Until about 5 years ago I didn’t really believe I could change. I knew I could improve in certain aspects and I knew I could get better at certain skills. But deep down inside in places you don’t share with other people often, I believed that there was some junk in my life that would never change.
I grew up in the church. I went to Sunday school and church religiously, learned the secret handshakes, and figured out the prayer that would get me into heaven. I learned a lot in my head, but when I looked around at the people in the church I didn’t see the kind of radical transformation that seemed to characterize the people who encountered Jesus that I saw in the bible. I was taught a lot of truth, rules, and the right way to do things (some things). But, by in large, people were sort of always the same. Grumpy people stayed grumpy, angry people stayed angry, happy people stay happy. There didn’t seem like there was an expectation of change.
I also experience this as an adult. I have a particular group of friends that I enjoy being with who are all Christians. They are great guys. However, it seems to me it would be hard to look at us and say that we are steadily and progressively becoming more and more like Christ. The culture of this group of friends does not expect that. My observation is that this particular culture does not want to change very much. As a group of friends we are content and comfortable with how things are.
The Living Water of Jesus
Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’.”
It wasn’t until I heard one of my heroes, John Ortberg, speak on change that I realized that when Jesus talked about having living water flowing out of me he really meant it. He meant I could have that kind of life here and now.
This was not the kind of life I was experiencing! This was a life changing shift in my thinking. That was 2004.
Much of the last 5 years has been experimenting and trying on this life with living water flowing out of it. Here are a few of the things that I have been experiencing:
- Jesus words are not moral platitudes or strict legalistic rules. His teaching is simply the best way to live. Period. So when Jesus teaches on not worrying or putting aside anger, he is not teaching rules that will simply make us feel more guilty. He is saying “try responding without the anger that you might be tempted to in this situation, see if that isn’t a much better way to live than your current way”. He is teaching that learning how to let go of worry and anger will result in rivers of living water flowing out of us. That’s an abundant life.
- God’s expectation (and what ours can be as well) is that we will increasingly be taking off some character traits and and putting on new character traits. Change will come and should be expected. That will become the normal pattern. It won’t always be consistent or easily identifiable. However, it will be progressive.
- This process of living the best life ever and putting on a new character will be natural and not burdensome if I am a disciple of Jesus. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. The weight I feel when I struggle with change is usually from me not from God. God-like change will be freeing, even if it is painful at times.
- I have a tremendous amount to do with how much I change. It is God’s work in me for sure. But he works when I work and guides me as I exert effort. I do not need to worry about the outcome, he will take care of that also, I simply need to continue to stretch myself into new areas of change.
I still have lots of the junk that was in my life 5 years ago. I still struggle day after day and week after week with some of the same things. This can be discouraging if that’s the whole story.
But there is more to the story than that. God has worked with me, and I have seen steady progress, and I have been able to slowly but steadily put off some junk and take on some better ways of living that Jesus promised. I’m thankful to God for that.
Keep moving forward,