Change is Possible

Friday, December 27, 2019

In my neighborhood, there's a white kidnapper van that attracts all kinds of attention. Parked on the street, the van is covered with homemade stickers with just about every controversial word known to the year 2019 in bold, block letters: "NRA," "THE BEAST," "666," "TRUMP 2020," "GOP," "DEMOCRATS LIE" ... Every time I run or bike by it I look for new stickers I hadn't noticed before. It's quite the sight to behold. I could sell tickets.

The last time I jogged by it, however, I almost missed it. To my great surprise, all of the stickers had been taken down from the van, except for one: "JESUS SAVES".

How did this van go from political evangelism to Jesus evangelism? Since this transformation, I've concocted several hypothetical explanations for what happened. Maybe this person realized that associating any political affiliation with Jesus harmed the message of the gospel. Maybe this person realized that neither Trump nor the NRA can save us. Or maybe I'm being way too idealistic and this person just got tired of printing off new stickers to keep up with all of our nation's crazy political developments. I have no clue what the motivation was, but one thing is certain: something changed.

This now-blank van reminds me of one important truth in our Christian faith:

Change is possible.

You see, we expect many things from people who profess to follow Christ. We expect them to attend church regularly and to tithe at least 10% of their income. We expect them to read their Bibles and pray on a daily basis. We expect them to serve and to join small groups.

But do we expect that showing up at church and living life with flawed and broken people is going to change us into people who love God's people more? Do we expect that tithing is going to change our minds from a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality? Do we expect that reading God's Word and praying is going to change us so that we intimately know God and are able to discern his voice?

Do we anticipate that these practices will lead to change? Do we expect the Holy Spirit to work through them in order to change us?

Do we just believe that "Jesus saves"... or do we believe that Jesus saves and changes?

It's taken me an embarrasingly long time to realize that I can't will myself into change. Truth is certainly necessary for change, but I can't will myself into believing it and living differently because of it. Information alone does not produce transformation. If that were the case, we'd be the most changed people in history thanks to all the information we can instantly access! For all of us who are achievers, this is bad news. It means that trying harder or applying more effort won't make us changed people.

Spiritual maturity happens at God's initiative rather than by our own pushing and pulling.

In John 15:1-8, Jesus instructs his followers that he is the vine and they are the branches. "If you remain in me and I in you," he says, "you will bear much fruit" (v. 5). Remaining in Jesus, dwelling in God's presence - this is the key to change.

God's truth changes us, but only when we invite the Spirit to make us receptive to the work that God wants to do in us. God invites all of us to open ourselves to his presence, to quit striving and to just be still and know.

Honestly, based upon the stickers, I never would have expected that the owner of that van could change. I had my mind made up about who they were and what they could or could not do. But this visible transformation gives me hope. If a van can be wiped clean of its unyielding, political messaging, then there's hope for me, too.

God is not finished with me yet. God continues to wipe me clean of the ways that I refuse to yield to his Spirit. He's removing all of my messaging and agendas that are not aligned with his kingdom. In his loving grace, he is inviting me to continue to change.

Because the God who comes to me can change me in ways I cannot manage by myself.

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