As believers, we all know that we will one day be changed in a moment (1 Cor. 15:52) and we will finally be like Jesus. Rarely, however, do we experience noticeable change now – true change that our spouses and families notice.
One of the most difficult roadblocks to change is that many of us are still being controlled by our emotions. Emotions are not evil; they are a gift from God to enjoy life to the fullest! However, if we make decisions based on how we feel and depend on our emotions for guidance, then we will not honor God, bless others, or benefit ourselves.
Dallas Willard puts it this way:
“Those who continue to be mastered by their emotions – such as anger, fear, lust, desire for food, the need to look good, or the residues of woundedness – are typically persons who in their heart of hearts believe that their feelings must be satisfied. They (try) to resist their feelings instead of changing them or replacing them. By contrast, the person who lets God be God accepts that feelings/emotions do not have to be fulfilled.”
Envision who you would be if you weren’t dominated by your feelings of anger, lust, or keeping up your image before others. If you have been redeemed, there is residing deep inside of you a desire and the ability to be changed into the image of Jesus. (Rom. 6:6)
Colossians 3 describes what is essential for true change.
1. We must be MOTIVATED by the love OF Christ.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
Most of us do not see the need for change unless it is brought to our attention by a boss, a spouse, a parent, or a close friend. We should want to please those people God has placed in our lives (Rom. 15:2). Even though we know it is impossible to please everyone, we still try. This will not lead to internal change. It will only lead to frustration and more sinful responses. Even our love for Christ will not grow or mature to the point that we change unless we first are motivated by the love of Christ.
“For the love of Christ constraineth (urges) us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
As we intentionally and consistently reflect on the love of Christ for us demonstrated in the Gospels, the indwelling Holy Spirit will urge us and compel us with spiritual motivation to seek heart change.
2. We must be SPECIFIC about WHAT needs to change.
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;” (Colossians 3:5, 8–9)
Unless we take the time to allow the Holy Spirit to put His finger on the specific sin that needs changing, we will not see transformation. This takes time. The above list in Colossians (along with the similar lists in Galatians and Ephesians) will help identify what does not please God in your life. Take the time to look up the meanings of the above words and identify them in your own heart. Don’t let this become unhealthy introspection that never ends. We will never be perfect. But do open your heart to the specific lists in Scripture that are evident in your life. Once you have identified them, put them off. Do whatever it takes to get those out of your life.
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:25–27)
After repenting, go back to the Word of God and see what needs to be “put on.”
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:12–14)
We will not feel like doing these things because of the longstanding patterns that we have allowed in our lives. It may feel awkward to respond in a gracious way when confronted or attacked but we must begin putting that on. That fits us now as the holy and beloved elect of God! The response of the old man doesn’t look right on us anymore, no matter how long we have worn it! This will take time and practice.
3. We must RENEW our MINDS.
The specific sins that are listed in Scripture offend a Holy God.
“For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:” (Col. 3:6)
Unless we change our view of this sin, we will not change. Repentance means a “change of mind/direction.” Some of us have been used to practicing these sins for so long that this has become our identity. How tragic! Our identity is found in Christ, and we are “hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3) No Christian should excuse sin by saying, “This is just who I am. I have always been this way.” Our sin is horrible in the sight of God and is why our Savior had to suffer on the Cross.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
What difference would it make today if we began to intentionally refuse to satisfy our feelings and sinful habits “such as anger, fear, lust, desire for food, the need to look good, or the residues of woundedness“ and be renewed in the knowledge of our Creator? I find myself continually going back to Colossians 3:1-17 to renew my hope that I can experience true change.
Unless we seek true change biblically, we will continue to feel conviction, apologize, kneel at the altar (as we have done dozens of times) and then fall back into the same sinful patterns. Don’t lose hope and believe Satan’s lie.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)