This series has been much more difficult for me than I expected. I have some very specific points I want to make, but organizing them in a coherent manner and leading up to them in a logical way has proven to be a monumental task.

You see, no one human person can set down a checklist of things to do to that will automatically work for every other individual acting on their own accord. This is the fatal flaw in the self-help sub-culture. People put all their eggs in someone else’s basket and expect them to miraculously turn into a delicious fluffy omelet, where in reality it might be too runny, or have too much pepper, or mushrooms or some other element unappealing to them. There is only one who knows exactly what to do with your eggs, and He wants you to put them in His basket and stop worrying about them (Matthew 6:25-34).

While it may not look the same for everyone, it does start in the same place. Cliché as it may sound, change starts with you and it starts with me. Not with a new wardrobe or hairstyle. Not with a new location or job. Not with different relationships or diet. Not even with a twelve-step program. Certainly not with a new political figurehead. It’s a heart issue and it always has been (Matthew 5).

Whether you want to change your household or the entire world, begin by taking a long hard look at your heart. Inventory your intentions. Dissect your desires. Meditate on your motives. Do you see the need for change inside yourself? If not, you might want to look again. Observe your surroundings. Evaluate your belongings. Test your influence. Compare these things with the life of Jesus and the message of the Gospel. How do they hold up?

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Why not leave well enough alone? The world will continue to turn and people will continue to draw their own conclusions. What’s the use in wasting time and energy trying to convince anyone of anything? Aren’t a lot of folks comfortable with their general lifestyle and the way things are? Why rock the boat with all this talk about change?

If we are honest, or better yet, if we allow the Holy Spirit to bring those shortcomings to the surface, we will admit that there is always room for self-improvement. If you can’t admit that, then I’m sure there is someone else nearby who would be very willing to admit it for you. The majority of us have the desire or even the craving for change, whether it’s live better or look better or feel better. We have all been created with the capacity for change, but only God can change us completely. He wants to. And if that is likewise the cry of our heart, we need to get out of His way. We need to push aside everything that hinders the potential for a God-centered life.

What is standing in your way? What are you holding on to that prevents unguarded submission to your Creator? Before we can even consider trying to change the world around us, we have to understand that, apart from Christ, we bring absolutely nothing beneficial to the table. Any good thing that we may think we can contribute on our own is laced with selfish motives and tainted with prideful desires. Allow that to humble you for a moment, because until we are humble, we are not truly glorifying God with our actions. More often than not, we are not humble, and the irony of it is that we have nothing to be prideful about.

Is that to say that non-believers, or even believers with unconfessed sin in their lives, cannot effectively exact positive change in the world? Of course not. Plenty of well-meaning people, wealthy or poor, do nice things and affect those around them for the better. So what’s the difference? The difference is in who is getting the credit (Matthew 6:1-4).

We have to recognize that all credit is due to our Savior. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). It is easy to accept the admonishment of our fellow man. After all we earned it; we worked for it; we made the sacrifices; us. That is why it is so important to die to our selves. Every day. Deny self, and in the process, kill our selfish thoughts by starvation.

Easier said than done, right? But think of it this way. If we are honestly looking to the interests of someone else, it is impossible to look to our own. C.S. Lewis said “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” This applies to our thinking of God as well as to each other. And I feel that one of the most humbling thoughts about God is that He loves us, even though we don’t deserve it and we could never earn it.

“Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. – Eph. 4:22-24 (The Message)

Next Time: Exact Change pt.4 – “Live Local”