A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about feeling convicted over my choice of music. I shared that lately it was getting harder for me to justify the soul-feeding benefits of explicit rap involving strippers and cocaine. (The post was over 1,000 words long, but that’s pretty much the summary.)
Some fun conversation followed in the comments, but one particular thought stood out to me. Here is what someone said in response to what I wrote:
Jon…its all talk until you delete him out of your ITUNES
I really like that comment, because I really want it to be true.
When I bump into challenges in my faith, I want the solution to be as simple as deleting a file from my computer. (Or, in my case, removing it from Spotify.)
I want to press a button, feel a twinge of completeness, and walk away. But there’s a problem: That’s never worked in my life.
It didn’t work in the seventh grade when I would go on a retreat, get on fire for God, throw CDs away, and then buy them again a month later.
And it’s continued to not work. Despite the barriers, steps, and plans I come up with, I keep doing things I don’t want to do and not doing things I want to do. Just like Paul said.
The truth is, that’s what’s so frustrating to me about God. I want him to give me a to-do list. I want him to give me some action items, and he keeps refusing.
I say to him, “Give me a solution.” He says “I gave you a savior.”
I say, “Give me something that will fix me forever.” He says, “Walk with me today.”
I say, “I want a present from you that will change me.” He says, “I want you in my presence.”
I want a quick fix. I want actions. I want progress I can control and monitor. And instead, in the face of all of that, God offers me something incredibly simple.
Why? Because that is the only thing that will lead to renewal in my heart. All the plans I craft will eventually crumble. All the good intentions I might have will fall apart. All my willpower and discipline will abandon me in my greatest time of need. But one thing remains steadfast: My relationship with God.
It’s messy. It’s slower than I want. It’s not always the shape I’d like it to be because, though I know what I want, God is the only one who really knows what I need.
But the truth is, if I want my heart renewed, if I want my soul sanctified, if I want to be the new man God’s always known I could be, I have to trust in the relationship. I have to return to the relationship. I have to give all to the relationship.
If you read this and think, “OK, I don’t need a filter on my computer. Actions and plans don’t matter,” then I’ve done a poor job writing this. It’s not that actions don’t matter, what matters is where they come from. The actions that blossom from my relationship with God are completely different from the actions that start in my own desire to fix something.
If you’ve got a song you don’t think you should listen to, then delete it. Delete it all day. But just know that actions alone won’t change your heart. We are not designed to renew ourselves. What a sense of freedom and release from pressure I felt when I first realized that. Trying to fix me with me is exhausting.
True change, heart change, life change, can only come from one place, your relationship with a God who already commissioned the action that matters most, the death of his son on the cross for you and me.