Art impresses me. I am amazed at the talent and the creativity. The ability of an artist to see ahead of the blank canvas to the painting is a talent I do not understand. Every piece of art takes action, talent, and work. Paintings do not paint themselves.
Life is not that different. Life is full of hope and potential like a blank canvas. People hope their life will become something greater than it is. They hope they improve and that beauty comes out of the ugliness and chaos they experience. Yet, we also give up on that. We grow frustrated, tired, and weary of trying to paint over and smooth out the same mistakes and problems again.
These experiences can cause us to say things like, “This year will obviously be no different than the last one. I mean, it is only January 19th and I have already blown it.” Have you?
What does God want this to be THE YEAR OF for you?” Romans 12:1-2 are powerful words of challenge, encouragement, and inspiration about experiencing real change.
First, we are called to view God’s mercy. Every pleasing sacrifice begins with God. It is his mercy that draws us to repentance. God initiates the action. (He demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8) We are challenged to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Every pleasing sacrifice responds to God. We present ourselves fully to God. We respond to God’s action. We are then instructed to not conform to the pattern of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. A sacrifice that is pleasing to God is continually given to God. This changing, however, is not fully our work, yet we must fully participate in it. We actively participate in a passive work.
So, if we want to change we must be about the change, yet we also must know that we cannot start it, we cannot cause it, nor can we finish it, and at the same time, accepting the truth that it will not happen if we do not participate actively in it. So, what in the world do we do?
Live Different. Do not conform to the world.
If you never do different, you will never be different. The comfortable life will always be the conformed life.
Be Changed. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The frustrating part of this command is that it ends with a passive verb. Be responsible for what you cannot be responsible for…cause to happen what you cannot cause to happen. The work of transformation is God’s activity and our active passivity.
I want to come back to art for a moment. Imagine you are the blank canvas, what must be true of your connection with the artist for change to happen.
Live in humble relation toward God. You must be willing for God to paint what he wills and wants. The Holy Spirit convicts of worldly conformity and calls us out of it. Are you willing to hear what He says or have you learned to ignore his still, small voice?
Live in available position to God. You must be willing for God to do what he desires with the work he creates. The Holy Spirit renews right thinking in us. He convicts, not only of what is wrong – sin, he convicts of that which should be right – righteousness.
Then you will be able to know God’s will and how good it is, how pleasing it is, and how perfect it is. That road might seem like one you could never walk, but here is the key.
Start with a step and don’t stop stepping.
When my children learned to walk they fell often. Over and over again. You know what I never did. I never yelled at them, belittled them, or gave up on them. Why do you think your Heavenly Father is any different? I helped them up. I held their hands. I showed them how. I set them up in close enough relationship to the table so they could make it successfully. God is at work doing the same thing.
So you already stumbled and fell in 2015? Good. Now Get up. Take hold of your Father’s out-streched hands. Tell him, “paint what you will and do with me what you want.” And keep on stepping. You might feel like it is already done, but graciously, God has just begun.
(The two paintings above are by Mark Hicks and Danny Moore as they helped us illustrate humble relation and available position at our 2 campuses. Thank you men for sharing your passion and talent with us.)