3 benefits of repentance

repent

Repentance. I’ll just come out and say it. It’s a word I don’t like to hear. It’s difficult to talk about. It’s often an awkward topic. It isn’t easy or comfortable or catchy or natural. However, I believe it is one of the biggest things that is lacking in my spiritual life and maybe even in yours.

The Bible is not shy when it comes to talking about repentance. We kind of know this already, right? In fact, it is the most common term and sermon topic in Scripture. “Repentance” or “return to the Lord” is mentioned over 1,000 times in Old Testament alone. The message of repentance was in the mouth of every prophet. Their sermon was like this, “(Clear throat) Good morning congregation. (Deep breath) REPENT! (Awkward silence) Okay. Let’s pray.” That was their message. It was all that needed to be said and heard.

In the New Testament, the message isn’t much different. John the Baptist’s message was: repent (Mark 1:4). The apostles first preached that people should: repent (Mark 6:11). Jesus tender, yet tough, said in his first sermon, “Repent and believe.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus shared the story of the prodigal son, the poster boy of repentance, that heaven rejoices over one sinner who: repents. In Revelation 2:5, Jesus says to the church: repent. As the church goes global in Acts, what was the apostle Peter’s message? “Repent.” (2:38; 3:19) God’s heart from the front cover to the back cover of Scripture that we would be tenderhearted, submissive, quick to respond to the Spirit’s conviction and repent of sin.

2 Corinthians 7, our text today, is the most concentrated teaching on the topic of repentance in the Bible. This is Paul’s listen-up-and-get-ahold-of-this sermon on repentance. The goal of this message is that you and I would repent. I will challenge you to do as God has challenged me to do throughout this text. I want to practice what I preach, but also preach what I practice. Will you join me?

Have you ever had to say a hard thing, confront sin, or call someone to repent? No one wants to do it, but there come times when you have to say hard things. As you come to 2 Corinthians 7, you see Paul had to write some hard things. In a previous, unknown letter, Paul, pleaded with the church to restore a sinful brother. The church rightfully disciplined a man for causing division in the church, but when the discipline worked and he repented, the church held it over the man and was not welcomed back into the fellowship. But now, Paul, in this letter, praises them for doing the hard thing, the right thing. What you and I discover from this text are three amazing benefits of repentance.

1. Repentance is good (vs.8-9).

While not easy, repentance is good. Even Paul had mixed feelings about his letter to Corinth (v.8). On one hand he had regrets (for the grief it caused) but on the other hand he did not have regrets (for the repentance it produced). While at times painful, repentance has its purpose. Just as parents do not enjoy disciplining their children, Paul did not enjoy the sorrow he brought to the church. He did not like seeing them in pain. Yet their pain was “only for a while.” And in this, Paul, rejoiced like a parent who sees their child experience small pain by his hand only to see them escape greater pain by their own hand (v.9).

Repentance is good because God uses the short-lived sorrow to protect you from greater sorrow and greater harm in the future (cf. Hebrews 12:7-11). If Corinth did not repent, the church could have been shattered by its sin and shortage of Christlikeness. Repentance is the funnel through which blessing flows. Lack of repentance brings misery, despair, and as we will see, death.

Repentance is good because it takes stubborn, callused, dull-hearted people and makes them tender towards God’s heart. Remember this: Repentance is a gift from God. The most dangerous thing you can say is, “I will repent when I am ready.” It’s dangerous because only God readies a heart for repentance (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim.2:25). If you wait until you are ready you will only get hardhearted. Sin is the blockage that kills the heart, but repentance is bypass surgery that God does WITHIN you and it “leads to salvation without regrets” (v.10b). Repentance is that good.

2. Repentance is change (v.10a).

What is true repentance? By definition repentance means change of mind; a turning away from evil to God; a 180 from my hearts desires to God’s heart. Repentance without change is not repentance.

There are three common components of repentance as seen in Scripture. First, there is a recognition of sin. I must recognize that I have sinned. I must see that I have offended God. Yet recognition alone is not repentance. Repentance is not simply regret or remorse or feeling bad about something bad I did. I can feel sorry about something and immediately do it again. Thus Paul compares the difference between godly grief and worldly grief (v.10). Worldly grief is when I feel bad because I looked bad to others. Godly grief is sorrow is when I recognize I have offended God. Grief that leads to repentance is as Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief!” Yet I don’t have to sink into grief because I have received the forgiveness of Christ (1 John 1:9). The sin under all other sin is the lack of joy in Christ, but Jesus was the one who suffered and was miserable for my sin. Repentance is my pathway to joy.

Second, there is repentance of sin. I must admit that I am wrong or have been wrong. This is often the hardest thing to do. Repentance is not mere confession or saying what God says about sin as if that will make God happy with me. Repentance is not about keeping God happy. God is not a magic genie who grants wishes when on his good side. This makes repentance selfish. I don’t please God to get or to escape consequences of sin. I cannot manipulate him nor is he is not obligated to me.

