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How God Changes Us!

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How Will God Change My Life?

Genesis 32:22‑32 & Selected

An incident from the life of Jacob illustrates the process God uses to change our lives.  After this event, Jacob was never the same again.

This morning we're going to look at the story of Jacob.  This is a wrestling match with God.  It's filled with symbolism and principles for us to apply in our lives to how we change.  This was a turning point in Jacob's life.  He was never the same again.  From this simple story ‑‑ this wrestling match with God ‑‑ we can draw four principles on the four phases God uses in how He changes us.  Jacob's weakness was that he was a manipulator, a swindler.  His name literally means "cheater".  He was always using people and he was always getting into trouble because he used people.  This experience transformed his life and from this turning point he was never the same again.

I.  PHASE ONE: HE STARTS WITH A CRISIS (Gen 32:7-12)

"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man."  (Gen 32:24‑25)

God uses crises to: get our attention.

Lesson: We never change until: the pain becomes greater than the fear of change.

II.  PHASE TWO: COMMITMENT (Gen 32:13-26)

“Then the man said, `Let me go, for it is daybreak.' But Jacob replied, `I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" (Gen 32:26)

ILLUSTRATION:  How many of you in the last twelve months have started a physical fitness program?  I will not ask how many of you are still on it. We are great starters but we don't continue.  I once tried to diet for an entire afternoon.  As a result, I'm now getting furniture problems:  my chest is dropping into my drawers. 

My body keeps adjusting Under middle age attack

My waistline's pushing forward While my hairline's falling back.

Hey diddle, diddle, I've got a bulge in my middle

And hope to whittle it soon.

But eating's such fun That I won't get it doneTill my dish runs away with my spoon.

God often waits to resolve a problem to see if we really mean business

Lesson: Many people miss God's best because: they give up too soon.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  Gal. 6:9                                                             

III.  PHASE THREE: CONFESSION (27)

"The man asked him, `What is your name?' `Jacob', he answered."  (vs. 27)

"Jacob" means “Cheater”

Lesson:  I'll never be able to change my weaknesses until: I admit them.

Illustration:  Question:  If today you were named for your greatest character weakness, what would your name be?  Temper?  "My name is Temper, I can't keep a lid on it."  Lust?  Unreliable?  Guilt? Depressed?  Worrier?  What would be your tag?  Greedy? Resentful?  ‑‑ Confession.

IV.  PHASE FOUR:  COOPERATION (Gen 32:28-31)

"Then the man said, `Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome. ... then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, `It is because I saw God face to face ..." (Gen 32:28‑30)

Peniel means “the face of God”  Jacob came face to face with God.  All of us have to do that some day.  You can run from God for the rest of your life but then you can't run any more.

Gen 32: 31 Note:  Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life.  It was to be a constant reminder of 2 truths:

1.  In the first place, your thigh is the most powerful muscle in your body.  It has the most strength over any muscle in your body.  When God touched Jacob He touched him at his point of greatest strength.  The reminder to Jacob, constantly, as he limped the rest of his life was that Jacob was to depend on God and not his own strength.  It's a reminder for us to remember.  I must depend on God not my own strength to work the changes.  Will power does not work.  It causes tension in your life.  The thing we resist persists.  When you try to stop doing something in your own strength what are you focusing on all the time?  The thing you don't want.  What we resist, persists.  God said, "I'm going to touch you at the point of your greatest strength so you know that from now on you're not to walk in your own strength but in My strength."

2.  You don't have to stay the same!  As you study Jacob's life and you look at all of his previous experiences, you find that every time Jacob got in trouble he ran.  He ran away.  That was his modus operandi.  Whatever the situation, when he got in trouble, he split.  God said, "I know how to fix that temptation.  I'll just put a limp in his walk so he could never run again."  Jacob had a limp the rest of his life.  It was a reminder to Jacob that it is never God's will to run from a personal problem.  Running doesn't solve it.  Running away never solves a problem.  If I've got a problem in my character ‑‑ a defect ‑‑ to hide it, ignore it, deny it is to run from it.  God said, "We never solve our problems by running from them."  Jacob, from this point onward, no longer stood in his own power, but in God's power and that made him stronger.

"So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to ... and put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness ... "  Eph. 4:22‑23 (GN)

Jesus said, "... You must be `born again.'"  John 3:5


HOW CAN I CHANGE MY LIFE?

