Nobody likes change. We get comfortable where we live, with what we do, who we associate with, how we worship; and want to be left alone. But change involves work and at times discomfort as we learn something different or new. The reality being that much of what we do and who we are is superficial; camouflage really – used to hide behind, covering the real us up, only to have that real you jump out in unacceptable ways at inappropriate times. Steven Curtis Chapman dealt with this timeless topic in a song titled, “The Change.” In it he bemoans the hip, glossy change that often portrays us compared to the life-changing characteristics that should define us.
“Well I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe.
I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my I.D.
I got the necklace and the keychain and almost everything else a good Christian needs.
I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door.
And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor.
I got a Jesus bumper sticker and the outline of a fish stuck on my car.
And even though all this stuff is all well and good
I cannot help but ask myself….
What about the change, what about the difference,
What about the grace, what about forgiveness,
What about a life that’s showing I’m undergoing the change?” 1
Wait a minute! I thought God accepted me ‘Just as I am’. He does. Paul telling us, “… it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 That’s better. Not by works, a gift from God; that gets us off the hook – doesn’t it? Check out verse 10. “…we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In other words – yes, God loves us just the way we are BUT too much to leave us that way! “God saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace.” 2 Timothy 1:9
How can we be true to His purpose and our calling in him as a Christian if we remain as we were before being introduced to him and his will? We don’t have to change, to clean up our lives before coming to him. But we must change; which will occur if we truly follow his example after we are saved by him. A quick read of that may sound contradictory; so much so that it can be a problem in our salvation counseling. We often stress the no change, no expectation aspect of the ‘Just come as you are’ philosophy to the exclusion of – then God will help you change. Consequently, there are those who begin to attend church and who are then at some point challenged to become involved – sometimes to change priorities, choices and lifestyles; and they rebel. They feel almost tricked when they realize change is expected as an inevitable part of the Christian life after we come to know Him.
But wait a minute. Can we demand change? No! We can’t demand obedience from people but we can and must at times hold them accountable to the will of God, for their own good, if they are purposefully or negligently living in opposition to him and his will. Do we have a right then to expect change? Again, No! Especially if it is designed to please us. But as an aid to others in living up to God’s expectations – we absolutely have a responsibility to point them in the right direction according to the requirements of scripture. How do we then encourage change without appearing to be demanding? That’s difficult; a lot like digging a ditch without getting dirty. Some people will always see an effort to correct as meddlesome and demanding. Done properly, however, with humility and love, we can express our concern – framed by our own weakness and struggles – and receive appreciative responses. Because the bottom line is, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Will change occur automatically? Not usually. Will it be easy? Probably not. But Paul assures us that, “All this (newness) is from God, who reconciled us unto himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18 Therefore, if we are to share in ministry with Christ as a result of our salvation, we must at least become more familiar with the story of Jesus’ life and the facts of salvation, and as a result desire to be more like him and share that knowledge and his love with others.
“Well I got this way of thinking that comes so naturally,
Where I believe the whole world is revolving around me.
(However)… I got this way of living that I have to die every single day,
Cause if God’s Spirit lives inside me I’m gonna live life differently.
I’m gonna have the change,
I’m gonna have the difference,
I’m gonna have the grace,
I’m gonna have forgiveness,
I’m gonna live a life that’s showing I’m undergoing the change. “2
It’s a progressive work that’s realized by our not conforming, “…any longer to the pattern of this world, but (by) be(ing) transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 And what is the pattern of this world? Selfishness, which is the essence of the sin nature. As, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5 (See also Galatians 5:17)
Simply put: A Christian lifestyle involves a changing of the mind. (See Ephesians 4:22-24) Once that is accomplished, our actions will follow! That’s the reason why people attempting to live in both worlds are usually miserable. They don’t have the best of both worlds but the worst! They aren’t really free to follow either one.
To change our minds and thus our lives, we must be able to recognize what we need to change from and to. What are the evidences of the sin nature? “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:19-23 Did you notice the difference in acts and fruits? Acts you often inflict on others. Bearing fruit is more often an expression of who you are and what you believe. So how about that change?
1 & 2 “The Change” – Steven Curtis Chapman c1999 Sparrow Song/Peach Hill Songs
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