How Can I Change? Prayer

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See the overview, sorrow, accountability, the church, radical measures, gratitude, confession, humility, spiritual disciplines, Scripture intake, and Scripture intake 2.

Prayer (Heb 4:14-16)

There is much to be said about this topic! In this post I hope to give just a brief overview of how prayer is a tool God uses to change us.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16)

 

What is the passage saying?

Briefly summarizing this incredible passage, we must see that because of Jesus’ work:

1. We can, and we must, persevere in our faith (14-15)

  • If we do, we will enter the promised rest (ch 4)
  • If we do not, we will not enter the rest (4:1) (for a complete study of these warning passages, see Schreiner, Thomas R., and Ardel B. Caneday. The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001)

2. We can, and we must, go before our caring high priest (16)

  • If we do, we will receive mercy and grace to help in time of need
  • This is one of God’s means for keeping us till the end

 

How is it connected to grace?

  • Prayer is a gracious gift. From the viewpoint of our sinfulness this is not a right we have in our own self. It is an extremely valuable privilege. Viewed from our standing in Christ, we have all liberty to go before the throne of grace.
  • Prayer is God’s means of bestowing gracious gifts such as: Perseverance, Mercy, Grace, Help…

How might God use prayer to bestow these gifts? God uses prayer to change me by:

  • Focusing my attention on God rather than my problem
  • Focusing my attention on truth rather than lies
  • Focusing my attention on others rather than myself

 

Prayer is a way God get’s our eyes in the right place. Remember Peter and his short walk on the water (Matt 14:22-33)? What was the cause of his sudden sinking? He took his eyes off of Jesus. One application we can make from that passage is that when our eyes are on the problem in front of us, the circumstances we are in, or the fear in us, we sink. We may flounder in discouragement or depression. We may thrash about in a “works righteousness” attitude or an “I can do it on my own” mentality. Either way we are sinking, and it is because our eyes are in the wrong place. Prayer is a means God uses to change that.

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: You have noticed the life literally drain out of your friend over the past few months. It is nothing new. It actually happens every year about this time. Her eyes grow dark, her conversations few, her temper short. When you have talked with her about it in the past she has said, “I’m just under a lot of stress right now. School, work, and family things are weighing me down. I’m sort of a perfectionist, so I just need to get these responsibilities wrapped up and I will be fine.” But she is hurting, you can tell. This time has gone farther. It seems as though depression has slipped in and locked the door. What can you do?

 

Steps: Obviously the answer has many facets, but one area that can change your friend’s outlook is encouraging her to go before her caring high priest. She can, and she must:

  • Pray Scripture
  • Pray Consistently
  • Pray Specifically

 

What can I Do?

  1. Realistically, is prayer a part of your everyday life?
  2. What may be something that you need to replace with prayer?
  3. What could your mentor and accountability partners do in order to encourage you in this?

 

“It’s not cheating to pray Scripture” (Kevin DeYoung)

 

Resources:

Prayer Mate (app): for a limited time this app is free for iOS and Android. Both Crystal and I have found this to be a helpful way to pray consistently and pray specifically.

DeYoung, Kevin. “How to Pray Using Scripture.” Association of Biblical Counselors.

Kerr, Tim. Take Words With You: Scripture Promises & Prayers. 4th Edition., 2013.

Whitney, Donald S. “Chapter Four: Prayer.” In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 65–84. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.

Williams, Jarvis. “Acting the Miracle in the Everyday: Word of God, the Means of Grace, and the Practical Pursuit of Gospel Maturity.” In Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, edited by John Piper and David Mathis, 89–105. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.

How Can I Change? Scripture pt 2

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwothreefourfivesixseven, eight, nine, and ten.Part 2 of a guest post by Joshua De Leon.

Immersing Ourselves in Truth, Part 2

 

Reading the Bible will not change you! It is God’s grace that transforms you when you immerse yourself in the truth of God’s Word! Maybe you’ve tried to get into God’s Word, but don’t know how. Maybe it seems pointless or passionless. How do we immerse ourselves in God’s Word? The answer is found in James 1:22-25.

James 1:22-25 –22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

 

What is the passage saying?

