As a pastor, I have conversations with lots of people. One thing I’ve learned it that most of use are disappointed with how things have turned out in life. We’re disappointed that we haven’t done a better job preparing for retirement, that we haven’t been a better husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, neighbor or friend. We all know that we could be much more disciplined, more loving, more compassionate, more patient, less critical, less demanding, less manipulative, more available, and more involved. We’ve tried to change, but mere self-effort isn’t enough.
Our problem is rooted in our sin nature. Much of the pain we experience in this world is a result of our collective failure to love one another as we should. We reap what we’ve sown (Galatians 6:7-10). The kind of change we need—heart change—cannot be achieved by self-effort (Matthew 12:34-35). Our actions reveal the condition of our hearts (Galatians 5:19-21). We cannot change the human heart; God must give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). The secret to real change isn’t found in the human will. It doesn’t come about by trying harder. Genuine, substantive, heart level change really is possible (Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:11-13). Change is not possible without the new birth, but change progresses by imitating Jesus’ lifestyle (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The God-appointed means to “growing God’s way” involves a prayerful, consistent imitation of Jesus’ lifestyle in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to practice the private spiritual disciplines which were so central to Jesus’ walk with his Heavenly Father. (Everyone would love to achieve LeBron’s success, but his public success is not just the result of his giftedness; it is inextricably tied to his disciplined life.) The same is true for our spiritual lives (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Spiritual maturity is not automatic (Hebrews 5:12-13). It is a process (2 Peter 3:18). It requires discipline (1 Timothy 4:7). You cannot be a disciple without being disciplined. The more disciplined you become, the more like Christ you will become. The more like Christ you become, the more God can use you. One of the marks of a disciple is cross-bearing (Luke 9:23)—doing whatever it takes to give Christ first place in your life. You become a disciple by developing a disciple’s habits.
A habit is a continual, often unconscious, inclination to do a certain activity, acquired through frequent repetition. It is an established disposition of the character. The consistent development of habits, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, leads to real life transformation. That is how we become more like Jesus.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- If you have not done so, receive God’s forgiveness in Christ. You need a new heart. If you would like to know God personally, contact us here (connect.tcc.org). Scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second checkbox. We look forward to helping!
- Decide to give God first place in your life (Colossians 1:18c). Anything else is idolatry.
- Memorize and meditate on 1 Timothy 4:7-10.
- Book Recommendations (TCC doesn’t manage external links. We apologize if a link is broken. Please feel free to let us know.):
- The Life You’ve Always Wanted – John Ortberg
- Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
- The Spirit of the Disciplines – Dallas Willard
- Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – Donald Whitney
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)