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Sometimes we don’t change because we fail to call sin what it is. If you want to feel better about yourself, giving your sins a more palatable name is the way to go. If your goal is to grow in holiness, not so much. Unless you’re willing to forsake your “inner Adam” with all his justification and blame shifting, you will not mature in Christ as you should.
But wait! There’s more
Saying the same thing God does about your sin is an essential step in the sanctification process, but if you stop there, you still won’t change.
I have sinned by betraying innocent blood. -Judas
Saying the right words is not changing, and neither is feeling terrible about your sin (2 Corinthians 7:10). These things must be present, followed by asking the Lord (and anyone else you sinned against) for His forgiveness. Then comes the process of amputating and mortifying the sin in your life.
Amputation is cutting off or putting away something that is causing you to sin, per Matthew 5:29-30. For instance, if you escape from the cares of life by overindulging in shopping, Facebook, alcohol, or anything else, it may be wise to forsake whatever it is for a time completely. If, say, someone who works at your favorite coffee shop tempts you to lust, perhaps it’s best if you make coffee at home from now on.
Mortification, on the other hand, is the process of killing indwelling sin over the course of your life. While amputation is helpful for removing areas of temptation from your path, it’s ultimately powerless against the lusts that cause your behavior.
…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)
This kind of change is the in-the-trenches, tooth and nail Gospel warfare that is the warp and woof of the Christian life. Notice that your new self is created by God, who is renewing you into His likeness; His power fuels your change. As you seek to grow into the image of God, fervently pray that He will supply the grace and strength you need (John 15:4).
Make no mistake: you are responsible for walking in obedience to the LORD, but if you attempt just to suck it up, buttercup and change, you will fail.
Also, take note of the command in Ephesians 4:23 for mind renewal. When you’re free to think about anything at all, where does your mind go? The answer to this question is probably a reflection of what you’re allowing into your brain and what you live for.
When my thinking is in a rut, and I’m struggling to rein it in, I like to put on some rich, theological worship music. I avoid the stuff that’s more emotionally driven because, let’s face it, my feelings don’t need to be driving in times like those! As I reorient my mind to the truth of the Gospel, my heart usually follows. It never hurts. Did I say the music should be loud? Loud is best.
The more inlets you have for Gospel truth into your life, the easier it will be for you to change.
Have you ever been eating dinner with someone who was totally unaware that she had food on her face? What did you do? Did you know you’re a lot like her, spiritually speaking? Everyone else in the room can see your flaws with a lot more clarity than you can.
This fact creates a bit of a conundrum: do you want to change and grow badly enough to ask the people around you how they see you? How you answer that question reveals a lot about your spiritual maturity. Asking someone, and I’m talking about a spiritually mature person you know will be honest with you, what your sin patterns are is a profoundly humble action.
If your sin is so serious that the very Son of God had to die to pay your penalty, and if He paid it in full so that the whole measure of God’s wrath was satisfied in Him, while the fullness of God’s pleasure rests on you (2 Corinthians 5:21), what do you have to prove?
Why would you try to pretend you’re better than you are? Everybody knows you have cheese on your face, dear friend! Let them help you get clean. Beginning to do this is hard and scary, but joy and peace await you as you grow in grace and holiness.
If you put into practice everything that I have asked you to, you will be well on your way to having a tender conscience, not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13-15 ). You will be more sensitive to the conviction of sin, even as you have less actual sin in your life. What could be better for any believer who wants to honor Christ?
One final thought: don’t be fooled into thinking theological or biblical knowledge equals growth. It does not. You are called to love God with your mind (Mark 12:30) because you can’t love what you don’t know, but if what you know is making you a big jerk, there’s a serious problem.
Study the Word, study theology, but pursue the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) as well. Ask me how I know this. I am the Queen of the Theology Jerks (all hail!).
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.