Faulty Change Plan # 6
James MacDonald, Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. - Romans 7:21-23
The last of the faulty strategies for change that influences believers is what we call the intellectual change plan. Paul talks about this in Romans 7:21 (above). He basically admits, “In my mind, I want to do right, but I don’t do it. I can think about the changes that are necessary, but I can’t think my way to them.” That’s Paul's review of the failure of intellectual change. Many people feel this way. “Why did I do that?” “Why did I say that?” “Why am I like that?” And then they always say this, “I know better, but I still do it. I know it’s going to hurt. I know I’m going to get upset. I know I’m going to be frustrated, but I still do it even though I know better.”
That’s why we focus upon accountability in our Small Groups, because we want to keep the emphasis on change under God’s plan, not ours. Small Groups are not legalistic huddles or monastic experiments in the modern world—nor are they intellectual work-outs so we can display our “spiritual abs.” We participate in attentive Bible study, knowing that we do need to learn the Word. And we need to grow in our understanding. But information is not the ultimate answer. No one’s going to explain something to you and then it’s going to turn the key. Information doesn’t unlock change. It’s not the truth as an idea that sets you free; it’s Truth as the person of Jesus Christ, living in you, that sets you free!
Paul said, I have this law in my mind, but there’s a problem: knowing is not enough. And he agonizes over the problem in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” If we follow along Paul’s argument, we’re right with him at this point. The means for change have been weighed and found wanting. We realize that even at our most insightful and sincere, our efforts to change will fall short. We will cry with Paul, “Who will deliver us from this deadly mess?”
God made sure Paul didn’t leave us hanging with the question. There is a way out. There is The Way out; Jesus Christ! We can feel Paul’s relief and hope as he declares, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a). The way of real change always takes us through Jesus Christ.
How have I discovered the limitations that come when I try to think my way into spiritual maturity and change?
Is loving God with my mind (Mark 12:30) something I can do un-aided, or must I rely on the Holy Spirit even for this basic step of obedience? Why?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have given me an amazing mind and allowed me to use it as part of my wholehearted response to You in love. Forgive me when I forget that my mind is limited by power, distractions, and sin to the point that any meaningful change, even in the way I think, must come from You. Thank You for showing Yourself ready and willing to heal and guide the way I think! In Jesus’ name, Amen.