How many times have you been at church and you feel convicted about a part of your life and want to make a change? I know I am not the only one who has been sitting in my row at church or at a retreat of some sort when I decide I am going to live differently. How often have we made this decision with good intentions, only to fail within a few days, if not a few hours? Often what happens is we decide we want to live our lives more reflective of Christ and we come up with THINGS to do to live better. This is exactly where we fail. Our human nature says we can just make a few changes on our own and do better.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast.Eph 2:8-9, NRSV
We are saved by grace alone through faith and not by anything we can or will do because we will never be able to live a perfect life. We are incapable of saving ourselves, that is why we need Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Just as we are unable to save ourselves from our sins, we are also unable to “fix”
The way to change our behaviors is by changing our heart.
The only one who is able to redeem our sinfulness and restore us is Christ. As we continue to put to death ourselves and let the Holy Spirit live inside of us, we are be transformed into the image of Christ – this is the process of sanctification. This is not to say that we will immediately be free from sin when we accept Christ as our Lord, but we will be free from its bondage and the Spirit will begin to work inside of us.
Rather than making a decision you want to change and deciding you are going to stop doing X, Y, and Z on your list, you decide to make a change in your heart. Often times what we acknowledge as problems are actually only surface level issues rooted in something far deeper. As Jesus tells us:
You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 1In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.Matt 7:16-8
Our actions stem from the state of our heart. Those whose identity is hidden in Christ are not perfect, but their actions reflect a life of godliness. This is what James is speaking to when he says that our works justify the faith we have, or that our life speaks for our beliefs (Jas 2:14-26). So rather than just picking surface level issues to attempt to fix, attack the issue from its root and experience true change.
We will never be able to make a change to save ourselves, only Jesus can do that.
I think there is one more thing with this quote of Jesus about fig trees to look at. I am not a gardener or a farmer by any means. However, I have heard that fig trees are some of the hardest to get rid of. You can cut a fig tree to the ground and it will grow back I have been told. To get rid of a fig tree, you must dig it up from its roots to get rid of it and plant a new thing.
Root yourself in Jesus. Abide in Jesus. Establish yourself in Jesus.
This fig tree fact speaks both to the positive and negative. If the roots we have planted are bad, cutting it to the ground is only going to patch the issue which will eventually resurface. Cutting down this sinful nature in our lives is not going to bring true change, just a nice physical appearance where the sin cannot be seen.
On the other spectrum, if we are rooted in Christ, then when trials come to cut us down they cannot kill our foundation and we will not be killed. This is why Paul, Peter, and James all say that trials are blessings for Christians because our faith grows in these hardships. It is like pruning a tree for healthy growth.
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.Ps 1:1-3
Root yourself in Christ and let him address the issue of your heart and witness true change follow. Do not let the enemy fool you into thinking you can fix it and do it on your own. Satan loves for us to think we can save ourselves. Do not try to patch surface issues, but let Jesus restore you and change your heart.