Let’s face it; we’re all bombarded with advice on a daily basis. Whether it comes from teachers, bosses, parents, or friends, somebody is always saying “Do this, don’t do that. Think this, don’t think that.” The list goes on and on. People are shouting to us about all different areas of life: school, careers, dating/marriage, spirituality, etc. Often we hear these things and feel a surge of inspiration and motivation. “I can do this!”, we think to ourselves.
As our inspiration fades over the coming days and weeks, apathy, discouragement, and guilt settle within us.
But as our inspiration fades over the coming days and weeks, apathy, discouragement, and guilt settle within us. This is a pattern I’ve heard described with all different kinds of terminology from people in all different walks of life, but the main point remains unchanged: advice lacks the power to create real change. Good advice is just like the law; in that it diagnoses the problem but does nothing to cure it.
The fact that advice can’t create change is typically a frustrating one. We want to change. We try to change. But in most cases, it just doesn’t happen. We stick with the way things were and what we’re used to. Why? Paul illustrates this in Romans 7:15-20, in which he essentially says, “I don’t make any sense to myself. I want to do what’s good, but I keep doing what’s evil” (author’s translation). In our flesh, that part of us that is still not yet submitted to God, we lack the ability to change for the better.
You can’t change. You are stuck doing the thing that you know is wrong. This is profoundly discouraging and bad news, but in order for good news to be truly good it’s necessary to do business with the bad news. So where does the bad news lead us? It leaves us looking not for good advice, since we already know the problem with ourselves at some level. What we need is truly good and hopeful news about ourselves. And graciously, this is what Jesus brings to us. Because Jesus has died in our place for our sins, we know that God will forgive us for not obeying Him. Jesus has paid our debt in that sense.
In our flesh, that part of us that is still not yet submitted to God, we lack the ability to change for the better.
But there is more good news; that God sends the Holy Spirit to empower us to obey Him. This is the gospel; that God will never ask anything of us that He won’t empower us to obey in the Holy Spirit and also forgive us for not obeying in Jesus (Philippians 2:12-13). If you’re like me, you grow weary of good suggestions that ultimately bring about discouragement. My prayer is that the truth of the gospel would be continually renewing our minds so that we may be transformed (Romans 12:2), and so that we may not burden others with more advice, but refresh their soul with good news.