The Law Couldn’t Change Me

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Galatians 2:21 (NLT), “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

I knew at a very early age that I wasn’t what I wanted to be. Sure, maybe dreams of being an astronaut, a ballerina, and a rock star weren’t exactly part of the purpose God had for me, but at the time they felt like something attainable. I did know I was destined for greatness. I just didn’t know how to get there. My legs were too short for ballet, my stomach couldn’t handle the tilt-a-whirl, let alone outer space, and my voice was less than stellar. So where did that desire for greatness come from?

From God.

He has purposes and plans for each one of us that would either excite us to delirium, or scare us enough that we would hide in a closet the rest of our lives. We are destined for greatness.

I Corinthians 2:7 (Weymouth New Testament), “But in dealing with truths hitherto kept secret we speak of God’s wisdom–that hidden wisdom which, before the world began, God pre-destined, so that it should result in glory to us;” (emphasis mine)

We are pre-destined for glory. His glory will be revealed in us! When Jesus returns we will be just like Him.

I John 3:2-3 (NSASB), “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is and everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

That is the reason He came. The law couldn’t change us into the image of Jesus. In fact Paul calls the law, “The law of sin and death.” Jesus had neither in Him. Jesus is full of the Father’s love. When we accept that love, then we are changed. Not by outward conformance, but by inward repentance. The word repentance actually means “to change”. We change the way we think, how we see God, how we see ourselves, and what we think of others, by accepting the finished work of Jesus. We change from the path to hell to the path to life. We become more like Him. His blood justified us, that is something the law could never do. At best it covered our sin, it never wiped it all away.

Galatians 2:16 (KJB), “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

If then, we have been changed by the blood of Christ, and by His great love, why would we ever want to go back to the law again? Why would we expect others to live a performance based existence? That would make us just like the some of the early Jewish Christians who wanted the gentiles to adhere to the law. But, Paul’s answer still resonates today:

Acts 15:10 (NLT), “So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?”

The whole reason for the law was because of the hardness of men’s hearts, because of the fall of mankind. God did it to protect the whole race. That is the same reason we have some of the same laws today, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t rape, don’t mistreat children, etc. They are for protection. Now under grace, those who have accepted His atonement for our sin, those of us who know His love, don’t need a law to tell us not to kill, steal, and destroy. We know those are the actions of the enemy and we don’t want no part of that. We also don’t need laws to tell us how to dress, what to eat, or where to live. We allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in these areas. If we had such laws, most of us wouldn’t be able to live up to them!

So we certainly can’t expect others to conform to any weird laws we have made up in our own imagination to prove that they are truly saved.

When we surrender our hearts to the Father, then real change takes place. Changing a habit, changing what we say and do, by self-work, either won’t last, or it will cause pride. True, inside, heart change only happens through the love of God and the work of the Holy Spirit (and neither of those ever come by force!).

The law can’t change us, at least not for the better.

Praise God, His love can!

Change Me

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For years I tried to change others, or if I wasn’t consciously trying to change them, I was hoping and praying that they would. I have had some stubborn, selfish, and downright mean people in my life over the years. They needed to change, really!

However, my reasoning wasn’t the best. Rarely was my motivation for wanting them changed them-love motivated, usually it was for my benefit that I wanted them changed. See and http://authorjodiwoody.com/?p=508 That is pretty understandable coming from a child, but unacceptable from an adult. I learned a hard lesson: I can’t change people.

So am I saying we shouldn’t pray for change in others, or encourage and give advice to help them grow and develop Godly character? Not at all. We should do those things. What I am saying is that our motivation needs to always be love. Going even farther, our desire for change needs to start with us.

Matthew 7:3 (NASB), “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

Matthew 23:24 (Holman Christian Standard Bible), “Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!”

Luke 18:9-14 (NIV), “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

These scriptures were Jesus talking to and about the Pharisees. I don’t want to join that group, do you? They are some of the most stubborn, selfish, and downright mean people of all. I want to be like the humble man who wanted God’s mercy and grace!

