Ever been frustrated with your desire to change not resulting in lasting change? Many times the problem isn’t one of a lack of discipline, but a problem with a love of self or a love of sin.
Tim Chester gives some helpful insights into what may be stopping you from changing in his book You Can Change:
- Proud Self-Reliance
“Perhaps the person is mad at himself for repeating the same sin over and over again. This is actually a veiled form of pride that assumes he is capable of doing good in his own power…We are more concerned about our own ‘victory’ over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God…
[Your] first step is to give up – to give up on yourself. Repent of your self-reliance and self-confidence. Your second step is to rejoice in God’s grace – his grace to forgive and his grace to transform” (pp 117-118).
- Proud Self-Justification
“We don’t like to think of ourselves as bad people. We don’t want to think of our hearts as evil. So we don’t take responsibility for our sin. We may admit that we need change, but we don’t want to admit that we are the problem” (p 119).
- Excusing Sin
“We blame other people for what they have done…Or we blame our circumstances – our context, upbringing, personal history, or biology…There’s some truth in all of these explanations. External factors can reinforce or trigger sin. They often shape the form it takes. But none of these factors offers a full explanation for our sin. We choose how we respond to circumstances, and what determines those choices are the thoughts and desires of our hearts” (pp 119-120).
- Minimizing Sin
“We minimize the offense…We compare ourselves with others…We highlight our goodness…We call sin a misdemeanor, lapse, slip, or fall…We have a whole vocabulary to avoid naming sin as sin and evil as evil…But sin is serious – so serious that it demands eternal hell or the death of God’s eternal Son. True repentance grieves over sin; it never minimizes it” (p 121).
- Hiding Sin
“We want our good reputation. So we hide, we pretend, we don’t seek help…We’d like to stop sinning, but not if that costs us people’s approval. And that means true repentance isn’t taking place” (p 123).
- Hating the Consequences of Sin but Not the Sin Itself
“[We] often want to change the consequences of sin, but not the sin itself. The desire to change the guilt, the fear, or the damaged relationships can be a strong motive for seeking help. But in our heart of hearts we still desire the sin itself. In moments of temptation we still think it offers more than God…We need to dig deeper to expose the lies in our hearts and repent of the idols in our hearts…We need to be violent with sin. If we hold back, it’s almost certainly because we don’t want to be violent towards something we still love. We need to hate sin as sin and desire God for his own sake” (pp 125-126).
A Cross-Centered Life
“The key to change is continually returning to the cross. A changing life is a cross-centered life. At the cross we see the source of our santification…We find hope, for we see the power of sin broken and the old nature put to death. We see ourselves united to Christ and bought by his blood. We see the glorious grace of God in Jesus Christ, dying for his enemies, the righteous for the unrighteous. We see our hope, our life, our resources, our joy. At the cross we find the grace, power, and delight in God we need to overcome sin. If we don’t come to the cross again and again, we’ll feel distant from God, disconnected from his power, and indifferent to his glory – and that is a recipe for sin” (p 127).