There is something in "counseling circles" called the "put off - put on" dynamic. In other words, stop doing this and do that instead. In scripture, this is often seen as the don't do this, but do this and you will realize a different (usually better) outcome. Our passage today is one of those "stop - start" instructions. Stop following whatever had been your previous way of living before you said "yes" to Jesus and live differently now. In other words, when we come to Jesus, there is to be a transformation evident in our lives - as some activities cease and others take their place. Now, on the surface, the world may see it as we stopped going to the bars and started attending church. We stopped using swear words, and now we say "God bless you" and "Hallelujah" a lot. I do hope we realize there is way more to this instruction than that we just stop one thing and start another. If we are to really "do" as scripture instructs us, we live by the example we have been shown in his gift of salvation through his Son, and then we cultivate a new set of desires he places within our hearts so that our way of living becomes dynamically different than it used to be.
God has shown us how kind he is by coming to save all people. He taught us to give up our wicked ways and our worldly desires and to live decent and honest lives in this world. We are filled with hope, as we wait for the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. He gave himself to rescue us from everything that is evil and to make our hearts pure. He wanted us to be his own people and to be eager to do right. (Titus 2:11-14 CEV)
Max Lucado says it this way: "You change your life by changing your heart." I want us to keep one thing in mind - God is the one changing our hearts - we are just embracing that change and "going with it" until it becomes the way we live without even having to "think too hard about it". To truly change our actions, the motivation behind those actions must be changed. As we all know, some of those motivations are hard to change - there doesn't seem to be any easy way to let go of some of the things we have held onto for so very long in our lives. The struggle is realized not so much in the "letting go", but in trusting whatever our hands will take hold of next will be vastly "better" than what we have come to hold so dearly to in the first place.
Alvin Tofler was a former editor of Fortune magazine. While he no longer holds that position, his writings live on. One of the things he said may not have been "biblical" in basis, but it has a great deal of truth as it applies to what we are speaking about today. He said: "Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life." Ponder that one for just a moment. Change is not merely necessary to life - in other words, in a biblical sense, change is the beginning of new life (at the moment we say "yes" to Jesus there is a change which occurs - a new live is begun). Life is born out of change - this is the biblical perspective. Life is not the result of "more life" - in other words, we don't become "more alive" by somehow finding "more life" to live. We find life in death!
To be eager to do right, one has to realize what has been the way of doing things up to a certain point is in need of change. If we want to lose weight, we have to realize the way we have been eating and the amount of exercise we have been getting might need to change. We do more than "adjust" our life - we "restructure" it completely. We get rid of the junk food and bring in the healthier fare. We pull out the walking shoes and shorts when we get home instead of the jammies and slippers. Have you ever noticed how eager we are to "start" change, but how quickly this eagerness slips away when we realize the first bump in the road? Change might be necessary - but there is no guarantee it will be easy.
Change requires motivation - motivation requires focus - focus requires commitment - commitment requires more than just will-power. Commitment requires an exchange - a submission of the will to the one who gives us all power and authority to make the change happen. I see people market themselves as "motivational speakers" - but the power to motivate someone is not really something another human being can actually do. To motivate means we "persuade" or "provoke" another into action. So, the truth is that something we hear, see, or experience while with that individual finally "clicks" in our minds and hearts, making us feel as though we are ready to take the necessary action. But...that "click" isn't going to keep us going for very long - we need to maintain focus. The motivational speaker may have been the catalyst to start the change, but they aren't going to be the ones to "coach" us through change on a daily basis.
A coach is one who actually helps us maintain focus. On the sidelines, the coach sees each of our moves and helps us make subtle adjustments in our actions until we become consistent in doing something the correct and "reliable" way. To stay on the field requires something internal to us - commitment. When we commit, we are saying what we are accomplishing by the action we are attempting to embrace is "worth it" to us - we see the value in it and we are actually pulled toward that "new action" because we no longer see the value in the old action we were engaging in. We are given the Holy Spirit to live within us as our life-coach - helping us to adjust our actions and bring us to a place of reliable consistency within our lives. We are given the strength of God's love and grace to keep us committed throughout the walk, but the one thing we can never forget is that love and grace may help us run the race, but our inner commitment comes in seeing the value in the change we are moving toward.
Whatever we value will eventually become a motivating factor in our lives. If we value the "right stuff", our actions will eventually align with our values. We may struggle with consistency once in a while, but this is because we are human. God's grace and love brings us back on course and helps us to make the right choices again. We cannot get too down on ourselves whenever we veer from the "right stuff", but instead ask God to give us his grace, embrace us with his love, and then recommit to listening to the "life-coach" to help us make the adjustments necessary so we will develop reliability in our walk. Just sayin!