Han Solo and Chewbacca costumes from the Star Wars Exhibit at Exploration Place, Wichita, KS

Wardrobe malfunctions don’t impress God

How do you demonstrate that you’ve changed? How do you show that you’ve become a different person? It’s difficult to do in some cases because so many times a heart change isn’t visible from the outside. If your heart changes–well, you still look the same. That’s what’s difficult about change; most of the time you have to take people’s word that they have.

Like an apology. How do you know it’s sincere? It’s not like you can judge by how many tears somebody cries or how much their voice wavers when they speak because every person is different. Well, until someone’s actions prove their words are sincere, you can’t really tell if an apology was real. Until you get to see how someone has changed, you won’t really know that the change was real, no matter if they claim it was or not. Granted, I believe we’re supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt.

But God knows what’s real and what isn’t.

Han Solo and Chewbacca costumes from the Star Wars Exhibit at Exploration Place, Wichita, KS

Han Solo and Chewbacca costumes from the Star Wars Exhibit at Exploration Place, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Joel 2:12-13.

That is why the Lord says,
    “Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
    Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
    but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
    He is eager to relent and not punish.

In the culture of the Old Testament, it was common to tear your own clothing when you were mourning. It was a symbol of intense grief. So if you’re ever reading the Bible and someone in the Old Testament starts tearing their clothes, they’re not having a wardrobe malfunction. They’re demonstrating repentance. They’re showing how sorry they are for something or how upset they are about something.

Well, I’m sure it started out as a way for a very passionate culture to show their hearts to other people, but as time passed, it became a symbol like any other symbol. It developed its own meaning in the culture, and all you’d have to do is tear your clothes and everyone would think that you were sorry for what you’ve done–whether you really were or not.

Kind of like our own culture. Do something wrong, and call a press conference to offer a tearful apology. Do something wrong, and agree to go on a famous talk show and tell your side of the story. Do something wrong and write a book about it. And most of the time, our culture buys it. Why? Well, they stood up and said they were sorry. And we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, and that’s good.

But it’s not about telling the culture that you’re sorry. The point of apologizing for something you did wrong isn’t to show the world that you made a mistake. I mean, that’s an important part of it. To tell the truth. But that’s not the main point. The main point of apologizing for your actions when you have done wrong is to tell God. It’s to come before Almighty God and admit to Him that what you did was wrong and that you repent, that you are sorry, that you won’t do it again, and that you need His help.

And God knows if you’re just tearing your clothes.

He can see our hearts. He knows our motivation. He knows. So trying to put on a show for Him doesn’t work. He’s not interested if it isn’t real.

That’s what these verses mean. Don’t tear your clothes; tear your heart instead. If you’ve done wrong, be sorry. Don’t just offer Him a half-hearted apology that doesn’t affect you. If you’ve done wrong (and everyone has), be sorry and change your mind about what you did. That’s the difference. You can be sorry about what you did all day long, but until you change your mind about it, it won’t have the effect you’re hoping for. And this is true for any sin. Big sins. Little sins. All sins.

You have to examine your own life and your own actions, and you have to compare them (not to each other) but to Scripture. Is what you did wrong according to the Bible and the way God says to live? If it is wrong by that standard, you have sinned.

Guess what? So have I! And I hate it. As a perfectionistic, performance-driven person, I hate the things I do that don’t match up to God’s Word. I get so frustrated with myself because I want to be perfect, but I can’t be. And God knows that. But that doesn’t mean I can give up and live however I want and lead others to live however they want. That just means I won’t be perfect, and God is going to pick me up again when I fall.

This month has been about change. It’s what I’ve been studying. And the one facet of change that I keep coming back to is that real heart change is impossible without God. And honestly, a real change of mind is impossible without God and without the Bible. But the first step of reaching that real change of mind is ours. It’s our choice. It’s up to us to look at what God says is right and judge our actions by that standard, and if we find something wrong in our lives, we need to change our minds about it. And then we need to apply Scripture in our lives, and before you know it, your heart will change too.

