How can I change?
Over the past several posts we have been looking at a couple of very important principles that we need to embrace if we are going to actually change.
First, we need to want to.
And, what’s more, we need to want to for the right reasons.
Second, we need to refuse to make excuses.
And specifically we need to refuse to blame God for the decisions we have been making. This is a big deal, we’ve been seeing, in the book of James. In chapter 1, he tells us that no one can say when they are being tempted, they are being tempted by God.
And yet, we might be asking, if the temptation doesn’t come from God, where does it actually come from then?
This desire to do evil?
And this is actually James second point in verse 14, which is basically that you need to stop looking at God as the source of your temptation and start looking at yourself.
“But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it is has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
You see, when our sin is exposed, we want to locate the problem in our circumstances or other people or even, ultimately God. James locates the problem instead, in our own hearts.
If you look at God.
You see He’s holy.
And if you look at you.
You see you are not.
You are broken.
You are tempted when you are lured and enticed by your own desires, which is a problem, I just don’t think that most of us take seriously enough.
This is part of what makes changing so difficult.
And I am talking about the sinfulness of the human heart.
It’s our own desires.
That are lying to us.
It’s our own desires that are setting traps for us.
“Each person,” James says, has particular desires, things he wants, that lure him and entice him, and the picture there is of someone setting a trap, which is pretty incredibly sad if you think about it.
It’s like if you are walking along.
And you see this person who is stuck in a trap. I don’t know, it’s one of those pits, maybe. And so, you hear this person crying out, moaning, and you walk over, because the sound is so awful and you want to see if you can help. And he’s just sitting there broken, and you are like, who would be this awful, to set this kind of trap, to bring this kind of pain into someone’s life, and you find out, it’s him.
The very one who is stuck at the bottom of the pit, he set the trap for himself, and he lured and enticed himself, into it.
It’s actually our own desires that are leading us towards death.
Which is why, as we talk about this subject of how to change and holiness, it is very important we are not naïve about the human condition.
And naïve is probably too nice a word.
Naïve means simple, or trusting. Fooled or deceived would be better.
It’s important we are not believing lies about what we are like as human beings.
Say you take a person as he is. You know take a human as he is from birth. There’s something fundamentally broken about him.
Which, of course, is not how it started. That’s not how God made us. Way back, when God first created people, He created them good, and yet those people decided they wanted to do they own thing, and as a result, they brought spiritual death on all of us.
We come into this world, spiritually dead.
If you pick up a baby.
A cute little baby.
Holding that baby in your arms.
You could say.
This baby is dead.
And that is just basic biblical teaching.
Jesus, in Matthew 7:11, says, “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children.”
And he’s not talking about anybody in particular. Really. He’s just talking about humans. And he says. You by nature, are evil.
Which, is why in Matthew 15:19, He says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
And that actually, in the context, Jesus is talking to religious people. And the religious people of his day kind of thought it was the stuff outside of a person that made someone bad, which is why they had all sorts of rules.
They thought if they just had enough rules they could keep the bad stuff out.
But, Jesus is like, that won’t work because the bad stuff is already in there. The bad stuff comes from the heart. That’s what really messes up a person.
It’s not just what he does.
It’s who he is, actually.
There’s something wrong with his very nature.
Which, I think is so important, because it clarifies things. That is what I am saying. When it comes to the issue of how do I change?
Because if I am looking at a person, by himself, as he is, you know from the womb, who is saying, how do I change?
I have to look at that person, and say, you know what?
I mean, if the reason you were sinning was because of something outside of you, then you could just get rid of that.
And you would be fine. But that’s not the reason you are sinning, according to James, at least.
Instead it’s, as he puts it, because of something that’s wrong inside of you.
You have these desires that are messed up and those desires are the very thing that is making sin seem so appealing to you.
By yourself, you by yourself, you can’t change that.
You can maybe change some of the things you do. I am not denying that. But you can’t change your very nature.
That’s beyond you.
The way the Bible puts it.
It would be like a black man becoming white, or a white man becoming black.
You can wear certain clothes. And speak with a certain accent, I guess. And pretend.
There are some things you can’t really do anything about.
Like the color of your skin.
Like your spiritually dead heart.
It’s going to take more than just trying a little harder to change. It’s going to take more than going to church and learning some new concepts to change.
Because the problem is not just with your actions.
That’s the point.
It’s with your very nature.
You are constantly wanting certain things that you shouldn’t want and by nature.
You are a slave to those desires.
Which, I know, maybe you are thinking, “Ok. Thanks. I thought this wasn’t supposed to be depressing. You said this wasn’t going to be depressing.”
And it’s not.
Because this is obviously not where the passage ends, but, the thing is, I just don’t want you to be deceived and I know how incredibly easy it is to lie to someone who wants to be lied to.
That’s the problem.
We want to believe lies about ourselves.
It’s kind of like, me.
I want to believe I am great at this sport called squash, I really want to believe that, but I keep losing, all the time, seriously all the time, and so because I want to believe I am good, but I keep losing, it would be easy for someone to lie to me, honestly, and say, oh it’s your racquet, that’s the problem, or you are just having a bad day or something, and they can fool me pretty easily, because I want so badly to believe it.
Which is the way it is so often with us, and sin.
We want so badly to believe we are good people, even though we keep losing, that we’ll believe almost any excuse, as long as it takes some of the blame off us.
To the point where, we will even believe lies about God, we’ll even start blaming Him, which is a serious problem, not so much for God, but for us, because it is a dead end, spiritually.
It’s just not the way it is.
It’s not God who is the problem.
It’s obviously not God who is enticing you to do evil.
First of all.
Because He’s holy.
But you know what, James says, let me go further, and this is verses 17 and 18 now, it can’t be God, because He’s good. It’s not only that it can’t be God because He’s holy. It also can’t be God because He’s just so good.
Because, listen, if you are a believer now, if you really are a Christian, I just described the normal scenario.
A minute ago, with the way we as humans are from birth.
I mean, we keep killing ourselves spiritually. Because we all are born dead. And we have all these evil desires that keep lying to us.
And it’s so obvious.
We keep believing them, and that’s just the way it was, for us, for all of us, as I was saying, we were like slaves to sin, and yet.
Here’s where we are going.
If you are a believer now, like, if you really are a Christian here, that’s not who you are, any longer.
That’s who you were, but that’s not who you are.
I mean, yes, of course, you still have sinful desires. I am not saying those are all gone. We get that. And, you still have the ability to lie to yourself and fool yourself into doing all kinds of different sins and there are still things you want, you shouldn’t.
That hasn’t changed, with you becoming a Christian. But what has changed, is that it is not who you fundamentally are any longer.
If you hear what I am saying.
It’s like there is something in you now that hates what you used to love and loves what you used to hate.
And where did that come from? Where did you get that?
That came from God.
Which is going to be James’ point. If we follow him.
Listen to verse 17 and watch how he gets to this.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
And, I really want you to see this, because how do you overcome sin and how do you pursue holiness? I am convinced one of the keys is believing the right things about God, where you stop making excuses for your choices and start embracing the truths the Bible tells us about God.
And one of the most fundamental of the truths you need to believe with all your heart if you are going to become a holy person is that God really is, always and forever, good.