Changing Character

When one is contemplating the changing of behavior from fleshly (or sinful) to godly there are a couple questions that naturally arise. Since we want to avoid legalism how does one change outward behavior while the inner man still wants to speak crossly, or let a discipline slide, or entertain a lustful thought?

We have on our hands a “which comes first the chicken or the egg” conundrum. Since we all ready discussed “Believe => Think => Feel => Do” it would seem natural that this process should have something to do with our solution.

A second question seems to beg an answer: what role does the Spirit of Messiah play?

I’ve been thinking about this for several weeks now, and it has been an interesting time to ponder because I’ve simultaneously been on the Maker’s Diet for a little over 40 days (and have lost 35 lbs to date). In the process I have noted that once one sets your will to do a thing, it becomes easy with practice. This seems so simplistic, yet it is the key.

Will => Do => Realize is the pattern of transformation. This is connected to our earlier formula in that the setting of one’s will happens as a result of something believed. The pattern of thinking is determined by that belief and the subsequent willing. That setting of one’s will and the thinking process that accompanies it creates a feeling of “wanting” to do whatever it is that needs to be done. In the case of my example, changing the content of what I eat.

Because I believed the contents of what I read in Jordan Rubin’s book, The Maker’s Diet, I determined to act on that belief, and then felt like eliminating sugar, grains and starches from my menu. The first week it was very difficult to stick by my newly diminished menu. In the moments where my feeling flagged it was my will which asserted itself. In fact, in order to accomplish it successfully I took a week of vacation from work so that I could spend extra amounts of time planning and then preparing my meals.

By the third week, it had become second nature to reach for a handful of almonds when I felt the urge to snack that habitually accompanies TV watching, for example. The aptly identified force of habit is a power that we must harness for positive effect. When one is in the habit of submitting momentary emotions to the dictates of your will (and it must be your will, by the way) transformation becomes the natural realization of your habitual practice.

This, of course, is all assuming that what you believe is sound. Since belief is the foundation, what you determine to do will be either beneficial or harmful as a result of whether you believe truth or a lie.

This, I suspect, is what Solomon had in mind when he penned:

“Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” Proverbs 4:4-9 (ESV)

You might wonder where the Spirit of God is in all of this? Let’s discuss that in the next post.

3 thoughts on “Changing Character

  1. sounds like you’ve been reading some more Willard? Renovation of the Heart deals with this very principle, allowing the Spirit to change each part of our make-up as humans so that we can become wholly changed.


  2. I’ve been continuing to read in The Great Omission more than Renovation of the Heart lately. I’ll have to pick it up again to see what it says on the topic.

    I’ve really been enjoying Willard, but also benefiting greatly from Eugene Peterson and I believe being led by the Spirit in contemplating these ideas.

    Part of what has frustrated me about Willard so far, however, is that he says very little about the “how” of letting the Spirit change every part of our make-up. Does he do more of that further on in Renovation of the Heart? He does say more about it in Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God.

  3. Nate

    i think you make some excellent points about our will taking the first step. i decided (partially because the Maker’s Diet and partially for other reasons) to eat Kosher. i am not perfect about it, but i am trying to learn to be healthier. and as a result, i have lost weight as well (although my wife thinks i am too thin now). but as you said, the craving for bacon or other things diminished and now i no longer even miss it.


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