Heads-up, y’all. The new people we want to become are found in Christ Jesus, not in our resolutions, however sincere they may be. We can try to be more loving, more forgiving, and more patient. We can try to remember to pray more, read our Bibles more, and complain less, but we’ll be setting ourselves up to fail and frustrating the grace of Christ while we’re at it. Jesus lives in us to make us new people, not better people, and He does it by forming Himself in anyone who chooses transformation over resolutions and trusts Him to see it through.
But, maybe you need a for instance. Lean in. This is going to get personal.
For weeks now, the enemy has been persistently trying to plant an offense in my heart. I can surrender my will about it to the Lord, and turn from the temporary satisfaction of petting the injury, but it only seems to leave so it can slip in from another direction. It’s relentless in its goal to find a chink in my guard where it can dig in and hide.
Interestingly, I know the back story to the offender’s actions. I understand the many “whys” behind it. But the enemy is quick to remind me that the why doesn’t justify the offense. Tricky devil. He hides in the knowledge of right to trick us into wrong.
Hear me. I don’t want to be offended. I know that given soil, time, and attention, my thoughts about the offense would take root and yield a crop of bitterness, but the reality is that I’m having to be just as diligent to rely on Jesus to resist the offense getting planted as the enemy is to plant it.
This battle of resistance isn’t a new experience. Thankfully, I’ve learned I’m learning how powerless I am in my own strength, how needy I am of Jesus, and how faithful He is to help. Our marvelous indwelling Savior empowers us to do anything He asks us to do. We have only to admit our inability to overcome and reach for Him to find His strength mighty in us to prevail, time and again. You know all of those football games we’re watching, and how the referee makes the final call in every dispute? (Yes, I know there are reviews on their calls, but I’m trying to paint us a picture and not chase squirrels, so stay with me, folks.) Well, that’s kind of how it is with choosing to have Jesus rule over our thoughts. Colossians 3:15 tells us to, “Let the peace of God rule in our hearts.” That word for rule is “brabeuo” in the original language and it referred to the umpires that settled conflicts in ancient Greek games. I have to choose to let Jesus and His ways rule and accept His call in order to stop the mental madness. (For isn’t that what cycling thoughts are, mental madness and misery?) But when I do choose to stop and let the peace of Jesus rule in me, He most effectively stills my broiling emotions.
Inserting grateful praise here on this side of the screen. Okay, moving on.
So, no, the ongoing choice isn’t new. What is different is this strangely heightened sense of awareness. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so fully aware of an offense trying to wiggle its way into my heart so insistently, and so repetitively. It moves me to remind us all that our sole hope of surviving the relentless onslaught of the enemy is to take refuge in the God of all grace. Victory is not found in turning over a new leaf of our selves, or Jesus died in vain. Lasting change comes when we let Him transform us from the inside out.
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. I Peter 5.9
New Year Blessings to you and yours!
Leave me an idea of what kind of insistent thoughts are tormenting you, (even if you want to be very cryptic), and I’ll pray for you. I’d love for you to join me on this transformation journey in the pages of my new hardback devotional, Devotions for the Hungry Heart.