I have been in a few different programs from AA to Anger Management and pre-release for my parole. While these programs are designed to help people, they only do so if the person goes into the program on their own. Usually if it is forced, the change only lasts for a moment before the person returns to their old self. The person must want it deep in their heart for the change to really take root and be life changing.
There is one thing that did stick with me from those programs and they all talked about it at some point and to different extents. To have lasting change we must change the people, places and things in our lives. That was my biggest hang up with all three. I liked my people, places and things and would eventually return to them over time. I would return because my heart wasn’t in the change. I was only partially committed.
When Jesus told His disciples “Follow Me”, He was looking for them to change. He was expecting them to change every aspect of their lives. Out of the 12, Matthew is probably the one I can relate to the most. He was a tax collector so that means he was a liar and a manipulator when Jesus found him and called him. He had to walk away from that lifestyle and change everything. How easy do you think it was for him?
Or what about Paul when he changed from Saul? Unlike Matthew, Saul thought that he was doing God’s work. Saul thought he was right and so did the men that followed him. When he had his Damascus Road experience, he had to choose to leave his old life behind. He had to make the choice to change his people, places and things. How easy do you think that choice was? To put it into perspective, his buddies lead him the rest of the way to Damascus. Don’t you think they were there waiting on him after he was healed? Paul probably had to walk past his old friends, his “old self”, and stick to the changes he made. Not an easy task.
I am sure at some point after Matthew’s conversion he had thoughts of returning to his old life. Maybe money got tight and he thought to himself “just one more hustle”. Or maybe he missed his old friends and the connection they had. Then there is Paul. When he was Saul he had authority and power, now he’s Paul and had to deal with people throwing his past in his face. I’m sure thoughts like “do these people know who they’re talking to like that?” or maybe “I’ll just give them a glimpse of who I used to be to get them off my back”. It was a battle to not return to the way they were.
In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus talks about this very thing. “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So, shall it also be with this wicked generation.”
We are all sinners, we were born into it. Sure, some are worse than others in the world’s eyes but to God, we all fall short. When we accept Christ as our Savior we are like the man Jesus is talking about. The demon (demons for some) is cast out; removed. Jesus then helps us get our life, our “house” in order. Eventually the sin will try and come back through temptation. If we are not prepared he will get back in and with that bring seven of his buddies. We will be worse off than we were before. Trust me I know. I played the game and every time it only got worse.
Our life must change. Jesus didn’t come here for Him to do life with us. He came for us to do life with Him. He came to turn our lives upside down. We must be willing to change to fit His will; not try and change His will to fit us.