Genesis 32:22‑32 & Selected

The question that has come up in every survey I've ever taken is what I want us to look at this morning.  That question is "How can I change my life?"  That seems to be a common question.  What would you like to change about yourself?  An attitude?  A habit? The way you look?  Some kind of weakness in your life?  All of us want to change in some way so we go to seminars and we read books, listen to tapes, try diets.  We do everything to see what can change us.  Maybe we make a change for a while but nothing seems to last.  Why? 

I think it's because we focus on the externals rather than the internals.  We're looking at behavior and God's looking at attitude.  We look at the actions; God looks at the inside.  For lasting change you've got to have a change on the inside and that requires God's help. 

This morning we're going to look at the story of Jacob.  This is a wrestling match with God.  It's filled with symbolism and principles for us to apply in our lives to how we change.  This was a turning point in Jacob's life.  He was never the same again.  From this simple story ‑‑ this wrestling match with God ‑‑ we can draw four principles on the four phases God uses in how He changes us.  Jacob's weakness was that he was a manipulator, a swindler.  His name literally means "cheater".  He was always using people and he was always getting into trouble because he used people.  This experience transformed his life and from this turning point he was never the

same again.

How does God change us?  He uses a four step process symbolized in this passage.

I.  PHASE ONE:  HE STARTS WITH A CRISIS

v. 24‑25 "So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man."  In v. 28 it tells us it was actually God who was wrestling with Jacob in this story. 

I know that the point of wrestling is to pin a guy down until he cries "Uncle!  I give up!"  Have you ever felt like that?  Have you ever struggled with something until you're in despair, till you realize you're in a no‑win situation?  Notice it says he struggled until day break.  This is a long fight.  It lasted all night.  It's a no‑win situation. 

What are you wrestling with this week?  What is the problem in your life that you're struggling with and you're getting tired? Sick and tired ‑‑ sick and tired of being sick and tired!  What is the crisis in your life?  Maybe it's an internal struggle and you feel like you're being torn apart.  Maybe it's a struggle in a relationship ‑‑ it's been strained, ripped.  Have you ever considered the fact that it is God behind those circumstances? Maybe God is behind that problem, crisis, difficulty, irritation. The point is this:  God often uses a crisis to get our attention. It's like the only way He can get through our hard heads.  He has to.  God uses a crisis to get our attention.  Are you in a crisis this morning?  Congratulations!  God's getting ready to change you.  He wants to work in your life.

        It's like the mother eagle.  She disturbs the nest so that it becomes so uncomfortable that the little eagle has to jump out and learn to fly. 

It is human nature to put off changes in ourself!  "One of these days..."

I hate to shop for shoes.  I dress for comfort, that's why I never wear a coat.  I subscribe to the Gilda Radner philosophy of style:  I wear things that don't itch!  I hate new shoes because they're so uncomfortable.  I wear a pair of shoes until they fall apart.  I had a pair of shoes made out of deerskin.  They were so comfortable!  I wore them all the time until finally I got holes in the bottom of them.  On Sunday morning, setting on the stage, I wouldn't cross my legs ‑‑ you could see the holes!  I kept wearing them; they looked good on the top.  My wife was motivating me to go get shoes, but no!  I kept wearing them with the holes ... until the rainy season came.  Then after three days of going to work with soggy socks I got motivated and I changed!

How many times has God had to bring rain into your life to motivate you to change?  Finally a crisis came and you gave up. Point:  We never change until the pain becomes greater than the fear of change. 

Jacob struggles all night.  Finally the pain was so bad that he finally had to do something. God brings a crisis into your life.  God loves you just the way you are.  But He loves you too much to let you stay that way.  If it takes a crisis ‑‑ you can count on it ‑‑ He will use it for your best. 

2.  PHASE TWO IS COMMITMENT

v. 26 "Then the man said, `Let me go, for it is daybreak.'  But Jacob replied, `I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" Jacob's attitude is persistence.  He's determined.  He's going to stick with it, fight it out.  He will not quit.  He's basically saying to God, "I'm sticking with this struggle until I benefit from it!  I want something good out of all of this.  I've made an effort.  I've put a lot of energy into this.  I've made an investment of time and energy in this struggle and I'm not going to give up!" 

Some of you have put time and money and energy into your marriage and you feel this way.  You don't want to lose the investment you've put in.  You're going to fight for the marriage.  You want it to work. 

The fact is, God does use crisis to get our attention, but even after He's gotten our attention, He doesn't solve the problem immediately.  He waits for awhile.  Why?  God often waits to resolve a problem in our lives because He wants to see if we really mean business.  Am I serious about change or is this some passing whim? 

The normal reaction to our weakness and problems is to run from them.  Get out of the situation.  Leave.  Quit.  God says, "Let's see how committed your are."  Many people miss God's best because they give up too soon.  The answer is right around the corner. We are great starters but

we don't finish.

