How does a person change their life?
I shared last week how we are born as blank pages to be written upon, then we receive a multitude of ideas that gradually get narrowed down to specific ideas about life, which form habits and perspective, and finally the results we have in our lives.
When a person comes to the Lord "Just as I am", they do so dragging along whatever ideas, habits, perspectives and results in life they have accumulated to that point in time.
But at that moment their spirit by the Holy Spirit becomes a blank page ready to be written upon, a new creation, yet existing under a deep layer of long-standing ideas, habits, perspective and life's results in a person's soul (mind, will, intellect, emotions) and body (habits, lifestyle, desires good and bad).
Peter says we are as new born babes in I Peter 2:2, and we will grow as we desire the milk of the Word. That means under a lifetime of accumulated layers of ideas, habits, and perspectives, this little 'baby' in Christ is starting to grow.
Paul said in Galatians 4:19 "My little children, I travail again in birth for you, until Christ be (fully) formed in you."
A Drum Roll Please
That means the God of the universe is inside each believer, struggling to grow them into all they can be in Him, pushing from within in a series of contractions then rest, contractions then rest, until they are fully mature in Christ.
How does He do this? By challenging OUR long held ideas with HIS ideas. IF, and this is a big IF, a person will un-believe what their lifetime of ideas, habits, and perspective have taught them, and purpose instead to believe what HE says - purposely applying themselves to these new ideas - their life will be transformed in Christ.
Real life situation
Have you ever tried to argue with a person who likes to argue for argument's sake? A person who likes to argue isn't interested in coming to any conclusion, they just want to keep the argument going until you are worn down and give up. You can tell them fact after fact, but their thinking is "Don't confuse me with facts because my mind is already made up!"
This particular young man was like that - he grew up in a religious family with strict rules of behavior, and studied at a good school that only served to reinforce everything his family had told him.
Don't get me wrong, he loved God, but he loved God through the traditions of his church and the leadership. He could quote chapter and verse and tell you what it meant - and he didn't want to be confused with another perspective because his mind really was made up on the subject of the Word!
The Pointed Stick
He became so focused on being right, that he went after anyone who thought differently than him and the establishment.
Can you guess who I am talking about? Saul of Tarsus assisted in the execution of Steven, a leader in this sect of Judaism that believed Jesus was more than just a man - they believed he was God, was raised from the dead, and even ascended to heaven.
He was busy arresting believers in Jesus, but one day he wanted to expand his reign of terror beyond the city of Jerusalem, tracking down these heretics wherever they moved. Acts 8:1 tells us persecution was so intense against believers that EVERY believer left Jerusalem except the apostles.
Giving him every bit of grace possible, the Lord Jesus waited until just before he got to the gates of Damascus, which if he had continued would have gained him permission to persecute these newly moved believers throughout Syria, before appearing to him.
When Saul asked who He was, the Lord replied: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting: it's hard to kick against the ox-goads."
An ox-goad was a long stick with a sharply pointed end that was used to walk behind an ox and poke it in the sides or rear end to keep it moving along a path. Even today you can see goads being used by children poking some huge beast of burden down a path wher they want it to go.
And of course that sharp stick stings - and an animal will kick against it when jabbed. Jesus was telling Paul - I've been poking you with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word - why don't you stop kicking against it and go along the path?
The time leading up to Jesus appearing outside Damascus and those 3 days of blindness, were Paul's time of enlightenment. (Acts 9:3-17) In this time he rearranged his thoughts to line up with God's Word.
I find it interesting the Lord blinded Saul, the future Paul, for 3 days - meaning he was forced to mediate, think, roll around in his mind all the scripture he had learned since childhood. He had to re-think what his respected parents and teachers, even the culture around him had taught.
You cannot change your life by continuing to think the same thoughts you've always thought; the only way to change your life is to think new thoughts, to learn new ways. That is the discipleship process.
Giving up those old ways, is the challenge.
You know this passage, but I'm guessing not what it means
We've all heard Isaiah 55 in part - "My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts..." and many a sermon has exalted God's higher ways and thoughts...remember?
But the truth is, that passage is not about praising the loftiness of Almighty God and putting lowly sinner man in his place and how we can never attain to such magnificence.
"Let the wicked FORSAKE his way, and the unrighteous man (forsake) his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord and He will have mercy upon him and abundantly pardon him. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord." (Isaiah 55:7-8)
This is about the unrighteous forsaking - leaving behind - his ways and turning to the Lord and His thoughts and ways. This is an invitation to come up to the higher thinking and higher ways of God!
The Lord isn't putting His higher ways and thoughts out of reach, NO, he is saying forsake your ways and thoughts and come up to my ways and thoughts.
THEN the Word will not return void, THEN you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace, THEN instead of the thorn you will have the fir. THEN - the trees will clap. THEN. But you can't hold onto the old ways and thoughts while trying to change by learning God's ways and thoughts - you must FORSAKE the old.
Next week in the last of this series: The battle for the mind...