Monday, August 3, 2009

how we change (4) why would you like to change?

I'm sitting in a cafe (the same cafe I wrote about here, at the same wobbly iron table) and I'm reading chapter 2 of Tim Chester's You Can Change.

It's not long before my heart is dissected and displayed on the page. I know that Chester's right, and that I seek change for three main reasons:
1. To prove myself to God.
2. To prove myself to others.
3. To prove myself to myself.

Most of us can probably tick one of these (the women in my seminar were divided between the three). I can put a big, black, permanent marker tick next to all three.

When I was 8, my Sunday School teacher asked what I wanted most. I knew the answer: to obey God all the time (no red trucks or Barbie dolls for me!). I long for others' liking and respect, and I'm terrified of disappointing people. But it's myself I find hardest to please. It's only when I meet every expectation - God's, other people's, my own - that I feel briefly satisfied.

It's one of those "So that's why!" moments.

But it's what follows that's really encouraging. As Chester unpacks the reality of being justified by grace, the truth that I've always known makes a new impact on my heart. God accepts me, and it's got absolutely nothing to do with what I've done or haven't done. He accepts me because Jesus died for me and paid for every one of my sinful failures. He accepts me because he sees me as perfect in his sight, clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

I've been striving for perfection, and it turns out it's mine already!

So why change? Not to become someone else, but to become who I already am. I'm God's precious child. I'm the bride of his Son. I'm the temple of his Spirit. I have all I need to live for God. I've died to sin and been raised to glorious new life. How could I not live it?*

God doesn't tell me to work really hard to earn his approval. He tells me I already have his approval - the approval he lavishes on his Son, transferred to me! - and he invites me to a great banquet, better than the coffee shop Chai I'm sipping. He invites me to the banquiet of knowing and loving him:

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Isaiah 55:1-2

After my visit to the cafe, I walk through a park. My feet thud on the dusty bush tracks, but my face is lifted to the glad blue sky. I can't wipe the smile off my face.

I feel free: free of the burden of earning God's approval, free of the need to earn others' respect, free of the heavy weight of my own expectations.

I'm free to love and serve God for one very good reason: because Jesus died for me and made me new.

I drive home somewhat hazardously, with an open Bible on the seat next to me, as I memorise these words:

But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. Tit 3:4-5

Not "live to prove yourself" but "live as you are". Sounds good to me.

For reflection: Think of how you'd like to change. Are you motivated by wanting to prove yourself to God, others, or yourself? How, instead, could you be motivated to "live as you already are" in Christ?

If you'd like to see or use my seminar How Change Happens, which is based on Tim Chester's You Can Change, please contact me.

* Gal 4:4-7, Eph 5:25-27, 1 Cor 6:18-20, 2 Pet 1:3-9, Rom 6:1-14

quotes are from chapter 2 of Tim Chester's You Can Change

images are from everglobe and Clairey at flickr


Nicole said...

I found this chapter really helpful too - for similar reasons. And I also found it very hard to choose just one of those three reasons!!

Jean said...

From one perfectionist to another ... :)