Faithlife Sermons

Can We Change?

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Without change the church will die.

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Introduction

Recently I have been praying a lot about the subject of change.
We consider the Church as a living entity and not a building, so the Church itself should honestly be in a state of change.
And by change I mean growth.
And I am not necessarily talking about numerical growth, which should be going on by the way.
No, rather I am talking about Spiritual growth.
I am also talking about the willingness to change our own direction and our own wills for the sake of what God is attempting to accomplish in each of us, in our Church, and how God wants to use our church in our community.
However, for some reason, whenever you start talking about change, people get nervous and uncomfortable.
And the reason being is that we do not like to change.
We love to stay just the way we are.
Things are much easier that way.
Because change is hard.
Change is frustrating at times.
Change is even painful for us at times.
But, we have to change. If we don’t we will die.
And tonight we are going to be talking about the subject of change.
In just a moment we are going to be looking at as God presses Israel to adopt change, for their own sake.
And tonight I want us each to examine ourselves and ask ourselves can we ever change?
And while you are asking yourself that question, I also want you to look at seven things regarding churches who are not open to change.
They are:
I didn’t come up with this list, but found it in an article I was reading today.
You Keep Having The Same Conversation Over And Over (And Over) Again
Every Time Someone Raises A New Idea, Someone Lists 3 Reasons It Won’t Work
Fondness For The Past Exceeds Passion For The Future
Here are seven signs that you may never be open to change:
Small Things Always Become Things
People Are Still Complaining About The Last Thing You Changed
“We’ve Never Done It That Way Before” Has Become A Theme Song
Your Leaders Don’t Bring Unchurched Friends With Them
Now, like I said, this list was the Seven Signs that Your Church will Never Change, but the Church can’t embrace this mentality unless the people have adopted this mentality.
And if there is anyone here tonight and this is your mentality, you need to ask yourself why?
Why am I so resistent to change?
Because your resistance along with everyone else’s could be why the church is not growing and the church that is not growing is shrinking.
And the church that is shrinking is dying.
And if we continue to resist change, we may wake up one day and realize that the Church is dead and those who did embrace change have moved on and left us behind.
So, tonight, if you have found in your Bible, I’d invite you to stand with me as we read about one instance when God called his people to change.
Again, we are in

Scripture Focus

Isaiah 43:16–21 NIV - Anglicised
16 This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Dwelling in the Past

One of the key things on our list here and one of the central aspects that Isaiah hits on that prevents a person or a church, is the issue of the past.
Again, Isaiah writes . . .
Isaiah 43:18 NIV - Anglicised
18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
Isaiah 43:
And to some extent we have all been guilty on this.
We want to think about the past and all the good things in the past and we want to go back there and dwell there.
We say things like “oh I remember how good the music used to be.”
Or, “man I remember how great that preacher we had in 19XX was.”
Or, “man, I remember how great church used to be.”
And to be honest, none of these things were wrong, the music was good then, the preacher then was good too, and church was good then as well.
But it is today too.
It is still the same God.
It is still the same Holy Spirit.
It is still the same Jesus Christ.
We (and I raise my hand too) complain a lot about people not coming to church, but when all we are doing is complaining about how bad things are now as to how good they used to be, can we really blame them?
Another reason though we dwell in the past though is we are afraid to embrace the future.
We are afraid to change.
We are afraid that things won’t work out to our advantage and that we may have adapt a little bit or be around some people that make us feel uncomfortable and we don’t like that.
So, it is much easier to live in the past.
NOW, that’s the good way in which we live in the past, but there is also a bad way as well.
And it is much more subtle.
We are constantly overwhelmed with all the bad things that we have experienced in the past.
We refuse to embrace any change whatsoever because every time we’ve tried something, something bad has happened.
It is #2 and #5 on our list, “Every time someone raises a new idea, someone lists three reasons it won’t work,” and “People are still complaining about the last thing you changed.”
These people are called “Negative Nancy’s” or “Debbie Downers,” for everything you get excited about they drag you back down with all the negative things that COULD go wrong.
Instead of how good things have been in the past, they spend all their time talking about how bad things have always been.
Things are so bad, but they don’t want to change any of them, because to them it is better to know what your dealing with rather than try something new.
Which is just doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result each time.
That is not how God operates, and that is why God tells the Israelites to . . .
Isaiah 43:18 NIV - Anglicised
18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
Forget the former things because you can’t change them.
Dwelling on them and thinking about them is not going to change it.
The past is the past and you can’t go back and change it.
And we can’t live in the past either.
We live in the present and the decisions we make today impact the future, but we have absolutely ZERO impact on the past.
Instead, we are to LOOK TO THE FUTURE.

