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7 Ways to Change

August 2, 2016

 

Every 2-4 weeks, your body sheds and reproduces the outer layer of skin. Every 4 months, you turn over an entirely fresh army of red blood cells. Every 10 years, you have a new skeleton. If you’re 25 years or older, almost every single part of your body is different from what you were born with.

 

  

Our bodies are changing constantly.

 

But how do we experience spiritual renewal? Put differently, how do people change?

 

 

 

Here are 7 ways people change… on the inside:

 

1. By receiving the Gospel

 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

 

Receiving the Gospel doesn’t just take us to heaven; it teaches us to live heavenly lives. Grace is that powerful. Once you realize that God loves you in spite of your sins and apart from your gifts, your heart overflows with desire to love Him in return. A shortage of this desire can normally be traced to a shortage of faith regarding God’s love in Christ.

 

 

2. By enjoying God’s friendship

 

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

 

To “walk with” someone is the language of friendship, and friendship is the enjoyment of another person. As we pursue our deepest joy in close friendship with God, the natural outcome is that we will bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) instead of gratifying the desires of the flesh.

 

3. By deep Christian friendships

 

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Pr. 13:20).

 

You are the average of the company you keep. If you hang out with mostly angry people, you’ll be angry. If you hang out with mostly materialistic people, you’ll never save. If you hang out with people who challenge you spiritually—in example (1 Cor. 11:1), in counsel (Pr. 27:9), and with occasional rebukes (27:6)—then you will perpetually grow in God.

 

4. By persevering through pain

 

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered” (Heb. 5:8)[1].

 

If Jesus Christ learned obedience through suffering, are you going to learn it through comfort and ease? God disciplines those whom He loves, so that we might grow in holiness (Heb. 12:5-10). Suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope (Rom. 5:3-4), as long as we maintain our faith throughout (James 1:4).

 

5. By renewing our minds

 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2).

 

Those who change their minds change their lives. Paul takes this to such an extreme that in his letter to the Philippians, he practically just tells them to think happy thoughts (Phil. 4:8). If your mind is in the gutter, your body and heart will soon follow. If your mind is on the risen Christ, He will raise you up to newness of life (Col. 3:1-ff).

 

6. By hoping for Christ’s return

 

“And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

 

Hope for anything you want, but don’t set your hope on anything but Jesus. Our human tendency is to set our hope on something earthly. “I can finally relax when I get a new job,” or “when the kids are out of the house,” or “when I have enough money in the bank,” or “when my health improves.” Choose not to set your hope in this life, but on Jesus’ return. Those who hope in Him become like Him.

 

7. By persevering prayer

 

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 27:39).

 

Persevering prayer changes one of two things: our circumstances, or our heart. When prayer changes our circumstances, we call that “answered prayer,” but unfortunately we call everything else “unanswered prayer.” When Jesus prayed repeatedly to forgo the suffering of the Cross, God did not answer His prayer, but He did do something greater: He changed Jesus’ heart. So much so, that Jesus no longer desired to forgo the Cross, nor would He pray for that even though He could have (27:53). The Father changed Jesus’ heart through persevering prayer, and He’ll do the same for you.

 

 

 

 

[1] In His divinity, Jesus was omniscient, even during His life on earth (Jn. 21:17). But in His humanity, he still had to learn and grow (Lk. 2:52). Jesus did not “learn obedience” in the sense that He had been disobedient before, but in the sense that He passed progressively harder tests of faith until His ultimate test on the Cross.

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