re going to work harder to love our neighbors as ourselves. We’re going to pray more. We’re going to read the Bible more. We’re going to speak kindly. We’re not going to allow any thoughts to enter our mind that are not Christlike. We’re not going to get angry anymore. We’re always going to think of others first. We’re going to do more to help others. We’re going to have more patience. We’re going to be forgiving.
And even though I’ve made commitment after commitment to change myself, I still fail (hence the Advil in Heaven I spoke about the other day in a Facebook post). But the power of the Holy Spirit will continually move us toward change. Most of the time, that change takes place over a long (and painful) route, rather than immediate. From faith-to-faith. From grace-to-grace. From failure-to-failure. From second chances to third chances to more chances than we can remember.
But eventually, it happens.
Don’t misunderstand me, our cooperation and commitment and submission is part of the process, but we do it through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Even Paul spoke of this problem in his own life. A battle constantly taking place within us between our flesh . . . our will . . . and the new heart God has given us. There are days my flesh wins, and the Holy Spirit lifts me back to my feet to continue the journey. It’s frustrating to know I’m not who I’m meant to be yet, but I also have to remind myself that I’m NOT who I used to be. A LOT of the old rusty parts have been replaced, moving me closer to the finished product God envisions.
While I could name several areas where the Holy Spirit is working within me to change me (and change brings pain in the process!), one thing in particular I am mindful of is my issue with anger, especially in this heated political/social climate we are in where evil and injustice seem to prevail more and more. (Just being candid here, revealing some REALLY rusty parts.)
I can handle knowing that sinners are going to sin, although I admit I do expect more . . . the more that I haven’t necessarily defeated in my own life sometimes. I can handle knowing that evil will continue to grow until Christ returns, even though I hate the very thought of it. But what I really can’t handle is mockery. I really can’t handle when evil wins (and REAL love doesn’t). I really can’t handle the blatant deceit and injustice in our political environment and that people allow it. I really can’t handle when I see the church sitting by and allowing it to happen. I really can’t handle the name-calling.
I tend to be passionate, and
sometimes often that passion spills into anger. And before I know it, I’ve said things that close doors to the hearing of the Gospel because of how I’ve behaved. I can’t help but believe that is a greater sin than my anger.
I know this, however. The Holy Spirit picks me back up, dusts me off, and keeps moving me forward. I, on the other hand, beat myself up over it and try to ‘fix it’ with a fresh start on Facebook :) You see, I’ve never been able to ‘repair’. I always see a damaged object as damaged, no matter how perfectly it’s been repaired. Only a new one will appease me. But we are renewed one time . . . actually, we’re recreated when we share in the resurrection of Jesus, symbolized through baptism. After that, we aren’t made new again and again…at least I’ve not seen that in the Bible. But we are continually polished off and the dents straightened out :)
But new accounts on Facebook won’t change me. Only the Holy Spirit will. And I know this: the Holy Spirit IS working on that in me. And one day, the change is gonna come.
One day, whether it’s here on earth or when I stand in Heaven, I WILL be changed to:
- Love God with every part of my being
- Love my neighbor as myself
- Love my enemies enough that I will focus more on winning them to Christ than proving I’m right and they’re wrong
- One who grieves over the evil in the world instead of just complaining about it
- Allow God to use me totally, knowing that, like that old junk car, I’m being renewed into His likeness . . . into the woman He created me to be . . . that I’ve been bought with a price and no longer belong to myself
- And understand that I must be patient and trust in God for that change to happen in his time and in his way, whether it hurts, whether it takes years, whether my pride will take a fall
But the change IS gonna come.