2 Corinthians 5:17
Alvin Tofflier said in Future Shock that today’s world is as different from the world of 1923 as the world of 1923 was from Julius Caesar’s day. Until the twentieth century the changes in technology and industry were hardly discernible during a lifetime, but today change travels at light speed.
One of life’s first lessons involves managing change and it’s never more evident than when it’s revealed in children. They move from the bottle to solid food; from crawling to walking; from screaming to demanding; from riding the bike to monopolizing the car; from high school to who knows where? And the changes continue throughout life. Our entire welfare hinges on our ability to manage change.
Cultural analysts report that our society is reinvented every three to five years. That is, the core distinctions of society—our language, customs, values, and fashions—are significantly reshaped that quickly. There’s a measure of confidence that comes with believing society is stable and permanent, but the fact is, culture is constantly undergoing changes and if we don’t adapt we’ll lose touch with reality.
In studying the context of change I’ve discovered all change occurs in three ways: (1) by natural inclination, (2) by choice, or (3) by force. When change occurs by natural inclination it’s unmanageable and unavoidable. That’s not necessarily bad, it just keeps us from taming the process. And it’s evident everywhere you look: Seasons, oceans, and the constellations constantly change. You notice it on the wrinkling face of a friend you haven’t seen in years.
(Humor) And we change in ways we don’t like. We’re told the mind is the first thing to go. Or is it hearing, or the eyes. I forget! Life is change in motion and we’re forced to adjust and readjust to its influence. There’s the operative word, adjust. We manage life by adjusting to change.
(Illustration) Speaking of adjusting, I suppose a man in Santa Fe, New Mexico illustrated adapting to change as well as anyone. He phoned his local newspaper, The New Mexican, to withdraw his engagement announcement but was informed it was too late because it was already at press. Philosophically he remarked, “Oh well, I guess I’ll marry her then.” He had no problem adjusting to life!
That might be an exaggeration, but we must adapt to change. It’s necessary to adapt to physical, mental, and social changes. But most importantly the Bible says there’s a need for spiritual change in every person on earth. We are born as sinful creatures and that’s why Jesus told Nicodemus: “You must be born again.” In order to be reconciled with God we must be transformed from center to circumference. Everything about us needs renovating.
(Illustration) Redemption is a conversion experience. The word conversion means: “to change.” When I was a kid in Sunday School we sang the chorus, “I’m glad I got converted.” And we sang that refrain over and over . . . “I’m glad I got converted.” I had no idea what that meant. I probably envisioned a soul without a top on it; somewhat like a convertible automobile. But again, that word conversion means, “to turn about; to turn from one lifestyle and embrace another.” Much is converted in the salvation experience:
The transformation is so drastic, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
You may have made a profession of Faith but if you’re constantly consorting with the sinful nature—frequenting unwholesome places, practicing filthy habits, and plotting in ways that hurt others, you aren’t converted! Conversion means you’ve changed—plain and simple!
I want to make an observation that’s fearfully true about new Christians. Unless the newly converted immediately pursues a deeper walk, most frequently, any subsequent spiritual advancement will be minimal. They will be locked in spiritual immaturity! That’s why we must pursue change immediately after conversion. George Barna reported in his book, The Second Coming of the Church, that most people praying the sinner’s prayer leave the Church within eight weeks of praying that prayer.
(Quote) The writer Murray Kempton said: “Men very seldom change; try though we will, beneath the shifts of exterior doctrine, our hearts so often remain what they were.” I know change is difficult, but that’s the purpose of the Spirit’s infilling. Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (ACT 1:8). The Spirit furnishes power to change! That’s why Jesus and John the Baptist stressed the conversion experience. Their cry was, “Repent, repent.” Our thinking must change about certain issues and we must love “God with all our heart, mind, soul, and being.” What that means is we don’t set the Christian agenda, legislate morality, and decide what’s right and wrong. The Holy Spirit did that when He anointed prophets and apostles to write Scripture. Our duty is to repent of our destructive ways and accept Christ’s agenda!
