I spend a good amount of time considering the power and possibility of change. I suppose I’m in that kind of business – the kind where success depends on people changing from bad to better.
But we’re all in stages of bad to better and change is really something everyone is obsessed with – more like this, less like that, etc. And then we funnel our obsession into determination and make every effort to move forward on that sliding scale towards better.
Change, the positive kind that moves us towards something better, is a slippery and untamable little animal. Keller writes in Jesus is King, “…no one has ever been deeply changed by an act of the will. The only thing that can reforge and change a life at its root is love.”
I’ve spent many frustrated seasons rustling up impressive acts of will in an effort to change (the “many frustrated seasons” should help you know how those turned out). I come from a long line of go-getters, on both sides. I’m not sure if you can grow up on the farm and not be a go-getter, actually. Many times it was a literal ‘pulling up by the bootstraps’ that had to happen to keep our little farm afloat.
In any case, I know what determination looks like and it is a great credit to my parents and family that my understanding hasn’t produced any entitlement. We worked hard, gave generously, and loved fiercely. Oh, we didn’t do it perfectly, but I saw it all happen with a healthy dose of will power. My family’s is a survival story of sorts and outsiders looking in might say we wouldn’t have made it (changed for the better) without an impressive act of the will.
But none of that resolve changed our lives at the root.
The root of a life runs deeper than health and finances and farm accidents. And the root is the only depth that has the power to change the whole tree. Keller writes that in Mark 8:34-9:1 Jesus pointed to the cross (to love) as the only thing that can change a life at its root.
Christ lost himself in every ultimate sense so that we could be found.
Any positive movement on the continuum of change depends entirely on a work that has already been accomplished. I am not working to be approved, but an approved workman who is unashamed (2 Timothy 2:15) to exercise the freedom to live redeemed. The change already took place at the cross and is still taking place through the Spirit in my life. This is sanctification – that we are called holy and set apart because of Christ and that we are becoming holy and set apart because of the Spirit’s faithful work inside us.
All my acts of will are helpless to change my life at its root. Only love can do that.
Keller writes, “Once you see the Son of God loving you like that, once you are moved by that viscerally and existentially, you begin to get a strength, an assurance, a sense of your own value and distinctiveness that is not based on what you’re doing or whether somebody loves you, whether you’ve lost weight or how much money you’ve got. You’re free – the old approach to identity is gone.”
You’re free. Live free today.