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Change is Coming

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Change is Coming

August 14, 2005

A well-known major league ballplayer, John Hiller, almost died of a coronary, but later returned to star as a relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. He said his remarkable recovery came, in part, because he quit smoking, changed eating habits to lose weight, and meticulously followed his doctor’s orders. He had known all along that he was overweight and smoking too much, but he didn’t think he could do anything about it. When he realized the stakes, however, he had all the incentive he needed. He came back to be named “Fireman of the Year” (the award for best relief pitcher) for the 1973 season.

We’re all like this to some degree. We know we should be better persons and improve ourselves, but lack the information and self-discipline to do it.

A “real” Christian is one who is committed to change and to grow in grace and knowledge, considers change a friend and is willing to let changes take place in his life as the Spirit of God transforms him into the image of Christ. Growth cannot take place without change because that’s exactly what growth is, changing from what we are to what God wants us to be. This is what “submission” is all about – complete surrender. WE should be more than willing to change, we should be eager, even hungry, for it.

Here’s an example: A young girl was being examined for membership in a local church. “Has Christ made a difference in your life?” one deacon asked. She replied that He certainly had. Trying to draw her out more, he asked, “Well, then do you sin any more?”  The girl admitted that she did.

“Well, if you sinned before you were a Christian and you sin since you became a Christian, how has Christ made a difference in your life?”

The girl thought a moment, and then replied: “Sir, I think it is like this. Before I was a Christian I ran after sin. Now I run from it although sometimes I am still overtaken.”

Count Leo Tolstoy, the eminent Russian writer, tells how he turned from evil to good: “Five years ago faith came to me. I believed in the doctrine of Jesus, and all my life suddenly changed. I ceased to desire that which previously had desired, and on the other hand, I took to desiring what I had never desired before. That which formerly used to appear good in my eyes appeared evil, and that which used to appear evil appeared good.”

John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace”, once stated, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be; but by the grace of God, I am not what I was!” Can you say this?

INTRODUCTION:

If you have your Bible with you, turn to 1 Peter 1:17-25 and follow along as I read: “
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites when he judges. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as foreigners here on earth. For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver.  He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, he was sent to the earth for all to see. And he did this for you. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And because God raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory, your faith and hope can be placed confidently in God. Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from your sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts. For you have been born again. Your new life did not come from your earthly parents because the life they gave you will end in death. But this new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the prophet says, "People are like grass that dies away; their beauty fades as quickly as the beauty of wildflowers. The grass withers, and the flowers fall away. But the word of the Lord will last forever." And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.”

In the first two verses of this book we noticed three distinctives  of Christians. They are the elect of God, they are strangers down here, and they are called saints. In verses 3 to 17 we noticed that Christians can face the future on the basis of a completed, certain, and meaningful salvation.

This morning, I want to remind you that you have change coming whether you want it or not! By change I don’t mean nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies, and toonies. We as Christians must live expecting to change! We are to expect change because the life we are called to live is to be lived reverently, trustingly, and lovingly – none of these comes naturally, nor do they come from the natural man. So, let’s take a closer look at each of them.

A. LIVE REVERENTLY (verses 17-19)

“We are to live our lives in reverent fear of Him”                                                 Reverence for the Lord insists upon respect for Him and for all that He made. Agreed?  In order to get his point across Peter says that we have been redeemed from a corruptible life style that came to us from the  traditions of our ancestors ( John MacArthur says that this is “characterizing the unredeemed, their futile way of life, which identifies a vain, useless, and worthless existence. No matter what they may think, every unredeemed man or woman is living a futile life. Even the grandest accomplishments unbelievers seem to achieve are pointless from eternity's perspective. Jesus made that clear by means of two penetrating questions to His disciples: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). Pure tradition is a vain manner of life because it is void of personal reverence for the Lord. To be redeemed means to be bought back, and Jesus Christ has bought us back out of the kind of tradition that has no respect for God as Judge or Father.

So, we have a:

1.                 A new relationship with God and are to live reverently because of it. Somehow or another, many people who have known the Lord for some time, are described in this way, “Well they seemed to have made a decision at some point in their lives,” have slipped back into the rut of tradition or else by consistent irreverence and unthankfulness have formed a new rut which is even more deceptive. In other words, they do not have a meaningful relationship with Christ.

We need a sense of reverence for God that is based upon a growing relationship with Him as our Heavenly Father. God is not a judge to you but a Heavenly Father and a very loving Heavenly Father since we have entered that new relationship with Him. It is an awesome tragedy when a person knows the Lord for a long time, but fails to live accordingly. It happens to those who fail to live reverently. The tragedy is reverting to a form of tradition rather than maintaining a fresh respect and trust in God based upon a growing relationship with the Father

When we became Christians God, who was once our judge, became our Father in heaven, but deserves no less reverence and respect.

