Realistically, most of us recognize that we’ll never “change the world” the way heroes in all our favorite story lines do. But–as Americans who believe that if we work hard enough, we can at least get some of what we want–that doesn’t mean we quit trying. In fact, arguably most of us in our own little ways are keeping our eyes out for ways to change the world.
But, in that romantic and heroic–and dramatic–goal, we often forget to work to change ourselves.
And seriously, what kind of difference are we going to make if we ourselves aren’t growing? We need to be strong, have a firm foundation, and be in a healthy place to most effectively help others. Oxygen mask on yourselves first, folks! Changing ourselves is the first step to changing the world. So, lets quit this talking, jump off the computer and go do it! Let’s change ourselves for the better!
But have you ever tried to change yourself? When I try to change, I fail. Like a lot. I find myself hating myself and my unchanging ways. Truth be told, we cannot actually change ourselves. We can’t grow on our own. So…
Shattered hopes and dreams. The end.
Just kidding. While we cannot change ourselves, God can. God is the only one who can make a broken, sinful spirit into something that can be used to change the world. On our own, we cannot battle sin nature, we cannot be good, we cannot be strong. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–that no one can boast.” So…
We need to lay low, to hang out, to chill until God transforms us into world changers.
Just kidding again. The fact that we can’t change ourselves on our own does not give us licence to staple the seat of our pants to the seat of the chair and wait limply for the Lord to work in us. Because God has granted us free will, he has also allotted us an essential role in growth. We can’t change on our own, but God also won’t change us without our involvement (with minor exceptions that should certainly not be relied on).
Unlike the American dream, Christian growth isn’t about strengthening ourselves, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We cannot grow on our own; we can’t do a single thing to better ourselves. My guess is you’ve tried, and you know it. But, at the same time, our God will only work in us as much as we are willing to actively allow him. Therefore, Christian growth is not a process of changing ourselves. Christian growth is a process of continually opening ourselves up to God: listening to him, reading his word, meditating on his truths, talking with him, and living out his commands. We are not doing this to grow, to change, to better ourselves. Instead, all these things that we do are done to allow God to work in our lives. We go to church, read the Bible, pray, and spend time with other Christians as a way of spending time with God so that he will speak to us, work in us, and transform us from decrepit sinners to Christ-filled world-changers.
You cannot grow yourself. But God will not grow you without you. It’s a two-way relationship that requires you to be involved with the Lord Almighty. To make a difference you need to be growing. To be growing, you need to be in tandem with God.
Your goal should not be to change yourself. That will only end in frustration. Your goal should be to actively pursue God–who will change you and will use you to change the world in his own way.
Please comment with any thoughts, questions, or pushback!