How can you receive help when you need an “attitude adjustment?”
The Carnal Nature
If you know anything about human nature, you know that it is our nature to sin. Just a quick reading of Romans chapter 7 will show you what’s in the human heart. Jeremiah wrote that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer 17:9)? Jesus says that our evil nature comes “from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). We can’t blame our sin nature on our parents or our environment because “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:23). Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1st John 3:4), but sin also shows us what sin is, as the Apostle Paul writes, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet” (Rom 7:7), but it’s not the law that’s the problem with our attitude; it’s our sinful nature. Some call it our carnal nature. Before we are born again, we were like “a man who drinks injustice like water” (Job 15:16), so you cannot do anything to adjust your attitude until you have trusted in Christ and have the Spirit of God within you.
Un Uphill Battle
Paul’s honesty about his struggle is refreshing to me. He openly admits for all to read (now numbering in the billions) that “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom 7:19), and just like me, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15). Some would say that Paul is losing the battle with sin, but that’s not true. We read later that he declares himself guilty before God and asks, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Rom 7:24), but he doesn’t leave us hanging. He confidently concludes, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). We are all in a battle. It’s a battle between the flesh and instant gratification or sanctification and choosing to make choices pleasing to God and relying on Jesus Christ for strength. Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and without Christ we can do less than nothing, however Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). The truth is that it’s good to be in the battle, because any old dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live fish to swim upstream against the pulls of the world and the flesh. It’s an uphill battle, but that’s a sign of a healthy spiritual life.
A New Heart
I was sick. I needed a new heart. Not a physical organ like a real heart, but a new heart, with new desires and new passions. A heart that desires to love God, to serve God, to love others, and serve others. I needed a heart transplant. Ezekiel writes of a day where God declares, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezk 36:26). Even to God’s own people, He inspired Jeremiah the Prophet to wrote, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jer 24:7), meaning that my old heart of stone was too hard to receive the Spirit of God, so God gave to us who have trusted in Christ a new heart so we can “know that [He is] the Lord.” And then, we shall be His people and He will be our God. This should change anyone’s attitude. What a glorious thing our eternity is, so what’s today compared to that (Rom 8:18)?
We can either live in the tent of discontentment all our life or we can choose to live in contentment and people will gladly come over to visit you. It’s hard to be around someone that is always looking at the worst side of things and always assuming the worst will happen and believes the worst in people. Paul writes to Timothy, telling him that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1st Tim 6:6), meaning it’s very valuable in the sight of God when we display gratitude and thankfulness. This results in a contentment that gives us peace. The Apostle Paul may have suffered more than all of the first century Christians and apostles, yet he “learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil 4:11). How did Paul learn contentment? He had lots of practice as he was beaten, stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, and deprived of food and water, and suffered cold in the winter while being unfairly imprisoned. While he was imprisoned in such horrid conditions, he wrote what many call the “Joy Epistle,” or the Book of Philippians. Paul knew that he had to choose contentment. He had to learn how to choose it. Contentment doesn’t come naturally to any of us, so if you’re in a negative attitude, then you’re obviously discontented. And that’s not next to godliness. Chose to be content and you’ll adjust your attitude.
Christians understand that it’s our nature to have a bad attitude. We don’t naturally sing like songbirds in the morning, but step one to adjusting your attitude is to trust in Christ. Without the Spirit of God, your heart is like mine was; made of stone. I needed a heart of flesh and God provided one. Remember we’re all in the same battle and it’s not going to be easy, but being in the battle means we’re striving to live a life that is pleasing to God, but He has not left us helpless. We have a new heart since we’re a new creation in Christ (2nd Cor 5:17). Finally, contentment is a little like love; you have to choose to be contented, just as you have to choose to show love by your actions. Jesus is the ultimate example of that (John 3:16). It’s not easy…but it is worth it. You are not a helpless victim…you can choose to adjust your attitude with the help of the Spirit of God and the Word of God, and all you do can be for the glory of God.