God wants hearts changed. Not so it would make life easier for Him. He doesn’t think the way we do. It’s always for our benefit. He is always motivated by love.

Sitting in a church service and hearing a great message, but thinking, “I wish so-and-so were here, they really need to hear this,” is not acceptable. The message is always for us, (if you sit under a pastor who is in relationship with God, and hearing His voice.) Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can apply it to your own life. Then during our busy days, take the time to ask Him to show you any area in your life that need to be renewed. He won’t reveal it all in one day, we couldn’t handle it. He is a gentleman and will show you bits and pieces at a time. Then take action. If you don’t know how, not trying to be redundant here, but ask the Holy Spirit. He guides us into all truth. He helps conform us into the image of Jesus.

We aren’t trying to be someone else, just a “better me.” God knows who that is! He will help you become that better you.

Do you have some people in your life that need a spiritual make-over, or maybe even a complete over-haul? First, make sure they are really supposed to be in your life. (You are starting to get it now, if you’re not sure you…ask…). If they are, turn that magnifying glass on yourself instead of them. Stop looking at and for their faults and shortcomings. We take an honest look at ourselves, remembering it is a process and there is no condemnation now that we are saved, and allow God to change us. It isn’t a secret, magic formula, and will probably take some work, but it is worth it.

You will notice as you are changing that those other people don’t irritate you as much, can’t hurt you the way they used to, and you may even discover more things to love. Better yet, they may be motivated and inspired to work on their own lives.

Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit, to God’s love, and be changed!

You will like the new you!

Holy Spirit, I may be afraid for You to point out my faults, but I don’t want to be the same. So, show me and give me the strength and the scriptures to stand on, to be a better me.

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If you read my last blog about an attitude adjustment, you may have noticed some things that need changing. It occurred to me that I left you hanging… So, let’s say we need some adjusting, how do we go about it? First, repent. Ask God, and anyone else who may have been a witness to your bad attitude, to forgive you. That is always the first step to change. Next, you have to choose to change the way you think and speak. Before church, thank God for your Church Family, your Pastors, leaders and those who serve. Be honored and thankful that you get to serve yourself, (if you aren’t ask if you can, volunteer.) Ask God to help you serve with His Joy. Choose to go to church because you love Him and look at your service as an extension of that love instead of a duty or obligation.

We also need to change the way we look at others. When a negative thought comes in, before you blurt it out, cast it down and replace it with something positive. It may be hard at first, but even if all you can think of is “they have nice shoes”, then so be it. It’s a start. Never despise small beginnings. At work, be thankful for a job! Choose to see your employer as a vessel that God chose to use to bless you financially. Remember, your boss didn’t start that business to provide for you- he started it to provide for himself and his family. He has just accepted your request to work in exchange for an agreed upon amount of money. You can’t get mad because he drives a jag and you a pinto. He has all the headaches that come with owning a business and the responsibility. He also made all the investments to get the business up and running. Respect and honor your bosses and supervisors at work. Refuse to participate in the grumbling and complaining. Pray for those in authority over you. Not a “change them” prayer but a “change me” prayer.

Ephesians 6:5-8 “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.”

When you adjust your attitude, with God’s help, you will see great changes. You will have more joy, have more patience, less worry and stress. You will love people more, hear God clearer and you will definitely be more fun to be around!

Second Chances

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The Bible says that Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Because he listened and was obedient his whole family was saved from the devastation on the earth due to the flood. The only remaining eight people on the planet!

The Bible isn’t clear about the beliefs of Noah’s wife, sons or daughter-in-laws. We do know that Ham saw his father in a drunken, naked state and shamed his father by boasting about it to his brothers. Some even believe that Ham’s sin was something even worse. We do know that from the time of the flood to the tower of Babylon was around six generations (scholars vary on the amount of time). So what happened in those six generations? Who dropped the ball? Talk about a second chance. Don’t you think that the story of the ark was a favorite bedtime story for all of the kids, grandkids, great grand’s, etc. They wasted their second chance.

