"Riding the Wave of Change" part 3
Diving Deep
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 4, 2009



Memory Verse:

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

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So far in this series -- Riding the Wave of Change -- we’ve talked about the major changes that come our way when we make a major life decision or when we encounter those milestones in life… like when we get married, or have kids, or change jobs, or start at a new school, or move to a new city. Those changes that we have some control over or we expect them to happen. But sometimes they can through us for a loop, and so we talked about how we can keep our balance when we go through those kinds of change.

We moved on from that to talk about the unexpected unwelcome changes in life. The storms that come our way, the tragedies we encounter, the difficulties that life throws at us, and we talked about how we can embrace God and cling to His promise to be with us and to bring us through those storms.

If you missed either of those messages, you can read them on our website. But today, we’re getting personal. We’re not talking about the circumstances of life that change, we’re talking about how we change when God works in our lives.

So grab a pen, pull out your notes, and let’s get going. The first and the biggest change is that…


The Changes God Works in My Life:

1.    God changes who I am

Whoever you are before you come to faith in Jesus, you are changed from the inside out by the cleansing and redemptive work of God in your life.

I’d like to ask any children under the age of 12 to join me here at the front…

SERMON IN A SACK – BUTTERFLY
This is a butterfly… or at least a toy that looks like a butterfly. What do you know about butterflies?
TALK WITH KIDS ABOUT BUTTERFLIES

Did you know that a butterfly was not always a butterfly? No, a butterfly starts out as a caterpillar. So what happens? Well, the caterpillar spins a cocoon which completely surrounds the caterpillar, and over time the caterpillar changes into a butterfly. Take a look at this video.

VIDEO of transformation into butterfly

It happened pretty quick in that video, but really this change from a caterpillar to a butterfly a while longer than that. But do you know what it’s called, when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly? It’s called a metamorphosis. It comes from an old Greek word… another language… and it’s the word is metamorphoo. And when that word is translated into English, it becomes the word “change” or “transform”. Check out this verse from the Bible…

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

So what does this verse tell us? It tells us that just as a caterpillar is changed or transformed into a butterfly, God transforms us from who we used to be into the person He made us to be. He makes us into more loving, more caring, more compassionate, more godly people.

Help me out with these words…

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

That’s how God changes who we are. He builds these qualities into our lives. Okay, you can go have a seat. Thanks for your help.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

There’s that word metamorphoo again. God is transforming us so that His character is reflected in who we are. We become more Christ-like. And the Apostle Paul sums this whole transformation up this way…

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

So that’s the primary way that God changes us. He changes who we are, giving us a new life and making us more like Him in our character, values, desires, and priorities.


2.    God changes how I interact with others

Most if not all of us are born with the desire to be admired, to be important, to puff ourselves up… and so often, it’s at the expense of other people. In other words, in order to prop ourselves up we push others down. To make ourselves look better, we make others look worse. And so we go through life, promoting our own self-interest. If investing in someone else also helps us, then great. We’re fine with that. But it’s always built on the foundation of “what’s in it for me?”

So we’re really concerned about ourselves, not about other people. Oh, we may learn to love a select few. We may sincerely care for our family and a few close friends. And there are heroes who really do put the needs of others ahead of themselves.

But as a general rule, we tend to be pretty selfish and self-absorbed.

And especially if we don’t get along with someone or we’ve had a disagreement, we have no qualms about gossiping about them, slandering them, tearing them down, belittling them… Again, we want to look good, we want to be right, we want our egos stroked… And so it’s accepted and almost expected in our society that you’re going to be looking out for number one, at the expense of all others.

Oh, we’ve learned to do that in covert, not-so-obvious ways, but we still do it. But it’s not the way God intends for His people to operate.

And so He teaches us what it means to live in relationship with other people. He shows us what it means to live in community. He welcomes us to come together in His family… He changes the way we interact with other people, to the point that we’re no longer primarily concerned about “what’s in it for me,” and instead we’re actually able to put others ahead of ourselves.

