How do we bring about change?
There is no real debate about the presence of problems in society. One must simply open the newspaper to see the chronicles of brokenness. Each day we read of domestic violence, drug abuse, abortion, corporate greed, gang violence, and terrorism. There is no shortage of problems.
But how do we fix this? The common approach is to work on the symptoms. To do this people spend money, try to change the environment, work on education, and even provide technological advantages. In other words, the common approach to fixing problems is to work on the external. Presumably, we believe that if we can fix the environment around a person then people will thrive.
How does God fix the problems? As the Creator and omniscient One, he has a unique even a privileged perspective. We should hear it.
The Problem is Internal Before it is External
While the common play for contemporary wisdom and even many religions is to work on the external, God, brings change from the inside. God works inside out while so many others work outside in.
This has everything to do with the pervasiveness of the problem and the powerful solution.
The problem before it is external it is internal. Jesus taught that the evil deeds come from within “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”” (Mark 7:15) This defilement reservoir is the human heart. And it is a real problem: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Every single person, without exception is infected with the deadly disease of sin. Our hearts are a hive of iniquity.
The Solution Must then be Internal
The solution then must penetrate into the heart. Purification must be internal, decisive, and lasting. There is no room for a half-way cleaning; this must be a full on scrubbing. And this is precisely what God does through the gospel.
Jesus teaches us that “… everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) However, “… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) The work of Christ, the gospel, is a cleansing work! Contrasting the external, ceremonial cleansing of the Old Covenant, the writer of Hebrews shows the surpassing supremacy of Christ’s cleansing: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14) Do you see this internal scrubbing that the gospel brings? It is the work that reaches down deep into a man and makes him new (2 Cor. 5:17). It cleanses the den of iniquity by the power of the gospel.
As a result, the one who has come to faith in Christ is liberated from sin and liberated to serve. Sin is no longer his master but Christ is, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:12-13, ESV)
I am not poking fun at non-gospel agencies who tirelessly work to do good in their communities. Instead, I am highlighting the deep contrast of a biblical anthropology from a secular. The Bible teaches that the source of the problem is internal while the symptoms of the problem are external. Therefore, God deals with people from the inside out. This is how real, lasting change will come.