We must watch out for familiarity with holy things, remembering that it is only because of His mercy that we are not consumed! He is due reverence because of who He is and because of what it cost!

Peter challenges us to expect change in our Christian lives, but never to expect deterioration –if you fail to be mindful that you are redeemed from a wasted life, you can expect deterioration. Peter says that we have not been redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold from our vain traditional form of godliness. Instead, we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ!

2.                 We are to live reverently because of our new relationship with the Father and because of salvation’s cost. Our salvation may be free to us, but it is not free! So many people are confused when it comes to how they will stand before God. All this talk of the brotherhood of men implies the same father. The only father that most men have in common is the Devil. Jesus said to one group, in John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil.” Friends, you will stand before God as Judge or as Father, but never both. This new relationship that is ours in Christ Jesus where we can call God “our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), is ours only because of the precious shed blood of Christ. As I said just a couple of minutes ago, our salvation is free to us, but Christ paid an enormous price to make that possible.

If we are going to live reverently we must reverence the Father as our Father but we must also stand in awe at the cost of our salvation and at Christ’s willingness to pay that price for us. The blood will never lose its power and therefore our relationship with Christ need never deteriorate as do silver and gold.

In review, because we, at conversion, entered into a new and eternal relationship with the Father in heaven, we ought to live in reverence for God and expect change in ourselves because no growing relationship can be stagnant!  Think of it this way: you are in a canoe paddling up a gentle river. If you stop paddling, what happens? You go back down the river. So, keep paddling! If our relationship with God is not growing, it is deteriorating! There are no other options. Secondly, we ought to live reverently expecting change because the blood that saves us is the blood of the One who lives in us. He is taking control of us in that new relationship so we should expect changes, dramatic changes. Listen, if we are going to be made anything like the Righteousness of God then change must take place! This applies to all of us – we each need to change if we are to conform to the image of the risen Christ! But we won’t all change in the same way, for we are each different and need to change in different ways. What a difference there is between the person who values only tradition and the traditional way and the person who has a vibrant reverence and respect for God and His own salvation. The person who is being changes into the glory and righteousness of God is the person who is always mindful that he is redeemed from the pit of sin, saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and he is now a child of God.

B. WE ARE TO LIVE TRUSTINGLY  (FAITH)  (verses 20 – 21)

“Through Christ we have come to trust in God”

The second reason we are to expect change in our lives is because we are called to a life of trust, something not understood or practiced by the unsaved person. Trust is objective. Trust is always in something or someone. The Believer’s faith is in he Supreme God. A life of trust is centered in Him, rather than in ourselves. There is definite change in attitude and lifestyle that must take place when we begin to walk by faith (another way of saying I trust God). Scripture says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen”, and, “without faith it is impossible to please the Lord.” Faith is in vain unless it is based solidly upon God’s eternal plan and the Resurrection of Christ. According to verse 20, we understand that it was in God’s plan long before the creation of the world that Jesus Christ would come to this sinful earth and bear in His holy and perfect body the payment for all the sin in the world from beginning to end. Knowing that this world would go the way it has, God never planned creation without first planning a way of salvation for the sinner. Daily we live in faith that God’s plan of salvation for us is, in fact, all that God says it is. We must by faith in His finished work claim access to God. You see, not only must we reverence Him as out heavenly Father, we must also trust Him and His wonderful plan. The kind of faith we need is the kind that UNDAUNTINGLY ACCEPTS AS FACT THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST. We all need to be able to say the following: I believe Jesus Christ was the eternal Son of God, that He came as the incarnate Son into this world and lived a perfect life as a human being. I believe that He died not for His sin, but for mine so that the punishment I deserve for my sin was laid on Him in its entirety. I believe that He died and was indeed separated from His Father so that I will never be separated from Him. I believe that God knew I would trust Christ to save me from my sin and, seeing ahead of time my decision, prepared a wonderful plan for me, a plan which He wants me to follow daily trusting His Spirit’s guidance and strength. I believe that the life I live down here is planned and perfected by God and will continue to be so until I die or until the day Christ comes back again. Do you believe that you’re a part of His Almighty plan? Then, expect change!

