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

2015 does not have to be the year of…that.

What “that” would you use to describe 2014?

New Beginnings…Hard Endings…Growth…Pain…Joy…Sadness…Discouragement…
Expression…Depression…Speaking Up…Backing Down…Moving Forward…Dropping Back

Whatever 2014 was the year of, 2015 does not have to be the year of that.

A quote I read today states, “Today is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

I love the sentiment and the reality of a fresh start. Let’s be honest, 2015 has blank pages yet to be written, but this story most definitely has a prologue. A blank page on January 1 does not negate the reality of life in which that books is opened.

So, whether I liked the “that” of 2014 or not, 2015 does not have to be the year of that.

2014 could be described in our household as one of chaos as we experienced a house fire and moved around and went through a difficult but manageable season. 2015 will hopefully not be known as a year of a house fire. The truth is that no matter how carefully I plan or work at what is written on the fresh clean pages of 2015, I have zero control over such realities in life. The life realities of loss or change or gain are not under my control.

I guarantee you there will come, in 2015, some things you would not plan. Some will be blessings you could not have imagined and others will be pain you wish you could avoid. There will be something happen that will be way better in the long run that you would ever have thought. There will also be something that will not be nearly as worthwhile as you had imagined.

You enter 2014 with a prologue, perhaps a lengthy one. The pages are blank but the story already has a setting and a cast of characters. Some of that you can change. Some of that you cannot. (And some of that you should not change.)

I encourage you to consider, however, what 2015 will be the year of. Realize the things that will be written into that story that you do not control and at the same time, take seriously and gratefully, the things you can.

Romans 6:1-14 (my text this week as we kick off a series called the “Year of…”) has some wonderful insight on the balance between what we control and what we do not control.

We control whether or not we choose to die with, and therefore, live with Christ.

If the “that” of 2014, is not something you hope to repeat, I challenge you with this thought. You must desire to die to the “old that” as much as you desire to live a “new that.” Experiencing wonderful new life is impossible without experiencing the death of that which has prevented it in the past. You cannot have both “this” and “that.”

So what is “that” which you will choose to leave behind in 2014?
What is “that” which you will choose to experience fresh in 2015?

Blank pages are a beautiful truth and God’s mercies are new everyday.

Be encouraged for this is the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and fifteen.