Look To The Future

I spoke about it briefly this morning, but one of the key things that we neglect is our prayer life.
It is to our prayer life that we communicate with God more than any other way.
And I know we are constantly wanting to know what God’s will is and what God’s plan is.
And sometimes, it is very, very difficult to discern God’s will.
I will be the first to admit this.
But what I have learned is that even though things may not be 100% clear, God impresses things on you and maybe the reason why it is not 100% clear is because God wants us to trust him.
God wants us to step out in faith and trust Him.
Isaiah says . . .
Isaiah 43:19 NIV - Anglicised
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19
God is constantly desiring to do a new work in us and through us.
God is in the business of molding and changing us.
Transforming us, which involves every single day being something new and different from yesterday.
Our walk with God should change every day.
And what I mean by that is that we should learn something new each and every day and then apply that new learning to deepen our relationship with God.
Isaiah tells us that this new thing is “springing up” and then asks do you not perceive it?
The only reason why we would fail to perceive it is because we are out of tune with God.
We have shut the penetrating work of the Holy Spirit out.
We have drowned out the call of God by our desire to live in the past.
We need to quiet ourselves and listen to God.
We need to perceive what God is telling us because all the things we did 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago are not working.
We are ministering to a new and different generation of people and if we want to reach them, we MUST be open to change.
We MUST be willing to roll our sleeves up, get a little uncomfortable and do the work of an evangelist, as Paul puts it.
We can’t expect them to just come flooding in the Church doors, we have to go get them, tell them the Gospel and compel them to come in!
And remember the list from the beginning? The last one on it is “the leaders don’t bring unchurched friends with them.”
When was the last time you brought someone to church with you?
When was the last time you INVITED someone to come with you?
We invite people when we are excited about what God is doing. If we are not excited why would we expect anyone else to be?
And if we are not excited, then why?
What is the barrier there?
And many people will answer that question with “I don’t like this or that” about the Church.
Okay, but when we spend all our time thinking about and dwelling that “thing” we don’t like, when do we focus on the things we do like?
An example of this comes from another article I read yesterday.
A lady approached her pastor wanting to leave the church.
She told the pastor that she was going to leave and when he asked her she said that the church was full of gossipers, sinners, and hypocrites and she could’t take it anymore.
The pastor told her that he would make a deal with her. If she would get a glass and fill it full of water to the top and walk around the church three times without spilling a drop he would release her with his blessing.
So, she took the challenge, filled a glass to the top with water, walked around three times, and came back to the pastor reporting she did not spill a drop.
The pastor says he will release her but then asks if he can ask her a question first, to which she agrees.
The pastor asks the lady, “while you were walking around the church with the water did you notice any hypocrites, sinners, or gossipers?”
The woman responded that she did not and the pastor tells her that the reason she didn’t notice was because she was focused on the task at hand.
He then tells her that when we are in tune and focused on the task that God has given us, the problematic things that are present everywhere are suddenly not as important.
Folks, God is desiring to do a new thing, NOT DOWN THE ROAD BUT RIGHT HERE AT STANFORD.
But, it CANNOT be done if we do not perceive it.
It CANNOT be done if we are not open to change.
And it boils down to whether or not we trust God.
The same God who . . .
Isaiah 43:16–17 NIV - Anglicised
16 This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
Isaiah 43:16-
The same God who created the entire universe. Do we trust Him enough to allow him to change us, to transform us, to mold us?
That is really what we are talking about tonight.
Isaiah says . . .
Isaiah 43:19–21 NIV - Anglicised
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
Isaiah 43:19-2
And we talked about it this morning.
God is with us.
Hebrews 13:5–6 NIV - Anglicised
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5-
The thing is, do we really believe this tonight?

Altar Call

If we do, then we should not fear change.
We should always be open to the Holy Spirit and always be open to change.
I’m going to read our list one more time and as I read it, ask yourself, is this me?
And if it is, pray that God intervene and change your heart.
You Keep Having The Same Conversation Over And Over (And Over) Again. We keep talking about the need to change or the desire to change, but we never change.
Every Time Someone Raises A New Idea, Someone Lists 3 Reasons It Won’t Work
Every Time Someone Raises A New Idea, Someone Lists 3 Reasons It Won’t Work. Are you a Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy?
Fondness For The Past Exceeds Passion For The Future. Are you dwelling in the past?
Fondness For The Past Exceeds Passion For The Future
Small Things Always Become Things. Do the little and insignificant things that in reality don’t amount to a hill of beans bother you? Are you consumed with every little thing that every person does wrong-meaning they don’t do it like you would?
Small Things Always Become Things
People Are Still Complaining About The Last Thing You Changed
People Are Still Complaining About The Last Thing You Changed. Are you complaining to yourself, your spouse, your friends, your family about things that are changed?
“We’ve Never Done It That Way Before” Has Become A Theme Song. Are you so locked into the past that you are afraid to try anything new?
“We’ve Never Done It That Way Before” Has Become A Theme Song
Your Leaders Don’t Bring Unchurched Friends With Them. When was the last time you brought somebody, or at least asked somebody to come?
Your Leaders Don’t Bring Unchurched Friends With Them
And I said in the beginning that the Church that doesn’t grow, the church that doesn’t change, will eventually die.
And by death I do not mean physical death but rather a spiritual death. The doors may still be open and people may still be sitting on the pew, but the Spirit has left a long time ago.
But even if you are at the place where you feel Spiritually dead, you can live again.
All you have to do is bring it to God.
Will you pray tonight?
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