Tag Archives: Christ

How Many Chances?

25 Oct

Do you ever get tired of yourself? A friend recently said, “I get so tired of me.” This person had misplaced something—yet again. Sometimes our bodies disappoint us by not performing as they once did. Maybe we’re sick of an endless cycle of busyness that prevents us from intimacy with God. We may feel defeated by a disagreeable habit. Perhaps we exercised or ate healthy for a time but gradually fell back into our old identity as a snacking-couch-potato. We intend to spend more quality time with family and friends, but good intentions dissolve into procrastination.

At such times, we’re tempted to give up and convince ourselves it doesn’t matter. Jumping off the merry-go-round seems to take more effort or self-discipline than we possess. That’s where I was not long ago.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23 NRSV). Every day is a new day with God—for us and for others.

Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21–22 GW). That’s the standard for second chances for others as well as for us.

Rabbis traditionally taught an offended person should forgive three times. Peter, no doubt thought he was generous in proposing seven chances. Not even close. Jesus declares 490+ do-overs. We’re to offer the same limitless forgiveness God offers us. The situation isn’t hopeless even when we offend God by not loving and serving His people, not taking care of His temple (our bodies), or wasting the time He gives. It’s never too late too late for a fresh start.

Receiving another chance doesn’t mean we won’t experiences consequences of past behavior. We lose things, forfeit precious time with God, put on weight, and damage relationships. We may need to ask for help or seek an accountability partner, but a new start is possible.

The solution remains the same—renew our minds and be transformed. Believe the truth. Without realizing it, when we feel hopeless, we believe a lie about who God is and how much He loves us (John 3:16). We also believe a lie about ourselves. We forget Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (NKJV). I can’t claim this verse and begin performing brain surgery. However, I can accomplish all God uniquely planned for me (Ephesians 2:10).

I find both peace and excitement living in the center of God’s will. I experience anxiety, stress, and frustration doing life on my own. I need the Spirit of Christ to forgive and empower me. I’m so grateful for second chances.

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5 NLT).

New Mind, New Me

25 May

I’ve kept a journal for many years. I sometimes read a page and ask myself, “Did I write that? Wow. That’s good stuff. God was really speaking to me that day.” But more often than I care to admit, I found repeated confessions for the same mistakes, and the same longing to be like Christ. In earlier journals, such longing resulted in new resolve and determined effort to “live the Christian life.” Yet I predictably reverted to my previous behavior.

Two verses helped me understand why resolving to change usually ends in failure.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. . .” (Matthew 15:19 NASB).
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NASB).

Simply put, we can’t experience true transformation by just trying harder. In order to change our behavior, we must first ask God to change our heart. (See post It’s Time for Some Good News, May 18, 2013). I refer to the biblical view of heart—our spirit and our will. The heart is the center of our being, the part of us that’s under our control. God first loves us, forgives us, and gives us new life. Then we must do our part. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. God’s Spirit offers love, life, and power. We decide what to believe, think, and obey.

On the most basic level, that requires belief in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. When we trust Christ to forgive our sins and give us new life, we receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live like Christ. From that moment, we become collaborators with the Spirit, working together to mold us into Christ’s true disciple. In deciding what to believe, it’s our responsibility to learn God’s perspective on any situation.

Let’s take Ephesians 4:31–32 as an example. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Trying to get rid of anger by dogged determination results in short term success at best and failure at worst. Yet Scripture holds that out as the Christian way of life. What then is our strategy? First, we desire change and believe it’s possible. Next, we choose to renew our mind (Romans 12:2) and cooperate with God’s indwelling Spirit. That means finding ways to place ourselves in God’s presence and allow Him to change us. That involves prayer, asking God to reveal what’s inside us that produces anger. Must I be in control or be appreciated? Do I allow others to take advantage of me? Do I need help with an abusive situation? Am I simply exhausted and need sleep? Perhaps, I need more alone time with God or Bible study.

The Holy Spirit answers our questions through Scripture, wise Christian counsel, His still small voice within, and common sense. Then we choose to obey or disobey. Obedience leads to growth and intimacy with Christ; disobedience leads to distance and spiritual immaturity. We repeat this cycle repeatedly in many different situations. Over time, we’re transformed into the likeness of Christ. Our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions flow naturally from His Spirit. At that point, we become unaware of Christ speaking or behaving through us, because such attitudes and actions come from our identity in Him.

I love how 2 Corinthians 5:17 in the New King James Bible describes this radical change.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

A new mind, a new me—-His gracious gift offered to every believer.