Verse 21 states again the significance of the resurrection of Christ in connection with our faith. Jesus Christ trusted the Father to raise Him after He had paid the price for the sins of the world. He was the supreme example of living by faith. We are encouraged to live a life of faith in Christ’s resurrection and God’s satisfaction with Christ’s payment. Paul said “If Christ has not been raised from the dead then our faith is in vain”. And because you and I are accepted in the beloved, we must accept change. Paul also said, “It is not I but Christ! And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” How easily we slip from total dependence upon God to dependence upon the things of this world. All of us are dependent on someone to some extent. We, as Christians, must learn to depend upon the Lord more and more. The life of faith simply trusts Christ with more and more and more of what we are used to running and managing ourselves. We do that by saying, “I’m finished, Lord you tell me how to do this . . .” It is saying, in every situation, “I want God’s way to be my way.”

Faith is leaving Egypt according to God’s plan, getting cornered by the enemy and his followers, and then stepping out into the Red Sea.

Faith is leaving the opportunities of the city and going out into the desert to find one Ethiopian man ready to respond to Christ. Faith is continuing to preach the gospel when you’ve been warned to never mention His name again. Faith is calling up that bereaved or sick person and telling them that you are praying for them even if they have told you to stop praying. Faith is holding a new born baby in your arms and saying, God I Give this little one back to you and trust in your ability to enable me to raise this child for you.

Expect change in your Christian life because the life of faith is a supernatural life dependent upon God completely. The changes will take place  when God removes from us some of those things which we have put our faith in rather than in Him.

C.               WE ARE TO LIVE IN LOVE (verses 22-25)                                  as the  Scriptures say, we are to “fervently love one another”

Loving others is vain unless it is from a spiritually cleansed and reborn life. Only the born again person who has experienced God’s cleansing power in his life can express to others the agape love that is referred to here.

Let’s take a closer look at verse 22: “ Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from your sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.” Expect change! Expect change in the way you get along with others. Expect relationships to grow and become deeper. Expect the trust between believers to become greater. Expect your attitude toward the unlovely to become more like that of the Saviors’.

It is sin not to love the way God loves – family bitternesses have to go. Peter says that since you have cleansed your hearts in obeying the truth, you have been able to love the brethren without putting on a front. It is not superficial if it comes from a cleansed heart that is brought in line with God’s Word. Apart from the truth in God’s Word and obedience to it, there isn’t even a decent form of brotherly love. But Peter doesn’t stop here. He says now go on from here and make a few changes because you should be loving with a completely unselfish love like Christ did. This agape love, notice, comes from a pure heart. Change is taking place. There is the stage of impurity, then the purifying of the Word and obedience to it. Then the pure heart and the true kind of love like God’s. The closer you get to God the more you can love like He does. This whole truth pulls together in verses 22 –25. We can love out of a pure heart fervently, being born again of the Word of God.

Being born again is simply obeying God’s Word. The way to be born again is to obey God’s Word in regard to confessing your sin and receiving Christ as your personal Savior (John 3). The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and plants it as a seed in our hearts when we obey. Conversions not built upon the teaching of the Word of God are not genuine. “God’s Word lives and abides forever”, said Peter,  and so shall your and my salvation last.

God’s Word is not temporary. It is eternal. God’s Word is powerful and can change lives. It makes us a child of God and a child does not remain a child, it grows and changes take place. You are a child of God! Expect changes!

Did you know that being born again by the Word of God is the only way in which we can have the capacity to love purely and unselfishly. Only the new life within us can express this new love – agape love (the love of God)

God’s Word, as long as you continue to expose yourself to it and determine to obey it, can change you into the glorious person God intended you to be before the foundation of the world.

Let me be blunt about this – if you don’t like change it’s about time you learned because God’s Word is going to transform you into the image of Christ. Did you know that when we resist God’s Word and hold back in our obedience to it, we are hindering the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let me repeat that

CONCLUSION

You’ve got change coming! God’s Word through Peter challenges us today to live reverently. We are to let our new relationship with God and the cost of that relationship become the most important part of our lives, far superior to tradition handed down from generation to generation. The church needs Christians who are basing their Christian lives on a personal relationship with Christ first, rather than hanging on to mother and fathers’ apron strings hoping they will always be there to show you what God wants for your life. They can’t save you, only God can!

Peter further challenges us to live “trustingly”. We must have a faith in God’s eternal plan and the resurrection of Christ. Then He says, “live in love” or lovingly and let that love radiate from a spiritually reborn life.

We’ve got change coming in our reverence level, trust level, and love level.

Remember Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian’s love and knowledge to grow?

Ephesians 3:14-21 
When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.

 

1. They are believers, believers who are only strangers scattered over the earth (v.1)A.

.

2. They are people elected by God (v.2)

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