15-16We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over "non-Jewish sinners." We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.
(Galations 2:15-16 The Message)
A long time ago, a friend gave me an illustration which has stuck with me through the years. He held out a beautiful Montblanc pen, (since I am a writer, pens are kind of a passion of mine), and asked me to "try" to take the pen away from him. Seeing this as an easy thing, I reached out to his outstretched hand to take the pen. Now the pen was in my possession, or so I thought. He then corrected me with the following: He told me to only "try" to take the pen! When I responded with a quizzical look on my face, he used this illustration to speak a life-lesson.
Knowing my passion for words, he was showing me the very first definition of the word "try" is really something quite different than we might suppose. In fact, it means to "attempt" to accomplish something. The definition does not imply actually "doing" it - - just attempting it! Uh oh! Now I was confused. We talked for a while about "trying" versus "doing". See, we go through life doing a whole lot of "trying" - attempting to accomplish what we set our minds toward. Yet, in the end, when we look back at the "attempts" we may find most of them are actually only marginally successful, if not unsuccessful!
There is a definite difference between "doing" and "trying". What I did when he offered his pen is an action which accomplished the intended result. If I was just trying, I might only have looked at the pen, imagining in my mind how I could swoop in, grasp the object and be off with it. One produced a result, the other produced a whole lot of "mind effort", but no real change in the pen's location.
There are many times we look back over our decisions only to find our "efforts" of "trying" to change a particular habit, or break free of a particularly annoying sin, never really accomplished the change we desired. When we examine this further, we might just find we actually are doing what the dictionary offers as the second definition of "try" - - we have "experimented" with various "options" to see which one might work. Unfortunately, in our walk with Christ, no amount of "experimenting" with things we could "try" on our own will ever work to bring lasting change!
Lasting change comes not in merely the changing of the rules we keep. It comes in the changing of the company we keep! The company we keep in our thought life influences the decisions we make. If the company we are keeping in our minds is a confluence of all kinds of input - some spiritual, some worldly, some our own imaginations - we are often confused as to the actions we should take to accomplish change. This is why we are warned to not focus so much on the input, but the source of the input!
Grace is the method of change God uses. It is by grace our thoughts are changed. It is through grace our choices are refined. In the movement of grace in our lives, we see what we imagine IN CHRIST accomplished in our lives. When we finally admit the "trying" efforts of our own "experiments" at change as riddled with self-failure, we begin to invite the influence of the Spirit of God into the midst of our desired change. We move from a position of "trying" into a place of "doing" by embracing the method of change - - Christ IN us, the hope of glory!