I am amazed at how hypocritical my heart is. One moment I am passionately berating someone for something awful they have done and the next I am doing exactly what I had criticized them for doing. And while I am doing it I am quite content, knowing that it is wrong, but somehow justifying it anyway. Its different when I do it. It is so easy to name sin worn by another person, but when worn by me there are shades of gray.
I am constantly moved by deep thoughts and insights, quick to use them as illustrations when teaching Bible study, but resistent to actually apply them to my life. World Magazine writer Andree Seu talks about how often Christians do this, taking furious notes on a cool new insight and telling everyone about it, but then filing their notes away, forgetting all about the “life changing message” they had heard. We are really into “insights” but not so into change. Insights are easy and exciting, change is tediuos and painful.
I am beginning to believe this is exactly what most Christians in America, including me, have missed. We learn, we “grow”, we even become more firm in what we believe, but we rarely allow it to change us. We make superficial lifestyle changes for the world to see but rarely do we try to do anything about the harder and more humiliating changes that concern our prideful hearts. It would take too much and be too painful of a process. So we learn to live around it.
As I begin this process of peeling away my layers this is the first thing I encounter. It is depressing and discouraging. I am very tempted to feel like a failure. How is it that after a decade and a half of calling myself a Christian, did I let this slip by almost un-noticed? Did I mention that for two thirds of that time I have been in full-time ministry? (What scares me even more these days is how much more resistant I am to change the older I get!) The result has been a great clean-up job on the outside of my life, but as far as the inside goes I am extremely disturbed by how little it has changed. I do not mean to be self-deprecating, but simply honest because I long to know the freedom and change that is promised to those who believe. The fact of the matter is, in order for us to see that change we must first recognize our need to change and secondly, admit that we cannot do it on our own.
The surprise in this difficult place is that there is something strangely sweet about coming to the end of yourself. Breaking through your pride briefly, and weakly, yet so desperately, to admit you have failed and you need help. It is strange how strong we can feel in ourselves, but how much stronger we feel when we have to lean on God in our weaknesses. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that I have been here many times before but somehow I always drift away from that sweet dependancy and begin trying to do it on my own again.
I want to stop getting so excited about increasing my knowledge and discovering profound statements, and begin caring more about how those things can change me on the inside. This is the only way I will become who God intends me to be and where I will experience the changing power of Christ in my life. What is most important is not that my life looks “Christian” on the outside, or that I sound “Christian” to those who care to listen, but that I am allowing His truth to change me on the inside.