How to we get motivated to make the changes necessary to live healthier, more peaceful lives? We should be good stewards of all the blessings that we have been given…including health, time, family and material blessings. But sometimes, we just get stuck!
The truth is that “procrastination” is what the Bible calls slothfulness. “Overindulging” is what the Bible calls gluttony. “Venting” is what the Bible calls complaining, gossip, or malice. If something is consuming the majority of your time, your heart, and your thought-life, it probably isn’t a “hobby”…it could be idolatry.
We have conveniently repackaged sin into any number of sanitized synonyms. We might feel like this allows us to keep them as options in our life, if we call them by harmless names. We like to think these things to be harmless, or even for our good, but we need might be fooling ourselves.
If real change is needed in our lives, we should look deeper to see…is there sin? For my part, I am way too comfortable with sloth and gluttony. Those dudes are always trying to hang out with me, but they are bad news! I should cross the street and go the other way when I see them coming, but often I allow them to accompany me throughout my day!
Still, there are some hard question about holy living that can stump many of us:
- How much of my struggle is my responsibility?
- If I need to change, what is God’s role in all of this?
- Can I make change happen?
This summer I taught a class called Acceptable Offering that led to my new ebook, Prodigal Confessions: 10 Principles that Lead Us Back to the Father (shameless plug!). In preparing for the class, I ran across a book that I really loved, Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification (John Piper and David Mathis); it neatly explains how God’s will for us and our free will can work together, for our good.
I bought it on Amazon (of course!), but John Piper offers it as a FREE download on his website. At 176 pages, that is a probably pretty big download if you print it, but you know…FREE! There is an very helpful video clip to explain the premise of the book on the same webpage – and what an affirmation it was to watch that, as I typed this post.
We often find ourselves here: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
And we know this to be necessary: “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 learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63).
Again and again we see that change in us is wrought by the Holy Spirit: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18).
But how does this work?
How does it play out?
Where does the change come from?
In Acting the Miracle, John Piper explains this so simply (on pages 129-130):
God is wholly engaged in bringing your life and this world to its appointed destiny of holiness. And this full engagement of God in the process of your sanctification is no limitation on your engagement, but is, in fact, the creation of your engagement. He works the miracle of sanctification; you act the miracle. He produces it; you perform it. If you don’t use your will to act the miracle, there is no miracle. God’s sovereign enablement of holiness does not contradict the act of duty; it creates it.
- When God opens the eyes of the blind, it is the blind who see.
- When God gives strength to shriveled legs, it is the lame who do the walking…
- When God changes Zacchaeus’ heart, it is Zacchaeus who gives back four fold what he has stolen…
- When God gives you merciful humility, it is you who turn the other cheek.
- When God inclines your heart to his Word, it is you who gets out of bed early in the morning to read your Bible…
He gives many, many more examples. I love how this brings together the two extremes of grace and works and explains that God makes both of them fully necessary AND fully possible.
The knowledge that God requires me to Act the Miracle reminds me of my accountability and His help. When I need change, I see it is already fulfilled by God and that I just need to walk in it–now that is #ASimplerJoy!