Every once in awhile I speak of my journey from A to B and an atheist will chastise me for not giving myself credit for the “work that you’ve done.”
They don’t get it.
They can’t get it.
They just don’t understand.
A follower of Jesus does not change h/herself, but is instead changed from within. It has nothing to do with effort. It has everything to do with being indwelt by a Being that squeezes out the filth. Following Jesus involves choosing a path of change, but the path itself does not bring about the change. The path simply places a person in a location whereby change is allowed to happen.
Instead of grabbing, we receive.
Instead of striving, we welcome.
Like standing in the rays of sun coming through holes in a roof, the only discipline we need is one of remembering to move with the sun as it moves across the sky.
Atheists and other people of the world are not incapable of bringing about character change in themselves. As I’ve said many times, these people can become good, as the world understands good. They do so, however by changing the rules by which they think and do. One set of rules is replaced by another set of rules. The lifestyle itself becomes what is worshipped. Willpower becomes the god.
Say This but not That
“Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” Colossians 2:21-23.
As with anyone who has “overcome” a bad habit by brute force, the will soon becomes our master. As long as we think that we can save ourselves, evil will have gained that much more power over us. We may look better on the outside but it is only a matter of time before the real us will show through.
“How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. Matthew 12:35,36
The changes that we experience as followers of Jesus are changes that we notice in hindsight. They are not goals that we set out to achieve.
One day we look at ourselves and see:
“Hmm, bitterness is not part of me anymore.”
“Well, isn’t that interesting? I’m able to love those I used to avoid.”
Life becomes something of ease. There is no longer the exhausting need to hide who we really are. Our outer self begins to match our inner self. Goodness is not a performance but part of our very nature. God has transformed and conformed us to the likeness of His Son.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, as atheists are fond of saying, “You can just be good for goodness sake,” if you want. But it won’t do you a lick of good on judgement day.
Only an extreme make-over from sinner to saved will count.