A New You for a New Decade: Changing from the inside out.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Change is great on the outside, but real change comes from the inside out. It’s more than cosmetic; it’s more than a skinnier version of the same old you. God wants you to be made new from the inside out – spirit, soul, and body. God puts them in that order in his Word: “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Something To Talk About:
God wants a new you who not only looks different but who lives and thinks and speaks and acts differently. He wants a new you who has taken a 180-degree turn and is headed in a new direction, no longer pursuing an old way of life, no longer trying to conform and fit in and be like everybody else. He wants a new you who is being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
- Conforming is outside: According to the dictionary, conform means to “make or become the same” or “to behave in a conventional way by accepting without question the customs, traditions and prevailing opinions of others.” How often do we do this? We think, “Oh everybody else is doing it so it must be okay.” But God says, “Don’t conform to the ways of this world. Stop and think about what you’re doing.” Romans 12:1- 2 (MSG) says “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Not conforming to this world seems impossible at times. But by being intentional in the disciplines of prayer, fasting, studying the Word, and other spiritual disciplines found in scripture we are able to guard ourselves against becoming conformed.
- Transforming is inside: Transform means “to change the condition, function, nature, character or personality” of something. It means changing from the inside out. In Romans 12, Paul says to transform yourself not by trying to be like the rest of the world, but by renewing your mind, by changing the way you think. If there is a “secret” to the so-called Christian life, this is it. Living the life God requires isn’t difficult – it’s impossible in our own efforts. It requires transformation. Transformation rarely happens overnight. There are no shortcuts. And we can’t always see when we make progress. In the moment it is sometimes hard to see exactly what has changed, but I go step by step in faith that I am being transformed. Suddenly, I see love where there was no love before. I see patience where I was once impatient and frustrated. I don’t get offended easily, whereas before, the smallest comment would cause discontent, resentment and judging in my heart. God is in the transformation business. It’s His specialty. So keep working daily on being transformed into His image.
- Confession is saying what God says: Confession is important yet often overlooked and misunderstood and therefore is not often practiced. Confession means to agree, acknowledge or to admit. It is to come into alignment with what God defines as sin and admit to it. When we confess our sins, the faithful work of Christ on the cross is applied. Just as 1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Therefore, there is an ongoing responsibility to confess our sins – not for the purpose of keeping our salvation but for the purpose of revealing our salvation. Confession should become a practice, a daily reevaluation of one’s actions: it shines the light on what is really going on in our hearts. And hopefully, if we are in step with the Holy Spirit, we will have already been convicted of what we are bringing to God when we confess. But when we confess, we are cleansed and restored. It is the cornerstone of the intentional life, not merely clearing out of the debris that is bad or wrong in us, but a realignment of what is best for us, an intention to live a better life in Jesus Christ.
- Repentance is changing your mind: Repentance carries with it the idea of changing–changing your mind, changing your attitude, changing your ways. It’s not a fickle change of mind, but rather a transformation of outlook, an entirely new way of seeing things. It is a change of direction. We turn around. We go in the opposite direction. Repentance is not a one-time thing, but rather a daily discipline. Repentance seeks to be restored to a right relationship with God. To repent means to bring our minds into an agreement with God about our behavior, and then, like the prodigal son, to turn away from sin and come home to the Father. Repentance is the first step in being restored to all that God has been longing to do in us, through us, and for us. Maintaining a repentant heart releases a unique grace: the work of the Spirit of God on the inside of us causes us to turn away from sin and enables us to live a more Christ-like life. That’s the power of repentance!
- In general, do you welcome change or are you resistant to it? Explain your answer.
- Recall a time when you tried to make a change in life, big or small. What did you learn from the experience?
- Comfort is very appealing when contrasted and compared to the potential discomforts that often result from non-conformity. What are the areas that you are conforming to in the world? How can you use the practical advice that you read today in your daily life? Who in your life can hold you accountable?
- Read Philippians 3:3-11 and reflect on how Paul explains the change that happened in his life. What can we learn from Paul’s drastic transformation? Have you ever experienced God transforming you in certain areas of your life?
- How does understanding that transformation is a process change the way you look at it?
- How does God’s love for us transform the way we see other people? When we fail to love others, what does it reveal about our own relationship with God?
- Read 1 John 1:9 We often spend time focusing on the first part of this verse (“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”), yet John says more, what do you think he is saying when he includes: “and to cleanse us from all wickedness?” Why is admitting our sins, failures, and faults so difficult?
- How would you define repentance? How often do you think about repentance?
- How do you know if repentance is real? What does genuine repentance look like?
- What can you do today to take up a posture of faith and genuine repentance?
- What role are we meant to play in each other’s lives in terms of helping each other repent? How can we help each other assume this posture of repentance?
- What is one thing God is speaking to you through this message?
Take one thing home with you:
A few thoughts on repentance.
God does not have you under a microscope, waiting for you to trip up. And He’s not looking for you to beat yourself up when you do something wrong. He is looking for a teachable and repentant heart. Paul talks about the importance of repentance is his letter to the church of Corinth when he says, “Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
That heart of repentance is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit living in you. He is the one who will prompt you to ask for forgiveness and turn from your sin. And He is the one who will lead you in the right direction towards God’s will for your life. My prayer is that this message will prompt you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work in your life and that you will ask God to give you a teachable and repentant heart as you learn from your mistakes and work to be more like Him