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It was springtime, 1984. I was 18, my nephew John was a few years younger. We were mowing one Saturday, and had come to a patch of ground that was guarded by a pretty mean bumblebee. He was a kamikaze – every time we’d get near, he would dive-bomb us. We were both scared to death, and my dad was yelling at us to just get in there and get it done.

I would grab the mower, rush in, cut a small section, then run away, then John would do the same. It was going to take hours though, and we were all getting frustrated. The very last time I ran from the bee, I saw an acorn on the ground, scooped it up, jumped and twisted in mid-air, and threw the acorn as hard as I could. And it knocked that bee right out of the sky.

John said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” How right you were, John. And it’s in the top 5 coolest things I’ve ever done.

As Christians, we hear a lot about “hitting the mark.” We’ve been taught that sin is missing the mark, so we struggle and strive to hit it – whatever “it” is. Sometimes, the result of this is a theology based on performance – “I must do XYZ or God will not love or accept me.”

What I have learned is, there is nothing farther from the truth. God IS love! He already loves you, and since he is God, he could never love you any less because of any bad thing you have done, and he can’t love you any more because of any good thing you have done.

We have heard that sin is missing the mark, but what if our definition of sin is wrong? What if sin is not something we do or don’t do? What if the things we do are just the outward signs of sin? What if sin is actually a condition – the condition of being separated from God?

Definitions are important, or so I have learned, from a pastor at my church. His name is Bob Hamp, and his book Think Differently, Live Differently: Keys To A Life Of Freedom has helped me redefine a lot of things in my life. Starting with sin.

The metaphor of hitting the bee with an acorn is appropriate when discussing trying to hit the mark. I really did hit the bee. How unlikely was it that I would, though? I hit an acorn size flying insect with an actual acorn. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of deal. I couldn’t have done it on purpose, and I think the purpose of that happening is so I can share these things with you now.

We can’t hit the mark. Most of us will spend a lifetime trying, a lifetime striving, a lifetime feeling guilty when all God wants is for us to be free. We can’t wake up one day and decide we will stop drinking or cursing or lusting or whatever symptom of sin we are struggling with. We can’t exchange one set of behaviors for another and declare we are free. We can’t change ourselves. Only God can help us to think and live differently.

In Bob’s book, he tells the story of the creation and fall of mankind. Adam and Eve had a choice – life or knowledge – they chose knowledge and we have been trying to gain life on our own ever since by trading the knowedge of evil for the knowlegde of good. In other words, we make resolutions, we go to 12 step programs, we read self help books, we wear a nicotine patch, we improve ourselves by learning and even doing good things. But trading one type of knowledge for another doesn’t really change anything, when you consider eternity.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is all one tree, and it’s still not life. God offers life to us, and we choose to do good things and call it even, while on the inside we are killing ourselves trying to do what we think is right.

When we choose life, everything changes. It’s like a blind person seeing for the first time, a deaf person hearing for the first time. We don’t have to have intentions anymore, we don’t have to struggle to gain God’s love and acceptance anymore, we don’t have to worry about whether or not he loves us. He does! We don’t have to worry about our lives making a difference or being important – they will, and we are!

We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is what repentance is. Another definition – I was taught that repentance is me choosing to turn the other way, away from my sin toward God. This goes back to making it about me and my performance. No – repentance is me doing the only thing I can do that is right – submitting my will to God. When I give my soul to him, he changes my mind, and he frees me from the trap of being me.

What is the Spirit saying to you right now? Have you been laboring under a false definition of sin, of repentance? Let God renew your mind, let him show you a new way of thinking – not thinking different, but thinking differently. You have nothing to lose, everything to gain and all you have to do is one thing – the only thing you can do - release control of your will and give it to God.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself, so that you'll know where I'm coming from.  I'm 46 years old, I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and because of what he has done for me, instead of living in a van down by the river, I'm living right in the big middle of his will for me - and I couldn't be happier!

