I slipped quietly through the front door, noticing the peaceful and settled feeling of the house. The Christmas lights welcomed me home cheerfully, blissfully unaware that the holidays have long since passed. The kitchen counters gleamed, signs that a thoughtful teen had worked hard in my absence.
There is nothing quite like a sleepy, hushed house to wake my night owl spirit. I love to read, write, study, even work on projects late in the evening. With teenagers in the house and a busy life full of homeschooling and ministry responsibilities, those quiet hours are often few in number and hard to find.
Tonight my mind is mulling over this week’s Bible study lesson. At first glance the study, Enhancing Your Marriage by Judy Rossi, looks to be one about marriage (um, yeah, hence the title), and indeed it covers attitudes in marriage, communication, romance, prayer, and so on. But really the heart of the book is our relationship with Christ. Nearly every lesson so far has dealt with understanding and knowing God better. It is a profoundly moving study.
This week we have been studying the Process of Change – seven steps that offer the opportunity to walk towards freedom and away from sin. It’s such a powerful collection of steps that I want to savor and absorb the teaching. I don’t want to zip through my lesson (as I’ve done, oh too many times) and walk away unchanged. I want to take my journal and pen and figuratively sit down on each step, studying, learning, listening, growing.
Step 1 : Recognize Your Inner Enemies as Sin
I want to be quick to recognize the darkness in my life, in my soul, in my heart. I want God’s light of truth and righteousness to so flood over my soul that I am blinded by His glory. I don’t want to hold onto any little sins – ones that I ignore, excuse or defend. This means I must be willing to say, like King David,
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24
Step 2 : Deny Yourself
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” Mark 8:34
How would denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus change how I’m living? How would it change my marriage? How would it impact my parenting? My relationships with those in my life?
I am a DEEPLY selfish person. I like things my way. I like to be in charge. I like to spend my time the way I like. And I definitely like my coffee strong with cream and served often. The more my eyes are on me – the less able I am to deny myself and follow Jesus with a whole and sincere heart.
Step 3 : Confess, Repent, and Receive God’s Forgiveness
These three things are crucial and inseparable in dealing with sin. In confessing my sin, I am agreeing with God that something within me MUST CHANGE. In repenting, I am responding with godly sorrow and humility and expressing a willingness to CHANGE. In receiving His forgiveness, I am accepting His love and cleansing, and I am moving forward with Him in FREEDOM from my sin.
These three steps are so moving, so profound and impactful, that I want to pause, reflect, and just breathe in deeply. But overcoming sin (or confronting the “Canaanites” as author, Rossi, puts it) doesn’t stop here.
Step 4 : Trust God
It’s the Lord and His Holy Spirit that does a transforming work in my life. It’s not my own strength, power, or will. On my own, I bring nothing to the table, filthy rags perhaps, but no lasting change. As I walk through these steps to freedom, I trust that God will make my paths straight. I trust that He will keep me in perfect peace. I trust that He will bear good fruit in my life.
Step 5 : Wait for God
This is difficult. It means waiting with expectancy. Waiting with a faithful, trusting, listening heart. Waiting with the knowledge and assurance of God’s involvement – in our lives, in our transformation, in our freedom.
Step 6 : Rejoice and Pray with Thanksgiving
I love this step, even though it is often extremely difficult. I love it because over and over I have seen the amazing power of living this out. Rejoicing in sadness. Rejoicing in loss. Rejoicing in difficulty. Nothing has changed my heart and brought me greater joy than keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, no matter what the circumstance. Thanking Him amidst my tears. Listing the ways I am thankful when I am discontented and grumbling and grumpy. There NEVER FAILS to be a change in my heart when I remember to rejoice and thank the Giver of All Good Things.
Step 7 : Obey
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11
The last of these seven steps calls for our obedience. I love the picture of joy and love and obedience all swirling together in a beautiful radiance of a changed life. I don’t obey out of my own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. My obedience is born from my love for Jesus and His love for me.
After our study time, my small group met together. As we sat in the dimly lit foyer, shivering in the cooler part of the church, we walked through these seven steps together. Vulnerable and honest, we each bared a little piece of our individual struggles. We sketched a picture of what confession, forgiveness, trust, and obedience looks like in battling things like anger, despair and lack of self-control.
Like a subtle but undeniable fragrance that fills a room, a spark of HOPE lit inside of each of us. We long to be better wives and mothers. We cry for peace and ache for true joy in our lives. We want to walk in Freedom.
These seven steps offer a tangible, concrete, and scriptural way to experience God’s power and healing. Thank you, Judy Rossi, for sharing your heart and wisdom with us.