Growth Isn’t External. It’s Internal.
When my son was very little, I remember him trying to reattach a flower he shouldn’t have picked.
‘I’ll stick it on, Mommy!’
We totally do that with the fruit we know we should be baring as believers.
We stick good deeds all over ourselves. We dress up our feel-good religion with hosting and volunteering and prayer groups and meal deliveries. On really spiritual days we make a great cappuccino – place it poetically next to an open Bible – and Instagram that thing for as many likes as we can get.
We feverishly drape good things over our lives and convince ourselves that they’re God things.
And we’re spreading the obsession: raising another generation of good behavior kids, instead of raising changed, fully-alive, Good News kids.
All this doing makes us feel really great. Really spiritual. Really changed.
We. Are. Ridiculous. We know fruit only ever grows from the inside. Stuck on from the outside it shrivels embarrassingly.
What’s more, Ezekiel heard it straight from God – that we can’t create new hearts inside ourselves:
‘And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.’
I’ve learned the hard way that trying to change my own heart is like trying to steer a motorboat that’s been put on autopilot.
I can override the set of the steering wheel for a while – force the boat to go in the direction I choose – but eventually my arms get too tired. I have to let go. And the boat goes right back to heading in the direction it’s been programmed for.
Maybe you’ve tried heart change – internal growth – on your own. You’ve tried to override your heart’s autopilot – grown weary – and let go? Because the truth is you can never change yourself. You can never create your own ‘tender, responsive heart.’
Thank God, the sure hope we have is that we can build canals to channel the staggering floods of changing grace. True and lasting heart change – internal growth that shows up real and stunning on the outside as external growth – will happen when we surrender to the Savior our beauty and our brokenness, trusting Him to bring about the change – from the inside out – so that the space and potential we have for Kingdom influence can become a splendid and significant reality.
Realizing that our growth is from God alone, and that it’s a gracious, internal working of His power in us – brings massive relief.
It’s like you’ve been on a treadmill – going nowhere and exhausting yourself in the process – and suddenly someone says,
‘Hey, you can get off that thing. Run free. On real roads. To real places. You’ll get fitter and stronger than ever. It’s gonna be awesome.’
Could you start praying – for your growth, and the growth of just one of your friends?
Pray that God would show you which fruit is real, and which fruit is super-glued fake to the branches of your life.
Pray for discernment, so you wouldn’t adopt Christianesy behavior for the sake of fitting into a church clique, but rather because there’s inner conviction to do so.
Pray that we’d stop trying so very hard to change bits of us – to be good enough – and instead trust Jesus to do in us what we can’t do ourselves.
[This is based on an extract from my daily devotional, Walking in Grace: 366 inspirational devotions for an abundant life in Christ]