  1. By remembering God’s Word (v.24) How often do we read the Bible and forget what we read?
  2. By examining God’s Word (v.25) “intently” literally means “to stoop and examine”
  3. By practicing God’s Word (v.22, 25) Being “doers” of the Word implies living what we learn.

 

How is this connected to Grace?

(1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.) As you expose yourself to God’s Word intentionally, you open yourself up to receive the powerful transforming grace of God. It’s like placing yourself in front of the Hoover Dam and opening the gates.

 

What Steps Can I Take?

1. Memorize God’s Word (Psalm 119:11) How do we do this? Have a plan. Write out verses. Draw pictures. Memorize word for word. Be accountable.

2. Meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 1:1-2 – 1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.”) Meditation – We think of meditation as being cultish or a kind of transcendental religious activity, but it is not. It is not about emptying your mind but filling it with truth; not passively involved in shallow introspection but actively engaging in deep reflection. Reread it. Repeat it. Write it. Pray it.

3. Apply God’s Word (John 13:17 – “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”) Easy to understand. Difficult to carry out accurately.

 

What does this look like?

  • A life that obtains victory over sin – Psalm 119:11
  • A life that carefully follows God – Joshua 1:8
  • A life that experiences blessing – James 1:25

But…

>>What if I don’t see change? Growth takes time. Becoming like Christ is the goal.

>>What if I don’t desire/feel like reading the Bible? Have you ever not felt hungry at dinner time for food? You still need to eat food. Read the Bible not because you feel you want it but because you know you need it!

 

Resources:

Mahaney, C.J., and Rovin Boisvert. “Chapter Five: Tools of the Trade (1).” In How Can I Change?: Victory in the Struggle Against Sin, edited by Greg Somerville, 53–68. The Pursuit of Godliness. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Sovereign Grace Ministries, 1993.
Piper, John. “Some Proven Weapons in the Fight for Holiness.” Desiring God.
Whitney, Donald S. “Chapter Three: Bible Intake (Part 2).” In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 41–64. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.
Whitney, Donald S. “The Sinkhole Syndrome by Donald Whitney.” Ligonier.org.

How Can I Change? Scripture

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwothreefourfivesixseveneight, and nine.

This is a guest post by Joshua De Leon. Here he walks through principles found in Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Immersing Ourselves in Truth, Part 1

Reading the Bible will not change you! It is God’s grace that transforms you when you immerse yourself in the truth of God’s Word! We do need to read the Bible, but more importantly, we need to understand the reason for a disciplined lifestyle of Bible reading. The answer is found in John 17:17

John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

Sanctification – literally means, “to make holy; set apart from ungodly things.” This does not mean “different.” Not all different is good. We are set apart from what is ungodly to be like Christ!

 

What is this Passage Saying?

  1.  I am made holy by GodGod is the one who sanctifies us! (John 17:17; Acts 26:16-18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11;  Gal 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Jude 1:24; Heb 2:11)
  2. I am set apart in TruthGod’s Word is the instrument of sanctification! (Romans 10:17; 1 Timothy 4:13; Luke 11:28; Revelation 1:3; Matthew 4:4)

 

How is this connected to grace?

(1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”) When we expose ourselves to God’s Word, we open ourselves up to receive His grace to change and to make changes.

 

What steps can I take?

  • Discipline yourself to hear God’s Word – attend a Bible-believing and teaching church
  • Discipline yourself to read God’s Word – use a Bible plan; mark what you’ve read
  • Discipline yourself to study God’s Word – the only difference here is a pen and paper

 

What does this look like?

  1. Desiring God’s Word Intensely – 2 Timothy 4:13
  2. Searching God’s Word Consistently – Acts 17:10-11
  3. Living God’s Word Faithfully – Ezra 7:10

 

R.C. Sproul – “Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” (Knowing Scripture, 17)

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t.” – Mark Twain

Reading the Bible won’t make you stop sinning. Reading the Bible won’t change you. God is the one who changes you and transforms you by His grace to become more like Christ when you immerse yourself in the truth of God’s Word!

