Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Change I Speak Of


I want to take today to clear up any misunderstanding on what I write about.  I talk a lot about righteous living as that is the topic of this blog.  I do not want anyone to make the mistake that I am talking about works or legalism.  The fact is that we can not earn our salvation and any change that happens in our lives after is all the work of Jesus.  Our own role is to get out of the way to allow Jesus to do that work.  Today I want to talk about the change I write about.

First let's talk about salvation.  The Bible is clear on salvation being by grace alone.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
There is no getting around that scripture.  We are not saved by any work we do nor are we saved by any desire for a work we know we can not do.  We are saved by grace.  We are saved by grace alone.  I really hate the phrase sometimes used to "make ourselves right with God."  It shows a complete misunderstanding what what it means to come to Jesus.  I did not make myself right with God at all, but I was made right with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Coming to God is not an attempt getting right with God, but the admission that we absolutely can not get right with God.  It is not of a desire to be a better person, but a recognition of what miserable persons we are.  It is not because we want to change our lives, but because we admit that we can not change our lives.  I can not emphasize this point enough, we are saved by grace.  We are saved not because of any good we have in and of ourselves, but by the realization and admission that we have none.  We come to Jesus as the same miserable sinners we have always been and it is only though His work that we are saved.

That, however, is not the end of the story.  Salvation has an effect on our lives and that is what I write about.  I do not write about how to achieve salvation because it is nothing we can achieve.  I do not write how to maintain our salvation because that is a meaningless statement.  It is not something we maintain because that implies we can go in and out of salvation as our behavior dictates and that again creates a salvation by works and one dependent upon our own abilities.  I do not even write about change that we can make in and of ourselves as any change in our lives is done by the work of the Holy Spirit.  The kind of change I write about is a change in heart.  This all begins with the first thing Jesus tells us to do to be His disciple. 
Then He said to [them] all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23 NKJV
Jesus tells us to deny ourselves.  That is where it all begins  Please note that Jesus does not tell us to change ourselves or clean ourselves up.  He tells us to deny ourselves.  That is the real key to our sanctification because the only thing that gets in the way of the Holy Spirit is our selves.  When we choose to sin when we know it is wrong, we are choosing our self instead of God.  When we make a choice that we know is not a godly choice, we know we are choosing our self instead of God.  So please when you read this blog, do not think of the things I write about as changes to your self.  What I write about are changes that are only possible when we deny ourselves.  Self is the old man that needs to be crucified with Christ. Self is the representation of those sinful desires that we have died to.  Please understand that the core of all that holds us back in our growth in God is that old self that we fail to deny. That is why Jesus puts this first, because it interferes with the work God is trying to do. 

And please know that any change in your life after salvation is the work of God and nothing we can take credit for. 
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know [Him thus] no longer. Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  2 Corinthians 5:14-17 NKJV
The key word in this scripture is "creation."  In Christ, we are a new creation.  Who created this new creation?  The answer is God.  We can not take credit for any change that occurs after salvation because all we are now is a new creation created by God.  God makes us who we are in Christ. Any growth in my life that brings me closer to God is purely the work of God.  The only thing I can take credit for is in hindering the work of God by not denying myself.  There can be no bragging about how far along you are in God because it is a work of God.  You can not even brag about being better at denying yourself, because as soon as you do, you are not denying yourself.  In fact, for someone who is truly surrendered and self denied, that person would not even notice. 

Finally, please know that this change I speak of is not a change of behavior in and of itself.  A change in behavior will result from this kind of change, but it is more of an effect than a cause.  The change we have is a change of heart.  That new creation we are desires to live after God and not after ourselves.  That new creation does not desire to sin as the worldly person does, but desires to live a life that is pleasing to God.  It is this desire that creates the change in behavior and it is that desire that I speak of.  Changing behavior with no change in desire is meaningless.  That is what the Pharisees did.  All of their outward righteousness was only for show and not reflective of their hearts.  Their hearts were wicked despite their behavior and that made them the hypocrites that they were.  The change we have is a change in heart and it is that change of heart to leads to change in behavior. 

And that is how this is all about Jesus.  What I mean is that we have to consider where that change in heart comes from.  Did I change my own heart?  Did I change my own desires to life a life pleasing to God?  Of course not as that is absolutely impossible for any of us to do.  I can not change my own heart because even the desire to change my own heart reflects a new heart.  That new heart is part of the new creation we are in Jesus Christ.  That new man we become is a new creation created by God.  All we are in Jesus is because of Jesus and not because of anything we did or anything we do.  That is the change that I speak of, the change of heart that can only come by God making us a new creation and setting up residence in the form of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts.  To God be the glory for all that I or anyone else is in Christ.

That is why I am so adamant in that there should be change.  If we are are new creations as the Lord says that we are then that should be reflected in the lives that we live.  There should be growth and fruit in our lives because those are signs of the spiritual life we now have in Jesus Christ.  It is hard to say something is alive when all you see is the same old man who is supposed to be dead.  Again, I am not saying that if there is no change then you are not saved, but at the very least it shows that you are allowing yourself to get in the way of the work God is trying to do.  It means you need to examine yourself to see what is getting in the way of His work.  I am sure that in the end, the same answer will come up every time.  That answer is "self" in some way, shape, or form.  I urge you all to get out of the way and let God do that amazing work in your life that He desires to do.  Your old self is holding you back from fully realizing that new creation that you are.  Your old self is keeping you from that new life in Jesus Christ.  To God be the glory for that new creation we are in Him. 
if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:21-24 NKJV

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