So really, this is about a change of attitude. Our interaction with others changes from a position of pride to a position of humility.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT)
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

And let me tell you, humility is not about tearing yourself down. I don’t know where we ever got the idea that being humble meant we have an inferiority complex. No, humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.

Jesus was humble. But He never denied who He was, He never belittled Himself, He never suffered from low self-esteem. What He DID do, was put the needs of others ahead of himself. That’s what it meant for Jesus to be humble, and He sets the standard of humility for us.

So how does this play out? How are our relationships with others really changed because we are followers of Christ? Well, let’s take a look at a few different passages…

The first one is from a chapter in the Bible known as the Love Chapter. You hear this read at weddings all the time, but really it’s not about marriage. It’s about how we treat each other and serve each other and love each other.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

That’s a pretty good standard for how we can interact with each other. Or how about this…

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

So what are your conversations like? Are they positive and uplifting, or are they negative and destructive?

God changes how you interact with others… that includes your attitudes, your words, and your actions… how you treat each other when you’re together and when you’re apart… whether you’re talking about other Christ-followers who are part of the Church or those outside the Church. God changes how you interact with others.


3.    God changes my outlook on life

We’ll deal with this one fairly quickly, but I want to show you the passage that, to me, best expresses how God changes my outlook:

Philippians 4:4,6-7 (NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!… Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And remember, when the Apostle Paul wrote those words, he was sitting in a Roman prison… possibly even a prison that doubled as a sewer. So he wasn’t exactly in his “happy place” when he said “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”

So look at it… you can see how Paul’s outlook on life and on his circumstances changed because of what God had done in his life.
[PowerPoint highlights different words]
Instead of despair, he had an outlook of joy.
Instead of worry, he had an outlook of trust… that God was with Him and would provide for his needs.
Instead of contempt or anger, he had an outlook of gratitude.
Instead of living in fear, Paul had an outlook of peace… a peace that can only come from God.
And instead of gloom about his situation and about his future, he had an outlook of hope.


4.    God changes my purpose in life

Way back in the 1640’s, over in England, a group of English and Scottish Church scholars got together and produced a few different documents which are considered by many to be the greatest contribution to come out of the English Reformation.

These documents later influenced John Wesley and the Wesleyan Revival, which in turn led to the spread of Methodism and the First Great Awakening here in North America, and so in a way prepared the way for us here at Sunrise.

So even though we don’t use these documents here at Sunrise, they are part of our heritage.

One of these documents is known as the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which is essentially a series of 107 doctrinal questions and answers, used primarily to teach children and people new in their faith. And there are still churches today who present a Bible to child who is able to answer all 107 questions in one sitting.

And the very first question is one that you may be familiar with already. It asks…

Q. What is the chief end of man?

Anyone know the answer?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Now, in saying that God changes our purpose to this… well, that’s not entirely true. The truth is, that’s always been our purpose. It’s just that at one point of time, we perhaps didn’t know or didn’t understand that. So technically, I’m not correct in saying that God changes our purpose. Really, He simply makes us aware of it.

But from our perspective, it is a change. Because we used to think our purpose was to be happy, to be rich, to have a family, to be successful, to conquer the Nintendo Wii… whatever it was for you. But when you come to faith in Jesus, God begins to work in your life and you come to realize that really, your purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

2 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV)
So we make it our goal to please Him...

So what does it mean to glorify God? What does it mean to please Him? Yes, it means we praise Him with our music. It means we honour Him when we come together as His Church. It means we serve Him faithfully.

But I think it’s a bit broader than that. I think our purpose is to glorify God each and every day, in every thing we do and every word we say. I think it means we glorify Him in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in every part of life.

Romans 12:1a (Msg)
“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

That’s the purpose we come to realize as Christ-followers… to glorify God. To please Him. To live in such a way that He smiles at you, gives you the thumbs up, and says, “Good job.”


5.    God changes my heart for those far from Him

We’ve talked about this here many times before. As a church, one of our primary purposes is to connect with people who are far from God and point them toward Him. That’s one of the reasons we’re in the mall… because this location alone provides us with an opportunity to connect with people. When I’m here through the week, there are people who stop by with questions about the Church or about what we believe, or who are looking for answers, or are looking for prayer. Just last week, in one morning, I had two women stop by who are going through divorces. One of them is already a Christ-follower, the other one is investigating God as a result of what she’s going through. She’s looking for answers. She’s looking for God. And we are here for people like that.

