I brought my church-ified, deceitful, stone-dead heart into my marriage, all the while convincing myself that I “turned out OK,” that I was good enough.
I was a hypocrite: acting one way so that others would think well of me; and hiding my true self from them.
Who You Were
Paul—the apostle of Jesus who wrote most of the letters (or, epistles) to churches that make up the New Testament—wrote at length on the grace of God, especially toward himself. After all, he was a pretty smart guy: privileged as he was to have been a Roman citizen which afforded him a lot of access to learning. He had been a star pupil of Gamaliel, the premier Jewish scholar and teacher of the day.
|Can a Marriage Change at Its Core? (a 5-part series by AmyJoeJimBob)|
Following the crucifixion of Jesus, Paul (known then as Saul) had been the ringleader of the push to root out and destroy the “blasphemers” who dared believe and teach that Jesus had been the Son of God. When the first follower of Jesus to be killed for his faith was being stoned, Saul stood near holding the cloaks of those who threw the stones. He was adamantly dyed-in-the-wool, anti-Jesus; believing Him to have been an impostor, a false prophet, a dangerous liar who had and was leading people away from the true faith, and a blasphemer who claimed equality with God.
As it turned out, in his zeal to defend God, he was persecuting the One God had sent to save His people from themselves and His own wrath.
Jesus put a stop to that.
He changed Saul to Paul. He turned His chief opponent into His foremost evangelist.
But that wasn’t the first time He changed someone’s nature.
There was another… my namesake, actually… Jacob. The name he was born with means “deceiver.” The name God later gave him, Israel, means “contends with God and prevails.”
And it wasn’t the last.
Saul, renamed Paul by Jesus, wrote to the church at Corinth:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.
Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, … nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you.
But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
—1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis [and subtraction], mine)
When Jesus changes you, you are changed indeed. From the inside out.
We are not defined by what we have been.
I am not defined by what I’ve done nor by what I do.
I am defined by Whose I am.
Have you ever wanted to change? You look in the mirror and realize that you’re not the person you want to be. You know the good that you ought to do, but you don’t do it. You know the evil that you ought not to do, but you do it anyway.
Paul talked about that, too…
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want to do,
but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
—Romans 7:18-19 (NIV)
So, how do we change? …at our very core?
Paul asked, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (v. 24) In the next verse, he answers his own question: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25a)
We know what we ought to do. We want to do it. Then we find that we can’t.
But God …
How do we get from Point A (I’m not who I want to be) to Point B (Jesus has changed me)?
There comes a turning point where we say, “enough is enough!” It’s not always obvious to us, but that’s God working in us. That’s the Holy Spirit convicting us that we’re on the wrong path. It may seem like our conscience speaking; it may be a growing sense of uneasiness; it may be a string of strained or failed relationships; the loss of a job, wealth, reputation, or health; it may be a kind word from a friend or stranger…
Something changes in our desires.
And that’s when we turn.
…from the death that we’ve been embracing and rushing toward.
…from the sin that has been consuming us.
…from the person we have been.
And we turn…
…toward life, abundant life.
…toward living within the loving boundaries that keep fire where it belongs.
…toward the Person Who has come to wash, sanctify, and justify us (1 Corinthians 6:11).
So that who you are… turns into who you were.
The Bible has a word for that turning… the word is repent.
Repenting doesn’t mean being sorry for your sin (though you may be). It doesn’t mean making a public profession of your faith or confession of your sin (though you might want to at some point). It doesn’t mean God won’t accept you until you eschew all vestiges of your sinfulness and become perfect.
No… THAT is God’s job.
You can’t make yourself good enough to be accepted by God.
But God …
You Better Believe It!
So, how do we get God to change us?
Like everything else we’ve talked about, God is the One Who does all the work.
Lord, You will establish peace for us,
For You have also done all our works in us.
If you have a desire to change, He put it there. Remember, when we talked about the ‘S’ word. Sin—when we give into it—leads only to death. It takes over and we aren’t able to save ourselves from it, even a little.
Desire embraced, becomes a consuming fire of sin that engulfs and destroys its host.
There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”:
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!”
The fire never says, “Enough!” It burns until it’s out of fuel, or oxygen, or both.
Extinguishing a fire requires outside intervention. Repentance from sin requires outside intervention.
If you want to change, God has already begun His work in you.
Like Paul, I am “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 1:6).
Believe with me that He is already changing you and embrace that change.
Believe that: (a) God wants to give His best to you, (b) He sent Jesus to reconcile you to Himself, (c) Jesus is willing and able to change you from who you were, and (d) He will complete the work He has begun.
Repent and believe. We would never do them on our own.
But God …
But God …
It was thirteen years ago this month, that God finally reached through my hypocrisy and prompted me to get help and accountability.
I was at men’s retreat with my church and He impressed on me that now as the time to decide if I was going to continue living for myself, in selfishness, in self-preservation, in self-idolatry and forfeit Him.
Or cling to Him, fully put my trust in Him, and confess—say the same thing as God—about my destructive, counterfeit life; and risk losing everything else.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
It’s been a hard road.
But God has never forsaken me. (Hebrews 13:5)
There were several times that we couldn’t see beyond our own pain at how this marriage was going to work.
But God never gave up on me… on us. (Romans 8:31)
I felt like giving up.
But God always gave me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
I often found myself back in my old way of doing things, acting like the man I was rather than man I am in Christ.
But God loved on me and brought me back to Himself. (Romans 8:1)
And God has made our marriage stronger, more loving, and more wonderful that I could have ever imagined. (Romans 8:28)
I was steering us for a train wreck… But God had other plans.
He changed me at my core.
Can a marriage change at its core? Can a person change at the core of who he or she is?
Can we save ourselves from sin? How do we repent?
What has God begun in you? Do you believe He is faithful to complete it?
How can we be praying for you?