The Center of Change
Personal change is hard. Yet by the Spirit, change is possible, for a Christian. But so often we Christians find change elusive, and the solutions offered by others to be unsatisfying. This is a frustrating, depressing place to be - to hear of “joy inexpressible” (1 Peter 1:8), to hear of others’ victories, and find oneself wanting.
Part of the problem is our complexity. We are shaped from three different angles: internally - our hearts; externally - our situations, which is massively social but is also biological; and vertically - there is a spiritual dimension that is always pressing in on us. We have three enemies: our flesh, the world, and the devil. When we do wrong or don’t do right, all three are working. Most approaches for change - secular or “Christian” - fail because they only comprehend one or maybe two of these perspectives, but not all three.1
This threefold complexity is hard to comprehend all at once, even for the most seasoned biblical counselors or therapists or psychologists, let alone for ourselves.
But grace does have a better word for us, that speaks well to our frustrations.
For instance, Romans comprehends our complexity, from all three angles, but Paul bookends the book by boiling everything down to this: “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5 and 16:26). Obedience - change . . . flourishing living - comes from faith.
This phrase picks up two crucial realities. First, we are driven in our actions by our desires - the New Testament development of the Old Testament word “idol”. The fundamental questions is who we love, and who is mastering us. Therefore, secondly, those desires are always doing something with God - either replacing Him with something else, or trusting Him.
Whatever it is you face, with all its complexities, the fundamental ground of change comes by moving toward God. Only comprehends our complexities perfectly, and addressing them in perfect power.
Imagine you are floating in our solar system, at one point among an infinite number of possible locations. The forces affecting your location would be complex: the surrounding planets’ gravity, the temperature of space, space junk, your own (mis)calculations . . . on and on. But if you want to get warmer in this solar system, there is one simple way, regardless - move closer to that glowing ball in the middle.
How we move toward the sun/Son is not always clear. Thus we need the Word, prayer, and each other. Through these three means God graciously comprehends our threefold complexity. Together they serve this simple truth: a life lived to God, before God, in Christ is destined for change.
1 See David Powlison’s “Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair”, published in 1995, and available through the church office - a masterwork, in my opinion.