“You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness always starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behaviour, activity or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin itself and desiring God in its place.
Many people change their behaviour, but their motives and desires are still wrong so their behaviour is no more pleasing to God than their old behaviour. Consider and alcoholic who gives up drink because he fears social stigma or wants to save his marriage or doesn’t want to end up in the gutter. It’s good that he’s given up drink, but he isn’t any more holy in God’s sight because he’s still motivated by selfish desires that exclude God. Or consider a Christian who goes to a prayer meeting to impress people or feel good about herself or avoid a Christian friend’s rebuke. Her behaviour has changed, but her motives and desires are unchanged. This isn’t holiness (though it may be that praying with other Christians contributes to a change of affections). John Piper says: ‘Conversion is the creation of new desires, not just new duties; new delights, not just new deeds; new treasures, not just new tasks.”
The great nineteenth century preacher Charles Spurgeon illustrates this point with the story of a humble gardener who presents a bunch of carrots to his king because he so esteems and loves his sovereign. The king rewards his love with a plot of land so that he can continue to bless his kingdom. A courtier sees this and thinks: ‘An acre of land for a bunch of carrots – what a deal!’ So the next day the courtier presents the king with a magnificent horse. The wise king, discerning his heart, simply accepts the gift with a ‘thank you.’ When the courtier is disconsolate, the king explains: ‘The gardener gave me the carrots, but you have given yourself the horse. You gave not for love of me, but love of yourself in the hope of a reward.” Are you serving God or serving yourself? The Bible talks often of reward, but that reward is God himself – the joy of knowing and pleasing the God in whom we love and in whom we delight.
We don’t change so that we can prove ourselves to God. We are accepted by God so that we can change. God gives us a new identity and this new identity is the motive and basis for our change.”
I am sure we have had people in our lives who have apologized to us or tried to change or even been our “friends” with mock cheerfulness and the sinking feeling walking away from individuals like this in my experience has been “you did that for yourself and not for me.” There was a lack of seeing anything genuine in the soul. Or there are times we have behaviour modified ourselves and acted differently but tried to ignore the nagging in our hearts that something was still off.. genuine heart change wasn’t there.. we replaced one slave master for another. Looking at Tim Chester’s book so far is engaging with how do we really experience actual heart change from the inside out of our person…