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.

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Little girl watching otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

How do you know who you are?

Do you ever get tired of yourself? I do. I am constantly and consistently frustrated at who I am. I have so many flaws and failings it’s hard to count, and it seems like I’m always stumbling over something that should never have been an obstacle to begin with. And maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but that’s the truth of it.

I’m not the first person to follow Christ who has recognized the need to change but realized the incapability to do so. But what’s amazing about choosing to follow God is that change starts happening instantly inside you the moment you take that first step.

Little girl watching otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Little girl watching otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Genesis 17:5 and Genesis 17:15.

What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.  Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah.

This is the first instance where God changes someone’s name when they decided to follow Him. And what I find pretty awesome is that it isn’t just Abraham’s name God changed–it was Sarai’s too.

Names are such symbolic things that we shouldn’t gloss over this passage too quickly. Names identify us. Names indicate hopes and dreams for who we will become. Many times names in the Bible actually do end up representing who a person truly is inside. So it’s significant that God changed Abram and Sarai’s names.

When Abram and Sarai decided to follow God, to trust Him and do what He said, God changed their identities. But He did more than just change what He called them; He changed how they viewed themselves.

Someone who follows Christs has a completely different perspective of themselves than someone who doesn’t. Or at least, they should. If you follow Christ, you should understand that you’re a sinner, that you’ve failed, that you aren’t good enough to get to heaven on your own–but by that same token you should understand that God thought you were worth it anyway. God thought you were worth sacrificing His Son for.

Think about that! The God of the universe loves us enough to step into our lives and change us from the inside out. Now that has to change your perspective about who you are and what you’re worth.

People in our culture today are trying to derive their identity from their sexuality or their heritage. People identify themselves by genders, by political opinions, by regional location, by religious stereotypes. But the truth is that our identities need to come from something deeper than any of those shallow labels. Even gender and sexuality is shallow in comparison to what our true identity was always intended to be.

We are each unique. We are each created special and individual–one-of-a-kind souls. There has never been another me, just like there has never been another you. And God has something awesome planned for each one of us. But we get so bogged down by the goings-on of the world that we forget that. We get so inundated by our listless, self-centered culture that we forget to look to God to tell us who we are. And when you look for your identity in superficial, temporary labels like your job description or even your denomination, you’ll lose your purpose.

But if you want to know who you are for sure, you need to draw close to God. It’s funny but surrendering your heart to Christ is the first step in figuring out who you were meant to be–because God is the one who designed you. Who better to ask than your own creator?

The transformation isn’t immediately apparent, but with every step closer to Christ He continues to change us. We grow a little each day. So if you don’t know who you are or if you’re tired and frustrated with yourself, follow Christ. The core of who you are will stay the same. After all, God created you to be who you are for a reason, but your perspective will change. The desires of your heart will change. And that’s not something you can do on your own; that’s something only God can do.

It doesn’t happen overnight (usually), but it will happen. I mean, honestly, do you think Abram and Sarai started calling each other Abraham and Sarah the very next day? Maybe they did. Some changes are pretty quick. But part of me doubts it. They’d been married for like 80 years at that point, and people are creatures of habit. But at some point, they started looking at themselves the way God did. And at some point in the journey, so will you.