It wasn't always like that, in fact there was a time in my life when I identified with old Matt Foley.  Life was sad, and I tried any number of things to motivate myself, to pull myself out of the hole I was in.  Unfortunately, the kind of change I needed in my life, I could not accomplish on my own.

What I have learned, from a very wise man, is you can no more change yourself than you can reach down and grab your own feet and lift yourself off the ground.  I'm not talking about self help or 12 step programs.  I'm talking about real life change at the soul level.

In the beginning, and you can read this for yourself in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve made a choice - they chose knowledge over life, and their choice doomed all of us.  We all rely on our own thinking to get us through life, and we end up like Matt Foley - living by ourselves in a self-imposed prison down by the river.  We think so often that we are doing good, and it will count for something at some point, but your actions, good or bad, cannot earn you salvation or any amount of favor with God.

Which brings me to Lucifer.  What an angel he must have been!  Chief among angels, the most beautiful and most wise of any of God's creations.  Ezekeil 28 is about the Prince of Tyre, and many people believe it is a depiction of Lucifer as well.  His heart became proud, his wisdom was corrupted, and he longed for the glory that can only belong to God.  In Isaiah 14, he is described as the morning star who would make himself like God, and was cast down from heaven because of it. 

Like Matt Foley, Lucifer tried to become something he is not through his own power.  He lied to mankind in the beginning, and now because of that, more often than not, we all live our lives exactly the same way.  We think we deserve something, we chase our desires, we imagine in our minds that we can change ourselves and do better or be better.  And many times, by an act of our will, we can choose good - we give to charities, we quit drinking or smoking, we treat our neighbors with respect, and we work hard at our jobs.  And when our lives are over, then what?

Matt Foley is a sad excuse for a motivational speaker.  He's a joke!  The sad thing is, many people feel like that on the inside and just put on a happy mask for the world to see.  Freedom is about becoming the person you were created and redeemed to be, and nothing you do will get you there.  Ever.  It is something that happens on the inside, in your soul, due to an outside influence.

What Lucifer did, and what we do, is we rely on ourselves and we are not good enough, we're not stong enough, we're not smart enough, we are not in control, no matter how good, how strong or how much of a control freak we are.  Our destiny is sealed and we will suffer the same fate as Matt Foley in life - it will be a worthless joke of an existence - and we will suffer the same fate as Lucifer in eternity - forever separated from the source of life - God.

By an act of our human will, we developed medicines that save people's lives, we put men on the moon, we developed wonderful technology that enables me to write this and you to read it.  We build our towers into the heavens, trying to reach God on our own terms, and completely miss the mark every time.  There is so much more!

What if I told you that, by an act of your will, you could have everything that God has promised you in his word?  You can have victory in this life, power to live every minute of every day as God intended - free!  All you have to do is decide one thing - you have to use your will to surrender you will to God.  When you decide that you've had enough doing it your way, when you've had enough struggling trying to make everything work out and your big reward is you end up in a van down by the river, when nothing you do can make anything make sense, when you've had enough of doing it wrong and you realize something isn't right, that is the time to act.  Your strength, your thinking, your actions cannot get you to God.  But surrender of who you currently are can.

When you surrender all that you are in your soul to God, he breathes new life into you, he changes your mind, he renews everything about you, and then everything will change forever.  And it really is just that easy.  Ask him.  Just step right up and say, "God - I surrender my will to you, now take me and change me.  I want a real relationship with you."  He doesn't want or need anything you can give him or do for him.  He doesn't need you or your resources or your knowledge.  But he does want to know you - and he wants you to know him.

If that's what you truly desire, then ask!  You'll receive.  Your life will start over and you'll see things totally differently than you ever have.  You'll be seeing the physical world through spiritual eyes.  You'll experience power in your day to day life.  You'll give sacrificially and it won't even matter because God will give it back 10 fold.  I've been like Matt Foley.  It's no good, no way to live, and now being on the other side of it, I wonder what took me so long because it is so awesome I can't even put it into words.  God is Good and he wants to share everything with you - will you let him?