Faulty Change Plan # 5
James MacDonald, Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel
I do not understand my actions. For I do what I do not want, but I do the very thing that I hate.Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So no it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. - Romans 7:15-18
Another faulty method that has promised to bring about change among Christians we call monasticism. Monastic comes from the Greek word, monos, which means to be alone. The early monks actually lived alone in the desert. The first monastic community was St. Anthony of Thebes in 271 A.D. Monks practiced three main things: work, prayer, and meditation. The goal of being a Monastic was true holiness by complete suppression of the will or the flesh. Very popular during the Middles Ages, thousands of monasteries around Europe housed men or women who took three vows: a vow of poverty, I will own nothing, a vow of chastity, I will abstain from all sexuality, and a vow of obedience, 100% submission to authority. It was a very difficult life. And it failed to bring about the kind of basic change that each of us needs.
You (and I) do not have the ability to live the Christian life. God has made no provision for you to live the Christian life apart from Him. Christianity is not trying harder or doing more. Christianity is an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ who is alive and lives His life by His Spirit through you. Christianity is the Holy Spirit living in us.
“I don’t know what to do.” The Spirit convicts me of right and wrong.
“I don’t know what to say.” The Spirit convicts me what to say.
“I don’t know how to handle this.” The Spirit helps me with my infirmities because I know not how to do what I ought.
Monastic change tries to use human employed spiritual techniques to suppress the flesh: “I won’t do it! I won’t do it!” And here’s the reason why that doesn’t work. If you’ve ever failed in a diet—I certainly have done that—you know the tendency. You try and try to do the right thing. But when (not if) you fail, you do the wrong thing on steroids. Even the classic spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, and fasting, have no power to bring about necessary change unless they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I don’t have the power to change myself. That’s monastic change—it doesn’t work. Put that in a bag and take it to the street.
What are the differences between the disciplines of the Christian life undertaken as a personal effort and undertaken under the power of the Holy Spirit?
Where have I experienced this difference in my relationship with Christ?
Prayer: Father, I need to be reminded over and over again that growing as a believer doesn’t ever mean I outgrow my need for You to empower, guide, and sustain my life as a Christian. Thank You for Your faithfulness not only to help me see what needs to be changed but then applying Your power to bring about that change in me. I count on that life-changing power in Jesus’ name, Amen.