The Rev. Dan Puckett: Only God can effect real change

Published 10:16 am Friday, August 14, 2009

dan-puckettChange is one of the most dynamic words in our culture today. Few of us accept the status quo. Advertisements flood our thinking with opportunities to live in a nicer house, drive a better car, link up more with friends, lose weight, grow hair, look younger, have fun, etc.
We have bankrupted ourselves with the drive to “live the good life.”

Change is important. Upward mobility should drive all of us, not the emptiness of some cosmetic fa├žade, asset accumulation, or temporary pleasure, but real change that alters our character and modifies our “wants.”

Acceptance is important to all of us. It is sad that we would seek out a community that takes us as we are rather than looking inward and finding real change with God’s help.

God’s help is called grace. Grace is the power of God working in us through His Holy Spirit to give us the desire and power to become more like Jesus Christ.

God is all about eternal destiny and behavior modification while we wait. Eternal destiny is a fact. All of us will live forever, either in heaven with God or in a place called hell. Heaven as a destination hinges on our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and His vicarious death on the cross as our substitute to satisfy God’s judgment against our sin. We must give our lives to Jesus Christ to go to heaven; we do not need to do anything to end up in hell.

Giving your life to Christ is called salvation and makes one a child of God. That is where behavior modification comes in. God purposes to make His children like His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Becoming like Christ is called sanctification, and the vehicle is God’s grace.

We cannot merit God’s grace. Salvation comes to those who will agree with God about their lost condition and their inability to save themselves.

Most of us are iffy about deathbed repentance. We would largely reject the idea that a human monster like Adolf Hitler could be the author of countless atrocities and yet at the point of death realize the error of his ways and give his life to Christ. Yet that is what the grace of God is all about.

The same thinking that rejects deathbed repentance keeps us from seeking God and His grace to help us change the vile patterns in our lives as believers. We are convinced that we must step up to some level of “better” to be a candidate for God’s grace. The fact is, God takes us just like we are.

It is humbling to accept the fact that we can really do nothing to effect permanent change other than to cry out to God in our helpless need and ask for grace. Acknowledgement of need is the prerequisite for grace.

We shun those preachers who dare to point out our need for God, much as we shun mirrors that reflect our true physical condition. We dislike any reflection of who we really are until we embrace the concept of grace and recognize that the power of God is ready to be released in our lives as soon as we simply agree with God about ourselves.

Self-help cannot effect real change. Real change is from God and is only by His grace.

The Rev. Dan Puckett is a minister with Life Action Ministries. He writes a weekly column for the Niles Daily Star.