There’s a statement often attributed to Aristotle that says “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” The idea is that we are creatures of desire, of motivation. The human heart does not only seek instruction but operates on incentive.
The default approach to change seems to be this: a constant barrage of CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE. If I can just tell that other person 100 times a day that they should stop lying/cheating/hurting/manipulating, the idea goes, then eventually their will can be shaped in new directions.
The problem is, it doesn’t work.
When it comes to temptation, we can’t think that the whole moment is won or lost depending on how much you see your need to change. We also need to know what needs to change and why it matters. We must know what actually re-shapes and re-directs our desires towards the path of life. Well, that is one of the beautiful truths of the Christian faith, we are not only told what needs to change, we are given the power to change.
What our hearts need is an education in grace.
The truth is that the moment we believe, the second we confess, we are completely forgiven, covered by grace.
I know a man in my church who seemed to live a tormented life. In response to a troubled email he sent to me one night, I did what I often do and called him up.
As we spoke, I quickly picked up on several statements indicating that he just simply didn’t feel forgiven of sin. I asked him, “Do you not know that you are forgiven?” He said, “Oh, I know that in my distant past I am forgiven, but as for my recent past, I should know better, and so I am riddled with guilt.”
Many of us stumble in this same way, thinking that we are only partially forgiven. But we are truly and wholly forgiven.
Here is why this is important for facing temptation and becoming the people that God wants us to be. Paul goes on to say in his letter to Titus that we must “renounce” sin. But you can only renounce what you know is forgiven—both the sin of your past and the sin you’ve yet to commit. Grace isn’t just about the sin you’ve already committed. You are forgiven right now in the present moment.