Our own children can be like that sometimes. Growing up in church. Knowing the word. But never having a personal experience with God. Somewhere along the long genealogy the personal relationship was let go. They ‘practiced’ their religion out of duty or tradition. Or possibly they started to believe that the story of the flood was just that, a story. Each of us has to reach a place where we build a relationship, personally with God. Unfortunately, that sometimes has to happen in the midst of a crisis.

Then there is the story that Jesus tells about the man who was forgiven a great debt, only to run out and demand repayment from someone who owed him a very small amount, (Matthew 18). What did the unmerciful servant do with his second chance? He used it to be a jerk. His end was worse than his beginning.
“’You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”

His original sentence would have just been jail time for an unpaid debt. Now he was to be tortured until the debt was repaid. (Which basically would have been never). How could he ever earn enough without being able to work? He was like us. We owed a debt we couldn’t pay.

Before you despair, there are plenty of people in the Bible who did wonderful things with their second (and third and forth) chances. Let’s do a quick rundown of a few.

Rahab, saved the spies, her life and the life of her family was spared and now she is listed in the genealogy of Jesus.

Ruth was forsake all to go with her mother in law, after they lost all the men in their family. She took her second chance and placed it in the hands of Naomi’s God and she too is in the genealogy of Jesus.

How about David? He was continually given another chance. He sinned with Bathseba, had her husband killed, lost the child from that sin, but repented and went on to be a great King. He invented instruments, wrote songs and psalms and instilled worship into the church.

The whole city of Ninivah took the second chance offered by God, through the disobedient Johan, and the whole city was spared.

Every disciple, but Judas, took their second chance and they changed the world. Peter became one of the leading heads of the early church and went out to the gentiles after having denying Christ!

There are more, in the bible, in history, and in the Church.

What will you do with your second chance?

Who I Am

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Who I am is not who I was and who I am is not who I will be.
I used to hate change of pretty much any kind, a new job, new school, new church…they all caused me to panic. But I am much better now. Sometimes I even look forward to it, but mostly I want stability. I always have. Growing up I lacked what I called “roots.” We moved. A lot. I attended five grade schools, a middle school and three high schools. I lived in eleven different homes. No, I was not a military brat, a runaway or in foster care. We just kept “moving up.” When things got better for us financially, when my parents pay scale went up, we moved to a better rental and eventually built our own home. Then my parents started their own business, on the other side of the state, and we moved across the mountains of Washington. So, though I never really thought about it at the time, I know now that it contributed to my lack of security.
Amazingly, I married a wanna-be gypsy, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of man. I am a more plan-for-a-month-before-you-do-anything kind of woman, proving opposites attract. Since my husband and I have been together, thirty years, we have lived in fourteen homes. Most of them were homes we remodeled and sold for a profit. We’ve lived in five different towns in three different states. Thankfully, we spent fifteen of those years in one home, and attended the same church for thirteen years.
Over the years, I have learned that God and my husband are my roots. I am “rooted and grounded Him.” So now, as I am literally pushing fifty, the things that terrified me at thirty aren’t so scary now and some things even sound like fun. My husband used to joke around about selling everything, buying an RV and “hitting the road.” Now, I love to travel, museums, lakes, mountains, state parks, coastal towns, historical landmarks, their all good. However, I always enjoy coming home…to a home, my home. So needless to say his jokes almost always sent me into a panic attack. I always said, “I need someplace to have roots.”
Now, we daydream about it. Most evenings you will find us on my little laptop, cruising Craig’s list and EBay searching for RV’s. Several weekends we have visited the local camper lots and went to look at motor homes for sale by owners. We want to simplify our lives and make it possible to spend more time with our scattered families. The older we get, the harder it is to be away from our daughter and her family that lives nine hundred miles away, and our parents and siblings that live two thousand miles away. We have learned that being connected is what “roots” are all about. Not a place.
Life changes us and God knew just what circumstances it would take to mold us. He knows what the finished product is supposed to look like, after all. I find the material things that I thought I wanted just aren’t that important. People, now they are important. Making a difference and impacting their lives for good-that’s a reason for living.
So what’s the point?
I am better than I once was, but I will be so much better than I am now.