GOD'S METHOD FOR CHANGE
Everywhere in Scripture, God requires and commands men to change. The change God requires must begin with the most radical change known to man, the new birth. Even the use of this terminology describes just how radical this change will be. Jesus is describing someone becoming a completely new person, in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). The word become in this verse is in the present tense which speaks of a continuous becoming. In other words you will be constantly changed to become this new person. The process of change is explained by Paul the apostle in 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Understanding this process of change is essential for remaining free from your addictive behavior. Without this understanding you will fight against what God is trying to do in your life instead of yield and work with Him.
I. God's Plan for Change
Once you repent of your sin, and trust in Christ, you are born again. As a newborn Christian, you naturally hunger for the milk of God's Word, as a newborn baby does for his mother's milk. Peter says, "As newborn babes desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). God's Word gives you understanding of what He wants to change and the faith to believe He can actually change you (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, spending time studying the Word of God is critical to experiencing God’s changing work in your life.
Once the Word of God enters you heart the second step to change occurs, which is conviction. God begins to use His Word to begin working on your heart and convicting you of your sinful thoughts, words, and behaviors. Conviction brings the willingness to change from the inside of you and keeps you from external works and self-effort. Paul told Timothy to preach the Word, because of its ability to convict, rebuke and encourage people (2 Tim. 4:2). Jesus said, "as many as I love, I convict..." (Rev. 3:9). Also, conviction is very different from condemnation. Conviction comes from the love of God to draw you back to Himself. Condemnation does the opposite. Condemnation is that sense inside your heart and mind that God is angry with you and He doesn't want to have anything to do with you. However, these messages don’t come from God towards His children. Jesus said, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Paul said, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). Condemnation is only for the ungodly and those who cast off their faith and turn away from the Lord (Jude 1:4) (1 Tim. 5:12).
Correction of your attitudes, thoughts, and behavior is a natural result of God's Word planted in your heart because of the conviction in your heart. Once you are convicted of sin this will motivate you to correct whatever is wrong in your life. How does this correction occur?
1. First you must believe God's promise. "For sin shall not have dominion over you..." (Rom. 6:14). Believing the promise God has made sets you free from thinking that your can not ever get free from the sinful behavior that is presently controlling you.
2. Ask God for understanding as to what it means, "That your old man was crucified with Him" (Rom. 6:6). You need a spiritual understanding of this truth that convinces you that your old man is dead (Col. 3:3). Your old man is the sin nature that has captivated and dominated you in the past.
3. Believing that your sinful nature has been conquered by Christ will fill you with confidence that your sinful desires do not have the right to hold you as a slave any longer (Rom. 6:6).
4. Believing that you are free from the control of these desires and that they don’t have the right to rule you any longer will set you free inside. Declare to God in prayer that you believe in His Word (Rom. 6:7).
5. Next, take a stand in faith to resist your sinful desires and declare to God in prayer that you are free from your old man. This is what it means "to reckon yourself dead to sin", or to "put to death the deeds of the body", or the term “putting off the old man and his deeds" (Rom. 6:11) (Rom. 8:13) (Eph. 4:22). This is where you say no to your thinking and desires that are driving you toward your addictive behavior.
6. Now present yourself to God in prayer and yield yourself to His Holy Spirit, asking Him to take full control of you. This is what it means "to reckon yourself alive to God" (Rom. 6:11), or "putting on the new man" (Eph. 4:24). This is where you say yes to God so He can control you.
7. Last, determine from the Word of God exactly what attitude or behavior God wants you to put on to replace the behaviors you are putting off. This will bring understanding and conviction to walk this new way. Consider these examples: (Eph. 4:25) (Eph. 4:28) (Eph. 4:29) (Eph. 4:31-32) (Col. 3:8-14) (Eph. 5:18).
D. Training and Discipline in Righteousness
Every time you allow the Word of God to bring conviction and correction to your life you are disciplining and training yourself to righteousness. Each time you surrender to God and the Holy Spirit you are forming new habits within your life. By rejecting what is sinful and yielding to what is righteous you are becoming that new creature in Christ. This is how God exercises (Gr. = trains) you to godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Becoming godly is a daily growth in self-control and self-discipline, which result from the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22)
Study these Scriptures for further understanding concerning how God trains you to righteousness.
1. Receive His correction (Heb. 12:11). You must receive God’s conviction and correction each day and with each situation to be trained to godliness.
2. Yield to your conscience (Acts 24:16). Each day and with each occurrence as you yield to your conscience you are trained to godliness.
3. Obedience and practice of His Word (Heb. 5:13-14). The Hebrew Christians didn't listen, yield, and obey, which caused them to not mature.