“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
~ John 15:5 (ESV)
Most of us believe that we if we try hard enough, we can change.
Just start a new habit, be really intentional, set a schedule–try, try, try.–and if we do it hard enough, we’ll change ourselves. Most New Year’s resolutions, while good-intentioned, are made out of the fervor of self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
It’s estimated that as much as 80% of resolutions fail, and I would argue it’s because of our faulty view of change.
We don’t have the power to change ourselves. Sure, we can affect external change of a limited degree, but we can’t change our hearts–the deepest part of us. We might try, but at some point we fail. It doesn’t work. We don’t see the change we wanted, and we wonder what we’ve been doing wrong.
- The alcoholic wonders why he can’t break his addiction, though he’s tried many times.
- The exhausted mother or father can’t seem to stop snapping at their kids, though they try as hard as they can.
- Even the pastor or missionary–those we might consider “super Christians”–can’t change themselves, as hard as they might try.
Real transformation happens in the context of relationship, by the power of Another. In John 15, Jesus makes this quite plain. We can’t produce fruit on our own, it is by abiding in Christ, staying connected to Him in relationship, that fruit is produced in our lives–and fruit is from the Spirit, not our own efforts.
I read something recently that altered my perspective on this. If I’m really honest, I’m in the same boat. I often deceive myself into thinking that I can change myself. Or, some days, I may trust that God does have the power to change me, but that He simply “zaps” me from a distance, and poof, I’m changed.
A phrase jumped out at me, and this is the paraphrase: “We are transformed by the Spirit sharing His desires with us”. That’s it. When we are saved, God grafts us branches into the Vine that is His Son, and we are filled with His very Spirit. As the Spirit lives in us, He shares His thoughts, desires, emotions, and will with us, until it becomes a part of us. He does it in us by sharing Himself with us.
This is really good news. If the Spirit of God lives in you, you don’t have to live defeated. You don’t have to look at the areas of your life that need to change and throw in the towel. You don’t have to sink into despair because you can’t stop getting angry at those you love, or you can’t stop being anxious and doubting God’s power, or you can’t seem to give up that sin you keep going back to.
The Spirit in you will share His desires with you.
- Don’t seem to love God much anymore? The Spirit will His love for the Father with you.
- Don’t desire to pray much? The Spirit will share His desire with you.
- Do you find yourself wanting to do your own thing, instead of obeying God? The Spirit will share his passion for the Father’s will with you.
Be encouraged! Take time to read the Bible, but don’t just skim, really read it and reflect on it. As you do, the Spirit will go to work in you, through the faith He births and grows in you. Don’t try to change yourself anymore–lean on the Lord Jesus to bring the transformation you desperately crave.