In part one of this post, I looked at the idea of pursuing your relationship with Christ in terms of recovery from a sin addiction. I talked about how, like a drug addict, we cannot just swear off sin forever. Instead we should look at taking it one day at a time, and each day or every hour (which ever is necessary) to make a conscious decision to follow after Christ. I also mentioned how MRI studies on alcoholics’ brains revealed that their brains are different from a those of non-addicts, but that through a successful recovery program, an alcoholic’s brain will change back to resemble a non-addicted brain.
This tidbit of trivia got me thinking about Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I was thinking while my brain may not look like one that’s addicted to alcohol or drugs, it definitely looks like the brain of a person with a sin addiction. And if addiction recovery can literally renew an addict’s brain, then maybe this bible verse is talking about literally renewing my mind through spiritual recovery.
To turn away from my sin addiction, I need to choose to pursue a relationship with Christ. It is only in loving Him more than I love my sin that I will be able to stop sinning. To truly love someone you have to get to know them, and the more intimately you know them, the more deeply you can love them. So how do you get to know someone, to form a deep relationship with them? You have to spend time with them. Let me give you an example.
My grandfather was the greatest man I’ve ever known. When I was younger (and he wasn’t so old) I loved doing things with him. We would play tennis, fix a wooden deck, take trash to the dump. It didn’t really matter what we were doing; plunging a toilet was cool, because I was doing it with my grandfather. As I got older (and he got older) he couldn’t be as active, and so we played a lot of cards and talked a lot. Being active or just sitting and talking, he very rarely told me what to do or how I should be. Instead, as I spent time with him and saw how he acted and reacted in different situations, I learned how I should act if I wanted to be like him. During the time I spent with him he modeled some valuable lessons about life. He taught me to work hard but not to rush, he taught me that something worth doing is worth doing right, and he taught me to not worry about things. He taught me that you have to keep yourself strong so you can help others, and it’s really important to help others. My standard for what it means to be a good person is based on how I saw him act.
My grandfather shaped my life more than any other person, just by being himself around me. I think this is a perfect picture of what renewing your mind with Christ is like. All it takes is being intentional about spending time with Him. Certainly, hanging out with Jesus won’t involve as many card games as hanging out with my grandfather, but it’s still doable. Reading about Jesus in the Gospels gives me firsthand accounts of how He acted and reacted in many different situations. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus lists ways to hang out with Him. I just have to choose one off the list and spend time with my God.
But I think it is important to remember that no relationship is one-sided. Out of His boundless love, God loves me and wants to have this relationship with me too. So it’s not just me trying to learn how to be like Jesus instead of sinning. My efforts alone will fail every time. Didn’t Paul the Apostle say on this issue, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19)? I think that the only way I can “do good”, for me to reach out to God, is by God’s empowerment.
Peter, Jesus’ disciple, had this to say on empowerment: “[Jesus’] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). He’s saying that it’s through my knowledge of Christ that I am given the strength to be righteous. By spending a few minutes each day getting to know Jesus, I am getting power to pursue godliness, but I am also renewing my mind (Romans 12:2).
I remember so many times when I would ask a person of spiritual maturity how to be a good Christian, and they would answer, “You need to read your Bible and pray every day.” I always hated that answer because it sounded too simple and it sounded like drudgery. Every once in a while I would decide to give this method a shot, and force myself to read my Bible and pray everyday, like it was homework. This approach sure didn’t make me a better Christian, and that made me die a little inside. What if it works for everybody but me? What if I just can’t be a good Christian? It turns out, the problem wasn’t in what I was doing (it’s working for me now), but how I was doing it.
Imagine you’re a grandparent and every morning your grandson comes over and says, “Tell me something about you, and make it fast, I only have twenty minutes to spend on you.” Maybe you’re a better person than I am, but I can definitely conceive this situation leading not to a deep and loving relationship with my grandson, but instead to ruing the day I had the child that whelped this brat. It seems ridiculous that I would treat God the way this hypothetical kid treats his grandparent, and yet that’s exactly what I was doing. I might dedicate 20 minutes to reading a bible verse in the morning and give God a quick shout out before I headed off to my busy day, and not think of Him again. But it wasn’t the twenty minutes or the quick prayer that was disrespectful, it was my attitude. You can get to know somebody really well in twenty minutes a day, but you can’t treat it like a homework assignment, you have to want the relationship. That hypothetical kid needs to come to his grandfather saying, “Hey Pops, I only have a little time before I have to go to school, but I wanted to spend it with you,” the same way I wanted to spend time with my grandfather.
When I come to God in the morning with only a handful of moments to spare, I need to remember that I’m not reading a few lines in my Bible to check an item off my daily to-do list. I need to remember that I am asking the Creator of all things for a few moments of His time so that I can get to know Him, and so that I can figure out what He thinks is acceptable and what’s not. I need to come, not as a busy guy who has made some time for God, but as a loving grandson who wants to cherish and learn from his grandfather.
God loves each of us dearly. He demonstrated His love for us by dying in our place on the cross in payment for sins we’ve committed. He wants this relationship with us. He wants us to give up our sin addiction and to live free from guilt in community with Him. He knows you can do it with His help, and He wants to show you how to do it, one day at a time.
Author: Joel Linscott