The Key to Real, Lasting Change

Thursday, October 17, 2013

one way sign
What was the key to Peter's radical transformation? What caused him to become a completely different man overnight? I believe it had to do with Jesus' last words to him. According to John 21:19, Jesus tells Peter, "Follow me!" This wasn't the first time Jesus said this to Peter, but this time was different. Did you notice the exclamation point? John did not include that for literary effect. He was trying to capture the power of those last words spoken to Peter. We read in Matthew 4:19 that Jesus invited Peter to "come, follow me." No exclamation point there. That was an invitation. This time Jesus said, "Follow me!" This was an admonition that changed Peter forever.

Go back to that conversation in John 21:18. Jesus speaks prophetically about Peter's death, but he wasn't just prophesying about his future physical death. He was also speaking of the imminent death of his will. Jesus understood that the only way Peter would be able to follow him to the death would be if he were willing to die to himself right then and there. I believe that is exactly what happened. In a single moment of holy decision, Peter knew what he had to do. Because Jesus died for him, he knew he must follow in his footsteps and also die. From that moment on Peter stopped living for himself and began living solely for Jesus. The rest is history.

I recently lead a small group bible study on living the spiritually empowered life and there was much discussion about why it is so difficult for us to change. If we were all honest with one another and ourselves, we would have to admit that one of the hardest things we have to do in life is change. We try, we toil, and we become more and more determined, yet we often find ourselves stuck in the same spot, even sometimes a few steps backward from where we started. Frustrating, isn't it? So why is it so hard to make real, lasting change? Why do we continually fail in our attempts to correct the problem areas in our lives? There are a few reasons, but I believe there are two basic reasons why we fail at change.

The first is because we try to change ourselves and that doesn't work. The real problem is that we are trying to do what only the Holy Spirit has the power to do in us. We cannot really change our character on our own. That is why God sent his Son to the world. So, the first step to authentic change is to stop trying to do it on our own and let God take over and change us. When he changes us, it is lasting and authentic.

The second reason why change is so hard is very simple, yet profound. We don't change because we don't die. That's right, die! That 3-letter word sends people running for the door screaming, "Not that! I'll do anything, just don't ask me to die!" You see, without dying to self, any change you make is only outward and you cannot change your character simply by changing your behavior. However, if you die to yourself so that God can have control of your heart, then and only then, can he change you from the inside out. Once you are transformed on the inside, your behavior will naturally change as a result. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was referring to in Galatians 2:20 when he said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Refusing to die will forever sabotage your attempt to see authentic change in your life.

Stop trying to change yourself and begin to ask God to take over. You will be amazed at the results. Then lay your life down for him. I mean really die to yourself. Once you die, he will make you new again and you will be changed from the inside out. Remember, only he can do that. This is exactly what Peter did and it was the key to his personal transformation.

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