Lord, Only You Can Change Me

“Why? Why did I do it again?  Why do I fail You every time?” It seems that those words have filled my prayers more often than not.  I thought I was strong in one area, only to give in to temptation as soon as it tipped its cap my direction.  Frustration and tears were my constant companions during my time with God in the morning.  The condemning words of John 14:15 rang in my ears:  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  Did I really love God at all?

The doubt that crept into my soul was not conviction, though at the time that is what I considered it to be.  My guilt over sin brought me to repentance, but the fact that I failed in those areas again caused me to wonder if I had really been sorry in the first place.  Yet I knew in my heart that I hated the sin — and that I had truly repented to God.  I would be fine… until the temptation came again and I gave in. 

Guilt leads to repentance, but my failure and consequential remorse never seemed to go away.  I was in a circle of fail-repent-doubt-fail that never seemed to end.  It wasn’t until I read the words of Hannah Whitall Smith, in her book The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, that I understood where I was going wrong in my relationship with God. 

Hannah Smith wrote an entire chapter on ‘Failure’, and as I read it, I was astounded at what I read.  Failure will come, she said, and when it does, repent in earnest and then get up.  “But isn’t that impertinent?” I wondered to myself.  Hannah confronted that thought right away with an illustration:

If you were a mother, and you had a daughter who disobeyed you but came to you repentant of her deed, would you not forgive her?  Then when you had forgiven her earnest repentance, what would you think if sat on the sofa, still crying, because she didn’t believe you had really forgiven her?  Her lack of faith would be the cause of her own pain. 

The only way to conquer, Hannah wrote, is to “get up off your face” and walk in victory.  Christ has promised if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).  In my quest to not be “impertinent” I was slapping the face of the God who forgave me when I asked.  In my hopes to avoid “ungratefulness” I doubted the sacrifice He made on the cross.

The root of my problem, then, was striving to change myself into the image of God. I was doing things on my own, even though it seemed that I was doing them for God.  I missed the entire point of repentance to God:  He will change me, if I believe Him.  That is true surrender.  That is a repentant heart.

The Power of Christ

I absolutely LOVE the movie Jesus.  Every Easter and Christmas we watch it as a family, at Christmas including the newer film The Nativity.  It makes me cry every time… and think, “How could I ever sin against someone who loves me that much?”

Well, we all know emotions won’t guarantee good works, and a few days after the movie temptation will rise again, and good feelings aren’t going to help me fight them.  As Paul said, “…I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:18-19)

I sought the answer to this problem in my Bible and in multiple other books.  I knew that the root of it was in making time for God, and cultivating the relationship I had with Him, but in the moment of temptation, what am I to do?

Then one Sunday at church, I was running our portable library — a bookshelf with wheels that has Christian books to borrow — and was flipping through When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy.  I have read this book many times — highly recommend it — but this Sunday I opened it to a page I had missed in my reading before. Eric was writing about sin in the life of a believer, and how to conquer it, and he summed it up in one sentence:

Yield to the power of Christ in you.

That was it.  It was like all the lights in heaven came on for me.  So basic — but so profound!  Christ lives in the Christian, but when she insists on her own way of doing things — even in confronting temptation — He has no influence over her behavior. 

My pastor said something several months ago that relates to this topic:

“Your life is only as big as your faith; your faith is only as big as your God.  If you spend all your time looking at yourself you will be discouraged, but if you look to God you will be encouraged.”                 ~ Pastor Mark Manzer, 11-18-06

Looking at our failure, wallowing and dwelling in it, is scorning the forgiveness we are given – if in fact, you have confessed and repented.  God wants us to move on after failure, to stand up and walk forward, remembering that next time you will not yield to the power of the flesh, but to the power of Christ in you.  So yield.  Submit… and watch His strength become evident.