How the Gospel Can Help You Change
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 6 Jun
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer’s new book Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change(B&H Publishing Group, 2014).
How often have you found yourself doing something you don’t want to do (such as overeating, gossiping, drinking too much alcohol, spending too much money, or watching pornography), but can’t seem to help doing? How long have you been trying to change a bad habit that persists in your life, only to fall back into the same unhealthy behavior patterns again and again?
Trying to change can be so frustrating that sometimes it may seem as if you’ll never experience the transformation you’re seeking. Ye the power to change is always available to you – if you look for it in the right place: the Gospel message. This ultimate message of hope will empower you to change your life whenever you incorporate its principles fully into your life. Here’s how:
- Stop looking for help in the wrong places. People often waste time and energy relying on sources other than the Gospel for the power they need to change, only to end up disappointed when those lesser sources fail to truly help them. Stop expecting that you can help yourself through willpower or self-help tactics, since you can never be good enough to redeem yourself. Stop depending on other people (your spouse, your friends, your parents, etc.) to solve your problems, since they lack the power to do so and that’s an unfair burden to put on them. Stop trying to escape from your struggles by indulging in worldly pleasures, since nothing that the world offers can change your life in ways that really matter. Stop trying to earn God’s favor through your own religious efforts, since religious rules and rituals can’t redeem you. Only God has the power to truly change your life – and He does so through the Gospel’s principles of redemption.
- Surrender your life completely to God. Rather than trying to force change in your life, decide to surrender every part of your life to God. Invite the Holy Spirit to pull up the diseased roots of your problems and plant new, healthy attitudes and behaviors in your life so you can experience the real change you need. Place all of your confidence in God, trusting Him alone to heal you from sin and its destructive effects on your life. Choose to believe that God can redeem even the worst situations in your life – those that seem completely hopeless – because the Gospel shows that there is always hope when God is at work.
- Pursue a lifestyle of repentance. God is calling you to repent (to agree with God that the attitude or behavior you want to change is wrong, and to intentionally walk away from it) not just once, but as an ongoing process of healing moving forward. The more you respond to grief about your sins by confessing and repenting of them, the more God will change you. Recognize that guilt and shame can fuel sin in your life by causing unhealthy emotions within you that tempt you to keep secrets. So whenever you feel guilt or shame about sin in your life, confess it (in prayer to God and to some other believers whom you trust). Allow yourself to feel sorrow over your sin, and let that sorrow motivate you to repent of it, trusting that God will forgive you and help you overcome it. Keep renewing your relationship with God through repentance regularly, so sin won’t build up in your life and interfere with the intimacy God wants you to enjoy with Him.
- Embrace the justification that Jesus offers you. Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for your sins, you can now connect to a perfectly holy God if you’re in a relationship with Jesus. Justification means that God considers Christians to be completely righteous, because rather than looking at their sin, God looks at the perfect righteousness of Jesus, who paid the cost of sin on their behalf. If you’re a Christian, you can claim this incredible spiritual benefit by placing your trust completely in Jesus – rather than in yourself – as your source of strength. This will free you to reach your fullest potential.
- Enjoy the benefits of being one of God’s adopted children. Realize that, if you’re a Christian, God has adopted you into His eternal family of people who can enjoy close relationships with Him. God has given you the greatest gift of all: the gift of Himself as your Father. Ask the Holy Spirit to burn this truth into your mind so you’ll be confident that you can rely on your heavenly Father to help you every step of the way as you change.
- Deal wisely with your fear and anxiety. Whenever you feel afraid or anxious, pray about whatever is causing you to feel that way rather than just worrying about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the faith you need to trust God to handle the situation according to what’s best. Ask Jesus to give you His peace so you can move forward in your transformation process without a troubled mind.
- As you change yourself, change your relationships with other people. Do whatever you can to make peace other people, such as: confronting them about difficult issues between you and discussing how to resolve those issues with love and respect; forgiving people who have hurt you and seeking forgiveness from people you have hurt; and reconciling broken relationships, when possible, after healthy changes have occurred.
- Pursue ongoing sanctification each day. Make a daily effort to choose what’s right over what’s wrong, relying on help from the Holy Spirit whenever you’re faced with temptation to sin. Since your spiritual battles ultimately come down to what’s happening in your mind, pray often for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and read the Bible often, so you can absorb its truths into your mind. Don’t dwell on sinful thoughts – such as those of sexual immorality, bitterness, anger, covetousness, slander, or malice – but as soon as they enter your mind change the focus of your thoughts to something that honors God. Think about the Gospel message often, so its wisdom will guide your decisions, which will lead to ongoing change for the better in your life. Discuss your life openly and honestly with some other believers you trust, in relationships where you all hold each other accountable and support and encourage each other. Enjoy the transformation God brings into your life every day!
Adapted from Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change, copyright 2014 by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer. Published by B&H Books, a division of B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tn.
Matt Chandler serves as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. He came to The Village in December 2002 and describes his tenure as a replanting effort where he was involved in changing the theological and philosophical culture of the congregation. The church has witnessed a tremendous response growing from 160 people to more than 11,000 with several campuses. Matt is currently involved in church planting efforts both locally and internationally through The Village and various strategic partnerships. He serves as president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization. Over the last 10 years, Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to nearly 500 churches in the United States and around the world. Beyond speaking at conferences throughout the world, Matt has also written several books, including The Explicit Gospeland Creature of the Word. His greatest joy outside of Jesus is being married to Lauren and being a dad to their three children, Audrey, Reid and Norah.
Michael Snetzer serves as Recovery Groups Pastor at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. He received his Masters in Counseling from Dallas Baptist University. For seven years he served as a counselor at the Center for Christian Counseling. He has served on the pastoral staff at The Village Church since 2007. He has worked part-time at North Texas Christian Counseling since 2012. He has three children: McKenna, Ava, and Greyson. He and his wife, Sonia, were married in 2007.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.