 

Resources:

Mahaney, C.J., and Rovin Boisvert. “Chapter Five: Tools of the Trade (1).” In How Can I Change?: Victory in the Struggle Against Sin, edited by Greg Somerville, 53–68. The Pursuit of Godliness. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Sovereign Grace Ministries, 1993.
Whitney, Donald S. “Chapter Two: Bible Intake (Part 1).” In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 27–40. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.
Williams, Jarvis. “Acting the Miracle in the Everyday: Word of God, the Means of Grace, and the Practical Pursuit of Gospel Maturity.” In Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, edited by John Piper and David Mathis, 89–105. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.

How Can I Change? Spiritual Disciplines

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwothreefourfivesix, seven, and eight

Spiritual Disciplines (1Tim 4:6-10)

Growing up we would go out to Montana to see relatives and stay at my grandparents cabin near Big Sky. One of our favorite things to do was to look for arrowheads. When we would be hiking along a mountain trail my dad would often stoop down and point out shiny, well-cut arrowhead laying on top of the dirt and rocks. I decided that I wanted to be the one to find them first so I would walk ahead on the trail. But I never found any. It was only when I was following my dad would I find arrowheads. Why do you think that is? The answer is pretty simple – he was the one laying them down. I couldn’t find any arrowheads because I was not in the right place to find them. I needed to be behind my dad and look where he was pointing.

In a similar (yet less “deceptive”!) way, God has provided real pathways to an infinitely greater treasure – a fullness of joy in Him. When we place ourself on the path He has laid out and look where He is pointing, He promises that we will experience that Treasure. So, I must choose to put myself in the pathway of blessing.

In 1 Tim 4:6-10, Paul tells Timothy, “6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

What is the passage saying?

Among many other important things, there are two truths that we must see here:

1. I cannot grow in holiness apart from disciplined living (7-8, 10a; cf. Titus 2:11-14)

2. I cannot grow in holiness apart from God’s grace (10; cf. Titus 2:11-14; 1 Cor 15:10; Col 1:29)

 

How is it connected to grace?

  • God gives the grace to live a disciplined life
  • God graciously blesses me by making me more like His Son when I live a disciplined life

 

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: Eric has stalled out in his spiritual growth. He can remember times in his life when he was growing, turning from sin, and happy in his relationship with Christ. He isn’t in one of those times now. Sin is easy. Saying “no” isn’t. He doesn’t want to read his Bible. He doesn’t pray. He can easily spend 3 hours online, on his phone, or on the computer but never has time to memorize Scripture. Sunday mornings he can’t seem to get up in order to make it to church, and when the smallest hint of homework or extra hours at work comes his way, his time gathered with other believers around the Word is the first thing to go. He wants to want to grow. What do you tell someone like this?

Steps

Act. (This is not a “let go, and let God” idea. It is biblical. God expects us to act. We know that it is by His grace that we do so, but He still calls us to obey.)

1. on God’s promise of grace
2. by doing what God promises to bless – we call them “Spiritual Disciplines”

  • Reading your Bible
  • Meditating on its truths
  • Memorizing its words
  • Praying to its Author
  • Meeting with His people
  • Singing about Him
  • Etc.

“Isn’t that hypocritical?” Let me ask you this, “Do you want to want to be like Christ?” If yes, then it isn’t hypocritical. Rather, you are seeking to put yourself in the path to experience the fullness of joy – Jesus!

Imagine I were to take you to a concert hall, sports arena, Olympic stadium, or Broadway stage. I point out someone in front and tell you, “that is you in ten years. You may not feel like you are making any progress in your pursuits right now, but you will. Keep training.” Would that encourage you to train, or discourage you? Would it then be hypocritical for us to say, “I don’t feel like practicing today and I would rather be doing something that gives me instant gratification. However, I want to excel and grow so I am going to keep practicing.” I don’t think so. In the same way, we are directed to the life of Jesus and we are told, “That is what you will be like one day. It is sure. He will make it so. Keep training” (1 John 3:1-3). (See D. Whitney’s book for this illustration)

What can I Do?

  • Did Eric’s story sound like yours?
  • What are you neglecting right now that is keeping you away from the path of blessing?
  • What could your mentor and accountability partners encourage you to do?

 

 “…typically the grace that sends our roots deepest, truly grows us up in Christ, and produces lasting spiritual maturity, streams from the ordinary and unspectacular paths of fellowship, prayer, and Bible intake in its many forms.” (D. Mathis)

Resources

Mathis, David. “Put Yourself in the Path of God’s Grace.Desiring God.
Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.
Whitney, Donald S. Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. 1St Edition. NavPress, 2001.
There are many more, but these three are a great place to start and are all worth reading. Start with the blog post and then buy Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines.

