Friday, November 30, 2018

The same or different?

Do you ever feel like the only thing that remains constant in your life is change? You are probably not alone in this impression because change is all around us. We are expected to change sometimes at the drop of a hat, while other change is gradual and kind of creeps up on us without us really noticing the change has been occurring. Change comes in all shapes and sizes - ranging from crazy, radical change to the subtle changes of age. Change is merely the process of making something that was one way to no longer have the same form. I have to ask a question here - if that 'something' was left alone, would it truly not change? Even things 'left alone' in life will change over time. There will always be influencing factors that lead to change of some sort - maybe not immediately perceptible to the naked eye, but there has been change nonetheless. What would the content of our life be like if Jesus was not an active part of the change we experience in our life? What would the course of our life include if we were 'left alone' to be influenced only by our own desires and actions?

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. (Philippians 3:12-14)

The form of our lives - that which manifests what we are, what we hold to be true, and what we count as important in life - it would definitely change. If there is anything that brings quality to our life, creates a good attitude in our minds, or involves us in activities that are honoring and upright, we receive that from God through Jesus. The "form" of our lives is directly impacted by the one we embrace - just as a "mold" gives a certain structure to the content of that which is placed within it - so Jesus gives us content that differs from what was previously occupying that 'mold' of our lives. If we embrace Christ, the change we experience to our "form" is that of being made into his image - we become the manifestation of who he is.

The nature of our lives - the combination of all the qualities that belong to a person that are revealed in the tendencies we exhibit in the conduct of our lives - it would change because Christ adds new qualities that are not really part of our sinful nature (like the quality of grace). We often refer to our "nature" as our temperament - our disposition to certain things in life - the way we act or respond. Many times, we might find that our temperament is defined by our nurturing - if nurtured well, we tend to conduct our lives with a reasonable sense of good judgment; if nurtured poorly, we might not develop the same sense of responsible conduct. Jesus can take the sum total of our nurture (how we have been raised and what has influenced us most in life) and our nature (our internal make-up including our talents, skills, and tendencies) and transform them into that which consistently produces conduct that is fitting of a child of God. Without that transformation, we often struggle with the temperament we have formed over the years.

The content of our lives - content gives us significance - it fills us up and gives us something we can share with others that they will actually desire. When we feel we have little to offer in a situation, we feel "insignificant" - we see ourselves as lacking what will lend to the situation at hand, therefore we see our contribution as "worthless". The content of our lives is made up of what we have experienced, how we have interpreted those experiences, what we have learned, and what we have "unlearned". That said, if we have allowed "content" that is not quite "right" or truthful into our lives, we have probably established patterns of behavior that keep us feeling like we are insignificant. One thing I want us to understand - in Christ, we are made new - there is a 'significance' poured into our lives, but there is also an awareness of the extreme significance of our lives because it is a life Christ values. The old content is replaced with new - we take on Christ, and we put off the old patterns of behavior, the old patterns of thought, the old failures of our past. 
 
The future course of our lives is not always clear to us when we are constantly in a state of flux or change - when we asked Christ into our lives, we opened the door for change. We actually invited change to occur - not once, but consistently - it is a process of movement, not immobility. We asked for the influences of our past to be diminished, and the influences of our present to be affected deeply by the hope that we find in Christ alone. We invited the Holy Spirit into permanent residence within us - to direct the future course of our lives. Paul reminds us that he is fully aware of his imperfections  - he doesn't have it all together. He recognizes that his past had many things that needed to be changed - but he could not change the past, he could only allow his future to be changed. We get all wigged out by our past - because it influences our present form, nature, and even the content of life. BUT...the past is DONE. We now must look toward the future. That is where change really takes hold. Transformation is a work of the present and the future - not the past. Press toward that which will make you whole - don't hold onto that which will diminish you any further. Just sayin!