When you boil the Christian life down to the basics, the name of the game is change.
Those who flex with the times, who refuse to stay rigid, who resist the mould and reject the rut…ah, those are the souls distinctively used by God. To them, change is a challenge, a fresh breeze that flows through the room of routine and blows away the stale air of sameness. It seldom fails to stimulate and invigorate…and it often serves as oil on the rusty gate of habit. This is especially applicable when it comes to certain habits that harm and hurt us. That kind of change is always hard—but it isn’t impossible. Let’s think that over.
Jeremiah pointed out the difficulty of breaking into an established life pattern when he quipped:
Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil. (Jeremiah 13:23)
Notice the last three words, “always done evil.” The Hebrew says, literally, “learned in evil.” Now that’s quite an admission! Those who are “learned in evil” can do no good. Evil habits that remain unchanged prohibit their doing good. Evil is a habit that is learned; it is contracted and cultivated by long hours of practice. In another place Jeremiah speaks for God and declares that it is so:
I warned you when you were prosperous, but you replied, “Don’t bother me.” You have been that way since childhood—you simply will not obey me! (Jeremiah 22:21)
All of us have practiced certain areas of wrong from our youth. It is a pattern of life that comes “second nature” to us and therefore it strongly resists change. We gloss over our resistance with the varnish of excuses:
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“I’ll never be any different; that’s just the way I am.”
“I was born this way—nothing can be done about it.”
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Jeremiah tells us why such excuses come easily. We have become “learned in evil”…we have “been that way since childhood.” In one sense we have learned to act and react in sinful, unbiblical ways with ease and (dare I admit it?) with a measure of pleasure. Admittedly, there are many times we do so unconsciously, and on those occasions the depth of our habit pattern is most revealing.
It is vital—it is essential—that we see ourselves as we really are in the light of God’s written Word…then be open to change where change is needed. The number-one enemy of change is the hard-core, satisfied sin nature within. I warn you: that sinful nature has been gratified and spoiled all these years, and it won’t give up without a temper tantrum. Change is its greatest threat. Change must be allowed to face and conquer the intimidations of inward habit—and I repeat the warning, it will never be an easy confrontation. So don’t expect it.
The flesh dies a slow, bitter, bloody death. “Putting off” the clothes of the old man (the old, habitual lifestyle) will not be complete until you “put on” the garments of the new man (the new, fresh, Christian lifestyle). The tailor’s name is Change, and he is a master at fitting your frame. But the process will be painful, I repeat, and costly. But worth it? Absolutely.
Change—real change—takes place slowly. Far too many Christians give up and get discouraged. Like ice skating or mastering a musical instrument or learning to swim, certain techniques have to be discovered, developed, and implemented in the daily discipline of living. Breaking habit patterns you established during the passing of years cannot occur in a few brief days. “Instant” change is as rare as it is phoney.
God did not give us His Word to satisfy our curiosity—He gave it to change our lives. Tell me, can you name a couple of specific changes God has implemented in your life during the past six months? Has He been allowed, for example, to change your attitude toward someone…or in your reaction of stubbornness…or a deep-seated addiction that has hurt you for a long, long time…or a habit of discourtesy in your driving…or a profane tongue…or cheating…or laziness?
Perhaps a better question would be, “Exactly what changes do you have on your drawing board?”—or—“What are you asking the Lord to adjust in your life that needs immediate attention?”
Since the name of the game is change, this time let’s play to win, OK?