Daily Dose of Biblical Counseling

CCEF, ed. Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives. New Growth Press, 2012.

Point: This devotional is a great way to look daily into Scripture to focus on God’s character, our need of the Gospel, and application for daily obedience. We have been going through the meditations and have appreciated:

  • their Scriptural foundation
  • their Gospel focus
  • their application
  • their diversity
  • their clarity

 

We have read many works by CCEF authors and are always challenged by them to renew our focus on Christ, and strive toward obedience by faith. This work is no different.

 

If this review was helpful, let us know by clicking on the title above and rating it on the Amazon.com site.

How Can I Change? Humility

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwothreefourfivesix, and seven

Humility (Jas 3:13-18)

“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

What is the passage saying?

1. Two sets of actions

  • Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition (14)
  • Good conduct and humility (13)

2. Motivated by Two types of wisdom

  • Hellish Wisdom (15)
  • Heavenly Wisdom (17-18)

3. Leading to Two destinations

  • Hellish Wisdom leads to disorder and vile practice (16)
  • Heavenly Wisdom leads to righteousness and peace (18)

I envision this as a road. You are either heading one direction or the other on the road. At either end you have the destinations. The way you are moving are your actions. The motivations come from above or below.road_png_stock_by_doloresdevelde-d55c9nc

I can tell which wisdom I am living out by evaluating where I am right now. Do others shy away from me because I am always right and trying to get ahead? Do others seek me out and find it easy to share their struggles with me and ask for help? Do those closest to me see me giving of myself to love them? Is my language riddled with “Me,” “My,” “I,” and “Myself”?

 

How is it connected to grace?

  • Heavenly wisdom comes down from above (15) as a good gift of the Father (1:16-18) to those who ask (1:5-8)
  • Humbly serving others is something I begin to do when I consider Christ (Phil 2:1-11)

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: Garret is never wrong. If someone points out to Garret that he may be wrong, Garret can prove the accuser wrong. No one would call Garret mean or awful, but he is not humble. As he looks around, Garret begins to realize that his life is full of pride, selfishness, and self-vindication. He is beginning to realize that he is destroying his relationships all around him. If you were Garret, what could you do to live by heavenly wisdom and cultivate humility? How would those help you change in your pursuit of godliness?

Steps

  • Recognize my position (sinner)
  • Recognize my savior (Jesus Christ)
  • Recognize my opportunities (serve others)

What can I Do?

  • Would the people closest to you describe your life as one lived according to hellish or heavenly wisdom?
  • What would your mentor say?
  • Come up with 3 ways to serve others in humility this week and put them into action. Include your accountability partners.

“It’s only when you rightly understand that selfish ambition is at the root of your … sin that the full power of grace will be set loose in your life to change you” (Lambert, Finally Free, 110).

Resources:

Bloom, Jon. “Lay Aside the Weight of Prideful Comparison.” Desiring God
Jones, Abby. “Humility.” Strokemanswoman.
George, Elizabeth. Nurturing a Heart of Humility. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, 2002.
Mahaney, C. J. Humility: True Greatness. First Edition. Multnomah Books, 2005.
Piper, John. “6 Aspects of Humility.” Desiring God.
Scott, Stuart. “Chapter Thirteen: A Husband’s Resolve – Humility and Service.” In The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective, 175–194. Revised. Bemidji: Focus Publishing, 2002.
Taylor, Justin. “Jonathan Edwards on Spiritual Pride.” 
———. “The Passive-Aggressive Pride of Self-Pity.” 

How Can I Change? Confession

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwothreefourfive, and six

Confession (Prov 28:13)

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

What is the passage saying?

1. Two Paths

  • Concealing sin = failure
  • Confessing and forsaking sin = mercy

2. Two Parties

  • God (Jas 4:6; 1 John 1; Ps 51)
  • Others (Jas 5:13-18)

Sin is like mold, it flourishes in dark places. When we shine light on the sin, it begins to die.

How is it connected to grace?

