Taken back by the ChangesIt is tempting to look at verses that tell us what to remove from and add to our lives and get quite overwhelmed in the process. Do the following passages intimidate you with their stress on a complete overhaul? 2 Peter 1:5-11 “Add to you faith…” Colossians 3:5-13 “Put them all aside” What the Devil wants you to Believe: “So much is wrong with you that it will take years to see any improvement” “You are too far gone” “The sinful habits you have forged are impossible to break” “No one can ever really change” “The only change possible is merely superficial” “This is just who you are; you will never be any different” “God expects too much of you” “The people who spur you toward change just don’t understand the depth of the problem” The Countless Failures We See The devil likewise wants us to zero in on all the people who have attempted to live the Christian life and have gone back to the world. First, the sad reality is that if you want to seek them out, you can find many people that fit into this category, including many people who were raised by Christian parents and were thus privileged to have spiritually encouraging environments and yet failed to take advantage of those blessings. The Bible likewise is filled with examples of people who had tremendous opportunities they squandered: Adam and Eve: Genesis 3:1ff Cain: Genesis 4:2ff Esau had great parents: Genesis 25:32; 26:34-35; Hebrews 12:16-17 The children of Israel: 1 Corinthians 10:1-12 King Saul: Many of the people who heard Jesus teach and saw His miracles Judas Demas: Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10 In all these examples we see how resistant and defiant mankind can be even when showered with blessings, and even when God actually speaks and acts in a miraculous fashion. People can rebel in even ideal surroundings. Quick and Drastic Changes Yet, the opposite is also true. The Bible equally contains examples of people who drastically changed in a short time, people who changed despite a horrible upbringing, difficult circumstances, or people who came to God when it looked as if everything was against such a choice: The people of Nineveh: Matthew 12:41. An entire city repented immediately! The Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Such were some of you” Onesimus: Philemon 11. A useless man is suddenly useful! The Colossians: Colossians 3:5-7 “you were living in them” So how do we explain the people who seemed to have every advantage and yet failing and the people who seemed to have everything in the deck stacked against them – and succeeding? Allow me to suggest the following: Environment is not all-powerful. It is obviously influential, yet with the power of God’s word applied, we can overwhelmingly conquer. Free will can trump anything we’ve been exposed to whether through – “nurture” OR “nature”. The bad news is that we can use our free will so poorly that we squander blessings; the good news is that we can by the same token walk away from what might look like an impossible situation. How reassuring to know the enemy cannot keep anyone against his or her own will. Many Things, Or A Couple Things? It is easy to think that there are all sorts of things wrong with us, yet there are a couple of biblical examples that suggest that what might look like many things, all comes back to one thing: “For were jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16). This verse suggests that many sins can originate and spring from one sinful attitude, that is, selfishness. Grow in selflessness, and many problems resolve themselves. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). This verse reveals that the basic sin of covetousness, or greed, produces all sorts of secondary problems. Focus on the spiritual over the material, and certain troubles dissipate. Matthew 19:20-21 “What am I still lacking? Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” The young ruler asked, “What do I lack?” Jesus did not say, “Oh, you lack in many areas”. Neither did Jesus tell him there were countless things wrong with him. Rather, he lacked in one specific area. If you are struggling with temptation and finding a particular sin continues to have success against you, do not despair. You don’t have thousands of problems; rather, you will have success when you address the root issue. “And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Now some would argue that the Israelites had all sorts of problems, yet the Holy Spirit gets down to the root issue. All their complaining, murmuring, lusting, etc., all of it went back to one basic issue: They refused to trust God. They did not need to be fixed or rehabilitated in 100 different areas; rather, they needed to fix one thing. If they had simply trusted God’s care, protection, love and timing, everything would have been different. When one resolves the trust problem other problems are automatically settled. Do not address the trust problem and you will have countless other problems. Root Problems: Arrogance/Pride/Anger These qualities initially kept Naaman from being healed (2 Kings 5:11). Then there is a radical change in Naaman. Until he addressed that root problem, he was insulted and furious (5:11-12), when he confronted it and humbled himself, he was obedient and eventually healed (5:15-18). The difference is instant, and for that reason, amazing. It is as if there were two Naamans in this chapter who seemed to have nothing in common with each other. The “old man” is speaking in 5:11-12, the “new man” is speaking in 5:15-18. It is amazing how much a person can change when they humble themselves and discard the pride and the “I’ve got a better idea than God” attitude. Greed/Materialism: Zaccheus goes from a man who had been possessed by his wealth, to a man whose wealth had instantaneously lost its appeal (Luke 19:6-9). Lust/Sensual Pleasures Peter writes to Christians who had lived to the full when it came to sexual immorality (1 Peter 4:2-3, 4). And what has surprised their former friends is the “cold turkey” approach to these things – the sinful lifestyle had simply, suddenly stopped, “…they are surprised that you do not run with them” (4:4). “I used to think this verse (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) was talking mainly about the formal and philosophical business of apologetics in defending the Scriptures against heresies… but the arguments – those that I am to destroy are first of all my own arguments. They are the cacophony of voices that I hear in my head all day long that tell me that I am worthless or that I am better than someone or that I cannot be happy unless X,Y, and Z are in place. They are my unbiblical theories and strategies about life and relationships that I somehow continue to put credence in… They are the endless ‘what ifs’ that paralyze action, and the bottomless churning cesspool of ‘what can go wrong’ that choke every potential act of faith. Like a penny arcade battling practice where you put in your token and it keeps hurling baseballs at you, the heart lobs one argument after another in objection to the peace and joy and faith that God has for us. It has to end right now. The tapering off approach won’t do. And this is how I will do it: I praise God this minute for everything I can think of – His love, my salvation, the faith I have… and anything else I can possibly construe as a gift. Out loud, if necessary” (Destroying Arguments, Andree Seu, Worldmag.com).