Can I really change?

change

In my last blog, I shared a quote from Brad Paisley that stated that New Year’s Day “is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” Blank pages, however, glorious they are full of hope and opportunity, are not the beginning of the story.

What does God want this to be THE YEAR OF for you?
God usually does not have the same answer to such questions that we do.

Romans 6:1-14 is a great passage. It begins with “What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase?” Now for the majority of us, this is a wild question. I want God’s grace more, so should I sin more? The answer is an emphatic no, but the question has more weight than you might think. Romans 5 ends with where “sin abounds, grace abounds more.” More sin means more grace. The truth missed when one sees grace as something our sin increase is that grace works. Grace changes us.

Paul continues on and writes that if we are united with Jesus in his death then we are united with him in his life. People love to talk about the life Jesus gives, but less about the death of self that comes before it.

Change (healing) will not happen until we die to self. We must desire the death of old as much as we desire the life of new. We know that the old self was “crucified” so that it might be “brought to nothing.” Yet later in the chapter we are reminded to not ”let sin reign in our mortal bodies.” So the old self dies yet we must still be vigilant about it.

The death of self is both instantaneous and continuous.
We typically believe people change incrementally OR drastically.
In reality people change BOTH incrementally and drastically. The old self dies yet it is still dying. We are saved, yet we still work out (not work for) our salvation. Never begrudge incremental change. Accept and allow the dramatic and drastic change God brings through grace, but realize that the drastic change is the beginning of the journey, not the end of it.

Paul ends this passage with “sin will have no dominion over you.” What a glorious truth. Be careful, however, not to misunderstand what is being said. You do not have dominion over sin, but if you are in Christ, sin also does not have dominion over you. So who or what does have dominion? Jesus does.

Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead, “will never die again” because “death no longer has dominion over him.” “The death he died to sin he died, once for all, and the life he lives he lives to God.” Jesus has dominion over us. If Jesus has dominion over me (is Jesus the Lord of your life?) and Jesus has dominion over sin, then sin does not have dominion over me…Jesus does.

Healing (change) is not under our control. It is not a process we own. It is a process God owns. We, however, have the choice to participate actively in this work he does.

Death is necessary for new life.
Do you want to die?

I realize that is a strange question, but do you want the “old you” to die?

Here are 2 practical ways to experience the dying of the old you desire.
1. Identify your obvious offerings. (do not “offer your body to sin”)
Start with the obvious. Stop treating the symptom with spiritual Nyquil and get real.
2. Actively avoid your temptation triggers. (“Let not sin reign…”)
I need to eat better, badly. I better not go to an all- you-can-eat buffet because I am not going to the salad bar there.

Life is necessary for new death.
Do you want to live?

Here are 3 practical ways to experience the living of the new you desire.
1. Purposefully present yourself to righteousness. (present yourselves to God)
Choose to read the Word, pray, gather with believers in Bible study and worship.
2. Give yourself toward healthy drastic or dramatic change.
Go for it, in Christ. Be willing to experience quick change…just know it is not the end of the journey, but the beginning. Losing 10 pounds fast should motivate you to keep going through the slower pounds. Experiencing fresh romance in your marriage should motivate you to work through the issues that still exist. Go for it…now!
3. Be accountable with the incremental.
Get together with some other believers and be honest and real. Allow them the space in your life to hold accountable to the change you desire. You need people who love you when you fail, but call it sin and call it wrong…and love the sinner and the wrongdoer all the same.

If you desire 2015 to be the year of__________________________. First and Foremost, you must decide it is the YEAR OF the LORD, for him to do this or that.<a

Wrong Ways

family_circus_notme

We all take them in life. In making decisions, everyone eventually goes the wrong way. The Bible explains this simply by stating, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) People typically say things like, “We all mess up sometimes.”

This is a fact of life. It is a truth. A reality. It is a principle of life. This whole Decisional series is about life principles. The truth that your Life Decision makes your life’s decisions is not a way one should live their life. This principle is how live works.

