Change? … Me?

Blind Faith (No. 34, 2016)
Weekly Devotional for August 25, 2016
Change? … Me?

CHANGE (noun or verb) ˈchānj: what other people need to do to become more like me. (Culpepper’s Dictionary of What Words Really Mean to Most People, 2016)

Calls for change resound through much of our world today. Dire conditions surround us on every side, we are told heatedly, and things just have to change in order for us to survive. We become conditioned to operating on the assumption that if other people would learn to see things as I see them, to stop their bad behavior and to live by the values I cherish, to give up their misguided policies and support my party and candidates, and generally to think, talk, and live the way I do, the world obviously would be a better place! Change is desperately needed, and the sooner everybody else starts to change, the better. Just don’t try to make me do anything different. I’m OK the way I am – unless you want to raise my bank account substantially. That’s change that I can accept!

Many people seem to take the preceding approach to change. Truth be told, we tend to believe that many of the world’s ills would improve if only other people thought and acted the way we do. If we have any areas that could use some change, we’re sure that they are so minor that there’s no need to mention them. Change is what other people need to do.

But we sign up for all kinds of transforming experiences, especially in moments of honest self-evaluation. People by the thousands enroll in Weight Watchers, Curves, or a local gym or health club in order to change their girth or physical conditioning. You may be among them. Others take lessons in computing, or art, or cooking, or a sport in pursuit of changing how they experience life. In spite of ourselves, we often have to acknowledge that we are changing as we age – sometimes for the better – a delightful surprise!

In most cases we approach our relationship with God very much the way we act in any ordinary life experience. Other than our repentance and change from death to life by God’s grace, we mostly regard change as what others need to do to get right with God. We claim Paul’s description of our condition upon confessing faith in Jesus: “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. {18} God has done all this.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18a GWT) Too often professed followers of Jesus take this to mean that they have changed all that they need to change after this saving transformation. From this point on, many believers want to attend worship services in a building that looks like their image of a church, with people who have similar socio-economic standing, education, and political leanings as they do. They want to sing songs or hymns that they already know and like, to listen to a sermon by a preacher who is dressed the way a minister ought to look, and to have their beliefs confirmed. They want to have opportunities to participate in activities they enjoy – and otherwise to be left alone. Numerous surveys have demonstrated that little difference exists between believers and non-believers in their lifestyles and ethics. Change is what other people need to do.

But that is not the way the Bible describes life as a follower of Jesus. The life of genuine faith is intended to be perpetually changing. We are called to embrace transformation. The gap between who we are today and what we are ultimately to be requires more change than we can accomplish on our own. The goal is no less than to be like Jesus, and we have barely started: “Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.” (1 John 3:2 NLT) We can’t assume that we have already reached the goal of being like Jesus and so don’t need to change. God’s work in us should make our actions and attitudes become more like Jesus every day. Paul described the change in poetic language: “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NRSV) Paul also described how believers should view change in practical language: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) Change might actually be needed in other people’s lives, but each believer has plenty of change to work with God to accomplish in his or her own life. These changes produce better awareness of God’s grace and clearer resemblance to Christ in all that the believer does.

We would rather have other people do the changing, but each of us has more change to do than we can handle by ourselves. Only with God’s continual help can we hope to reach the goal of our transformation. It should leave us little time to obsess with changes others need to make – other than introducing them to God and allowing God’s grace to bring change and blessing in their lives.

What change have you been working with God to accomplish in your life? Are you actively seeking to be transformed to be more like Jesus day by day? What transformative opportunities )serving, worship, Bible study, active prayer, etc.) are you pursuing? How has your understanding of God’s grace changed this week?

Change – others may need to do it in lots of ways, but you and I have a lifetime of life-changing work with God’s help cut out for us.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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