“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Any person who has ever tried to change a characteristic weakness knows how challenging it is to be fundamentally and forever different. Fortunately, our Lord knows our weaknesses, and is willing to comfort us while the Spirit works a work of grace in our lives. But why, why is it so difficult to change? Perhaps the following thoughts will help give an insight into the situation.
It is difficult to change because of the state of sin into which every person is born. When we are born into this world, we are born with the sin nature of Adam pressed upon our lives. It does no good to deny this indisputable fact of life. No one ever needs to teach another person how to sin, that will happen naturally for “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15). I had three older sisters. They might have taught me some things about getting away with more bad behavior, but they did not have to encourage or teach me to do wrong. I figured that out on my own.
The Bible explains that we are all born sinners and that we are by nature sinners. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalms 51:5). Every person is born a son of disobedience (Eph. 2:2, and is by nature a child of Divine wrath (Eph. 2:3).
Because we are born with a heart filled with wicked imaginations, we need to be born again for “sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay” (Ravi Zacharias).
It is difficult to change because of pride within the human heart. It is a great challenge for any person to admit they have been wrong about anything. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man” (Prov. 14:12). People stubbornly insist they have nothing to repent of, or apologize for. It is the other person who is always in the wrong.
It is difficult to change because bad behavior is justified and sin is not hated. Sin can be very attractive. There is a beautiful side to evil, as Eve discovered in the Garden of Eden. However, there are devastating consequences associated with sin such as shame, guilt, remorse, and ultimately death. James 1:15 sets forth the spiritual LSD of Scripture. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”.
Time and again a Christian might struggle to mitigate the result of sin, or the symptoms of sin, such as impulses, desires, ideas, while neglecting the source of sin, which is disobedience to the known will of God. If a person would be different, then they need to plant a root of righteousness which will produce the fruit of the same, ”love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22, 23).
However, understand this. If a person is to change, then ideas and behavior must change according to gospel terms which demands repentance, confession, humility, and obedience to the known will of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
It is difficult to change because the world is loved. In Scripture, the world refers to the totality of the order, behavior, fashion, and government of this cosmic system. The music, movies, and social mores of society are embraced. Abortion is protected as pro-choice. Infanticide is practiced in the name of liberty. The homosexual agenda is promoted as free love. The royal command of God comes, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
It is difficult to change because of the freedom of the will a person has to yield themselves as a servant to sin. Of the unbeliever, the Bible says they go forth from the womb lying (Psalms 58:3), and can do nothing else. An individual can consciously yield their mind and body to be a willing slave of sin. Jesus said to people one day, “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not” (John 8:44-45).
It is difficult to change because the death of Christ is devalued. When Christ died to save a soul from their sin, the power of Satan, and the pollution of personal defilement, He did not do so to leave a person unchanged. The death of deaths in the death of Christ is designed to change a person and allow them to sing a song of gratitude.
Thank you Lord
For saving my soul
Thank you Lord
For making me whole
Thank you Lord
For giving to me
Thy great salvation
So full, and free.
It should be difficult to dismiss such great love, but it is easy not to change when such love is diminished in value.
It is difficult to change because of Satanic providence. When Esau wanted to sell his spiritual birthright for a bite of food, one was there to exchange that with a bowl of stew. When Jonah wanted to flee from the known will of God, a boat was provided for him to sail to the end of the known world.
It is difficult to change because of the strength of sin. How strong is sin? Sin can turn a wholesome beautiful young girl into a street walking prostitute. Sin can transform a promising athlete into a drug addict. Sin can turn a church going teenage boy into a promiscuous pervert addicted to pornography. Sin can ruin a home through spousal conflict and divorce. Sin can start a world war and leave cities in shambles, people homeless, and the graveyards full. The strength of sin is felt by every person who has cried out, “Oh wretched person that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?”
It is difficult to change because of Satanic providence. Jonah found a boat. David found a woman. A drug user can find a drug dealer. A lustful person can find someone willing to go over the edge.
It is difficult to change because sin is creative. Sin has fifty shades of gray. There are depths of sin which are deeper still.
It is difficult to change because of the weakness of the flesh. It would be better to admit that self is not weak but wicked, if there was honesty in the heart. A person is not a victim of sin but a willing participator in whatever form of evil they do. The alcoholic willing drinks. The prostitute willingly sells her body. The drug addict willingly puts a needle in the body, or snorts up their drug of choice. Until a person embraces the truth about themselves, they will not to change. It is easier to be a “victim”. Let a person confess and say, “Lord, I am evil by birth and by choice. I am a sinful man O Lord, but dear God, have mercy on me the sinner”, and change can begin.
It is difficult to change because of the failure to believe gospel truths. The Bible does teaches the ruin of the soul, the redemption that can be found in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The Bible also teaches that when the message of the gospel is rejected, a person is confirmed in their own destructive nature. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem saying to them,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37).
It is difficult to change because of an unwillingness to mortify or, put to death, the sins of the flesh, as commanded. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13).
It is difficult to change because of lack of prayer. The apostle James said, “you have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). Only those who call upon the Lord shall be changed. For any person who wants to be fundamentally and forever difficult, pray and receive this promise of God. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jer. 33:3).
It is difficult to change because there is no understanding of Biblical repentance. The Biblical doctrine of repentance has been cheapened among very prominent evangelical Christians in order to score another convert to Christ in the name of soul winning, or to refute the seriousness found in Reformed Theology. Consider the evidence in one popular study Bible. “Repentance is a change of mind that bears fruit in a changed life” (Ryrie Study Bible note under Matthew 3:3). With this shallow definition in mind, countless individuals have been confirmed in the evil they do without any thought of feeling sorrow for their sin having put Christ on the cross. Such souls cannot lament with Isaac Watts and say,
Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?
Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
It is difficult to change because of lack of spiritual Bible knowledge. There is an endless supply of religious chatter in Christendom as Arminians debate Calvinist, and the Pentecostals promote a new health and wealth prosperity gospel. Meanwhile, “My people perish for lack of knowledge” says the prophet of the Lord (Hosea 4:6).
It is hard to change because the Word of God is not hidden in the heart. The Spirit, by His presence, and the Word can arrest the madness of inappropriate behavior, provided the heart is not hardened, and the there is an intake of Bible doctrine.
It is hard to change because there is no real effort to wait on the Lord, or tarry until the breaking of day with God, as Jacob did.
It is hard to change because there is little self-awareness. Those who engage in repetitive sin are as a dog who returns to its vomit. In like manner, a fool repeats his folly. (Prov 26:11)
It is difficult to change because of the strategy of Satan who sows the seed of unbelief. The Evil One sows the seed of self-righteousness; he sows the seed of relative righteousness; he sows the seed of forgetfulness as to how much love and grace God has shown. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. The Enemy of Men’s Souls sows the seed of discord. He keeps a bad situation stirred up.
While it is difficult to change, it is not impossible. The vessel which is broken can be remade, but only by the Creator. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it” (Jer. 18:4).
If this is your hope and dream, then let your heart rejoice. God will hear the faint prayer of every person who whispers, “Father, I have sinned.”
The Lord waits to welcome you home. He wants to slaughter the fatted calf and give you a royal feast. True repentance, sorrow for sin, honest confession, and a willingness to be guided by His Spirit through His Word is how you change.
There is a higher law, the law of the life of the Spirit in Christ Jesus. The Spirit will bring change to the person who cares and who believes that, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).