Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What About The Change?

For the follower of Jesus Christ change is a vital part of life. A change in our thinking and a change in our behavior. If we are not doing the hard work of change in our lives then there is something wrong in our relationship with God. Change means that we are involved in that process through which God makes us people fit for heaven.

The authors of the New Testament expected their readers to make changes in their lifestyles. Take for example what the Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter:
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 You once were not a people, but now you are God's people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul, 12 and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears. (1 Peter 2:9-12; NET)
To me it seems that Peter expected, since the nature of our relationship with God changed, that there should be a change in our behavior as well. We should live as "foreigners and exiles," because this world we are living in is not our home. In other words we are to live differently from the world around us.

I bring this point up because I think one of the problems which plague the Church, at least the Church in the west, is the idea that all you need is belief. If you believe then that is what matter. While it is true that the New Testament writers emphasized belief, their understanding of that word is different than ours. Belief for them always entailed action. That is why James in chapter two of his letter talks about Abraham's and Rahab's belief by explaining what they did. That is the point Jesus made in Luke 6:46-49:
46 "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and don't do what I tell you? 47 "Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and puts them into practice - I will show you what he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep, and laid the foundation on bedrock. When a flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the person who hears and does not put my words into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against that house, it collapsed immediately, and was utterly destroyed!" (NET)

We cannot remain with Jesus and stay the way we are. If we are truly following Jesus then it will be evident in the way we live our lives. This change in our behavior and in our thinking just doesn't happen. It takes hard work on our part as we follow the Holy Spirit's leading to make the necessary changes in our lives. And while we may never arrive at complete perfection now we will be will on our way in being the people God created us to be.

Here is some advice that the Apostle Paul gives for making those necessary changes in our lives:
21 And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, 22 but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him - 23 if indeed you remain in the faith, established and firm, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has also been preached in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become its servant. (Colossians 1:21-23; NET)

Paul gives us three areas to consider to serve as motivation for changing our lives.

The first area Paul mentions is our sin. - Vs. 21
At one time, before we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we were enemies of God. We were enemies because of our sin, and through our sin we had join the Kingdom of Darkness. Our sinful action served the cause of Satan and not the cause of Christ.

We tend to forget the serious nature of our sin. Sin is much more than a mistake, but it is playing the traitor against God. That means there are serious consequences to our sin. The consequences of sin are broken relationships (with God and other people), a hopeless and purposeless life, and of course death. The terrible consequences of sin should provide us with motivation to change our lives.

The second area Paul mentions is our standing. - Vs. 22
The good news is because of faith in Jesus our standing with God has changed. No longer is our sin the defining characteristic of our lives. We have been reconciled to God and have become, not only His servants, but also His children. It is now possible to stand before God blameless! What a wonderful opportunity that is.

This new standing with God not due to anything that we have done, but it is due to what Jesus has done own our behalf. The suffering and death of Jesus should offer us motivation to change our lives. Our horribleness of sin is seen in the torture and murder of Jesus, who bore our sin, to make us free. We should develop a hatred for sin because we know what Jesus went through to free us from it.

But also having this new standing should motivate us to live lives that will be worthy of it. Since we are God's priests we should live lives of worship. Since we are new creations we should live new lives. Since we are God's children we should live as Jesus lived.

Which brings us to the last area Paul mentions and that is our standard. - Vs. 23
This new standard is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not longer subjected to the ways of the world or even under the law which brings death. No, we are under the authority of Jesus. His teachings and His example provides us with the new standard in which we are to live.

The key to using this new standard as motivation for changing our lives is hope. Hope that God will make all things right. Hope that one day we will spend the rest of eternity in Heaven with our Father. Hope that there is more to life than the here and now. Ultimately without hope that things will be different than there becomes little reason to change. Hope become essential to changing our lives when the results of change are not immediately visible.

Change needs to be part of our lives, and it needs to be more than the changing which naturally takes place with the passage of time. If we are not working to change how we live by getting rid of sin and developing habits of righteousness then one must question whether or not they have really trusted Jesus. Faith in Jesus, after all, is more than believing the right thins, but is doing the right things as well. Abraham, Moses, David, Rahab, Esther, Peter, and Paul all demonstrated their trust in God by the things they did. What about you?


Jim Jordan said...

Excellent homily, Paul.

Thanks for pointing out that Jesus was not talking about unbelievers in his House in the Sand parable but those who are in the pews but don't pay much attention. I had gotten used to seeing it as a parable describing unbelievers but the truth that it was the church that He was addressing makes it much more relevant.

Good Word.

Paul said...

Thanks Jim for the comment. I think the parable shows Jesus knew that we, as His followers, would have a tendency to listen to His teachings while missing to apply them to our lives.

Anonymous said...

I agree, change is essential for the believer. True change is born of the heart (Matthew 15:18-19). Man can at time "fix" external habits, but inwardly one can be full of every kind of uncleanness, and God wants to cleanse His people from the inside out. This is why God gives us the Holy Spirit and His Word, so we can change and be like Christ for His Glory! When we are not taking advantage of our resources in Jesus, we are not walking in New Life, nor are we walking worthy of our calling.

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