A few weeks ago I heard someone talking about making changes in his life. He mentioned that he had tried several times over the years to make this change. You know the drill, New Years Resolutions, promises to yourself, promises to spouses, promises to children, promises to God. I, too, have made such promises and the whole time I am doing it I am reminded of something my mother used to say when I was a child living at home. I would promise to do something for her and I would hear her say, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” Still, I would go ahead and make the promise knowing that I could not, or probably would not, keep it. Countless times in my life this same scenario was played out to the disappointment to the ones who loved me, and whom I said that I loved. Someone has defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Boy, was I insane! I am reminded of the book of Judges in the Old Testament. The Israelites had been delivered from slavery in Egypt and were living in the Promised Land. Moses and Joshua were dead, and the cycle of insanity had set in. The whole book is a cycle of doing what they wanted to, getting into trouble, calling out to God, being delivered by God, and doing what they wanted to, getting into trouble, and on and on it goes [Judges 21:25]. We hear it all the time, “It’s ok. God understands. He loves us.” [John 3:16].
I always felt that people and God would understand my shortcomings and forgive me. Why not? They said they loved me. Yet all along I knew my weaknesses and inadequacies. God does understand [Psalm 103:14] and love [Romans 5:8] me.
Reading the Bible one day as a young man I came across a section of Scripture which made me realize that God does not take broken promises lightly. He does not just brush them off and forget them. Promises are serious to God and I knew He would hold me to my word [Ecclesiastes 5:1-7]. He says it is better for me to keep my mouth shut, than to rattle off things that I don’t really mean. You know what? That’s how those close to me feel also. So until I’m ready, really ready to do what I say and make changes in my life, then the lips are zipped.
Too many people live in their emotions. They get all excited about God and say things they don’t mean, and begin things they really never mean to finish. They are not ready, not really ready. Change is tough and requires determination on our part. Once in a men’s Sunday School class the teacher wrote a saying on the blackboard. It goes something like this, “Life doesn’t come with a remote control. You have to get off the couch and make the change.” It takes someone who is ready, really ready to let God change his or her life. We must remember the parable of the sower and the soil [Matthew 13; Mark 4:3; Luke 8:5-15]. Jesus tells the story of a man sowing a field [the world] with seed [God’s Word – 1 Peter 1:23] desiring to see a crop that produces a harvest [souls saved – Matthew 9:37-38; Luke 10:2; John 4:33]. As he is scattering the seed, some of it falls on the side of the road and is trampled on and never grows or produces anything [satan stealing the seed away – 2 Corinthians 4:4]. Some of the seed fell on rocky soil and sprouted quickly, but without firm roots it soon withered in the heat of the day [emotional responses which soon fade]. Then other seed feel among thorns and weeds which choked the life out of the young tender plants [those pulled away by the enticements of this world]. Lastly, some seed fell on good soil which produced not only the plant, but the expected harvest [people who are truly converted through repentance and belief which produces enduring faith – Acts 20:20-21]. The only true salvation experience in this lesson is the one where the seeds fall on good soil. All the others produce hard hearts, as well as people who believe in God but without a changed life, and it produces carnal church members. They were not ready, not really ready for the change that Jesus makes in one’s life [2 Corinthians 5:17] when the Holy Spirit comes to abide [2 Corinthians 13:5] in a person’s life. This God-initiated change produces emotion, but emotion without the change does not cut it with God.
Too many people are hesitant to believe what God says, mainly because there are family members and friends who say the words, but don’t live the life. God warns us against the false security that this produces. He tells us in 1 John that if we continue in a lifestyle of sin then we are living a lie, and the truth [John 1:14; 14:6,17; 15:26; 16:13] does not dwell in us [1 John 1:5-10]. If our lives contain fear and hatred then love ofGod and love for God is not in us and we are liars and do not know God [1 John 4:18-20]. These are pretty strong statements for us to swallow, but they are the Word of God none the less.
Let us be careful to understand that loving God is a result of a changed life produced by the Holy Spirit, when we, through repentance and faith, believe in Jesus. Anything else is deceptive and blinds a person to the truth. This state of blindness hardens the heart and hinders conviction resulting in a continued state of separation from God [Isaiah 59:2].
So until we are ready, really ready for God to change our lives it will not happen. It’s not the words we say, but the enduring repentant life we live that attests to the change God has made.
Minister of Education and Youth