Third, there is a returning to the Lord. I must leave my sin behind. I must come to God. I must make a clean break. I must come to him as I am. I can wallow in the sin-confess-sin-confess cycle trying to do it on my own or I can come to my Lord. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

This is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. When you repent, you are like the prodigal son. You don’t have it all together. You are living in the pig style. You come to your senses. You change your mind. You don’t want to think for yourself. You come to the end of yourself. You think about your father. You run back home to him still messy and smelling like the stench. You come as you are. You know you are unworthy to be your fathers son, but the father runs to you, gives you his best robe and throws you a party.

Biblical repentance is recognizing your sin, repenting to it and returning to the Lord. When was the last time you did that?

3. Repentance bears fruit (vs.9,11).

“The reach of our repentance should match the reach of our sin. Private sins demand private repentance. Sins that can be seen by many necessitate a repentance that can be seen by many. And while we ought to forgive each other seven times, and seventy times, and even seven times seventy times, looking for the fruit of repentance is not the same as being unforgiving. Ronald Reagan was right: trust, but verify.” – Keven DeYoung

The beauty of repentance is what it produces. It produces things on the inside that are reflected on the outside. Acts 26:11 says there are “deeds of repentance.” In other words, repentance produces fruit (Matthew 3:8). While the list in 2 Corinthians 7 is not sequential or exhaustive, it gives you a sense of the affects of repentance (vs.9-11).

First, repentance produces godly grief over sin (v.9). “Grief” is soul anguish, a heart wrenching and heart changing emotion. Its a grief that says you can never be the same again. Second, repentance produces revulsion towards sin (v.11) The word used is “earnestness.” What used to please (attracts) you now repulses (detracts) you. Sin sickens you. Third, it produces restitution towards others (v.11b) It produces a desire to “clear yourself,” to make it right, right away with those your sin has injured. Fourth, it produces revival toward God (v.11c) You have a “longing” to walk with God. Fifth, it turns your eyes forward, not backward (vs.8-9). Repentance sees “no loss” and is “without regret.” It walks into the future full of freedom.

Repentance happens both as a process and a crisis. It happens over time and it happens at a point in time. Repentance is not a place I visit or a place I go and get over it. It is the place I live. I must never get over it. I never want to leave it. Just like Disney World. Who wants to leave Disney? Give me a room at the castle! God desires a lifestyle of repentance.

Martin Luther launched the Reformation with hammer and nail, nailing “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the front door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Do you know what the first theses stated? It said, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” What Luther saw as he unpacked the Scripture is that repentance is the way we progress in the Christian life. Repentance is the fruit you are growing deep and strong and rapid in the character of Christ.

How do you respond when confronted? How do you respond when the Spirit convicts you? How do you respond when you know you are wrong? How do you respond when you have sinned against another person? When was the last time you had godly grief over sin that produced repentance? Don’t wait. Repent. Be free. It is good.

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pouring Miracle-Gro on sin

A friend reminded me the other day,

“Moving to another culture is like pouring Miracle-Gro on sin.”

Our family just moved to Quebec and in 8-months we will move again to North Africa. Transition has been our middle name for the past year. Transitions or changes in life can be like pouring Miracle-Gro on sin; sin grows more intense and gives a way to old weeds–you thought were dead–to come back with rabid enticement.

For the last 8-years I’ve lived in the same place, had a stable job, but this month we moved to a new country filled with cultural differences and language barriers. This has caused Sarah and I to uncover dirt about ourselves–until now–-we had been ignoring successfully. Sins like pride, self-reliance, and fear of failure keep popping up like dandelions on what we thought was well manicured Astro Turf.

Normally my sins are like Post-It notes stuck to my back. everyone else can see them but me. In this present season I am seeing my sin and my limitations more clearly. It is here the gospel message shines most brilliantly. Christ gets on eye level, embraces me as His brother, and reminds me that He has taken my punishment (or Post-It notes) upon His back.

How do you handle change?

Change happens. It can be a promotion at work, lay-off, move to a new house, crisis, trauma, stepping into an abnormal situation, or a host of other scenarios. Your response to said situations can determine your vulnerability to sin. The key to handling change is rooting yourself in the character of God.

Do you prepare your heart for times of transition?

Sarah and I have been through enough of these seasons in the past year to understand that we have to be prepare seriously for the next season. We have found that if unprepared our marriage and parenting can quickly become full of gnarly weeds. Small attitudes quickly become ugly, temptations become more tempting, and the Light increasingly is choked out.

Here are some ways Sarah and I have been able to deal with changes and transitions (especially new moves or new cultures) while in the process of pulling out the weeds:

1.    Review the gospel daily.
2.    Write down promises of God that give you hope.
3.    Resolve to obey Christ through the season of change or transition.
4.    Cultivate godly friendships and allow them to ask you the hard questions unexpectedly.
5.    Prepare for the changes and transitions with a band of prayer partners.
6.    Keep communication channels open and confess sin quickly.
7.    Ground yourself in the Word and resting in its Truth.

