During the Lenten season, we are encouraged to take the time to reflect on what Jesus has achieved and repent of any known sin—something followers of Jesus ought to practice year-round. Repenting of a deeply held way of thinking and living can be hard to change even when we genuinely desire to live and love as Jesus calls us to. But there is a barrier to change that we must be aware of if we are going to become more like Jesus.
In the book Immunity to Change, the authors say the most challenging problem concerning change isn’t our will. “The problem is the inability to close the gap between what we genuinely, even passionately, want and what we are actually able to do.” The authors are convinced (their research supports this) that the issue is we tend to think a technical solution (e.g., I will stop eating seconds to help lose weight) will resolve a problem. However, the real resolution is an adaptive one (e.g., decide not to be a people pleaser to turn down a second portion offered by family members at weekly extended family meals). Disciples of Jesus often try to resolve a spiritual issue with a technical solution when an adaptive change is necessary.
For instance, a follower of Jesus is struggling to pray regularly. They decide to fix it and schedule times to pray more in their calendar. Nevertheless, if deep down they aren’t certain God hears or answers prayer, it is improbable they will continue praying regularly. But there is hope! If we are willing to discover and apply biblical counsel patiently, we can address our spiritual problems with the Holy Spirit’s help.
Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, in their book How People Change, point out that the pathway to change begins with identifying the hidden lies and idols in our lives. Then they encourage us to remember the Gospel and what it accomplishes by grace through faith in Jesus. In Christ, we are given a new identity and the potential to love God and others as Jesus did. Then by faith, we must learn what the Scriptures teach (replace lies with truth) about being new creations who the Holy Spirit has empowered to live as children of God. Over time our hearts are filled with love and hope as we live in this new relationship with God and embrace our eternal identity.
God’s goal for followers of Jesus is for us to change and become more Christlike. And even though we will struggle and never perfectly live and love like Jesus, our heavenly Father promises to complete the good work he began in us! That is Good News, which gives us hope and keeps us motivated to keep making changes that will enable us to live more like Christ daily for God’s glory!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Jamie George