Recently, a women's Bible study group was formed at my church. It was something I'd been thinking and praying about for a long time, wondering if it was a wise idea to get involved in another 'activity', whether it should be in the morning for young mums, or would any of the women be interested in coming at all? In the end, I placed it in the 'too hard' basket as far as doing anything myself, but I kept praying about it whenever it entered my mind. Then a month or so ago, a friend at church approached me, and told me she wanted to start a women's group, to meet once every three weeks on a Tuesday night, and would I be interested in coming along? Wow! God is good. We've met a couple of times so far, and I've found it encouraging as well as convicting. Each time we listen to an online sermon, then journal and pray about it by ourselves, and then chat together about it. It has been great meeting with people who are honest and transparent, rather than feeling Bible study is like an academic exercise.
The first week focused on Romans 12, particularly on the first few verses where it speaks about Christians being living sacrifices, and being transformed by the renewing of our minds. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. We are responsible for putting sin to death in our lives, but none of this is possible without God at work in us by His Spirit. That's what I was getting at in Friday Focus: Take 5. Take 5 will not work unless I have a new heart and new mind from which my thoughts and opinions flow. I can stifle corrupting talk all I want, but it doesn't stop the ugliness flowing from my heart.
I think Christians who focus on morals get it very, VERY wrong. Our new lives come from the hope and forgiveness we have in Christ, so we should be focusing on telling unbelievers the gospel, rather than insisting they stop drinking, stop sleeping around etc first. Insisting our unbelieving friends and family cease certain behaviours will not make them Christian. I was talking to someone recently about whether we should rebuke non-Christians for swearing. This person thinks it is a good idea and puts it into practice with their workmates. I am of the opposite view. I do not insist on godless people living a godly lifestyle. It may make them Pharisees, but it will not make them followers of Christ. Jesus spoke about this to the Pharisees in Matthew 15: 18-20, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' " It is the gospel which changes people from the inside out, and that is the hope we are to share with others.
Knowing that God is at work in me, renewing my mind brings me great comfort, but if I'm honest with myself, sometimes I don't really want to change. Sometimes I like my cold, bitter heart, and I don't want to love others; I want them to suffer, like they've done to me. This is being brutally honest. At our last women's Bible study, I felt God convicting me of self-righteousness and having a critical spirit, that although others' sin is real and hurtful, it doesn't excuse my own. I've felt him tapping away at me for a while now like an annoying cricket, and I keep wanting to say, "Go away, God. I'm not going to change. It's THEM who should change." Part of my fear of letting God renew my mind and give me a new heart is that I'll become a pushover. As I commented on my post, Featherbrained, I already feel that people take advantage of me, and they still don't get how their behaviour is thoughtless and hurtful; they keep thinking I'll say, "That's ok. No worries," all the time. I keep saying to God, "If you change me to make me a kinder, more loving person, then they'll keep hurting me." I know I need to trust God with this.
This is a prayer which I wrote during a reflection time:
Lord, I don't want to be self-righteous and bitter, but I know I am. More and more people keep hurting me and failing my basic expectations. I don't know what to do. I don't know whether to confront or be silent. They don't get it, Lord. I'm worried I'm going to be consumed by anger. I feel like I'm better than them, Lord, because I don't do what they do. But I know you're convicting me of this lie. Help me love them and forgive them. Is it wrong for me to pray that they'll change? I don't know anymore. I fear it's going to keep happening. Change them, Lord, but change me too. I don't want to be used by people, Lord. Mould me and make me like your Son. I'm asking this even though I'm scared about what it could involve.
Now one of my regular prayers is for God to renew my mind, to take the self-righteousness and bitterness away before it consumes me, so that I may see people as God sees them. It sure ain't easy, and I would really appreciate your prayers for God to change me from the inside out.
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