“If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:21-24).
I recently observed a tree that had long since died and fallen into the water nearby. This particular type of tree decayed very slowly and had obviously been on the shoreline for some time. But the interesting thing about it was, that another plant had grown up from within this dead tree’s root system. While this is not uncommon, it made me think how Jesus brings this about in our lives when we surrender, or yield, to Him. When we come to Jesus, this worn-out physical body of ours does not die. Our inner self (our morality, etc.) dies and is reborn out of the old as a new ‘inner self’. This time, we are not the same old person deep inside as before, but one with a new ‘spiritual heredity’ that seeks to please God and not the Devil. We now put off the old, and live in, and through, the new ‘self’.
With this new self, Jesus can now work though us, not only to change and improve our lives, but also as a tool to impact others around us. As the familiar chorus goes:
Jesus on the inside
Working on the outside
O, what a change in my life!
The key is to let Him do the work, and not us. The moment we try to make ourselves right, then we negate, or make ineffective, the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. When that plant I mentioned earlier grew out of the old, dead tree, did it grab a can of green spray paint and make itself green? Did it read any self-help books on how to effectively grow better or improve its self-esteem? Did it watch someone on the television and buy the DVD on how to be delivered from bacterial infestation acquired through the dead tree? No! It grew naturally from the biological processes God gave it in the beginning. It never tried to make itself better; in fact, it couldn’t do it by itself. That young plant was totally dependent on something else to protect and nurture its fragile self. This is just what God expects of us when we accept His Son, Jesus, into our hearts—total dependence. Now most of us, at this point, may want to respond, “This may work for you, or him, or her, but I CAN’T do it!” This is actually quite true. I will be the first to admit that I can’t do it either. But this is just the position God wants us to be in, not dependent on ourselves.
We must stop trying to clean up our lives and make ourselves right. It is a lot like a pig trying to clean himself up with the mud he was wallowing in—it just won’t work!
The focus of our faith is to be on Jesus, and Jesus alone, not on some multi-step plan or self-help program, not some human leader (parent, pastor, president, etc.). If we are focused in our faith on Jesus and the work He did on the Cross, then we can’t add or include something else too. Multiply five times five and you’ll end up with twenty-five; you can’t add six or multiply by three, and still end up with twenty-five!
Of course, this leads us to ask, ‘How do I do this without doing anything on my own?’ That’s a good question, and the answer is—relationship. When you accepted Jesus into your heart you began a personal relationship with Him, not physically, but spiritually. It is a lot like the bond you may have with a dear parent, spouse, or child, only much, much deeper. You aren’t actually tied or otherwise attached to them, but there is a closeness that can’t be easily explained in words. The relationship you have entered into with Jesus has to be developed and refined. While He may know much about you, you know so little about Him. The way to increase your knowledge of Him is to talk and listen to Him in prayer and to read His Word, the Bible.
When a couple gets married, they must each take time out to really get to know the other person better; and the same idea applies in your relationship with Him. Take time out and talk with Him. Spend as much time as you can, which means taking time away from less important things.
If you think you can’t give up anything, then you need to think about what (or who) is more important in your life.
As well, read and dwell or meditate (contemplate or reflect) on His Word and ask Him to illuminate it to you. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Read it over and over, and each time you read, ask Him to make it more real to your heart and mind. As time goes on, you’ll start seeing things you didn’t notice before, and you will begin to discover that you don’t want to stop reading. Most importantly, never give up praying and reading. If you don’t give up, He won’t give up! Before long, you’ll find that, just like the plant growing out of the old, dead tree, you are growing up in Him out of your old dead self!