Category Archives: Dan’s Blog

How Do You Feel about Yourself?

How do you feel about yourself? Are you happy with who you are? Or do you sense the need for change in your heart? Most of us do. It’s frustrating, though, when change doesn’t come quickly. It causes us to lose hope that it ever will.

 It’s different with God. He has a purpose in allowing painful circumstances. That’s because He needs to deal with the weakness of our flesh. He must go deep within our nature to rebuild our character—a true change of heart. And this is a process He can accomplish by no other means than time and suffering.

God’s purpose for creating us as He has, sheds a lot of light on why He allows sin to be a problem. Understanding our freedom from the power of sin is so important! Why? Because through it, God offers us unfettered relationship with Himself—in spite of ourselves—the true source of transformation.

Can Our Heart Really Change?

Is our heart capable of genuine change? I can see how I truly have changed, initially through my born-again experience, and then more slowly over the many years since. But in many ways, I’m the same person I’ve always been. I see it when I’m confronted by something that challenges the self-will still residing at the deepest levels of my being. Our flesh seems to be incapable of fundamental change—controllable maybe, but not entirely changeable.

         Paul agrees that this is so in his teaching in Romans 7. On the other hand, The Bible implies that we have the power to change our heart by our choices. Can both be true? I think they can. The transformed lives of millions of Christians prove that the heart can indeed change. But unfortunately, there are millions more whose attitudes and behavior shed doubt on it. What’s the difference between the two? Choice. Decisions made in response to our circumstances hold the key.

Self Interest: a Gift of God

Self-interest, ugly as it may be, is actually a gift of God. It helps us make our way in this world. Having a healthy sense of self-worth—feeling significant—motivates us to reach toward God’s purpose for our life. It’s rooted in the fact that we truly are valuable.

God showed me this in an unusual way. Next door to us lived a child with Down Syndrome. He functioned at the level of a three-year-old, though he was much older. But his condition allowed him to speak freely from the heart—totally without pretense. Every time I saw this young man, he asked, “Do you love me?” Now we wouldn’t dare express ourselves like this, but isn’t this need at our very core? “Am I significant to you? Am I deserving of your love?” Self-interest—a gift of God? Yes! Because an inconsequential life is tough to bear, and one that is meaningless is practically a death sentence.

Free Will Rooted in Self-interest

It is said that man is a free moral agent, meaning he possesses unrestricted power in making moral choices—what we call free will. Undeniably, God’s eternal purpose required that man be given the ability to choose, not merely between right and wrong, but more importantly in regard to the lordship of God over his life. Yet what appears on the surface to be the ability to choose freely is something more than merely free will.

Man’s rejection of God does not in any way mean that he possesses freedom of choice in regard to everything else. Rather, in refusing to accept God’s purpose for his life, he inevitably opens himself up to control by another force—Satan. The tool the devil uses to subjugate man is his will, which is inherently rooted in self-interest. So instead, we should think of this self-serving attribute of man’s nature—what we commonly call free will—as self-will.

Does the World Revolve Around You?

Why are cars called autos? It’s because they’re selfpowered. In the Greek, the word autos means self. God has designed us with the capacity to make our own choices—we’re self-propelled, so to speak. Self is simply me, a personal being given the glorious gift of existence and awareness. But this gift of life has the effect of placing me at the center of my own personal universe. Sure, we deny that the world revolves around us. Yet given the true nature of self, it’s hard to believe otherwise!

The Bible uses the term heart to convey the idea of self. Think of the heart as the engine that runs our being. Both our mind-set and our behavior are dictated by what is in the heart. Jesus said, “The good man brings forth what is good out of his heart; but the evil man brings forth evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

Building Character is God’s Job

Trying to control our flesh through an external system of do’s and don’ts will not change our behavior. True change is only possible when a vibrant connection to the Spirit of God brings about a deep rebuilding of our character. Only through God’s indwelling presence can our conscience ever become healthy. Our conscience has tremendous influence on the will, which in turn guides the thoughts and feelings of our mind. It directs our actions from within—standing firm no matter what we find facing us.

A lifestyle of communing with God is the key to transformation. Vibrancy in any relationship comes as the result of intimacy—it has to be real; it must be alive! What’s really awesome is that when we get close to God, we can expect to grow into all He has planned for us. And yet we so often stubbornly refuse it. Why is that? It’s because we’re all wrapped up in ourselves.

Ignore the Symptoms; Attack the Disease!

While trying to change our behavior by disciplining the body has some value, it ultimately never produces the desired result. This is because it merely treats the symptoms—not the disease itself. And not only that, it leads to heaping on a load of guilt when it fails to work. By its very nature, this strategy is doomed to failure because it simply bucks God’s design. His life flows not from the works of the flesh, but from the Spirit of God surging through our spirit.

The same goes for depending on our intellect. But doesn’t gaining more knowledge about God mean that our heart will change in the process? To some degree it does. Sure it’s important, but that’s not what we need most! God’s strategy is centered on our opportunity to commune with Him. Genuine change in our heart results from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit bringing our spirit alive to Him.

Spiritual Life Means the Sharing of God’s Life

We can’t fully appreciate what it means to be alive in our spirit until we understand what it means to be spiritually dead. Being dead means that our connection to God is broken in such a way that communication with Him on a Spirit to spirit basis isn’t possible. Since the very definition of spiritual life is the sharing of God’s life, His presence within is our only lifeline.

Christ’s death on the cross paved the way for every person on earth to experience His indwelling presence. But though He offers it as a free gift, it doesn’t just happen automatically. We receive His gift only by our willingness to turn from our own selfish desires—our sin—and then put Him in charge by making him the Lord of our life. If you haven’t already taken this step, do it now! God will keep His word. You’ll be born again and enter a life you never dreamed possible.

Our Spirit: The Dwelling Place of God

Man’s spiritual nature is God’s supreme gift since only through our spirit are we able to commune with Him. Indeed, the opportunity for His indwelling presence is the reason our spirit exists. God actually takes up residence in our spirit as we allow Him to do so. Because He has given us the capacity of free will, God lives within us only as an invited guest.

Our spirit has been fashioned in such a way as to provide the Holy Spirit a dwelling place within. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that within each person there is a God-shaped vacuum which only He can fill. That place is our spirit. Without the inhabiting presence of God, our spirit is simply dead—and therefore purposeless. With Him fully active inside, the foundation is laid for fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.

Our Flesh: Body, Mind and Soul

The Bible often uses the term flesh to illustrate what Jesus strongly warned against: “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Here the term flesh is used to describe that part of our nature which stands in contrast to our spirit. It is the carnal nature of man, the root of our sinful passions.

Our flesh encompasses body, mind and soul—that part of us which is able to function without ever submitting to God. Know anybody like that? It’s very important to understand that the flesh follows us into our new life in God. It continues to have a life of its own, even as our spirit is reborn and made alive. Regardless of the fact that we’re now focused on the desire of the Spirit, we find ourselves constantly embroiled in a battle with the desires of our flesh, as Paul so emphatically states in Galatians 5:17. Thank God there’s help!