This generation needs to understand that there is no Christianity without man’s willingness to comply with God’s righteous requirements. It’s the only way to receive His blessing. That was the lesson Christ had such difficulty teaching the Twelve Apostles.
It took Jesus months to teach them that the full circle of redemption’s plan included Him entering the world and then ascending back to Heaven. They could hardly grasp it. And they didn’t want to grasp it:
They traveled with Jesus three and a half years and were comfortable with life.
When food was needed Jesus supernaturally satisfied everybody.
At tax season He provided the collection fee.
He dispelled sickness, storms, and controversies by the sheer power of His Word.
Each night they fell asleep pondering the miracles they had witnessed and then awoke wondering what drama would unfold next. They had an enviable lifestyle.
But one day Jesus uttered a startling prediction. He would die on the cross, leave them, ascend to His Father, and govern earth from Heaven. The apostles were overwhelmed by that prediction. So Peter did what came natural, he disagreed and tried to prevent Jesus from the Cross. Peter simply verbalized the feelings of everyone because nobody wanted change! They were comfortable with Christ’s guidance and the prediction was upsetting. But there’s a reason God reorders things. He demands change to improve our life and move us to a higher plane of living! The change Jesus offered here was for the Holy Spirit to simultaneously guide and empower all Christians not just a select apostolic band. The Holy Spirit is everything Jesus was and everywhere at every moment! God doesn’t order change to oppress, suppress, and depress. It’s for our benefit. Look again at Simon Peter:
Peter was a successful fisherman before meeting Christ. Think about it. His boat was large enough to haul Jesus and the twelve over the Galilee. Too, his house was spacious enough to accommodate good size crowds to which Christ ministered. (You remember Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law in his home and I know people that have never lived in a house large enough for their mother-in-law!) Anyway, after Peter met Jesus he couldn’t catch a single fish without the Lord’s directions. On one occasion he toiled all night without a single bite. Jesus had to tell him where to cast the nets. You would think Peter would get the message to change vocations but even after the resurrection he was still floundering on the waters. After Jesus got him a boat-sinking load and he arrived at shore Jesus said: ‘Peter, do you love me more than these fish you can’t catch on your own anymore? If so, feed my sheep. Move from the fishing industry to the shepherding industry.’ Quit doing what doesn’t work anymore and move to a higher plane of living.
Folks, that’s the message for the Church! We need a change from the same old, same old, and an infusion of grace that will surpass everything we’ve known about God’s Kingdom. Here’s the wonderful fact about living with sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Complying with one single Word from God can completely transform your life. (2X) Jesus said in John 6:63: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” In other words, there’s supernatural, life-giving, transforming power in God’s Word! It can totally alter the landscape of your life. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about change let it happen! Complying with that Word can transform your life! Change may be your best friend right now! It may be your best ally!
Change may be your best friend! The reason people are so reluctant to change is because they fear the unknown. It means taking a risk and entertaining the uncertain. It means things will be uncomfortable for a while. It means we may not get our way! If you want to know all the variables and live in a manner that’s guarded, comfortable, and in control, then change isn’t for you. But change certainly beats languishing in mediocrity!
(Transition) How can we change?
I want to mention five A’s for changing your life:
A. Ascertain the need for change. Volitional change occurs within the context of recognizing our need for change. There are many ways to ascertain the need to change and one way is to discuss the need with a trusted, spiritual friend. Proverbs 27:6 says: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.”
Another way to ascertain whether we need changing is through an objective, Word-centered analysis. We need to fall under the correcting power of God’s Word let it alter our imperfections. God will speak to us when we take time to read His Word.
