Friday, September 6, 2019

How Can I Change My Life?

This question was sent to the Quest Forums Facebook page and asks something very relatable:

How can I change my life?

We’ve all wondered this at various times in our lives. Of course, even knowing the feeling, I was not exactly sure how to respond. The answer changes depending on who is asking and what their circumstances are, and I did not know anything about the person who reached out to me. That meant I could not get specific. The good thing is that it required me to give a general response, which could be broadly helpful. So I am sharing it here in the hope that it will give hope to others.

The New Creation

I feel the best and simplest answer comes to us from 2 Cor. 5:17, where the Apostle Paul writes,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!

Christianity begins with an understanding of the world as it truly is. It does not deny the obvious. Instead, it acknowledges the fact that life is not as it should be. It does not minimize our suffering and our longing for something better. Instead, it offers fulfillment for that longing. Christ came to die and rise again in order to give the promise of a blessed and eternal life. Anyone who trusts Him for that will receive it.

That is the hope we have for the future. But Paul does not only speak of the future. He is very emphatic that the believer in Christ is a new creation, not only that they will be one. He is saying it is such a guarantee that it is already a present reality. And because it is a present reality, it makes a present impact.

In another recent article, I discussed Eph. 1:13–14. There, Paul writes,

In Him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

When we come to Christ, we receive the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is the sign that we belong to God, He comforts us in the knowledge of God’s love (Rom. 8:15–16) and empowers us to live according to God’s will (Rom. 8:10–13). It is through His ministry that change is possible in our lives.

Looked at another way, the things we want to change in life are very often the result of our own bad choices. Salvation removes the worst penalty of those choices, eternal darkness and emptiness. This salvation is something we receive for nothing in return. When we learn and truly understand that God loves us and has graciously done this for us, it should cause us to regret the things we formerly did and to desire to live differently. That desire turns into action as we rely on the Spirit to teach and enable us to be better. As a result, life looks different.

Redeemed Living

That is the truth of the matter, though it might sound simple. As I often say, however, simple doesn’t mean easy. The Christian life isn’t easy. Some of the things we want to change are things we have no control over. Others are our own choices, but we just can’t seem to give them up. That is normal. In fact, it is universal. We are redeemed, not flawless. It’s important to remember the distinction.

If we try to be flawless, one of two things is going to happen. Either we will fail at some point and our faith will be crushed by the resulting guilt; or we will fail and then alter the criteria in order to justify ourselves. We fail either way, but the results are a bit different. Guilt just leads to fear and more failure. Self-justification tends to lead to judgmentalism as we look for faults in others that we don’t want to see in ourselves. Certainly, neither of those is the purpose of the new life Christ offers us.

It is better to live as redeemed. Because Christ’s sacrifice has purchased us back from the power of death, we can know that we are secure. Things in life will go wrong. We will fail to be all that we can be. We don’t have to pretend otherwise. Instead, we can admit the imperfection, dust ourselves off, and keep moving forward by knowing what we are and Whose we are.

Resting in that security is the ultimate source of change in life because it changes the stakes. When you remember that the final outcome is paradise, then the current circumstances simply don’t matter as much any more. And being able to stand above the circumstances gives you a better view of how you can begin to alter them. Fear, guilt, and legalism lock you in place. The peace of God allows you to grow. It is not mere stoicism to accept things as they are. It is the ability to see where you are going and to confidently live like it each day.

Again, I am not saying this is easy. I struggle with it plenty. All Christians do. But the hope of God is so much better than the emptiness of life apart from Him. If you are not a believer and you are looking for change, I will guarantee that you will find it in Christ. It does not make life everything it is “supposed to be,” which is just a way of saying “how I want it to be.” Life becomes about so much more than that when it takes on the eternal significance of knowing that the Son of God saw it as worthwhile to give His life for your sake.

If you are a Christian looking for change, then you are someone who knows all this. But you probably needed a reminder. I hope you found it here. Daily life matters, but it is secondary to your identity in Christ. Straighten out your perspective and that will already be a change for the better. More will follow from there. Have faith. The new life that is yours is something this old world cannot take away.

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  1. Hi Stanley,
    Good questiion. Good answer. Your right. Any real lasting change has to begin with a relationship with God through Christ. I didn't realize when I became a believer (56 yrs. ago) that God didn't remove the sin nature. Though we have a new nature, they war against one another sometimes making permanent change difficult. Living the Christian life is moment by moment. When I trust in myself I fail. If I trust in God for the strength I change. I like Proverbs 4:23; Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life. God bless and keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Coming to terms with the war in our natures is hard to do, but a lot of people struggle as a result of not even knowing it is going on. Hopefully we can help them to learn the truth.