All too often I get caught in a trap. It is a trap that many Christians get caught in. It’s the trap of focusing on self. Now, I’m not talking about narcissism here. What I’m talking about is sort of akin to a theology of works. Let me explain.
I continually have this measure of things that a Christian is supposed to be. Some of the things on this spiritual yard-stick are Biblical, some are self-imposed and others come from the influences of those around me. For example the fruit of the spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23
It’s easy for me to take a look at that passage an say, “Okay, I need more love, I need more joy, I need more peace, certainly more patience, I can use more kindness . . . So, what do I need to do to be more joyful? How can I make myself more happy? Maybe if I put on a joyful mask, my heart will follow suit. ”
I think you get my point – I try to change myself and to focus on theses acts or works to make them a reality in my life. That is all wrong. I can’t. No matter how hard I work. No matter what I do. I cannot change myself to have these things be a part of me. In the case of the fruits of the spirit, I must remember that they are just that. Outgrowths of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, not a result of my striving.
Jeremiah 13:23 says:
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.
This can seem hopeless but after talking to the rich young ruler, Jesus tells His disciples,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~Matthew 19:26
Although we cannot change ourselves, Christ has the power to change us. So what are we to do? Why does the Bible tell us these things? Why does it show us the actions that follow the commitment? It gives us an opportunity to see our need of Christ. When we look at God’s word and recognize where we have gone wrong, it is not our job to reform ourselves. No, we must draw closer and closer to our heavenly Father, surrendering our whole heart to Him. It is only in this submission that we may become changed.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~John 15:5