That’s part of our DNA as a Church… caring for those who are far from God, trying to connect with them, with the hope of bringing them into relationship with Him.

But I believe God wants that to be part of our DNA as individuals, too. To the point that we’ll go out of our way, we’ll make sacrifices, we’ll give up our preferences, we’ll even step out of our comfort zone in order to connect to people who are far from God and represent Jesus to them. Jesus said about Himself…

Luke 19:10 (NLT)
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

And He passed that mission on to His followers then and now when He said…

Matthew 4:19 (NLT)
“Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”

Back when I was in college, the pastor of the largest Protestant Church this side of Montreal came to speak to my class. And he talked about how he didn’t like everything that happens at his church. In particular, the music wasn’t his style, it’s not what he grew up with, it’s not what he prefers… but he was okay with that because he knew the church wasn’t about making him feel good. Unlike most organizations, the Church exists for those who aren’t part of it yet. So he was willing to set aside his preferences because he saw the potential of the music they were using for connecting with people far from God.

2 Corinthians 5:18, 20 (NLT)
And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. … So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.

Now, some people have what’s called the spiritual gift of evangelism. And they see a lot of positive results as they connect with people far from God. I personally don’t have that gift. And truthfully, I see some but limited response when I share my faith. But just because I don’t have that gift doesn’t let me off the hook. I still represent Jesus to the people I come into contact with, and God has changed my heart and is continuing to change my heart so I can see them as He does. And how does He see them?

Matthew 9:36 (NLT)
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Luke 19:41 (NLT)
But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep.

That’s how Jesus sees those who are far from God. He sees them as lost, as heading for a Christ-less eternity, and He cares so deeply for them that it moves Him to tears. And I believe He wants to change us as a church and as individuals until that kind of compassion is the cry of our heart, too.


6.    God changes my destiny

The truth is, because of our rebellion against God as human beings, we are all born with the stain of sin and are therefore destined for a Godless eternity in Hell. That’s not where God’s sending us; that’s where we’re already going because of our sin… because of our rebellion against God and the ways of God.

But God loves us too much to leave us like that. That’s why Jesus came and gave up His life on the cross… so that He could take our place and pay the penalty for our sinfulness, and so instead of eternal death we can look forward to eternal life with Him in Heaven.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

So then, because of Jesus, we who are followers of Jesus have a brand new destiny. We have a fresh start and a future hope. Paul understood this. He said…

2 Corinthians 5:1 (NLT)
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.

Colossians 3:1,4 (NLT)
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven… And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

And Jesus… when He knew His time on earth was almost over… that He would soon be arrested, falsely accused and convicted of crimes He didn’t commit, and publicly executed on a cross… When He knew all that was about to come down, He told His followers…

John 14:1-3 (NLT)
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you…”

That was a promise to His followers that day and it’s a promise to us today. Jesus will come again, and when He does, what a great destiny He has in store for those of us who have chosen to be His followers.


If you are here and you’ve never made that choice, then why not make that choice today? Why not today begin that new life that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus? Why not allow God to change you from the inside out, make you the person you were meant to be, and guarantee you a future home with Him in Heaven?

If you’d like to make that choice today, then it’s simple to get started. All you need to do is decide to follow Him and live for Him. In fact, you can get started by just praying a simple prayer. You can pray something like this…

Jesus, thank you for dying for me. Thank you for caring that deeply for me. Thank you for offering me forgiveness for all my sins and a brand new start in life. I’m sorry that I’ve ignored you and tried to go it on my own; today I’m choosing to go Your way. I want to follow you from this moment on. Teach me what it means to live for you.


Earlier this morning, we sang a new song that talks about how God changes our lives to the point that all we live for is Jesus. And the greatest thing we look forward to is someday going to be with Him in Heaven. I’m going to ask the band to come on back up and we’re going to sing that song again, along with a few other songs about living for Jesus…

 

 

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