BCC Staff: This is the first of a two-part blog on elements of change in the Christian life. In this first installment Jeff Forrey introduces you to “Brock,” a middle-aged man who has been a Christian for about three years. Unwise choices in his life have created problems for him and have brought him to the point of recognizing change is needed. What does that look like for him as a follower of Christ? It certainly will be different from when he made changes in the past!
You might not know “Brock,” but his struggles with extravagant spending and gambling can illustrate three essential elements for change in a Christian’s life.
What Brock Needs to Change in His Life
Brock has been a Christian for about three years. Currently, he is a manager at a plastics manufacturing company, and he receives a good salary. Nevertheless, he is struggling with making credit card payments because of luxury items he’s purchased over the past year: a large flat-screen TV, a motorcycle (he already has a car), and a sapphire necklace for his new fiancée, Cheri. The city where Brock lives has a riverboat casino. He started going to the casino a couple times a week to win extra money to pay off his credit card bills.
When Cheri found out that he was frequenting the casino, she became concerned and confronted him. Brock agreed that he would profit from getting help before his financial situation worsened.
How would you help him make God-honoring change in his life? Even though he is willing to entertain the possibility of change, this is no guarantee that the change will actually occur. Thus, you could point him toward three essential elements in the process of making godly changes in his life.
Element #1: Motivating Godly Lifestyle Changes
In order for Brock to be successful in making lifestyle changes, he will need sufficient motivation, which will be heavily influenced by his self-concept and by his perceived purpose for life (whether it’s to be happy, to be successful, to honor the Lord, etc.). Since Brock professes to be a Christian, you should remind him that his relationship with God gives him a special identity and a particular purpose for living.
A Special Identity
Brock fills a variety of roles that contribute to his self-concept (his identity): he is a son, manager, fiancé, etc. You could ask him, “Have you thought much about what it means to be a Christian manager? A Christian fiancé?” Such questions can reveal how conscientious he is about his status as a son of God who should “live a life worthy of the calling [he has] received” (Eph. 4:1).
Any lifestyle change Brock pursues must be consistent with his identity as a son of God (Rom. 6:1–11; 2 Cor. 5:14–15). Whenever Brock pursues God-honoring change, assure him that he can rely on the Lord’s wisdom and strength to make the change (James 1:5; Phil. 1:6, 4:13). That is not to say it will be easy, but it is achievable. If Brock waffles on this key point, you could follow up in a number of ways. For example:
- “Brock, have you experienced any changes in your life since you’ve become a Christian?”
- “Brock, you seem hesitant to embrace the promise of God’s strength and wisdom available to you. What contributes to being a little skeptical about this?”
Brock might need the reminder that the New Testament is filled with letters written to churches and individuals who faced this challenge of living up to their new identity as Christians (1 Corinthians and 1 Peter illustrate this point particularly well). He can be confident that the Scriptures can equip him to face this challenge successfully. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit can empower the type of change Brock should seek as a child of God (Galatians 3–6 stresses the crucial role of the Spirit for Christian living).
A Particular Purpose in Life
Unlike his non-Christian acquaintances, Brock also has a radically different purpose for his life. It is presented in different ways in the Bible; you could point him to:
- “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
- “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” ( 6:33).
- “Whatever you do … do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” ( 3:17).
You will probably need to explain what some of these phrases mean, so he understands clearly that he doesn’t have the option of living for himself. Instead, he has the privilege of living according to his Creator’s design for him!
Element #2: Specifying What Needs to Change from the Inside Out
Lifestyle change for Christians is succinctly laid out in Ephesians 4:22–24: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Thus, another element of the change process is helping Brock specify what behaviors, attitudes, thought patterns, etc., need to stop (the “former way of life/old self” to be “put off”) and what biblical alternatives can replace them (the “new self” to be “put on”).
Questions for Reflection
What would you suggest to Brock that he needs to “put off” and “put on”? Why?
I will pick up this question in the next blog.
Note: This article originally appeared on http://www.careleader.org/setting-goals-growth-change/ (December 22, 2016).