Oh…I cannot even count the number of time I was going to start today to lose weight, get in shape for my dream marathon, to be more patient, to….whatever. That’s the problem isn’t it. My willpower always fails. Even with my best intentions, I can make the right choices but then when I really need to put feet to the decision, ultimately I find I’m headed in a different direction. Actually sometimes it’s not quite the opposite, it just isn’t quite what I had planned. Then like it says on page 163, “If making the right choices is our only hope, then we are indeed hopeless.”
Many times we believe that if we can change our behavior then how we feel about things will change. If we act nice to someone we dislike the thought is that over time we’ll begin to like that person. So what’s wrong with that? Jesus has a lot to say about treating people nicely, right! The problem is that most of the time this determination of my will doesn’t work.
The Bible has a lot to say about how our body and our mind (our will) works together. My mind isn’t separate from the rest of my body. It all works together. So to say I’m going to determine something in my mind and my body will follow is really a little simple when you think about it. Jesus had a little to say about it in Matthew 22:37 where he says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Here Jesus is giving us a picture of what a whole person bringing their whole selves to God really looks like. Unless we determine to do something as a whole body, with our hearts wanting the same thing that our mind wants, our intentions will be short lived because in the end we all choose what our heart wants anyway.
- What does this picture of an integrated person say about why we can’t overcome compulsive behavior by simply deciding to?
When our hearts, our mind and our soul don’t agree on things we’ll often experience this form of inner conflict. We know what is right and we want the right values, but in our heart we really love something different. And it’s the heart that often wins. This is why the Bible always says to change from the inside out. No longer is it just about head thinking and making the right choices. Get the heart in line and you’re more than half-way there.
- When has your heart overruled your head and the values that you hold?
I love this statement on page 168: “If we have problems in our heart, no amount of trying to make right choices will produce good fruit in us. We must deal with the things that are on the inside and driving our choices.”
Then How Do We Grow?
If making the right choices isn’t our fast track to spiritual growth, then how do we grow? First we need to acknowledge that right choices are necessary but not sufficient for growth. Spiritual growth is always a combination of choosing the good, gaining the support and strength to do it and dealing with the bad.
- Which of these three elements is currently in place for you?
- Which of these three elements necessary for spiritual growth is not yet in place?
If we don’t change on the inside then we really aren’t changing at all!
- Where are you today? Are you still trying to change your behavior?
- Why do you think it is so difficult to work on changing the heart first?
Bad Out, Good In
So much about getting on the right track spiritually is getting the bad stuff out of our life and the good stuff in. Sometimes we get stuck on only working on one side of the equation. We try to spend all of our time just focusing on the bad…get the bad out at all costs. Or we’ll focus only on the good and surround ourselves with all the good things.
Again…what’s wrong with that! The Bible tells us to “think on these things…that are lovely, pure….etc…” The crazy maker…we’re supposed to do both and. We have to add the good things in our life at the same time that we continue to uncover the bad things.
- What happens when we only deal with one of these tasks?
- What good are you taking in as you work on getting the bad out?
Right Verses Pure Intentions
A right intention is our choice to do the right thing. It’s a very mind motivated decision. While a pure intention is our heart leading the way. It’s a rightly pleasing thing to do that we really think very little about. We just do it.
A pure intention is wanting what we choose. God wants us to will and to want the same things that He wants. That’s when we know we’re really in tune with God’s will for our lives. But we can’t desire the things that God desires without having our hearts changed. As we get more in tune with God’s direction for our lives, we begin to grow spiritually and gradually find that our character is changing to want and desire the things that God wants and desires for us. God is working in us to transform us to be people He can use for His purposes.
- Which of your desires don’t line up with God’s desires
In the end…it’s our spiritual growth that leads us into making the right choices.
We’ll end this chapter with this thought on page 242:
“Instead of trying harder to make the right choices, surrender to God your inability to do so – become humble, unable and ask Him to begin the process of spiritual growth in you. Then, as you continue to do the hard work of spiritual growth, God will begin reproducing His life in you through the process of internal change.”
If you’d like to join this study in real time…I’m teaching it at HopePark Wednesday Mornings & Thursday Nights. If you’re a Nashville local, the door is always open. We’re at 8001 Hwy. 70 South, just off I-40. Online at http://hopepark.com and on twitter @hopepark.
Me…well you can find me twittering @jodytodd.
Have a great week!
Questions and assigned quotes from the study by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend entitled “12 Christian Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy.”