Have you ever had the experience of trying to change a behavior only to fall back into the same old routine? When we focus on our external behavior, we may have short term gains; however, long term success seems elusive. So how do we achieve long lasting change?
God brings about long-lasting change from the inside out. The Apostle Paul reveals the truth of our identity in Christ in Romans chapter six. He describes our union with Christ showing that our old self was crucified with Christ and we now we have the privilege of walking with Him in newness of life. The result is our behavior is consonant with our identity – that agreement is reflected in the following verse,
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, (Romans 6:17)
Paul gives thanks to God for His new identity in Christ. Notice the verb tense, “you were slaves of sin”. That was your identity – but it’s no longer true, you now have a new identity as one chosen by God. If you don’t let your past die, it won’t let you live. Don’t be encumbered by the regrets of the past but realize and claim your birthright as a child of God!
Paul encourages the reader to became obedient from the heart. What does that mean? The heart often represents the inner person. This reflects someone who doesn’t simply do what should be done, but this is the person who joyfully obeys God’s ways. (See my blog post “How to have a Quiet Time” for the stages of spiritual growth that reflects a person who joyfully obeys God.)
Jesus told a story about two sons to reveal the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The Pharisees talked a good game but their words did not reflect the true condition of their hearts,
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32)
The Apostle Paul however, is describing a third type of response – he’s describing the person who willingly agrees to obey and then follows through and is obedient from the heart. How would you evaluate your follow through? Thomas Jefferson said, “When the heart is right the feet are swift.” As God transforms your heart may you be able to say with the Psalmist,
I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8)
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
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