When I was 4 or 5, I was awarded a shopping spree at Kmart after winning one of those kid’s-coloring contests. I only remember getting a wheelbarrow and what I thought was an awesome green chainsaw. I had big plans for the backyard.
Later on, as I stood at the edge of the yard with my big bad chainsaw, swiping it back and forth across the weeds, making sound my own sound effects, the bubble was suddenly burst as I realized the weeds were unaffected, no matter what my imagination told me. My big, disappointing chainsaw couldn’t even cut grass! I can still remember the moment when it occurred to me that it wasn’t really any fun to fake it. What a waste of time!
For many years of my life I practiced a very strict form of what I thought was Christianity. I obeyed all the ‘rules’, at least as best I could, following all sorts of outward dos and don’ts. I guess you could say I considered myself to be religious.
But you know what? No matter how hard I tried to put up a good front on the outside, I couldn’t tame the appetite for sin that burned in my heart and my mind. I was filled with anger, pride, lust, covetousness.
One day it occurred to me that it was pointless to fake it, since God wasn’t fooled anyway. Surely, there had to be a spiritual reality and depth of change that I hadn’t yet experienced.
The people who Jesus rebuked the most vehemently were the religious Pharisees who appeared clean on the outside, but inside were full of cursing and bitterness. It’s not only fruitless to pretend to be righteous, it’s actually an offense to God.
Paul explained it to the Colossians this way, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:21-23 NIV)
In fact, when you read Philippians, Paul lists all of his outward qualifications of why he of all people should have reason to brag about his own righteousness, and then says he counts them all like dung! It’s useless! (Phil 3) You can do and say all the right things, but if that’s all you have is your own hard work and outward show of righteousness, it’s literally like a big pile of crap.
So what are we to do? How do we experience a genuine change of heart?
It’s easier than you might think. The answer is so simple, Jesus said a child could get it.
True transformation doesn’t come through hard work, ambition, or determination, but through surrender.
You don’t have to work so hard to find favor with God. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
When we come humbly to him, God says he will do this, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez 36:26)
Changing the heart is the work of God, friend. You can try all you want to do it on your own, and end up in frustration and disappointment. Or, you can quit faking it, cast yourself on the mercy of God, and take all the faith you once had in those works and place your faith in Christ.
You won’t be disappointed in Him!