How many of you in the last twelve months have started a physical fitness program?  I will not ask how many of you are still on it. We are great starters but we don't continue.  I once tried to diet for an entire afternoon.  As a result, I'm now getting furniture problems:  my chest is dropping into my drawers. 

My body keeps adjusting

Under middle age attack

My waistline's pushing forward

While my hairline's falling back.

Hey diddle, diddle,

I've got a bulge in my middle

And hope to whittle it soon.

But eating's such fun

That I won't get it done

Till my dish runs away with my spoon.

We're great starters!  People come to me, "I prayed about my weakness!"  How many times?  "Once."  We live in a microwave society.  We want instant change ‑‑ now!  If God doesn't solve it overnight then forget it, God!

Where's the commitment?  First, the crisis, then the commitment. Am I going to stick with it?  I meet a lot of married couples. They're just about to give up when the answer may be just around the corner.  I'm grateful that Kay didn't give up on me.  It took some time for God to hone some

rough edges off my life.

Jacob said, I'm committed to this struggle and I'm not giving up until God turns this burden into a blessing.  I'm not giving up! Often we want to change and God wants to change us but it just takes time!  It took you years to get into the mess you're in right now.  You didn't develop all

those hang ups overnight.  It took years of bad choices and bad mistakes.  You didn't develop your personality overnight.  You have ingrained patterns and habits and ways of reacting and ways of responding.  Usually God has to remove it layer by layer.  That takes commitment. 

We've got about six professional counselors in our church who do a lot of the counseling now that I used to do.  I'm grateful for them.  They will take the time to tear off our problems layer by layer.

Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  He's saying, Hang in there!  Be committed to getting God's best. There is hope.  You will be able to change, but don't give up! This is an encouraging message.  If God could change Jacob, God can change me. 

3.  PHASE THREE IS CONFESSION

v. 27 "The man asked him, `What is your name?' `Jacob', he answered."  Why did God ask his name?  Because God wanted him to admit who he was.  In Bible times, the name you were given was a description of your character.  It was a label.  When Jacob said, "I'm a cheater" it was an act of self revelation, an act of confession.  When Jacob said, "My name is Jacob" it was a reminder of all the people he had hurt, all the heartbreak he had caused, all the problems that had been the result of his hang ups and personality.  He was admitting what he was. 

Question:  If today you were named for your greatest character weakness, what would your name be?  Temper?  "My name is Temper, I can't keep a lid on it."  Lust?  Unreliable?  Guilt? Depressed?  Worrier?  What would be your tag?  Greedy? Resentful?  ‑‑ Confession.

The lesson is that I will never be able to change my weaknesses until I admit them.  To who?  First to yourself.  Then to God. Then to at least one other significant person in your life. That's difficult.  But the fact is, God won't work in my problem until I admit that I have one. 

When you come to God and admit you have a problem, He's not going to be surprised.  He's not shocked.  "God, I have a problem with my thought life!"  "I just can't get control of my appetite."  "I just blow up at a moment's notice."  He's not shocked.  He's not surprised.  He knows it.  He just wants you to know it.  Phase Three is to come face to face, not just with God, but with yourself.  What is my name?  What am I really like?  Until I admit I have a problem, God can't help me. 

To change we've got to stop making excuses, blaming others, passing the buck, rationalizing ‑‑ "Everybody's doing it!  I'm not as bad as...  It's partly his/her fault."  It's humbling to admit a weakness.  But that's good. Because "God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble." Grace is the power to change.  If you want to change, you can't change until you get grace.  If you want grace, be humble.  How do you be humble?  Admit your weaknesses!  I find that the people who are most honest, open and transparent about their weaknesses are the healthiest people I know.  They are also the people who are changing the most in life because they've got it out in the open so they can deal with it.  I'm praying that Ashburn will be a place of unconditional acceptance.  We're all struggling. No one is perfect.  We all need grace.

4.  PHASE FOUR IS COOPERATION

We've got to cooperate with what God wants to do in our lives. vs. 28‑39 "Then the man said, `Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men have overcome.  Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, `It is because I saw God face to face'"  The moment Jacob began admitting what he was and began to cooperate with God, He began to change.  He called the place Peniel which means "the face of God".  Jacob came face to face with God.  All of us have to do that some day.  You can run from God for the rest of your life but then you can't run any more.  Why not face Him now? He wants to be your friend, not your enemy.  Jesus came to save us, not to scare us.  All of us eventually face God.  Sometimes we have to come face to face with ourselves first. When we do, God says, "OK, now I can get down to business in your life!  We can start working on those character defects, those faults that we both want changed.  Relax and cooperate with Me and I'll make those changes that we both want."  God says to Jacob, "I will bless you." 

