I hope the overwhelming response is that individuals do not change through a grit and bear it mentality or being quoted scriptures like bible diareaha and told to simply live them out. This change is a work of the spirit that occurs within a community of people pursuing more of Christ and a deeper dependence upon Him.
This is a journey. This is a process. Enjoy the ride.
To answer this question I look to a sermon given by Thomas Chalmers, a scotish pastor who died in 1847. He gave a sermon on the expulsive power of a new affection. He claims there are two theories to see this change take place. One fails miserably again and again, while the other gives rise to a transformed life.
His opening line was,
“There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world; either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment.”
Accountability groups-hate them.
I love having conversations about accountability groups because of how some people will cling to them despite their complete inability to change a life. You constantly go round and round discussing sin and looking at sin in each others lives. There is a name for that- group therapy. We try to make ourselves feel better by discussing the problem that we all have, and we attempt to give a solution. Thomas Chalmers addresses this by calling this work,
“Vanity. It is quite in vain to think of stopping one of these pursuits in any way else but by stimulating to another”.
I look at college students I interact with and the ones that have grown up in the church know the answers to give, but still battle with the temptations of this world. Pornagraphy. Sex. Drinking. Lies. Pride. Dry faith. The list goes on. How have they been told to deal with these issues? Something along the lines of an accountability group that says, “lets talk about sin in your life, lets challenge you to see the ugliness of it, lets challenge you to get rid of it, and come to Jesus and obey Him.” Good ideas, but the strong man who dwells aka all these sins, is ruling and in order for it to be expelled a stronger man needs to come in and destroy him. Thomas Chalmers says,
“The strong man, whose dwelling-place is there, may be compelled to give way to another occupier, but unless another, stronger than he, has power to dispossess and to succeed him, he will keep his present lodgment inviolable. The heart would revolt against its own emptiness. It could not bear to be so left in a state of waste and cheerless insipidity”.
The solution- give me Jesus.
Who is this stronger man? It is a stronger affection for God. Instead of entering into an accountability group I would rather see students enraptured by an affection for God. Not God’s gifts. God. A realization of who God is. His attributes and his greatness. You cannot simply say “stop it” and expect the heart as Chalmers said to be satisfied with that. It longs and desires and thirsts for something to satisfy it. Simply put, its not enough to reveal the wickedness. The answer is the gospel. The answer is Jesus. In John 7: 37 Jesus cried out, “if anyone is thirsty let him come and drink!”
As we minister to our students I pray that Chalmers words are replaying in our minds. Our students need to be awakened to this thirst for God and instead of attempting to reveal the wickedness, we should live and minister to see that affection satisfied in God.
I hope that you will take the time to hang out with the dead guys as they pursued God and take time to read Chalmers sermon.