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On Faith: How to change our lives

Whenever we are faced with the challenge of having to change our lives, be it on an internal or external level, the question becomes, how? Whether we are talking about the addict giving up their drug or behavior of choice, or we are talking about a very broken relationship due to addiction, abuse or major break of trust, the question is always the same. How do we change our lives?

Of course, our culture offers a multitude of answers, guaranteeing success. And I have no doubt, that many of them offer very good solid advice on how to manage some of our external behaviors. But when it comes to changing our actual heart, our desires, our intentions and ambitions, I have only found one viable source to accomplish that, and that's our Father in heaven. He gives us this promise in Ezek 11:19: "And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart."

Only God can change a person from the inside out. It's been my experience that when a person completely surrenders to God and puts their complete faith and trust in Christ and what he accomplished on the cross for them, that God himself comes and takes up permanent residence within their hearts. And by doing so, he infuses them with a whole new DNA that is more powerful than their past upbring or physical genetic makeup. In other words, the worst kind of sinners become the most generous, loving kind of saints.

Along with this internal change, scriptures encourage us to do at least four different things that will create a healthy environment for real growth and transformation to happen. Like four legs of a stool, if we apply each of them to our lives, and learn to put our full weight on them, God's work in our lives will be enhanced.

• Develop a strong devotional life — Josh 1:8-9: "... Meditate on it (God's word) day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Colossians 4:2-3: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."

• Develop a new circle of healthy friends — 1 Corinthians 15:33: "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character."

• Be brutally honest with a few trusted friends — 1 John 1:7: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." James 5:16: "Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Depending on what you are struggling with, find a good recovery or support group to participate in. Why not try our Begin Again group?

• Find the purpose you were created for and give yourself to it — Phil 3:12-13: "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Eph 2:9-10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." It's important that we change the focus of our lives. Rather than being self-focused, looking only after our own needs and wants, we need to begin focusing outward, being concerned with needs and wants of others. Scripture calls this learning to walk in love.

Do these four things, and it won't be long before your start seeing your lives producing a whole different kind of fruit. And please don't be impatient, sometimes change happens rather quickly, and sometimes change happens over a longer period.

If this is you, don't be discouraged, but put your hope in one of my favorite promises of God: "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." (Philip 1:6)

"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders. Gerry Cheney is the pastor of the Bay Area Vineyard and director of Celebrate Recovery, which meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Silver Bay Vineyard. For more information, call 218-220-7650.