God wants to bless you, too.  Just like He blessed Jacob.  The first thing God did for Jacob was He gave Him a new name, a new identity.  He said, "Your name is no longer going to be called Jacob; it's going to be Israel."  Jacob means cheater, supplanter, swindler, crook.  Israel has two different meanings ‑‑ a pun, a double meaning.  One, "he who struggles with God" which is true.  But it also means, "prince of God".  This crook and God's calling him a prince of God. 

God does his deepest work in our identity, in who we are and how we understand ourselves, our concept of ourselves, our self esteem.  When God wants to change you, He starts with the way you see yourself.  Because that affects everything.  It influences how you're going to act.  You act according to the way you think you're going to act.  God saw Jacob's potential and He knew it. He saw beneath that scoundrel, that manipulator, that schemer was a prince.  God looked beneath those emotional hang ups and saw something valuable ‑‑ a prince, someone He could do something great through, with, to.  He changed Jacob's name and from this point on Jacob was a different person.  The entire nation of Israel was named after this man.  What a privilege and joy!  He changed his identity.

v. 31 "The sun rose up above him and as he passed Peniel and he was limping [circle this] because of his hip."  Interesting result of this all night wrestling experience.  While they were wrestling, God dislocated Jacob's hip and his thigh was damaged and as a result of this experience, the rest of Jacob's life he walked with a limp.  What is so significant about that? 

Because it was a reminder of two very important truths that we need to be reminded of every day.  This was God's way of reminding Jacob.

In the first place, your thigh is the most powerful muscle in your body.  It has the most strength over any muscle in your body.  When God touched Jacob He touched him at his point of greatest strength.  The reminder to Jacob, constantly, as he limped the rest of his life was that Jacob was

to depend on God and not his own strength.  It's a reminder for us to remember.  I must depend on God not my own strength to work the changes.  Will power does not work.  It causes tension in your life.  The thing we resist persists.  When you try to stop doing something in your own strength what are you focusing on all the time?  The thing you don't want.  What we resist, persists.  God said, "I'm going to touch you at the point of your greatest strength so you know that from now on you're not to walk in your own strength but in My strength."

As you study Jacob's life and you look at all of his previous experiences, you find that every time Jacob got in trouble he ran.  He ran away.  That was his modus operandi.  Whatever the situation, when he got in trouble, he split.  God said, "I know how to fix that temptation.  I'll just put a limp in his walk so he could never run again."  Jacob had a limp the rest of his life.  It was a reminder to Jacob that it is never God's will to run from a personal problem.  Running doesn't solve it.  Running away never solves a problem.  If I've got a problem in my character ‑‑ a defect ‑‑ to hide it, ignore it, deny it is to run from it.  God said, "We never solve our problems by running from them."  Jacob, from this point onward, no longer stood in his own power, but in God's power and that made him stronger.  A couple of weeks ago I talked about the thorn in the flesh.  The fact is when God wants to bless our lives in a special way, He often puts an obvious weakness in that area as a reminder to depend on Him.

The lesson of Jacob is You don't have to stay the same!  You can change.  If God can change Jacob He can change anybody.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is in Romans, "Jacob have I loved..."  If God could love Jacob with all of his hang ups, I figure He can love me with my hang ups. He can love you with your hang ups.  God named a nation after this guy. 

Which of these four step processes are you in right now?  Which of these represents your life where you are right now?

Phase 1.  Crisis.  Has God been trying to get your attention? Have you been wrestling with a situation or a relationship for weeks or months or years.  It seems hopeless, a no‑win situation. It may be a major crisis, a shake up, or it may just be a perpetual irritation, a frustration that you have to deal with. Maybe you feel like you're being torn apart and pulled every different direction and you've been struggling all night.  Have you looked behind the circumstance to see God?  God wants to push you in a new direction or make a change in you.  It reminds us that we rarely change until the fear of change is exceeded by the pain.  We won't change until we get desperate.  Sometimes you have to hit bottom.  Because until that time we make excuses, blame, rationalize.

Phase 2.  Commitment.  Have you made a commitment to stick with the struggle until God brings some good out of it and God turns that burden into a blessing?  Right now it may seem easier just to walk away from the job.  But you better ask God before you make that decision.  He may have something else for you.  I don't know.  If you're walking from a problem that's really in you, you're taking it with you.  Maybe the situation looks hopeless and nothing is changed.  You're discouraged and ready to quit. There is somebody here today that is ready to walk out on their marriage.  I don't know who it is but you do and God does.  God wants to say to you this morning, Don't!  Not yet!  Don't do it yet!  Ask God for staying power and then get some professional help.  Be committed.