It takes God’s grace to see our sin, confess it, and repent (Acts 16:14)

Confession brings us to the place where we can receive mercy (Jas 4:6-10)

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: Your friend is struggling with something, but they won’t tell you with what. After multiple periods of time where they seem to become depressed, they finally open up with you. They have been involved in an area of sin that has affected them and others. How do they go about beginning to make things right through confession?

Steps (Taken from Lambert, “Finally Free”)

  • Confess Your Sin to All Who Have Been Touched by Your Sin
  • Do Not Confess Your Sin to Those Who Are Not Touched by Your Sin
  • Confess Your Sin with a Willingness to Accept the Consequences of Your Sin
  • Consider Confessing Your Sin with a Third Party Who Can Help with the Response
  • Confess Your Sin Thoroughly, but Not Necessarily Exhaustively
  • Confess Your Sin without Making Any Excuses for Your Sin

What can I Do?

  • Is there a room in your life that needs the lights turned, shades pulled, and doors opened?
  • What is it that is keeping you from doing that?
  • How could your mentor help you with this?

“David knew that his guilt began with the condition of his heart, not with external actions.” (Covington, David. “Psalm 51: Repenter’s Guide.” JBL 20, no. 1 (2001): 21–39.)

Resources:

My Identity and You

Here is a convicting excerpt from the excellent devotional, “Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives” by New Growth Press

“No human being was ever meant to be the source of personal joy and contentment for someone else. Your spouse, your friends, and your children cannot be the sources of your identity. When you seek to define who you are through those relationships, you are asking another sinner to be your personal messiah, to give you the inward rest of soul that only God can give. Only when I have sought my identity in the proper place (in my relationship with God) am I able to put you in the proper place as well. When I relate to you knowing that I am God’s child and the recipient of his grace, I am able to serve and love you. However, if I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely. I will become acutely aware of your weaknesses and failures. I will become overly critical, frustrated, and angry. I will be angry not because you are a sinner, but because you have failed to deliver the one thing I seek from you: identity. When I remember that Christ has given me everything I need to be the person he has designed me to be, I am free to serve and love you. When I know who I am, I am free to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and loving as we navigate the inevitable messiness of relationships. Authored by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp

1 John 2:28-3:3 “28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

How Can I Change: Gratitude

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwothreefour, and five

Gratitude (1 Thess 5:18)

18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

This should raise questions in your mind. “What about…” is what comes to mine. What about the really bad things? What about when I am sinned against? What about the Psalms? What about Jesus on the cross? There are a lot of questions that arise from this short verse.

What this passage isn’t saying:

  1. We can always be skippy, giggly, leprechaun happy (nor would we want to be, thinking of it that way!)
  2. We will not struggle with this
  3. We will always understand a deeper reason for difficulties

What this passage is saying:

  1. Giving Thanks is always possible (all circumstances)
  2. Giving Thanks is always necessary (will of God)
  3. Giving Thanks is for you (for you)

How is it connected to grace?

  1. No matter what I receive, it is under God’s control (Job 1; Jas 1)
  2. No matter what I receive, it is better than what I deserve (Rom 5)
  3. No matter what I receive, Jesus understands and hears (Heb 4:15)

And if you think those “always” words are just scribal additions, look at these passages:

Eph 5:3-4 “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Eph 5:20 “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Col 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Phil 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: You are over at your friends house when one of their siblings decides to aggravate the family. Your friend blows up and demonstrates a spirit of anger in various bursts. You watch this, and when it has all subsided you ask, “What was that?” Your friend realizes that anger is a regular part of life for them, but they truly don’t want it to be. How can you help them?

Here are some Steps that can help lead to change:

  • Name the Sin (that’s anger, not just “letting off some steam”)
  • Discover the reason for the sin (Why do you get angry? “Because they ____ me/my stuff”)
  • Pursue a higher satisfaction (In this instance you are willing to sin [anger] because you feel as though you aren’t getting what you want [silence, space, etc]. So, right now, what you want is your god. But Jesus Christ is way better than that!)
  • Pursue righteousness by being thankful

How could this help? Here is a mental picture that may help. Imagine holding a cup completely full of liquid, and whenever you get bumped, that spills out. Your life is like that cup. You are completely full of something, and whenever you get jostled, something spills out. In our illustration, your friend was full of anger. When bumped, that is what came out.

