Good Afternoon Dear Church,
I hope and pray you all have had a good week! My phone regularly shows me pictures of what my son looked like one year ago. The changes are drastic! Today he is waddling/running around and dipping fries in ketchup (and chips in salsa! – Prov 22:6). A year ago, he slithered/crawled everywhere and hadn’t quite mastered oatmeal! Kids grow up fast. We’re so used to this, that when we think of our own spiritual growth, we seem to be somewhat stunted. We still do things that we don’t want to do, think things we don’t want to think, hurt people we don’t want to hurt, and react in ways that we don’t want to react. If God really is “working in us” (Phil 2:12-13), how is it that he changes us? Let me give three quick insights from God’s Word:
First, Romans 12:2 tells us, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Transformation comes by knowing Christ. Which means, if we want to change deeply, we need to know Christ deeply. This requires, of course, some information. After all, can I really say I know my wife if I don’t know her history, her likes and dislikes, her struggles and successes (far more of the latter!). By the same token, if we would know Christ deeply, we do need a basic theological framework. However, just as knowing my wife requires more than information, so knowing God requires a deeply personal relationship. We need to, in Paul’s words, know Christ’s love in a way that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19). We need to spend time in prayer, in the Word, with his people. We need to meet him where he is in the means of grace and be satisfied in him. In essence, we need our minds not just to grasp things, but to be renewed. We look like Jesus by looking at Jesus.
Second, Paul tells us that he is working in us to “will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). The Bible is a pretty honest book. Much of what we do flows out of what we love. We are creatures of love and passion, desire and want. That’s not a bad thing. After all, God created us that way! God actually changes us by changing our loves and desires. He changes us by “pouring his love into our hearts” (Rom 5:5) by his Spirit. We change as we start to love what God loves. It works very organically: as we spend more time with the Lord, we see all that he has done for us in the gospel and we start to love him more. As we love him more, we want to serve him more.
Third, we change degree by degree (2 Cor 3:18). It would be really convenient if God just instantaneously made us now who we will be. But in his kind mercy, God has seen fit to change us degree by degree. Bit by bit, God is taking over our hearts. He is fighting Satan for every square inch of our being. We don’t change over night. It takes time. So don’t grow weary, don’t give up, and don’t let go of Christ. There are, of course, things we can do to work “with the grain” of sanctification. We can, and should, read the Word, pray, spend time with God’s people. These things display Christ to us, and we do not go home after seeing Christ unchanged-even if it feels like it sometimes! We can have confidence that he really is up to something in us. We can have confidence that inch by inch, we’re being redeemed. Degree by degree we’re becoming who we were saved to be.
So Church, don’t grow weary. Keep clinging to the cross. Keep looking at Jesus. And in time, even you will be surprised with how much you look like Him.
In Christ’s Love,