Phase 3.  Confession.  What is your name this morning?  What weakness do you need to admit?  What problem do you need to face up to and realize that the thing is destroying your life, your marriage, your career?  All of us need to face the facts about ourselves.  Maybe you need to say, "God, I've got a drug problem" a problem with alcohol... an abuser, I'm a Christian but I'm having problems with my temper ... I love to gossip ... I'm unreliable ... I'm a worrier ... I'm depressed ... I try to get even with people.  We don't change until we admit that we need to change.  God knows

everything about you and He still loves you very, very deeply.  His love is unconditional.  He loves you. You don't have to be ashamed to talk to Him.  He knows what you're like.  I'm praying that Ashburn will become a haven of fellow strugglers, where there is unconditional love and people will come here, admit they're blowing it in some area, and nobody's shocked ‑‑ because we're all human beings.  You may not have that person's problem but you've got one.  The heart of every problem is always a problem in the heart.  Count on it! It's hard to drop a mask and it's scary.  If I reveal who I am and you don't like it, tough luck for me!  But if you want to change you've got to go through Phase 3.  Otherwise things are going to remain the same.  I challenge you this morning to move into Phase 4.

Phase 4.  Cooperation.  Take a step of faith and say, "Father, I want to cooperate with You." 

Ephesians 4:22‑23 (GN) "So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to ... and put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness."  That is good news!  He's saying I don't have to stay the same. Psychologists say that your personality is set by age four.  But God can change patterns in your life!  Aren't you grateful for that.  I don't have to be stuck with things that cause problems in my life.  There can be healing of memories.  There can be a change in my outlook.  Jesus said in real simple.  He said, "You must be born again."  Was He talking about reincarnation?  No. The Bible doesn't teach reincarnation, contrary to what Shirley McClaine says.  I have no doubt she is absolutely sincere.  But she is sincerely wrong.  The most damaging thing about what she says is telling people that stuff was originally in the Bible. It's not true.  Jesus did say, "You must be born again."  He didn't say, you ought to be.  He said you must!  If you want to go to heaven, "You must be born again."  This is nothing scary. It just means a new life.  He's not talking about turning over a new leaf.  He's talking about a new life ‑‑ get rid of your old self, put on a new self.  Start over.  Everything I've ever done wrong completely forgiven and forgotten, the blackboard's wiped clean.  Even if there weren't a heaven it would be worth it just to have a clear conscious.  Start over.  What a mountain was off my back when I committed my life to Christ and realized I was forgiven and my sins forgotten.  Then I could forgive myself.         This is what Christianity is all about.  Christianity is changed lives.  He wants to do it to you, that's why He brought you here today. 

Prayer:

        Regardless of the phase you're at... whether you're in the middle of a crisis, or a long term frustration and you've thought you'd never be able to change it in your life and you're stuck, pray "Father, I want to cooperate with You.  I want to trust You to change me.  I want to relax and place my life in Your hands.  Jesus Christ, I need to change.  I want to change.  I

ask You to help me to change.  With Your help I believe I can change. Help me with my unbelief."  God looks at your life and He knows that underneath every Jacob there's a prince or a princess.  Let him bring the best out in your life.  Let Him make a difference.  You don't have to stay the same!  If you've never said this, say, "Jesus Christ, I want to be born again.  Iwant that new life.  I want to be forgiven from all of the past.  I want to start over."  That's what He died on the cross to make possible.  In that area in your life that you know is wrong, difficult, a problem, would you admit it to Him right now?  First, admit it to yourself. Call it for what it is.  Say, "God, that's wrong and I admit it.  I need Your help in changing."  I would encourage you to find at least one other person who accepts you and loves you and you can share this with ‑‑ a friend, professional counselor, somebody.  Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing.  Would you say, "Lord, today, turn me into a prince or a princess. 

Change me.  Make me what You want me to be."  Today, if you prayed that prayer, God heard you.  God is here; He's everywhere.  You don't have to talk aloud; He knows the very thoughts in your heart.  He read your brain waves as you let that thought pattern go across your mind.  He says, "This is what I've been waiting for!" Today is a beginning of a new way.  You're going to need help and support.  That's the value of small groups.  That's the value of sharing with people.  That's the value of our church.  There are people here who can help you change.  But you've got to let down your mask.  Father, thank You for Your word.  Apply it to each of our lives where we need it most.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

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