The Life Decision one makes about how they view life and what they believe determines the other decisions in their life. Many decisions are made because of the One Decision you make. Faith is the decisional decision, but there are others too. Marriage. Parenthood. These are directional decisions. These are decisions that make decisions.

The principle I am talking about today is that we all eventually go the wrong way. The most critical decision after a wrong decision is the next decision, not the wrong decision. In 1 John 1:5-2:6 we learn some great truths about how we should deal with our wrong decisions.

Your next decision, after a wrong decision, reveals what you truly believe about Jesus. 1 John 1 tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you believe that? If you do then confession is not an act of fear; it is an act of faith.

This passage uses a deep and rich word about Jesus. It states that “Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, for ours and for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus is the substitutionary sacrifice that covers over our sins. That is the best way I know to describe this rich word. He is our substitute. He died in our place. He is the sacrifice. He is the willing offering given for the penalty of our sin. He is the covering over our wrong. We have a “righteousness not our own.” It is the righteousness of Christ.

When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we accept the truth that God has carried out his faithfulness and his justice in and through Christ on our behalf. Do you believe this? This belief is revealed in what we do after we fail.

There are 2 wrong ways people respond to going the wrong way. First, we deceive ourselves through denial. We say sin is not sin or we simply deny we did it. We have the “not me” syndrome that was humorously articulated in the Family Circus comic strip every time a child was asked who did something wrong.

The second wrong way to respond is crippling ourselves through condemnation.   If you believe is faithful and just and forgives sin, then why are you still condemning yourself for what he has forgiven you of?

The one way to rightly respond to our wrong way is repentance.   Repentance is confession with right direction. It is more than an obligatory “I am sorry.” It is a genuine expression of wrong with an intentional decision to go in the right direction. Repentance does not rewrite our past, but it does redirect our future.  Jesus does not rewrite your wrong decisions, he covers them.

Your past is covered do not live in it’s condemnation. Your future is fresh and new. Walk in the freedom he has given you. Now realize that your freedom to walk a new path does not mean you go back to where you first went wrong. You must move forward from where you confess that wrong. Trust his faithfulness and justice right there.

Do you?

Jesus asked lots of questions.  Jesus asked straightforward questions.  Jesus asked the questions that matter in life.

“Do you believe this?”  Jesus asked this of Martha right after saying to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”  Mark 11::25

Do you believe this?  This is not Jesus asking Martha.  I am asking you.  The question that matters in your life is “do you believe this?”

There are three truths I want you to learn from the death and resurrection of Lazarus.

1.  Apart from Jesus there is death.
Martha and Mary both tell Jesus that if he had been there their brother would not have died.  They knew that without Christ there was death.  Yet Jesus spoke life into that tomb.  Jesus speaks life not because he can bring resurrection but because he IS the resurrection.  He is the one who conquered sin, death, and the grave.  We must go beyond seeking what he gives and seek who he is.

2.  In Jesus there is life.
Jesus said, “I am the life.”  Jesus did not die and was not resurrected so you could have a better life.  Jesus came that you might have “life, and that life to the full.”  He is the giver of life because He Himself is life.  Life is not something we desire from him, it is what we find in him.

3.  I must die to my life to live the Jesus’ life.
There is a death that must take place.  It is my own.  “I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”  Knowing the power of the resurrection of Christ and the life found in him begins when I allow myself to die to my own ways.  There must be an end to me before there is a beginning for me in Christ.

Jesus told Lazarus to come out and then commanded those around him to unbind him and let him loose.  Jesus died and came to life so that we could die and come to life.  This life is intended to be lived and enjoyed and celebrated.  Let loose for the glory of the Lord in all the joy and peace he gives in life.

As I write these words my heart is heavy for some friends who lost their father this morning.  As I preached this truth yesterday I shared this truth.  The truth of Jesus is an eternal, yet urgent matter.  Often we put off the long-term decisions for short-term reasons.  I told Fellowship yesterday, that you you do not know you are promised today or tomorrow, but if you believe you know you are promised forever.  I praise the Lord with them that their father believed and though he died, he lives.  

He believed this.  His sons believe this.  I believe this.  But that is not the question you need to know the answer to.

Do you believe this?