During my early years as a Christian, I felt torn between two worlds – Bible study and bars. I would have sacred moments with God in the morning and then indulge in sexual fantasies at night. I honestly wondered if I would ever escape from that “caught-in-the middle” season of my life. I promised God repeatedly that I would change, and I sincerely wanted to change. I just didn’t know how, so I’d quickly fall back into my old, sinful ways. I was miserable!
I wish my experience was atypical, but the truth is that about nine out of ten Christians have been “tripped up” somewhere along the way and this keeps them from experiencing God’s best for their lives. This means there are a whole lot of sincere Christians out there who claim they follow Jesus, yet they aren’t living lives that realistically reflect their faith.
Many of us have bought into believing the lies that keep us from really “living like Christians.” And many of us have even given up. As a result, we’ve succumbed to the influences of our culture – conforming to the world’s ways instead of God’s ways.
During my 25 years of being a pastor, I cannot tell you how much heartbreak I’ve witnessed at the sight of fellow Christians who are trapped in addictions and held captive by sinful lifestyle patterns. I watched as some even lost their jobs and fractured their families over it.
But here’s the good news: I’ve also seen God rescue drug addicts, heal broken families, and turn around seemingly impossible situations all because He longs to renew us.
God wants us to have His best! He even wants to use us to transform those around us.
So how do we start getting God’s best in our lives and stop believing the lies that get us trapped in our sinful behavior?
First, we give God what He wants the most – our whole selves. (Romans 12:1) When we receive Christ into our lives and become “born again,” we completely surrender and commit ourselves to Him. But surrendering is not just a one-time event. We need to daily declare Jesus as Lord of all we are and all that we have. This is the first step in the ongoing process of learning how to think and live like Jesus.
The Apostle Paul talks about the second step in this process in Romans 12:2. He instructs us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
God wants us to “test and approve” – to fully and completely experience – His good, pleasing and perfect will for our lives. He wants us to have His very best for our relationships, our jobs, and our future. And it’s all about renewing our minds.
This process doesn’t happen by doing religious activities or trying harder. It happens when we stop filling our mind with toxins (negative media and ungodly relationships) and instead we fill it with the truth of God’s Word and the encouragement of God’s people. As we shut down the supply of images and temptations and renew our minds with God’s truth, the Spirit of God will take the Word of God and make us more and more like Christ. Then we will have a desire to do what’s right, not because we ought or should, but because our desire to please God becomes our conviction!
When our mind is renewed, our paradigm shifts from “trying to be good’ by controlling our behavior to “expressing our love” by trusting in His promises. In the end, renewing our mind is God’s divine prescription for us getting the very best He has to offer.
For more information, check out our series entitled True Spirituality. If you’ve ever felt like you were just going through the motions in your Christian life without experiencing true joy or power, then this series is for you. You’ll learn how to remove the clutter and present a clear, compelling, Biblical picture of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip