I gave my life to Christ at 13 years old, and sure enough my life took on a drastic change. But the changes were all self-willed changes. Nothing wrong with self-will and discipline; indeed, that is vital for a strong Christian life. However, my life was nothing but a series of self-directed rules, imposed upon me by a legalistic leadership. Soon, my efforts to perform the changes that were imposed on me began to take a toll on my mind, will, and emotions. As my human effort inevitably failed the perfection test, I became guilt and shame ridden. My guilt and shame led to greater failures and poorer choices. Eventually I gave up…to the wrong things. I gave up trying to live a new life in Christ.
After ten years of living as I heard one preacher call it, and have since adopted as the theme for my backslidden state, “A Believer Behaving Badly,” I gave up once more. The consequences of my lifestyle and poor choices, and my pure exhaustion at trying to fit in with the World AND with Christ, had finally brought me to the end of myself. A little over 10 years ago, I decided I needed to make a change…again. This time, I decided that God, the church, and I myself needed to accept me exactly as and where I was, at whatever level of righteousness I found myself. I decided that if God wanted me to live righteous, He needed to make it happen. I had come to the realization that I was useless and powerless where true life transformation was concerned.
What I found was that all I needed to do was be willing to say yes when God prompts me; to follow [Him] in simple, unashamed Faith; to take the small, insignificant, sometimes unseen or embarrassing steps of obedience. I realized that I didn’t have to be a new person overnight. And let me tell you, it has been a long road that I am still walking; step by step, faith by faith, one act of obedience after another. Each step and act of obedience gets me closer to Christ-likeness, and makes the next step that much easier.
Change, true change, didn’t come quickly for me. The part of me that God was truly interested in was not even penetrated for more than 20 years after my first confession of faith. And here is where we come to our verse for the week… The spirit of our mind is the part of humanity that will live forever; and that is the part of humanity that needs to be completely transformed first. Change in our actions comes ONLY through the power of God, AFTER we have experienced renewing in the spirit of our minds.
What does that mean? Well for me it was simple (although not simple to perform): If God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. I agree with Him and His Word. Even if I can’t find the strength to obey perfectly, I agree that He is true, and everything and everyone else (even my own heart, will, and desires) is a lie. I start and stop and start again. I try and fail and try again. Each time I pray and cry and say, “God if You help me, I will obey!”
Little by little, my stops begin to be few and far between, my victories outnumbering my failures. Pretty soon it became that all my victories are now recalled (by me) to be solely due to the tears of surrender and the Grace of God, instead of any effort on my part. Being renewed is something that happened to me, rather than something that I did. I am not perfect, and I know I never will be until I reach heaven; but, God’s Grace has been sufficient enough in every one of my struggles that I know I can continue on to full maturity if I stay the course, and truly desire to do so. If I stop growing, it is not due to any failure in God, or His ability to keep me from falling.
So what am I saying with this part testimony, part long blog post? More than anything else I am pleading with you not to give up on holiness, and not to settle for “good enough.” A rich and thriving life of the Overcomer is in your future if you would just believe and take the small steps God places before you, no matter how many times you fail. I think what I needed more than anything else during my days of trying to live differently, was someone who had truly lived an overcoming life by Grace instead of by human effort; someone who could truly be transparent and open enough to point to God’s overcoming Grace and their personal failures. We all need that. I pray I can be that for just one person reading this today. I pray that in turn, someone will become that person for me on the journey still ahead of me.
May I pray with you this week? Please email me, or inbox me on social media. Our theme for 2016 is coming to a close in just one week. Don’t let this time end without us making a firm commitment to grow…to continue on to full maturity in Christ. Let’s grow together, by God’s Grace!
Seeking to Grow my Walk with God and Others,