I have these rules for life. Some of them are witty, some are cute, some challenge me in ways that are hard to describe. This is one of those challenging rules. Click here for the previous Dale’s Rules.
We’d all love to change our world. To fix what is wrong. To have peace, prosperity, and meaning without days that are difficult, painful, or fearful. Maybe we have a desire to fix to broad areas of life like our nation, our culture, the government, or other power brokers that shape our world. Perhaps we’d like to change some big things like poverty, discrimination, or the lack of basic fairness and civility. Maybe our desire for change is closer to home with the changes needed in our family, our friends, our workplace, our home, or our church. No doubt, there are a lot of things that need to change.
This Dale’s Rule proposes to fix all of those. The rule is this – Nothing in our world changes unless our hearts are changed.
I’ve seen it more than once. Someone is mad at church. They’ve been wounded somehow. Hey, it happens even though it shouldn’t. The worship music doesn’t move them, the preaching is stale, there are hypocrites everywhere, all they talk about is money. Any of that sound familiar? But then Jesus gets a hold of them. They deal with their pain and anger. Their heart is changed. Suddenly the worship music is goosebump level inspiring, the preaching is moving and seems aimed right at their heart, there are broken people that need Jesus all around, and the issue of money is no more. In reality, nothing changed except their heart.
So how does changing my heart change the big things of the world? Many of the world’s problems are heart problems. Laws are written to enforce a behavior, but the real solution is to change hearts. But we can’t move hearts towards change unless our heart changes first. Some of this is simply the way we see people. Our change of heart recategorizes them from enemies to something else. Perhaps we see a value in them we were blind to or the brokenness that drives their attitudes and actions. Sometimes though when our hearts are changed we realize that we were the broken one.
This rule especially applies to those near us, the faces and lives that make up our world. That one family member that gets under your skin, the co-worker that grates at your nerves. It can even effect non-people things like our jobs or our home. Changing our hearts changes our attitudes.
The Apostle Paul put it this way, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2–3, NIV) He then goes on to list actions and attitudes we should take off. Things like “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry…. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8, NIV) Paul also goes on to list what we should put on. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12–14, NIV) This is where it becomes challenging.
You see, in Christ, we do have a new life, but it is up to us, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to put it on. To wear it. To make the internal changes active, visible, and vital in the rest of life. Following Jesus is not choosing to wear a different mask or team color, it literally changes everything. We may think that we’re a hardwired grump, but following Jesus will rewire us to a different way of being.
Sometimes heart changes just happen. We hear new information and eagerly receive it. But most of the time heart changes are hard work. We must decide to forgive, decide to be thankful, decide to offer grace to the foolish, to listen to others, to feel what others feel, to be wrong and be wronged, to be honest with ourselves and with others, and most of all decide to risk love.
What this rule tells me is to look inside myself before I let anger, resentment, bitterness, desires, or self-protection control my attitudes, words, and actions. It reminds me that the failures and offenses I see in the world may very well be because of my own brokenness.
The big question is how to intentionally put this into practice. For that, I suggest a series of three recent messages called “Change Your Mind…Change Your Life” by Ben Hoerr at Vineyard Church Peoria. These messages describe and demonstrate a tool for just that purpose. Here are the links to the audio of those messages.
**Editor Note – The coincidence of this Dale’s Rule and Ben’s series of messages is one of those serendipities Holy Spirit moments. I love it when God’s plan comes together.