You Can Change

I think Anne may have a mentioned a book a while ago, entitled The Christian Athiest, a book by a guy named Craig Groeschel. I got around to reading it a while ago, and oh my goodness, it was me. I saw myself in every chapter.

Believing in God but living as If He Doesn’t Exist.

Having a belief system, and even out of that living a life in some respects close to God, and following Jesus, but only in some respects, not in all respects.

These next two weeks I’m using some of the material from that book in my messages to you, and a little later, in a month or two, I want to use it for another 2 messages.

And tonight’s is timely being so close to the beginning of a new year, and a time when many of us review where we’re at in life, and what we might like to do differently in the new year.

Anyone here make New Year’s resolutions?- Discussion

“I will do less laundry and use more deodorant”

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other

Dieting is a popular resolution – we feel guilty a little overweight after indulging at Christmas….

'Twas the month after Christmas, and all through the house nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.

The cookies I'd nibbled, the fruit cake I'd taste At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.

When I got on the scales there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber).

I'd remember the marvellous meals I'd prepared; The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared,

The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese And the way I'd never said, 'No thank you, please.'

It was now time for action, to find a solution. A diet would be my new year’s resolution

So - away with the last of the sour cream dip, Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip

Every last bit of food that I like must be banished 'Till all the additional kilos have vanished.

I won't have a cookie - not even a lick.
I'll want only to chew on a long celery stick.

I won't have biscuits, chocolate, or pie, I'll munch on a carrot, but quietly cry.

And moan that I'm hungry, and life is a bore. But isn't that what January is for?

If you overate at Christmas, why don’t you try it?
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet!

 

In our Bible text tonight we find a good man, a man who obeyed all the commandments, a man who wanted to be a follower of Jesus. But he couldn’t give it all over. Here is one of our earliest examples of a Christian atheist. Believes in God, wants to do the right things, be a good person, obey all the commandments, but doesn’t want it to affect his chosen lifestyle. Jesus asked him to change, to make a change in his life, but he wouldn’t.

I confess – many times that’s me. Is that you too?

The church minister was talking with his counsellor, explaining that he had severe workaholic tendencies, and it was affecting his marriage and family life. “But I can’t change” said the minister, “this is just the way I am”

Now how many of us have said those exact words – this is the way I am. This is just who I am. I can’t change, so you’d better get used to me being this way cause I’ll always be this way. It’s just who I am. I can’t change. (Put my hand up)

The counsellor looked at the church minister and said, “so… what you’re telling me is…. Even our God isn’t big enough to help you change?”

This is the illusion that us Christian athiests live under year after year. We may openly, even proudly, believe in God, but we honestly don’t believe he can change us. And its not that we’ve never tried to change. We ave – often. Perhaps we prayed and asked God for help, but nothing happened. Or we read a book, listened to a sermon, or accepted a friend’s advice, only to end up in the same place we started. And we begin to think ‘Even though I believe in God, I don’t really think he can help. After all, this is how he made me.’

For some it’s addictions – like to caffeine, or cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, shopping. For some it’s lusting, or pornography. For some it’s eating. Increasingly it’s becoming technology! We have a whole bunch of people in this world who can’t go a day without Facebook or Twitter, or checking emails, or playing Playstation or xBox. Most of these things aren’t wrong in themselves, but they can get a grip on our lives to the point where it becomes harmful to us and hurtful to those around us. The sort of thing we make New Year’s resolutions about.

For some they are bound by false beliefs about themselves. I’m not good with people. I’m just naturally a critical person. I just speak my mind -at least you know where you stand with me. Or I can never get in good physical shape. I’m ugly. I’m no good at this or no good at that.

Of course first step is always to recognise the problem, and if you are willing to listen to your family and friends they will tell you. Maybe you could ask them – what about me needs changing? (Pause)

Then it’s time to invite God to work, because God can change anything. Jesus said, “Humanly speaking it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

With God, all things are possible.

If you believe that you’re a person who can’t be changed – you’re wrong. It’s a lie. Change may be difficult, even seemingly impossible, but with God, it’s not impossible.

You can change. God can change you. But you must be willing.

The man with many possessions came to Jesus, a good, devout, God-fearing man. But he was materialistic. He was wealthy, and Jesus knew that this was a rough area, a weak area in his life, an area that needed refining, that required some change. And Jesus knew how to fix it, how to change it. And he invited him to change. But his face fell, he went away sadly. He went away unchanged, and not the person God designed him to be.

