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Be the Change, or Change?

Posted on March 27, 2021 at 11:15 AM

We can talk about changing our lives, our attitude, our habits, our lifestyle, our thinking and our world, but real and lasting change is hard! That’s why new years resolutions are so fleeting. We have a vision of the transformation we want, but as Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

The problem is, we try to make changes on our own steam. Let’s face it, there’s just not enough human ‘juice’ to get the job done for any sustainable length of time. Most who have been successful will tell you that breaking the cycle of addiction is only achieved when we give up our will up to that of a “higher power.” No matter how much we want to lay down whatever harmful thing we’ve become chained to, healing comes when there is recognition that we are incapable on our own. Something bigger and more powerful than us has to be in the mix. And we know that higher power is only God.

We think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 26, and have learned to use it as a kind of ‘funny’ excuse when we don’t do what we should, or fail at some task we've set ourselves to. But they were uttered to the disciples as a desperate plea in His darkest and most vulnerable moment.

 

Just before Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and knowing the agonizingly painful time He was facing, Jesus was praying and trying to find peace. Hoping for support and comfort, He looked over to see His friends sleeping. All Jesus wanted was for them to stay awake and join Him in prayer but “their eyes were heavy” and they kept falling asleep. In fact, if we read verse 41 in its entirety, we see that Jesus had asked them to “watch and pray” with Him. Instead, they slept right up until the armed mob came and grabbed the Savior up and took Him to be slaughtered.

Because of the weakness of their flesh, they were caught unawares in the garden that night. The Greek word for flesh as used here, means the human body and nature, with all its moral and physical weaknesses. But the Greek word for “spirit” in this verse is pneuma and refers to the soul or mind of a person. They wanted to do the right thing but they couldn’t overcome the pull of their human nature.

So many times we stumble around doing our best to behave ourselves, have a good attitude and live life in a Christ like way. Our spirits know that’s what we need to do. We even say we want to make a change for the better in our world -- we want to ‘be the change.’ But the same old mess keeps happening. Not just day by day, but century by century.

If we’re honest with ourselves we must acknowledge that we are completely incapable of meaningful change on our own. In order to create lasting transformation in our lives and in our world, we must do as David did after he had committed adultery and completely subverted God’s will for his life. In Psalm 51 we hear his prayer of abject repentance.

First, he acknowledges his wrongdoing, then asks the Father to “create in him a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” [V 10]. Not only does David confess to the weakness, but he admits to the fact that his very soul – his pneuma – his mind – needs to be remade. He’s not saying, ‘let me repent and make restitution.’ He’s saying ‘change me because I can’t do it on my own’.

I think the most beautiful part of that passage is towards the end. In Verses 16 and 17 he says “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart—these, O God, you will not despise.”

We can’t ‘behave’ our way into God’s favor. He doesn’t love or reward us for our ability to bulldoze ourselves into right thinking. When Christ was on the cross, we were already on His mind, as the old song says. Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Our hearts should remain broken for this broken world we live in. White-knuckled sacrifices and living life trying to mold our human thinking into submission will never work. Our minds are willing, but our flesh is so very weak. The real solution is not asking to be the change but to be changed.

 

Be blessed, my friend, God is on the throne.

 

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