How does God change us?

From: “Ernest Eby
Date: Mon Mar 28, 2005 12:41 am
Subject: Re: [B-A-Men] Moral accountability

Hello brethren!

I’m home from CBS and am taking a bit of time to look at the BA posts that I haven’t had time to read.

In case you haven’t read Clyde Stoll’s orignal post (10/11/2004) on moral purity recently, I am submitting it again.

******

In a post on 8-31 Brad Hochstetler asked for some input on issues of moral purity. The response was nil. I wonder why? Do we not have any answers?

I recall last spring at the ministers meeting in South Carolina Wayne Schrock had a topic on purity in a Mens Session. If you have access to the tapes it would be worth while listening. Wayne made the comment that Moral Purity was a divine imperative and everyone nodded and said “Amen”. Next he said that Moral Purity was a divine possibility and everyone agreed. I would be fully agreed with Wayne that Moral Purity is a divine imperative and a divine possibility but my question is this. If this is true why do so many of our young men and some not so young have such a tremendous struggle in this area.

At that meeting in South Carolina most of our Beachy-Amish churches were represented. Among those representing those different churches I wonder how many could have said that that Divine Imperative and Divine Possibility was being lived out in their home churches on a realistic day to day experience in the lives of their men.

I speak from the frustration of interviewing and counseling young men at CBS, giving them a verse and a prayer and then the next year hear the same problem from the same young men.

Well maybe I’ve said enough for this time. Anyone care to comment?

Clyde Stoll
Mt. Olive Mennonite Church
Odon, IN.

******

I interviewed/counseled quite a number of fellows this winter in relation to moral purity. The story continues to follow the same cycle that Clyde described.

This winter I did a survey regarding the youth’s perspective of the Beachy constituency. One of the questions was on this subject of moral purity.

Of the students who completed a survey, ten percent thought that in general Beachy parents are doing well in communicating with their children about the need for moral purity and about the basic facts of life. Ninety percent thought that Beachy parents could do much better in communicating with their children about these issues.

Wayne Schrock and his wife were with us for a few days and held segregated meetings on the subject of moral purity for the men, and moral/emotional purity for the ladies. Some of the girls especially emphasized the need for more teaching on emotional purity. It seems like this was a new concept for some of them.

Some years ago I heard someone say that romance novels do for a girl, what pornography does for a fellow. Is this a fair comparison? If it is, should we talk about romance novels whenever we talk about pornography?

In the survey that I did on BA men this past fall, a number of the men indicated that moral purity for them can be summed up with the word “battle”.

That would be a good word to describe my experience ever since my teens. Many of us allowed ourselves to arouse desires that could not be legitimately fulfilled, and have suffered the consequences ever since.

Since our discussion last fall, I’ve been asking the Lord whether “battle” is really what he has in mind for us men. If it is, what hope does a person have for when he gets old and his senses are not as keen and his perceptivity and fighting power is diminished? Is it really God’s intention that some of us should spend a lot of energy battling our own desires, or does he intend that all of us use our energy to push back the forces of darkness in the world around us? I’m convinced that staying pure ourselves is a big part of being able to do spiritual warfare, yet I know that if Satan keep me battling my own issues, there won’t be any energy left to recover ground that he has taken in the neighborhood.

Harry asked in his last post, “If accountability is not enough, how does a person change?”

This year at CBS, I often heard students express how scared they feel about going home and the possibility of them not being any different from what they were when they came to CBS.

So one evening, when all the boys were together for a time of sharing and fellowship, I told them about the general trend for young men to leave CBS and to backslide in their commitments and intentions. I asked them what they thought would make the difference in them going home and being a different person, and them going home and begin the same as before. Some of them have been to CBS before and are determined that this time when they go home, they are going to be different.

This is what they said in this order:

-More effort
-Disciplined Bible Reading and Devotional Time
-Accountability
-Good attitudes toward the people at home
-Commitment
-Prayer
-Sacrificing time and things we enjoy
-Obedience to what we have learned

I kept asking them my question, and toward the end, a few of them guessed as to where I was going and gave answers like this:

-Allowing Christ to change us.
-Brokenness

I told them that most young men who have left CBS have known what to do, and have been determined to do it. But for one reason or another they never got started doing what they knew they should do, or else they stopped doing what they knew to do whenever they got busy or less motivated. In either case there was no lasting change in there hearts. The seed took root at CBS but got choked out by the cares of life and the pursuit of riches.

So it seems that determination is not the key to producing lasting change in our lives. We are human, and our determination runs out after awhile.

I then told them what I thought the Lord was teaching me this winter.

I have been asking the Lord why it is that certain parts of my heart were changed when I became a Christian, and other parts have changed since I have become a Christian. But there are certain things about my character and my desires (besetting sins), that do not seem to change much, no matter how hard I try to change and no matter how hard I battle. Based on the small amount of progress that I have made in those particular areas of my life the last ten years, there does not seem to be much hope that those parts of my heart will ever really be changed like some other parts of my heart. I tried to think back to what it was that made it so that I was able to basically get rid of my bitterness, jealousy, temporal values, etc. Why did those things change, and other
parts of me not get changed?

As I meditated on Wayne Schrock’s messages, and some conversations I had with some people this winter, it began to dawn on me that I believed that if I put forth more effort to change my thinking, that eventually my heart would be changed. Why I thought this, I’m not sure. Putting forth more effort in spiritual disciplines in loving others did not rid me of my bitterness. Quoting scripture did not rid me of my jealousy. Obedience did not give me a desire to seek eternal things. Why didn’t these things produce lasting change?

It was when I became aware of my inability to change myself, when I interacted with people who were like Jesus, and when I saw my undone-ness before the Lord and his redeeming grace, it was then that I saw the overwhelming impossibility of changing my heart, and God was able to come in and change my heart. If this is the way God has changed me in the past, why am I believing that following scriptural disciplines and principles is the method which my heart will be changed.

The basic difference in my “new understanding” is the way that I pray. For the past ten years, I have asked God to help me change myself, to give me the strength to change my self, and to remind me to change myself. For the last month I have simply been telling God that I have not been able to change myself very much at all, and that if I am going to have a change of heart, he is the one who is going to need to do it. I expressed my willingness for him to take me through whatever experiences he chooses, as long as he continues to change me like he has in the past. In the meantime, while he is changing me, I will continue to follow his principles and obey his commands as much as I can, and to cooperate with him as he seeks to purify and refine me. I must say that in the last month I have had in incredible amount of hope. It’s quite risky, to say it mildly, to tell God that he can change me in whatever way he sees best, when I know that it may not be all that pleasant. But from experience, I know that I will like the end result, and that I will agree with God that he knows what he is doing. Whatever God does, he does right. Whatever I do, always falls short.

I told the boys that I highly recommend that they set up accountability, read their Bibles, pray, and give up their selfish interests, but not to be surprised if they hit rock bottom. It is when we hit “rock bottom” that we find the “Rock”. It is when we get between a rock and a hard place that we are able to cry out to God. It is in moments of frustration and self defeat, that we can admit our inability to change what we don’t like about ourselves, and then get back up like the righteous man who falls seven times and still gets back up.

This is my developing ideas about how we change what we don’t like about ourselves. (And how to change what we sort of like about ourselves, but others don’t like about us. Others have interesting ways of letting us know what it is that we need to change. Sometimes we aren’t all that interested in knowing what it is that we should change.)

Any input for me here? Are any of you getting free from particular lifelong habits, thoughts, tendencies? How do you change?

Toward the better,

Ernest Eby
Mountain View, AR

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