August/September 2009 Fit 4 Ever Jimmy Page

Reputation or Reality?
Real Change from the Inside Out

"...You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence ... First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean … on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." – Matthew 23:25-28 (NIV)

Last year, Americans spent nearly $12 billion on cosmetic procedures to change their outward appearances. And all of that during one of the worst economic downturns our nation has ever seen.

It absolutely amazes me what we are willing to do in order to look outwardly younger, skinnier or even happier. But the reality is that, if the inside is ugly and our hearts are troubled, nothing we do to cover it up will change our inner reality.

While most of us may not resort to surgery to improve our appearances, we have all "put on a happy face" or said all the right things even when we were miserable on the inside. But please hear me on this: Lasting change always happens from the inside out.

Jesus says in Matthew 23 that when we clean the inside, the outside gets clean, too. In other words, when our hearts are right, our behavior follows. But so often we try to change our behavior without dealing with the root issues inside, and then we're surprised when the same issues resurface again and again.

We try so hard to stick to a diet, but we crash and burn because we haven't dealt with the fact that we use food to comfort us in loneliness and stress. We put on tons of muscle so that we can look big or perform on the athletic field, but we haven't dealt with our insecurity or fear of failure and rejection. We deprive ourselves of food so that we look like models on magazine covers, but we don't deal with our belief that we'll never be good enough or measure up to expectations. We exercise obsessively to lose weight, but we don't deal with our need to control things because we don't trust God.

So, what can we do to experience the power of God in a way that really changes us on the inside? I believe there are three pieces to this puzzle:

The words we speak, our attitudes, emotions and even our actions are a reflection of what's going on inside of us. In order for our hearts to change, we must connect with God in a significant, consistent way. We must seek Him first and let Him expose our attitudes, relationships and thoughts.

But guess what? A 10-minute quiet time isn't going to cut it. We have freedom to spend time with God any way we want: reading the Bible, praying (and listening), worshipping through song, fasting, etc. But if we really want to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, we have to spend significant time with Him. I challenge you to try at least 60 minutes every morning. Pray that God will give you a real desire for this!

Paul tells us in Romans 12 that real change requires a different way of thinking. We have to stop negative, destructive, jealous, impure thoughts and take them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We then must replace them with what is pure, right, noble and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). That, eventually, brings change.

We also need to stop allowing ourselves to take in garbage such as movies, music or media that is loaded with profanity, sex, violence and other immorality. These things pollute our thinking.

James tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). I fully believe that, when we take action to help others in a tangible way in the name of Jesus, our hearts will begin to change as well. It pleases God when we sacrifice for others with pure motives.

Isn't it time that we closed the gap between our reputation and our reality? Face it: Our outward bodies will eventually break down. Shouldn't we invest more time and energy in the things that will last for eternity?

It's time for change. Let's all try to worry less about our appearances and more about the condition of our hearts.

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Medical Disclaimer: All information in this article is of a general nature and is furnished for your knowledge and understanding only. This information is not to be taken as medical or other health advice pertaining to your specific health and medical condition. Always consult a physician or health professional before beginning any exercise or nutrition program.