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Is Change Spiritual or Practical
by Pastor Curtis J. Johnson, Jr. M.Div.
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Moving beyond personal failure to Godly achievement—

Wouldn't it be great if everything in life were as simple as changing our minds and behaving in ways that are totally in opposition to the ebb and flow of the society in which we live? Can you just imagine how much easier life would be if habits were not habits at all and whenever we realized that we were involved in something that was unhealthy or destructive that we could simply shut it down and never visit it again? I still remember how difficult it was for me to quit smoking, this was a habit that I never really wanted to have as I remember my mother constantly complaining and pleading with my father to quit.

So what happened would be an appropriate question? Well like so many before me I was drawn to what seemed to be the prestige of smoking or the smokers image. The interesting thing for me is that all the while I couldn’t stand smoking, go figure.

I must say, the day that I finally quit smoking is as much a mystery to me today as it was that fateful day in 1986. Interestingly enough after almost thirteen years of failed attempts it had little or nothing to do with will power or even desire on my part. I miraculously forgot to purchase cigarettes while shopping one morning and never looked back again and I haven’t even had an urge to smoke in almost twenty years.

Can we draw from this experience that it is in fact possible to “just do it” or to make radical changes in our behavior without any real effort on our part? I don’t think so! Even as a Christian or should I say especially as a Christian decisions of vital significance to our lives and well being come at a price and many of us find that we are bankrupt when it comes time to make payment. I am not sure why some of us dwell so long in the valley of indecision or camp out on the shores of denial, but I do know that there is help available during these crucial times in our lives if only we would dare receive it.

One of my favorite passages of scripture in the book of Romans chapter 12 suggests that there is something that we can do as an active participant in our personal transformation. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” While many choose to take the legalistic approach and beat themselves down with scripture that specifically condemns certain behaviors or the spiritual approach which shifts responsibility to the enemy requiring exorcism or the likes.

There’s nothing legalistic about this method at all and more amazingly it isn’t some deep spiritual concept either. This simply calls for an active and realistic evaluation of our current way of thinking as it relates to the world and the flesh and replacing those impulses with new ones that are in line with the standards of God for life and living. Did you notice that there is no indication that it would be easy? But we do know that if we choose to be active participants it will in fact be evident. I can hear many of you saying, “I’ve tried to change and yet I continue to do some of the same old things again and again without fail.” You should know that you are in great company, and I say this only to those of us who have made a sincere effort to change.

“The things that I would rather do I do not do, but the things that I’d rather not do these thing I do” said the Apostle Paul of his own struggles with fleshly impulses. This by no means give us license to continue in behaviors that are not becoming of a follower of Christ but helps us to see the intensity with which we have to aspire necessary change. Do you see, we are not to just sit back reciting cliché’s like “be patient with me God is not finished with me yet”, and “I just can’t help myself”. The fact is that yes you can help yourself and you should. Otherwise you are not ever going to change and it isn’t the fault of God or the Devil so please understand that the most important part of our commitment to Christ is to first come to myself, realizing that I am sinful. The point is that I must take responsibility for my own shortcomings and sin before I can ever overcome them. Anything less than a pure unabridged confession of personal responsibility is equated with the response of Adam and Eve when questioned by God after their fall in the Garden of Eden. “ The woman that you gave me” or “The serpent deceived me” just won’t cut it!

Someone may be asking, well what is God’s role in all of this? Is He just sitting somewhere in a heavenly throne room with His majestic arms crossed waiting to see if we will fall or perhaps making wagers with the angels as we relentlessly struggle through the trials that each day brings? Please don’t be so presumptuous to think that God doesn’t assist us in our struggles. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 and also, “God is at work in you, both to will and to do his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

How amazing this is, the influence of God in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit both provides for us an escape route and the desire to escape in order to please Him. What a wonderful helper, never turning his back for one minute and leaving us to fend for ourselves. So what was the excuse again? I didn’t think there was one!

So what are we to do in order to be victors over the sin that seems to dominate our behavior and keep us from experiencing the fullness of the blessings of Almighty God? In a resent conversation with a meth addict who claimed that freedom from the drug would be for her the ultimate of all successes, I was reminded in a very real way just how difficult it really is to change the habits that have had free reign in our lives for so long. I asked this woman what might seem like a simple question, not unlike the question that Jesus asked when he said, “will you be made whole?” I asked what are you really willing to sacrifice to be free? While many would have blurted out the response, “anything!” without realizing exactly what that would entail, this women stopped and thought for a few seconds before responding with an obvious reluctance, I’m not sure that I can take the pain. You see there is pain that is associated with change, even positive change and the first step in overcoming it is to acknowledge that it is real.

I do believe that God is at work in the life of all those who call upon His name and that He provides the inner-strength that we need to make the daily decision to change. It is with every battle that we overcome to change our behavior that we experience renewed strength for the next battle that we face and even when we fall, we are still able by the grace of God to get up and start again. “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9

So you still wonder, is Change spiritual or practical? You decide! Just know that what you decide will either liberate or enslave you…

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