Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Making the Choice To Change

               If you want a situation to change, you must be the first one willing to change. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have made this statement to my children, to women I have ministered to and even to myself. Change doesn’t happen unless someone is willing to do something to make change happen. As I write these words, they are hitting me smack in the middle of my heart once again. I need change in my life, but that change isn’t going to happen unless I step up and do something about it.
            I have a certain area of my life that I struggle with day after day after day after day. In fact, I have struggled with this area of my life probably since the day I was born, and definitely since I became a Christian. The battle that I face is between the desire to live a whole hearted, sold out, no excuses, I am His completely, kind of life, and the desire to do what I want to do when I want to do it. The desire is there, but the will to do it is sometimes non-existent. Let’s face it- me, the very center of my being, the real me, the sinful me- has no desire to live for God in any way shape or form. But the new me- the renewed me, the regenerated me- has a passionate desire to be fully and completely sold out for Jesus Christ my Lord.

            I pray and I beg and I plead with God to change me, to mold me, to shape me, to do whatever it takes to make me completely and whole-heartedly His. But, nine times out of ten I get up from that prayer and walk right into the desires of my flesh. It’s like an endless cycle that I just can’t seem to find the courage to get out of. I know I need to make the changes that He has shown me and I know I need to jump off this carousel off bad choices, but here I am, holding on as tightly as I can.
            I know that as long as I am in this body of flesh I am going to screw up, I know I am going to sin, it is inevitable. I know that because sin lives in me I am going to have to fight every day to overcome the temptation to follow after my carnal desires. The more I grow in the faith, the more and more I understand why Paul wrote Romans 7! But, I also know that we have a calling upon our lives to live holy lives before our Holy God. I also believe that this life I live in the flesh today was crucified with Christ Jesus, and I no longer live for myself, but I now live for Him. (Galatians 2:20) I believe at some point we have to lay down our excuses and our personal justification of the choices we make and willingly present our bodies to God for a total and complete overhaul.
            “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2 ESV
            Our lives are a series of choices. We choose to serve God or we choose to serve sin. We choose to worship God or we choose to worship self. Every moment of every day we make choices that determine the outcome of our lives. My struggles with my will and my desire to do things my way will always be present with me, but the choice to follow it or resist it also resides in me. If we want to live in whole hearted devotion to God then what we choose and why we choose it has to change. We have to come to a point where we make the decision to do what it takes and what is required to live a holy and acceptable life before our God.
            Paul writes that we are to “present” our bodies as living sacrifices. The word present that is used here is the same word that is used in the Old Testament when one would bring their sacrifice and offering to the temple each year. The animal that was brought for sacrifice was presented to the priest who would then take the animal into the temple and offer it. The first step to changing our lives happens when we freely present our lives as a sacrifice to our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Change cannot happen if the heart is not willing.
            If I want change to happen in my life, if I truly want to start fully living my life in submission to Him then I must be willing to make the changes necessary to attain it. I can say that I am willing and even on the outside look like I have changed but unless there is a transformation, then the change is only going to be temporary.
            Paul says that we are to be a transformed people and not a conformed people. Conformed means to be shaped and molded on the outside but there is no change on the inside. Conformed would be like taking a lump of clay and shaping it into something like a tree or a frog. The shape of the clay has changed but it is still clay. Being transformed means to be changed on the inside so that the change is visible on the outside. The attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and choices you make are no longer shaped by the world and culture around you, but they are now shaped and molded by the Holy Spirit in you.
            Transforming change will never take place if I do not make the necessary choices to bring about these changes in my life. For instance, one of my biggest battles with my will is over the television. I believe and I recognize that in my life, it is the biggest waste of my time. I not only run a company, but I am a writer, bible study leader, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. There are many things that need my attention on a daily basis, and the One that is most important out of all of these is God. He not only wants my full, undivided attention, but He deserves it.
            My will says, “what’s a few hours in front of the TV? You earned it, you’ve had a busy day…you did read that short little devotion this morning…. you prayed…. you give God a lot…. you did your duty; you deserve it….” But the desire that is in me to live a whole hearted devoted life for God reminds me that a few hours in front of useless television shows is time apart from Him. My choice is to waste away a few hours of precious time, or I can turn it off and turn my attention onto Him. Instead of wasting time watching Hallmark channel movies, I could be growing in my knowledge of Him. The choice I make is determined by which one I find more appealing at the time.
            If we desire to live in whole hearted devotion with God, then we have to change the way we see our choices. Paul says that to have a transformed life we must have a renewed mind. We have to change the way we look not only at the choices before us, but the way we look at our life. We see the choices before us and we choose them based on how we feel, how we think, or what our circumstances are in that moment. But a renewed mind, a transformed life will look at the choices before them and choose based upon who Christ is. A renewed mind will look at the choices before them and choose the one that will please God, rather than pleasing self.
            I do desire change in my life, and I truly believe change is possible. But, I have to make the right choices. Before us we have life or we have death, it is our choice. Throughout the Bible God reminds us that the choice lies with us, we can either choose Him or we can choose self. In the end whether you agree or disagree with what I have written, it does not change what I have learned about the choices I make. I know that for me; if I want to live a whole hearted devotion to my God then something has to change, and that something just happens to be me. Amen?

*The women at our church have been reading and discussing the book, “Idols of the Heart. Learning to Long for God Alone” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to live a whole hearted devotion to God in their everyday lives. Her words and her teaching has taught me a great deal about the way I view the choices I make. Go and get it today- you won’t regret it.