I used to think that if I merely tried harder, strove longer, or pulled myself up by my bootstraps more, then I would become the “perfect Christian girl”. I read about the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 and wanted more than anything to have those be what characterized my heart and life. I wanted to be loving, peaceful, patient, joyful, and all the rest. Try as I might, however, little to nothing changed. My “determining to do better” lasted about an hour after my feet hit the floor each morning, but then flew right out the window the moment I lost my temper or failed to practice self-control. I would easily despair and give up, only to begin the vicious cycle again the next time I again wanted to do better.
What I didn’t understand was that having the fruits of the Spirit cultivated in my heart and poured out into my life had nothing to do with my dedicating to be the most patient or loving person I could be. Instead, it had everything to do with my simply purposing to “walk by the Spirit” for then I would “certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). You may be wondering, though, what it means to walk by the Spirit. What does that look like in practical, everyday terms? Well, Colossians 3 provides us with a great blueprint!
5 Ways to Transform Your Desires According to Colossians 3
- Seek the Things Above
The first step is to “if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above,” (vs. 1). Before we ever talk about doing away with sinful patterns in our lives and replacing them with holy ones, we first have to cultivate the firm foundation of our minds and focus. Again, it is not about just “doing better”. It is about seeking after the Lord.
Walking by the Spirit simply means seeking Him, intentionally spending time with Him all throughout your day, truly being in relationship with Him. This looks like reading and studying your Bible, being in prayer, and carefully listening to anything you sense the Lord telling you. Purposefully pursue Him. The more you do, the more you will want to, and the more you will be made into the image of Christ as your desires begin to be changed as a result of the time you have spent with Him.
- Set Your Mind on Things Above
Once you have purposed to seek the things of God, you now begin to set your mind on them (vs. 2). You meditate on the truths you have read and studied. You keep them in your memory, rehearse them day in and day out, and watch your mind be transformed as a result (Romans 12:1-2). You take every thought (which is where sins begin!) captive to the truth you now know (2 Corinthians 10:5).
- Put Off Evil Things
Now is where we get to the side of making practical action steps towards changing our appetites and what we crave. Notice that you do not first “put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.” (vs. 5). Purposing in your own strength to change your actions and merely looking to behavioral modification will not result in lasting change. Heart transformation, on the other hand, will! And that heart transformation is a natural result of walking by the Spirit and cultivating your relationship with Christ by focusing on Him and His truth.
- Put On Good Things
It isn’t enough to simply put to death the old flesh and sin in your life. The bad things have to be replaced by good things. “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (vs 12) and “above all, put on love” (vs. 14). The more you live in this light, the more your desire for it will continue to grow.
- Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly
Colossians 3:16 sums up our method for changing our desires with these words: “Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Continued sanctification of your desires will come about as you continue to meditate on the Word, live in Christian community among a multitude of counselors, live a life of worship and praise to God, and cultivate gratitude for all He is and all He has done.
That, my friend, is how you see your desires, appetites, and what you crave transformed into the likeness of Christ. It won’t all happen overnight, but it will happen as you walk by the Spirit!