You Can Change 15: What stops you changing?

These are my notes and some reflections on Tim Chester’s book: You Can Change

It is not lack of discipline, or knowledge or support that stops us changing.  It ultimately comes down to one of two things – love of self or a love of sin:

1. Proud self-reliance:

Pride is not just a sin – it is the essence of sin.  Pride puts us in the place of God.  It is pride that makes sanctification our effort or achievement.  We are more concerned about our victory over sin than the glory of God.  Change for the proud man becomes an essentially self-centred achievement.  Have you ever thought to yourself – “I cannot believe I just did that again”.  If you are like me then this is actually a veiled form of pride – angry with yourself for repeating the same sin and assuming that you are capable of actually doing good in your own power.

Humility is the paradigm for repentance.  It is the recognition that we can never earn any merit on our own.  It is the recognition that grace is our only hope.  “If you’re frustrated at your inability to change, then your first step is to give up – to give up on yourself.  Repent of your self-reliance and self-confidence.  Your second step is to rejoice in God’s grace: his grace to give forgive and his grace to transform.” (p129)

2. Proud self-justification:

We may admit that we want to change but we are unwilling to admit that we are the problem.  So we employ a number of strategies:

Excusing sin: we refuse to take responsibility for our sin and blame others, circumstances, context, upbringing, personal history or biology.  External factors can of course reinforce or trigger our sin and they often shape the form it takes.  But we choose how to respond to all of these external circumstances.  And what determines this choice are, as always, the thoughts and desires of our heart.  Jerry bridges suggests we should use the language of disobedience rather than defeat when we describe our sin. (p130)

Minimizing sin: We say things like, “It’s not my fault. It’s not a big deal. Overall I’m a good person.  But we need to hear “It is your fault.  It is a big deal.  You are a bad person.”  Your sin was so serious that it demanded the death of God’s Son.  True repentance grieves over sin it never never minimizes it.  The humble tremble at God’s word but pride makes us deaf to God’s word. (p132)

Hiding sin: mostly we hide because we love our reputation more than we hate our sin or love God.  “… we’re prepared to choose sin, reject God, abandon freedom and even risk hell rather than have people think badly of us.” (p134).   Hiding leads to sin and sin leads to hiding but grace breaks the cycle.  Grace removes the fear of exposure. (p135)

“Every day I struggle between the desires  to be known as holy and the desire to actually be holy.  The truth I need to keep telling myself is that reputation is a small price to pay for the joy of knowing more of God and reflecting his glory.” (p136)

3. Hating the consequences of sin but not the sin itself:

For many of us our desire for change is actually a desire to be free of the unpleasant consequences of sin – broken relationships, guilt, fear etc.  But in our hearts we still desire the actual sin more than we desire change – we still think it offers more than God.

“A man who only opposes the sin in his heart for fear of shame among men or eternal punishment from God would practise the sin if there was no punishment attending it.  How does this differ from living in the practise of sin?” John Owen (p137)

The Bible’s language of repentance is violent – amputating, murdering, starving and fighting.  If we hold back in violence towards our sin it’s almost certain because we don’t want to hurt something we still love.

4. The cross centred life:

The cross humbles us – it is here we see the full extent of our sin.  We have killed the Son of God, and nothing but that death can save me!  The cross-centred life is a rejection of all self-confidence and self-righteousness.  “Let his love win your love and let that love replace all other affections.  The secret of change is to renew your love for Christ as you see him crucified in your place.” (p139)

~ by John on January 12, 2011.

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