We talk about change in a person’s life that authenticates his conversion experience. And well we should. However what do we mean when we say “change”? After a bone fide conversion a sinner usually gives up things he used to enjoy. Drugs and drunkenness and cursing and smoking are some of the usual suspects. And indeed being freed from such things does glorify God and provide a witness to the world of the power of Christ.
But let us not stop there. In fact they are only the beginning. But so many professing believers become satisfied and complacent just because they do not run with the old crowd and party as they used to. But there are hidden issues of the heart that loom large as it pertains to being like Jesus and following His teachings.
There is coveteousness and unforgiveness and idolatry and self righteousness and hatred and malice and honesty and just to name a few of the “don’ts” of the heart. But there is also love and mercy and grace and humility and selflessness just to name a few of the “do’s”. So often professing believers stop at some of the outward sins and disregard the sins of the heart.
II Cor.7: 1- Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Look at that! Paul divides sins into two categories – the sins of the flesh (outward) and the sins of the spirit (inward). But notice with full attention how we are to cleanse ourselves of these sins. He calls the Word of God “promises”. Wow, what a glorious term! Even those verses that correct and indict us are promises. Even the warnings of eternal punishment are promises. Everything God says are promises backed by the full integrity and authority of Almighty God. It is an incredible gift we have been given. It is God’s eternal and infallible Word.
So I have been saved for almost forty years. I have read through the Scriptures many times. I have preached thousands of times. I have written many things and I have taught the Word of God. But I still am in desperate need of having the Word through the Spirit prick my heart and change me. Unbelievers give up drugs and violence and stealing and the like. But a true believer never steps down from the potter’s wheel and claims he is finished. Our salvation was finished at Calvary but our sanctification will be an ongoing process until we meet Christ.
The first step is to read and meditate and allow the Spirit to reveal to your own heart the Word of God. Allow your heart to be revealed to you. Look deeply into your own heart by the illuminating ministry of the Spirit. Are there things there that are not of Christ?
Heb.4: 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
I never want to give the impression that I have arrived. Far from it. But what a glorious gift of grace when the Spirit takes God’s Word, illuminates my understanding, convicts me of my sin, and then forgives me and empowers me to repent and change. It is a great mystery and an unseen power which glorifies God within my own heart. To think that God not only redeemed my soul but also guides me with His Spirit, and then conforms me to the image of Christ is an immeasurable act of grace even post-redemption. And can I reveal something which is both to my own shame and the glory of God? Through forty years God has forgiven me of some of the same sins many times. Can you even begin to imagine such a grace? Such a love? Does that not convict us when we refuse to forgive because that person has committed the same offense against us?
So we who love Christ…just what is our calling? Yes we are to win souls and spread the gospel, but as it pertains to widening and deepening our relationship with our Savior, what is our calling?
Eph.4: 1 - I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called…
This calling is our vocation. It is our “career” so to speak. And we are to pursue Christ and submitting ourselves to His potter’s wheel. And our heart is where sin abides and hides. How many of us have hidden some sin within our hearts and yet enjoyed the falsehood of an outward appearance? Men are ignorant of our sin and yet God sees and knows. Man looks on the outward appearance but God sees the heart. The church has become consumed with the outward man and has profoundly ignored the heart. And yet the issues of God’s life proceed from the heart.
We are called to seek Christ and change throughout our Christian journey. There can never be a time when we sit back and tread spiritual water. Have we lost our hunger and thirst to be like Jesus? Are we content with how far we have come and thereby we no longer labor for the personal metamorphosis which honors God? When was the last time you were profoundly experiencing the Potter’s wheel? When was the last time you were broken because you realized how holy He is and how stagnant you are?
Change honors and pleases God. Yes, one day God will change us completely and we will be like Him. But until then we have been given an incredible gift of grace. He has called us to be like Jesus, and He has promised to empower us when we truly seek Christ. In the 60’s people watched the Beatles so much that they literally changed their appearance and their speech and their clothing in order to look like them. They idolized them.
In order to be like Jesus we must sit at His feet, listen to His words, and surrender to the ministry of His Spirit. We cannot change ourselves. That is always legalism and is fraught with self righteousness. But when we are changed by God’s Spirit deep within our hearts it pleases the Father. Thoughts and intents and motivations and attitudes that are against Christ must be crucified. And like David we say,
“ Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
The secret sins of the heart are the most difficult to see and the most difficult to renounce. But our wonderful Master has promised to reveal our sin and forgive us and to help us repent.