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Let’s say you want to get rid of your anger, or envy, or lust, or fear. But when you try to get rid of it, your glass is just getting shorter. It is still full of something. Instead, you need to fill it up with what is good – and that can only be done through focusing on Christ. This is how gratitude helps us change. As we consistently choose gratitude by the grace of God, our lives are filling up.

What can I Do?

  • How are you cultivating a life of gratitude?
  • How might giving thanks uproot your desire for sin?
  • Go through the “Week of Thanksgiving” with your accountability partners or mentor.

 

Here are two quotes from Robert Jones, “Learning Contentment in All Your Circumstances.”

“our spiritual happiness does not depend on our life happenings” (Robert Jones)

“Contentment comes as those who belong to Jesus rely on God’s powerful presence in the face of life’s trials” (Robert Jones).

Resources:

  • Bridges, Jerry. “Chapter Eight: Thankfulness.” In The Practice of Godliness, 123–131. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1985.
  • ———. “Chapter Fourteen: Give Thanks Always.” In Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, 223–234. New. NavPress, 2008.
  • Burroughs, Jeremiah. Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., n.d.
  • DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. “A Week of Thanksgiving.” Revive Our Hearts.
  • ———. Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009.
  • ———. “Growing in Gratitude: A 30-Day Challenge.” Revive Our Hearts.
  • Jones, Robert D. “Learning Contentment in All Your Circumstances.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 21, no. 1 (2002): 53–61.
  • Lambert, Heath. “Chapter Eight: Using Gratitude to Fight Pornography.” In Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, 121–134. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
  • Peterson, Andrew. “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone?” The Rabbit Room.
  • Taylor, Justin. “G. K. Chesteron on Thanksgiving.”

How Can I Change? Radical Measures

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwo, three, and four

Radical Measures (Matt 5:27-30)

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.“

What is the passage saying?

1. Sin is more pervasive than we believe

2. Sin is more dangerous than we think (cf Jas 1:14-15)

3. Sanctification is more painful than we want (cf Eph 4:17-32)

4. Salvation is more valuable than we realize (cf Phil 3:11)

Cancer is an excellent picture of radical measures. Nearly everyone has experienced cancer, or watched someone close to them battle it. It can be pervasive without us even realizing it. It can be killing without much more than a hint of problems. To deal with it often takes drastic surgeries, dangerous chemicals, or exhaustive treatments. But physical death is nothing in comparison to eternal death.

How is it connected to grace?

“…outward measures, regardless of how radical they are, can never change your heart” (Lambert, Finally Free, 72).

However:

  • Radical measures are a response to the call of Christ in obedience
  • Radical measure allow you to come to the surface to breathe.
  • Radical measures allow you freedom to pursue righteousness (2 Tim 2:22)

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: Your friend has a problem. It is a nagging problem. It is a big problem. They can go for a week feeling as though they are growing in Christ like never before, only to turn around and dive into sin. This is followed by guilt, embarrassment, and resolve. But they just can’t shake it. Part of the problem is their access. The computer in their room, the phone in their pocket, the tv in the basement, or that place at the mall are like gateways to spiritual death. How would you help your friend pursue Christ over sin?

Steps:

  • List the times and tools involved in the temptation
  • Eliminate the temptations through amputation, making space to grow
  • Make a plan for pursuing righteousness
  • Follow through

Jay Adams says that there are four factors in achieving this:

  • We must recognize the fact that we will be tempted to repeat our sin.
  • We must prepare ourselves to meet and defeat temptation in the future.
  • If the problem of past patterns surfacing in the future cannot be avoided, then something definitive must be done to prevent us from falling into old sinful ways. We needs to take definitive, concrete, radical action.
  • Nothing must be spared in this process. Improper conduct must be curtailed even at the greatest cost!

What can I Do?

  1. What is there in your life that has been a gateway to spiritual death?
  2. What would radical amputation look like in your scenario?
  3. Talk with your godly mentor about this.

If you keep access to sin close at hand, sooner or later you will dive in. (See Lambert)

 

Resources:

Lambert, Heath. “Pornography, Radical Measures, and the Gospel.” Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs.

———. “Using Radical Measures to Fight Pornography.” In Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, 59–74. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.