Last time, we talked about what it means to acknowledge who you truly are. Far from self-centered affirmation, this entails the voluntary dissection of your very soul, the opening up of yourself to God. He created us. We ought to have the courage to face him and admit our shortcomings. That doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult, of course.
Today, I want to talk about some steps we can take to move towards lasting change in our lives. Acknowledging your sin and your tendencies is one thing, but repenting and moving unto action is another entirely. Let’s begin.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV)
This verse shows us what it really means to let conviction move us to be more like Christ. Repentance isn’t just saying we’re sorry. Jesus stands at the door. He knocks, asking us to let him into our life. We cannot reap the benefits of a proper relationship with Christ unless we open the door and let him in. But letting him in requires us to surrender ourselves to him—not just the most attractive parts, either. We’re talking about everything. But “everything” is a rather unimpressive word on its own. Let me paint you a picture.
Jesus Pays a Visit
Imagine for a moment that Jesus knocks on the front door. We think of ourselves as a pretty good Christian, so we have no problem letting him in, right? We undo the lock. We turn the handle, slowly swinging the door open. We greet our Lord and Savior. He asks if we would like him to step inside. Oh, of course! How silly of us. So we step aside and allow him access to our living room. It’s organized fairly well. There’s a couch on the far side and a welcome mat laid before the door with a coat rack and a place for shoes. The room is well-lit and inviting.
This is nice, we think to ourselves. Jesus in my house? What a privilege! Pleasantries are exchanged. We shuffle our feet and stare up at the ceiling, wondering what to say next. Then Jesus asks if he might take a look around the house. What? We weren’t expecting this, but that’s okay. We lead him into the office and show him our projects. We lead him upstairs to the guest room. We show him where the bathroom is. We might even comment on the kitchen as we pass through it. But then Jesus speaks up.
“What about your closet?” We stop, stunned for a moment. Why on earth would he want to look in there, we ask ourselves. We weren’t planning on letting him see every part of the house. This is most irregular. Jesus asks where the bedroom is. We stare at our feet for a moment, trying to think of an excuse. “Oh, still tidying up in there. Sorry about that!”
Jesus still wants to see it. He waits, standing patiently. We swallow the lump in our throat and force our legs to move us towards the bedroom. This isn’t fun anymore. We weren’t prepared for this! How rude of Jesus to insist on seeing the parts of our house we obviously don’t want anyone snooping around in. We open the door to the bedroom, revealing a bit of a mess. The bed isn’t made. Clothes hang over the side of the hamper. There’s a stray pair of underwear peeking out from beneath the bed. Jesus looks around the room. Then he asks again to see the closet.
The Inner Conflict
What would you say? Would you let him see what you have hiding in the far reaches of your mind? Would you allow him access to the sins you hold most dear, the grudges you’ve held onto for years, or the bad habits you still try to ignore? Maybe you’d say, “Enough! Get out.” Most people do.
One of the hardest things in the world is to let someone else see the most intimate parts of you. It’s why divorce is so common and friendships can be so fragile. It challenges your ego, forcing you to come to grips with your weakness as others see it openly. We hate dealing with our flaws and sins. We hide them away beneath layers of veneer—the Facebook posts, friendly smiles, and displays of virtue we hope distracts onlookers from the complicated mess underneath.
Yet this internal struggle is one we must face if we hope to pursue a life that honors Christ.
“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”Leviticus 20:26 (ESV)
Lest you think of this as the grumpy, domineering God of the Old Testament, here it is again in the New Testament. God does not change.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”Matthew 5:48 (ESV)
Christ confirms the Leviticus passage here in the Sermon on the Mount. Peter confirms it in his epistle.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”1 Peter 1:14-16 (ESV)
There is no such thing as a “drifting” Christian, a man of God who does not seek his face. If you let yourself drift, you will invariably find yourself moving closer to sin. So what are some practical ways to start opening up your life to Christ and letting him sanctify you?
It starts with confessing. In a therapy session, clients might be asked to verbalize their desires and their realizations about themselves. This might seem unnecessary. After all, we already know how we feel. But there’s something powerful about using audible words to confess inner realities. So confess your sins to God out loud. Admit your faults. Don’t skip this part. Remember, you can’t start with changing yourself. You have to let Christ reign first.
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”Luke 5:32 (ESV)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9 (ESV)
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
Center Yourself in Truth
Next, center yourself in the truth. Don’t just jump into self-help books or temporary, emotional effort. You won’t get far. You have to keep your eye focused on what matters in order to get out of the wilderness. Part of this is reading God’s Word and dwelling on his truth. You have to saturate yourself with it if you expect to see its fruit in your life.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:32 (ESV)
The truth is the answer to your problems. But what is truth?
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”John 14:6 (ESV)
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
Ultimately, God is truth. Only by pursuing Christ will we find that truth. Dwell on God’s nature and become intimately familiar with Jesus and his teachings.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”John 17:17 (ESV)
Only when you become a real man of God—a student of theology, someone who’s “bananas for Jesus” as Keith Green said—will you become a man God uses to do great things.
“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”James 1:25 (ESV)
Go Forth Unto Action
This leads us to action that is supported by faith, deeds that are backed by love, and a changed life as the result of a changed heart. Don’t put the cart before the horse. This kind of thing can’t be manufactured. It has to be genuine, overflowing out of the new creation God has made you into.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”Luke 6:45 (ESV)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (ESV)
“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”Romans 6:13 (ESV)
But that’s not the end. The true test is consistency and perseverance. This is perhaps the least glamorous part of the process. Everyone loves stories of people who turned their life around, saved relationships, or overcame addictions. But nobody gets excited about the prospect of a long life of honest living in obedience to God, showing his love to strangers, coworkers, and family. We want the adventure and the drama without the commitment.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
If you feel like giving up, like putting a stop to this uncomfortable process of exposing your heart for replacement and sacrificing your whole being to God’s purposes, just remember Christ. Center yourself back to the truth. This last passage convicts me regularly that I have it far too comfortable in America to be complaining. I need to persevere, keeping my sights set firmly on Christ.
“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”Hebrews 12:3-4 (ESV)
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.