Now we need to be aware of the excuse monster, hiding just around the corner. “I’ve tried before. Nothing works for me. I’ve done everything possible and can’t change. This is just the way I am. It’s not that big of a deal. Lots of people have bigger problems than I do.

Before you can tap into God’s life-changing power, you have to eliminate the excuses.

Jesus approached a pool surrounded by sick people, one guy had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned his condition and the length of it, he says to the guy, “Do you want to get well?”

That’s like asking a broke man do you want a million dollars? Instead of getting all excited, he just gives an excuse. The invalid says to Jesus, “I can’t Sir, for I have no one to help me into the pool when the water gets stirred up. Someone always gets in ahead of me”

Do you want to get well? I can’t sir. This hurting man was offered the opportunity to see God’s power but he focuses on all the reasons why he’d never got better. Jesus just says to him “get up and walk” Exclamation mark. And up he gets restored.

No excuses. You want to change – you can change. The power of God can change you. God is in the business of transforming lives. We as a church are in the business of transforming lives. Seeing lives changed right around, seeing lives improved, seeing people freed, and liberated, and filled with peace and joy in a loving environment. That’s why we exist. That’s why we are here.God’s agents of change. God’s agents of transformation. In our own lives, and helping others see their lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

But we’ve got to live like we believe it. Which means we drop the excuses, the old this is just the way I am line, and open ourselves up to this transforming power.

If you have any excuses talking you out of changing, capture those wrong thoughts and replace them with truth.

When you’re tempted to think, “both of my parents are heavy, so I’ll always struggle with my weight, stop. Remind yourself that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. With God’s help you can lose weight.

When you’re tempted to think, “I’m just not good with money, I’ll always be in debt, stop. Remind yourself that God can teach you to be faithful with what you have. With God’s help you can be debt-free.

When you’re tempted to think, “I’m just naturally critical and negative, stop. Remind yourself that you have the mind of Christ, and your mind can be renewed daily. With God’s help you can be positive and an encourager.

When you’re tempted to think, “I’m hopeless. I’m no good. Nobody likes me. I can never do anything right, stop. Remind yourself that the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives inside of you. God has great things for you to do, and you can do great things, you can. God will help you.

You can change. Capture wrong thoughts and replace them with truth. Can the excuses. If you keep making excuses, you’re insulting God’s power.

You can change, with God all things are possible.

A warning – it may be costly. It may mean choosing different friends if they have a negative impact. The way they drink alcohol, or eat, or the gossip they engage in, you may need to keep away from some folks. It may mean getting rid of some devices. Do those who’ve seen the movie Fireproof remember how powerful it was when the man struggling with internet pornography took is computer on to the front lawn and smashed it to bits with an axe? It may mean giving away money or possessions, like the man who came to Jesus asking what he had to do to get eternal life.

And another warning – it’s doubly tough to go it alone.

I remember running my one and only marathon back in 2003, and I got to about the 38km mark, and my legs were cramping and I was out of energy and had slowed to a walk. But a fellow runner came up beside and gave me some encouragement, and I found that bit to extra to get the legs moving again. And when I neared the finish, and saw the crowd yelling and cheering, I ran that last 500 metres like I was in the Stawell Gift. Well, maybe not quite, but that’s how it felt.

You want to change, you’re going to need to some support, some encouragement, some cheering. It will be by God’s strength, God’s energy that you’ll change, but the love and support of your family or friends or better still, your church family, will keep you on track and lift you to the next level.

Change won’t just take all the strength you have; it will take more. You need God’s power. Do what you can, and trust God to do what you can’t.

If you saw a wood carver take an old, gnarled up block of wood, with its irregular shape, bits of bark still attached, knots, holes, imperfections – without knowing the skill of the wood carver you might be tempted to think that it would be impossible for him to make beautiful carving or sculpture from that piece of tree trunk. But if you knew that craftsman was one of the finest, with many years of experience – a master in transforming a block of wood into a work of art, you would excitedly watch hi work, anticipating the outcome with great excitement.

We’re all blocks of wood. We’re in the hands of the master craftsman. He can shave bits off, chip other bits off, fashion and shape you into just what he wants you to be.

So – a new year’s resolution to make? Make it a deep one. Ask that master craftsman to chip or shave or sand or polish your imperfections all away.

Just don’t say you believe in God, but don’t believe that you can change. You can’t say that. Don’t accept that. You can change. With God, all things are possible.

All things are possible.




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