So make a choice. Change your mind, and God will change your heart. He doesn’t care how sorry you look or how sorry you feel. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t intend to change, and if all you’ve done is put on a good show, maybe you’ll have people fooled, but as far as God is concerned, you’ll just have a ripped up shirt.

Advertisements
Sunrise behind the hedgerow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

People don’t change; God changes people

I like rules. I’m sorry to admit it, but I do. And as much as I love spontaneity, I love structure. I prefer organization to chaos, even though my version of organization looks pretty chaotic. And all of it fits very snugly with my performance-driven mentality, where I feel like I have to reach a certain standard or expectation before I can consider myself successful.

Rules aren’t bad. They’re necessary, but if you love them too much, they can become a hiding place. They can become something you use to stop challenging yourself, the reason why you quit trying to grow. What I’ve learned about change in general is that when you’re talking about life, it doesn’t need help changing. Life changes on its own. We don’t need to prod it or persuade it into changing course; it manages by itself. But when you’re talking about changing a person, that doesn’t happen just by deciding. If you want to change, you need help. You need someone to walk you through the process, and, in that process, rules can either help or hinder.

The trouble with rules is that they usually do go hand-in-hand with a performance-based mentality. If you keep the rules, that means you’re a good person. If you obey the law, that means you’re good enough. Well, that’s not what Scripture says. What I’ve learned about rules and law is that while they are both important, obeying them doesn’t improve you. Obeying the law and obeying the rules doesn’t make you a good person; they just make you someone who obeys.

Sunrise behind the hedgerow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise behind the hedgerow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 3:18.

 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

This verse comes out of a larger passage where Paul is writing (through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to the Church at Corinth. Talk about a screwed up church. Corinth was a mess. And in his first letter to them (1 Corinthians), Paul really let them have it. But this is 2 Corinthians, his second letter, and he’s far gentler this time around. Still firm, but not as harsh. And what this passage is talking about is the difference between the old way of believing and the new way of believing (2 Corinthians 3:7-18).

You should really read the passage, but I’m going to summarize. What Paul is doing in this passage is comparing the Old Way (with the Law and the sacrifices) to the New Way (with the Holy Spirit). What he’s saying is the New Way is better. Far better. Why? Well, the Old Way was good. The Old Way was still amazing because it was something God had given the people so that they knew how to live. But the Old Way led to death; the Old Way required constant sacrifice. The New Way, salvation through faith in Christ, means we don’t have a rulebook to follow; we just believe.

But the trouble with rules is that they dull your mind. If you get it in your head that the rules are what matters, you stop thinking, because the rules never change. And if you’re not careful, the rules can become the reasoning you will use to prevent yourself from growing. Horrible example? Gravity. The rule of gravity says people can’t fly. We weigh too much. So if you hold on to that rule, you’ll never challenge it. But somebody got it in their head that people could, and that led to the Wright Brothers who built the first airplane. And now people fly all the time. Imagine what the world would be like if we didn’t have flight capabilities. And that’s a bad example, but you see where I’m getting at.

Rules make us comfortable. Yes, they’re important, and they’re good, but they should never be used as an excuse to hide. Because when you hide, you stop growing. When you stop growing, you won’t change.

People use the Bible and the Ten Commandments and scripture verses taken out of context to hide. But that’s not how Christ-followers are supposed to live. And the only way to get rid of that mentality that says the law and the rules are what matter is to turn to Christ. Check out verse 17 in this passage:

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I don’t know about you, but freedom sounds good to me. Again, I like rules. I prefer to have them. But isn’t it a relief to know that obeying the rules isn’t what determines your eternity? I think living a disciplined life is important, but I’m not good enough to be perfect. The plain and simple truth is that people don’t change; but God changes people.

So don’t put your trust in the rules. Follow Christ. Turn toward Christ and pull off the dulling veil of the Law that tells you that you have to perform, and once you can see who Jesus really is and how much He loves you, you’ll understand that you can’t ever be good enough. But the closer you come to Him and the more you get to know Him, the more He’ll change you to be like Him. That’s the way it works.

If you’re tired of trying to change and always failing, get to know Jesus. He wants to know you. And the more you hang out with Him, the more you’ll become like Him. Rules have nothing to do with it.