Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Effort vs Heart

And do not be conformed to this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, 
so that you may prove what the will of God is, 
that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

What's on your mind today? Most likely what you are thinking about will shape your day.  If you are mulling over a tough conversation that needs to be had, your brow may already be furrowed and that tightness in your chest won't go away until it's accomplished.  If your running through a to-do list, you might feel your blood pressure rising, knowing there may not be time to get it all done.  If you're frustrated about the behavior of a child, that frustration may be accelerated as the day goes on, if that behavior continues to manifest itself today.

We all want transformation, don't we?  We watch the videos at church of how the Lord is meeting people and changing lives, and we write our own "God-at-Work" video in our heads and it's boring and super short.  So we set out at the hard work of transformation, committing a great amount of effort to change.  Our hearts may truly be in the right place - a desire to have a different life, different outcomes, different goals and values.  But in the end, old habits die hard and we find ourselves, efforts exhausted, back where we began.

As much as we try, real life happens and it's hard to control our minds all the time.  We worry about tough conversations, to-do lists and wayward children.  It's our reality and though we've put a lot of effort into transforming ourselves, we seem to be short on energy and creativity.  

Okay, so how about if we try doing things God's way? All the effort you've put into changing yourself, though it has been valiant, is more about your strength and not your mind.   If you notice in the verse above, there are six words that we tend to overlook.  Here's how we read it:  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed, so that you can prove what the will of God is, good, acceptable and perfect. Acting on this would be a fail without those six words - "by the renewing of your mind."  

It really is about your mind.  At church we sing, "I have set my heart, set my - set my heart on you." A better, more straightforward but less beautiful way of saying that would be, "I have set my mind, set my - set my mind on you."  Getting to the heart is getting to the mind, and if we want true transformation, we must focus on the act less and think more.  Trust me, the actions will follow the thoughts.

There was a man who worked for my father.  He was a retired State Police officer and he was a rough and tumble, no nonsense, you-can't-trust-anyone-because-they're-all-scumbags kind of guy.  And his language matched his attitude. Because of his employment for my father, he found himself hanging out at our church on Sunday mornings and after a few months, met with the pastor with a list of questions and surrendered his life to Christ.  And then, everything changed.  For the first time he was reading the Word and learning things about a loving God that he never knew before.

At his funeral, several, well, actually many of the state troopers who knew him way longer than I knew him, said to me that working for our family had changed LT (that's what we called him).  The first obvious sign that he was changing was his language. The cuss words were less and what he talked about had changed.  This had nothing to do with my family and everything to do with Jesus.  LT had set his mind on the Lord and it transformed him from the inside out.  If he had rolled up his sleeves and said, "I'm going to stop swearing like a sailor," it never would have worked.  But he was filling his mind with the things of the Lord and the language changed.

We must renew our mind in the Word.  We must listen to good music, listen to good preaching, immerse ourselves with the lovely truths in God's Word on a daily basis and I promise, that transformation that you long for will happen faster than you can imagine.  Yes, it will take effort, but when your mind is leading you and you're not just forcing yourself to act a certain way, the transformation part becomes a miraculous adventure where God takes over your heart and changes you from the inside out.

There will still be tough conversations ahead, mile-long to do lists and rebellious children in our future.  But when we frame our lives with the knowledge of who God is, what He has done and is doing in our lives, the beauty of His majesty, the future that awaits us in glory - when we set our hearts on Him, the reality of every day life will be handled in a different manner.  No longer will we marinade in the brokenness of today, but instead we will be renewing our mind in the truth that this is not all about us, but rather it's about Him and He's already handled everything to His glory.

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