Written by: Kensie Story
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
Too often I’ve learned (and re-learned) about God’s love and grace only to find myself later, acting like I’d never understood it at all. Like grasping a wet bar of soap, it just keeps slipping through my fingers and I end up trying to live in my own strength once again.
Every time I find myself losing it at my husband again, or taking one too many drinks again, or spending so much money that I break the budget again, I’m left feeling awful. I start promising myself, my husband, even God, that I’ll try harder next time; that I’ll do better next time.
Then, its go time. I do everything I can to change those nasty habits – make lists, pray harder, avoid any place that accepts a credit card, chose not to buy the bottle of wine at the store – whatever I can think of to make things different.
The problem with that is it never lasts. Sometimes I’ll have success for a few days, sometimes even a week, but unfortunately changing our behaviors on the outside is not the same as being transformed on the inside.
“Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires.” Psalm 51:10 TLB
I was reading the Bible study “The Grace Walk Experience” by Steve McVey. And as I reached the first chapter, titled “Improving Your Behavior Will Not Give You Victory In the Christian Life”, I realized I had once again slipped into the “strife-life”.
The “strife-life” is the life where you are constantly trying – to do better, to be better. The life where you’ve forgotten you are not the one in control of changing your heart. The life where you stress yourself out trying to change and beat yourself up when you fall short.
When Christ made us new, it was a done deal. “It is finished” did not mean that we had to finish the job. It meant it was finished – totally and completely.
That is an important piece of the puzzle we often forget. We read the verses that promise our ‘newness’, but we still feel dirty. And when God doesn’t clean it up fast enough, we try to clean the dirt off ourselves.
But Jesus Himself said that without Him we can do nothing (see John 15:5). Not some things, not one thing, nothing. So the only changes that ever occur in us are a direct result of the Holy Spirit. We have absolutely nothing to do with it.
“It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 MSG
All that exhausting ourselves trying to change, all the promises we’ve made to be different next time, only to break them again and again – all of that was never meant to be a part of our walk with Christ.
All Jesus ever asked of us was to trust Him. He wants us to trust His handiwork within us and around us, knowing He is God.
“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3 NASB
Maybe it’s the culture we live in that screams the needs to do more and achieve more, maybe it’s simply the sin that has infected us and our world, but that nagging need to try can be done with. Right here. Right now. Forever.
When you see your friend changing slower than you, give grace. When you see yourself changing slower than her, give grace. The process of renewal and the speed of that process is completely in the hands of God.
Wanting to do better isn’t a bad thing, and with Christ, we can do better, but each person’s “better” is going to be a little different. Even your own “better” will change as the Holy Spirit does His work.
“And I will give you a new heart—I will give you new and right desires—and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love. And I will put my Spirit within you so that you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 TLB
Someday you will change. You won’t be stuck in that addiction or habit or lifestyle forever because sin is no longer your master, Christ is. He is the one who is in control.
Continue to follow God wherever He leads. Continue to surrender your life to Him. And continue to trust that He is at work and has not forgotten you.
And while you walk along the narrow path set before you, live free. Live free in who you are. Live free in who you’ve become. Live free in who you will be someday.
For on that day when Christ returns, we will all finally be completely and totally renewed, having become just like Christ – completely holy, completely sinless. We will finally get to see ourselves the same way God already sees us. And that day, my friend, will be a beautiful day indeed.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2 ESV, emphasis mine
“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”” Revelation 21:5a NIV