- Pastor Tom Cunningham
ARE YOU WILLING TO CHANGE?
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” ~2 Corinthians 5:17
Pastor Robert Pace from Pulpit Today says, “The world that we live in is changing so fast—it is no longer measured in generations. In fact if you were to compare changing culture, 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 discernable during a lifetime, but today change travels at light speed.” Are you willing to change? The following post includes Pastor Pace’s thoughts, my own and what the Word of God says about our need to change!
As I was a young adult in the 1980’s there were no cell phones, no internet and no personal computers… Your car’s didn’t talk to you and you had to unfold a complicated map to find your way across the highways of America, a map that remained unfolded for generations. Now with GPS on my smart phone, I can say “nearest Starbucks” and I’m there! Change in nanosecond intervals. And, with the current political census, I would guess things are going to change even faster…
One of life’s first lessons involves managing change. This is never more evident than when raising children. They move from the bottle to solid food; from crawling to walking; from screaming to demanding; from riding the bike to driving the car; from high school to world domination and then to who knows where? And the changes continue throughout life. Our spiritual, emotional, and social welfare hinge on our ability to desire, adapt to and manage change.
One report says that our society is reinvented every three to five years. This means that 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.”
Change occurs in three ways:
By natural inclination or preference
Change by natural inclination or preference is unmanageable and unavoidable. That’s not necessarily bad; it just keeps us from taming the process. Natural inclination is when people are born in cold weather climates and born with white skin meant to be kept out of the sun, so what do they do? They visit a tanning bed every day and fry it artificially. Natural inclination is evident everywhere you look: Seasons, oceans and the constellations constantly change. This type of change is very evident at a high school reunion. You haven’t seen these people in many years and your memory preserves them as you saw them last, so when you see them again, you realize time and life has added wrinkles and weight and gray hair or no hair and you are shocked at how “everybody has changed”… Some of these changes we don’t necessarily like but life is fluid and change is constant we’re forced to adjust and readjust to its influence. We manage life by adjusting to change and it is necessary to adapt to physical, mental and social changes.
The Bible says there’s a need for spiritual change also, in every one of us. Therein lies the crux of the matter… We need to change, grow and adapt to our lives and maturity spiritually. Subtle and gradual change as we age is not enough, in fact we are born in sin and sin is our nature and the heart of a man is “evil continually” so that is why Jesus told Nicodemus: “You must be born again.” — a transformational process from the inside out. Everything about us needs renovating.
Redemption in and of itself is a conversion experience. Repentance [Greek word, metanoia] means “a change of mind”. That word conversion means, “To turn about; to turn from one lifestyle and embrace another.” Much about our lives is converted in the salvation experience. Our thinking is changed as we begin to change from primarily self-seeking to focusing on pleasing God and serving others—not a simple transformation. Our style of worship is altered as we pursue the more weighty spiritual matters rather than worldly pleasures. The transformation is by virtue of its meaning, drastic.
"…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” ~2 Corinthians 5:17
You may have made a profession of faith but yet you are constantly associating with that former sinful nature—that familiar sin of the flesh; frequenting places you know you shouldn’t, finding yourself in over your head as sin once again has its way with you, practicing filthy habits, and doing the same old things you’ve always done. If that is how you are still behaving, then you are not truly converted! You are the same as you have always been; you just wear a tie now or wear a dress and a religious smile! It is not a gray area where you get to co-mingle both natures until you can make a clean break. It is a transformation where you trade one nature in completely for a new nature! Conversion means you’ve changed—plain and simple! And unless the new convert immediately pursues a deeper walk with God, than chances are any continuing spiritual advancement will most-likely be minimal! —Locked in spiritual immaturity, carnal Christianity that is not even discernible from the world. That’s why we must pursue change immediately after conversion.
Are you willing to change?
"Men very seldom change; try though we will, beneath the shifts of exterior doctrine, our hearts so often remain what they were.” ~The writer Murray Kempton
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8
Change can be difficult, but the Spirit of God furnishes power to change — the resurrection power of Christ that dwells within the born-again believer to raise him above carnally minded death and bring his life beyond the clutches of sin and failure to a transcendent victory found only in the redemptive heart. We don’t get to set the Christian agenda, legislate morality and decide what’s right and wrong. The Word of God sets the immutable standard for righteous living. Our duty is to convert to Christ and accept His agenda! There is no Christianity without our willingness to change and comply with God’s righteous requirements.
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” ~John 6:63
In other words, there is supernatural, life-giving, transforming power in God’s Word! It can totally alter the landscape of your life. Complying with that Word of God is in itself transforming! If you’re tired of religion without God’s presence, power and peace then get filled with the Holy Ghost, allow change to transform and pour yourself into a relationship with God.
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 with reckless living. He was divinely gifted but mortally flawed. Management repeatedly advised him to alter his hasty lifestyle but he didn’t listen. Consequently, his career and life were shortened. A teammate of his, Bobby Richardson, 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 long to make the changes you desperately need to make! Mickey 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 long to make the improvements.
People are often reluctant to change 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! God structured the Church as a community—a community offering meaningful relationships. When we forsake this isolationist spirit and establish meaningful relationships with fellow Christians we’ll grow. Some problems are nearly impossible to conquer alone and the ability to successfully maintain change is greatly increased when you’re accountable to another spiritual Believer. Many will seek independence and go off on their own, develop a secret private lifestyle or double life away from your Christian counterparts when you are reverting back. 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 within the context of relationships and we’re missing out when we isolate ourselves. When we learn to connect with others, confront and be confronted, we add a valuable component to affecting change. Christians are called to speak into the lives of fellow Believers. If you’re purposely avoiding spiritual input chances are you’re headed down a slippery slope.
The Bible relates a special relationship structure within the Church:
“Love one another” in John 13:34.
“Submit to one another” in Ephesians 5:21.
“Accept one another” in Romans 15:7.
“Forgive one another” in Ephesians 4:32.
“Instruct one another” in Romans 15:14.
“Encourage one another” in Hebrews 10:24-25.
“Serve one another” in Galatians 5:13.
Are you willing to change? God will never force you to. He’s given us a free will. We have purposefully make the right choices.
When I got married, I was still a kid, 21 and naïve. Then I left for Air Force Basic Training and 16 weeks of Tech School. My wife traveled to Texas to join me, we purchased a car, I finished school and we drove from Texas to Ohio before taking off to Alaska for our new adventure with our first Base. 5-miles outside of our hometown, we stopped at a rest area to change clothes and freshened up. I put on my dress blue uniform and then went to the house I grew up in and surprised my mom and dad. The whole atmosphere had changed. I felt like I was at my grandparent’s home—something was different. Oh, there was plenty of love, but it really felt to me that I was only visiting—It no longer felt like I belonged there. I had changed. A new horizon in my life was stretched out before me and I was embarking on an amazing adventure with my wife and baby on the way. I had grown up and leaving for the military and my ultimate destiny with God was the defining moment for my manhood. I spiritually had became a man of God and God has defined my life ever since.
God is dealing with you right here and right now about making a ‘defining moment’ decision to change. It is time to change. To grow up spiritually and make a decision that will forever alter your life for the good.