Does God accomplish His intention in our lives instantly?
Is any change complete in a moment?
Are we responsible for more than asking, agreeing and receiving?
These are important questions.
Yes, Scripture declares “God gives us a new spirit and a new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26), “it is God at work in us” (Philippians 2:13), and we are “God’s workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10). These verses can leave the impression our change is something God does and we are just recipients.
The same authors however, in the same books, also say “make yourself a new heart and spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31), “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), and we are to “lay aside the old…be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22-24). We have an active role in each of these verses.
These two sets of verses appear to say different things, and initially can be somewhat perplexing. However, when we view them as relational truth, it becomes obvious that the contrast is really a compliment. In other words, while God is transforming us, we cooperate and work out what God is doing in us. In both cases, our change is a process.
While God is transforming us, we cooperate and work out what God is doing in us.
Changed or Changing?
It is helpful to realize the word translated ‘new’ in the above verses also means ‘renew.’ From God’s perspective, our change is as good as done; yet in our lives, the ‘new’ really is a renewing process that involves our ongoing efforts to establish what has begun.
Many experience immediate changes during a specific event. Changes often begin this way. While some changes appear to be immediate, “no one has changed; we are changing” through processes. We “work out” what has begun within. The new way of thinking must take root while we uproot and discard the old. Otherwise the inspired ‘new’ may fade and allow the previous understanding to dominate.
Scripture encourages us in Romans 12:2 to: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove (make so by testing) what the will of God is.” Every change involves transforming processes. We must learn to think and reason anew so the quality of our attitudes and actions improve.
The renewed needs to take root and become an improved way of thinking.
Think and Reason Anew
The common phrase “As a man thinks, so is he” and its many variations appear to originate with Solomon who wrote: “for as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:6).
When we ‘think within ourselves,’ we exercise reason. When we come across most anything new or different (either of a natural or spiritual nature) our mind begins to accept or discard the information. Our conclusions become understandings that define what we believe to be true and real. Then, what we currently think and believe become expressions that define who we are.
Why did Jesus say some of Abraham’s offspring were children of the devil (John 8:31-44)? It was because these Israelites continually fought the renewing perceptions of Jesus. The Greek word devil means: accuser, slanderer. No matter what we were; we are what we currently reason and believe!
Our conclusions define what we believe.
Yes, we are responsible for more than asking, agreeing and receiving from God. How can any of us think differently if we do not consider new, fresh and different insight? Renewing perceptions may occur in a moment but they need our ongoing efforts to think, reason, accept, and work it out in our life. Transforming change in us is accomplished based on the degree of our active agreement.
Life in this world is continually changing, just as God intends. He offers us two choices: we either continue to grow, improve and mature; or we stop, try to maintain, and begin to deteriorate. May we intentionally be open to renewing and transforming insight, so we can understand better and continue to improve!
Journey with us as we share Scriptural insights to assist improving changes to your faith walk. Grab your copy of The Christ Culture. Get a few copies to bless friends and family. We’ve even prepared a Guide to assist small group discussions.
Keith Carroll, “The Relationship Guy”
Relational Gospel Founder