B. Admit the need for change. Here’s the humbling part. Once you’ve ascertained a problem confess it. Confession is liberating. When you acknowledge the need for change God is pulled into the healing process. Psalm 34:18 says: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
(Illustration) Mickey Mantle is one of the legends of professional sports. He was baseball’s icon of the 50’s and 60’s. Kids wore his number 7, ran with his limp, and creased their hat like his. He smashed a record-setting 18 World Series home runs and hit 536 during his major league career. He possessed the rare combined superstar qualities of hitting, running, and fielding and was arguably the greatest total-package in baseball history. But he squandered it. He resembled a Greek god, divinely gifted but mortally flawed. In studying his life I discovered management repeatedly advised him to alter his breakneck lifestyle but he didn’t listen. Consequently, his career and life were shortened. Bobby Richardson, a teammate, led Mantle to Christ just months before he died, but the toll of riotous living was too much. He died at age sixty-four.
Don’t wait too late to make the changes you desperately need to make! Mantle was an encouragement to many young people before his death. He admitted his mistakes and begged kids to avoid his lifestyle errors. That was the right course of action he just waited too late to make the improvements.
D. Assimilate information for change. Researching an answer to a problem is part of the solution process. When we’re sick we seek medical advice perhaps from a physician, a medical journal, encyclopedia, or even a knowledgeable friend. And depending on the ailment the advice might range from therapy, to vitamins, to drugs, or surgery. Amending behavioral and spiritual disorders is the same—we need to assimilate information for change.
Knowledge empowers! When you assimilate corrective knowledge for change you’re empowering yourself to change. It’s never been easier to gather resource material in this information age. If you need improvement in your thinking, emotions, relationships, or Christian service there are books, audio and video products, support groups, and conferences for virtually any subject. All you have to do is gather the information and discover the steps to correcting the problem.
E. Apply the information. Here’s the hard part—applying the information. But like the Prodigal Son, there are times we need to hang our head, amble home, and seek the Father’s help. And the Bible is abundantly clear on how God handles our application of His truth. He has mercy! He gives grace!
F. Assume accountability. Everyone needs to be accountable to someone! That’s why Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Some problems are nearly impossible to conquer alone and the prospect of maintaining change is greatly increased when you’re accountable to another spiritual Believer.
I understand that some people are driven by that “self-reliant,” “individualism,” “go-it-alone” spirit, but don’t cop out with: “I’m accountable only to God.” God structured the Church as a community—a community offering meaningful relationships. When we forget this isolationist spirit and establish meaningful relationships with fellow Christians we’ll grow. The Bible invokes a special relationship structure within the Church. It’s a one-another-ness bond. God said to:
confront and be confronted,
(Illustration) Awhile back one of my Christian friends went through a divorce and shortly thereafter made plans for remarrying another woman. Although my friend and I frequently talked with each other he never asked me for spiritual input or what I thought about his plans. Finally, and reluctantly, I confronted him. I told him he needed Christian marital counseling. He responded: “I know what a counselor will tell me. ‘Don’t do it.’” And he refused to seek counseling and remarried.
If you’re purposely avoiding spiritual input to a life-choice, you have likely veered off-course.
(Transition) Are you willing to change? God won’t always force us to, that’s why He’s given us a free will. We have to glorify Him through our choices.
(Illustration) I remember breaking paternal ties in August of 1972. I had tremendous parents and a wonderful childhood but I was thrilled about heading to college. My parents drove me two hours north of Atlanta to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains where I studied for the ministry. They told me they cried their eyes out as they drove home. I remember my first visit home about two months later. The whole atmosphere had changed. I felt like I was at my grandparents home—there was plenty of love but I was only visiting. Leaving for college was the defining moment for my manhood. I mentally became my own man.
Perhaps God is dealing with someone here about making a defining-moment decision—a decision that will forever alter your life for the good. Go ahead; step out and make that decision. God will stand by you.
 Paul Tan, 7,700 Illustrations, Assurance Publishers.
 (“O’er Moor and Fen,” Part of Our Time, 1955).
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