The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
(Psalm 119:57-64 ESV)

build it and they will come

Build it and they will come: Changing the way we do gospel ministry

Changing the way we do ministry towards a gospel-centered focus is not easy. It is a paradigm shift from the cry of our culture. Or cultural proverb says, “Build it and they will come.” There is some truth to this Field of Dreams proverb. However, it depends what you build on that could affect whether it will last.

We are not about building the greatest ministry that makes the cover of Christianity Today. We are not about growing huge numbers, having the coolest coffee-shop-like atmosphere, blasting the craziest and latest worship tunes, or any other low-level purpose. We have a higher purpose: we build on the foundation of Christ [1 Corinthians 3:9-17]. All other foundations mentioned above–if not grounded in the bedrock of Christ–will blow over in the gale force storms of culture or sink into the quicksand of lustful lures and low-level goals. Christ is our goal and the gospel is absolutely central to a surviving and thriving ministry.

Our number one job and joy as ministry leaders is gospel centered discipleship [Acts 28:31]. Between Acts 1 and 28 the church of Christ grew not by a Christian circus rolling through town, but by constant and relentless followers proclaiming the core gospel truths about Christ. Our student leadership has been growing in their understanding of this truth this year as we have implemented changes to meet this goal. We have seen first hand how difficult it is to cultivate a Christ-centered culture of followership. The past few months, I have observed some amazing blessings through the diligence and sacrifices of our student leaders:

Followership is contagious reformation to Christ.

Our students are recognizing and excited that their leaders really care about their walk with God and want to help them apply God’s Truth [Philippians 2:12-13]. Followership is fulfilling your role as a priest under the Priesthood of Christ [1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10]. Every believer is a priest of Christ who is leading others to Christ worshiping and sacrificing for the sake of the glory of Christ. Like Luther, we are reformers who desire to point people to the person and work of Christ.

Followership is active participation in the Gospel.

Our student leaders are less passive and more active in their faith knowing that they are expected to dig deeper into the lives of one another. By its very nature the gospel is the saving sacrifice of Jesus’ person and work. The gospel impacts every aspect of our life. The gospel never sleeps and is actively involved in the process of conforming us to the image of Christ [Philippians 1:5-11]. Followers are participates of Christ’s gospel to the world and specifically to those they are ministering.

Followership is the incarnational.

Our student leaders are coming along side our students encouraging them to follow Christ. By doing this they are resembling the incarnated Christ to those they are discipling. They struggle along side the students striving to live for Christ even though they see themselves as chief sinners [Philippians 2:4-5] spreading the grace of Christ with compassion.

In conclusion, our number one job and joy as ministry leaders is gospel centered discipleship [Acts 28:31]. Changing the culture of our youth ministry to model this goal is a process that will not happen over night, in a semester or even in a school year, it will be an ever-changing process. Followership is a life-long process followers encouraging others to follow Christ too. Building a ministry that will last is built on the gospel of Christ. He has built it, all we need to do is come to Him.

a fruitful look at forgiveness

We have defined forgiveness as a decision to treat an offender as if the offense never happened at all. Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is an event, not a process [i.e. Jesus on the cross]. Forgiveness is not forgetting, rather it is not dwelling. Forgiveness is like taking a trash bag full of pain and hurt and throwing it away. However, many people like to go to the dump and dig through their old dirt, but that gets you more messy and stinky.

The Bible paints a picture of forgiveness as a tree with deep roots and healthy fruits. The Bible uses this illustration to say that what comes out of a man’s mouth shows you what is in his heart [cf. Luke 6:43-46]. The root of the matter is the heart. The fruit is our behavior. Ephesians 4 gives a practical principle of how to test the quality of fruit by getting at the root issue. God has not called us to be fruit inspectors; rather we are to be root investors.

When I hold onto unforgiveness I will produce destructive fruit [Eph 4:31].

We often ignore or fail to realize the cost of unforgiveness. The cost of unforgiveness is loss of intimacy with God, loss of relationship with others, and stunted spiritual growth [i.e. put off—bitterness, rage, anger, etc.]. If I do not deal with my ungodly anger quickly it will soon be snowball that ends in a deadly avalanche.

I want you to get a real look at forgiveness [Is.55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”]. This is not just a passage about the bigness or smartness of God, in the context it is about His forgiveness. You see we measure our forgiveness with a yardstick: Are they worthy of my forgiveness? And how much am I suppose to forgiven them? God’s forgiveness cannot be measured or compared to our view of forgiveness. Our forgiveness is so little compared to God’s. We cannot conceive the boundaries on God’s forgiveness.

When I unleash forgiveness I produce delightful fruits [4:32a]

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” When I put off the fruits of the old man and begin to live as the new man Christ created me to be I begin to bear fruit that is in His likeness [cf. Gal.5:16ff]. His image has rub off on me. You cannot fake this kind of fruit for long. It is the result of an intimate relationship with the maker and sustainer of the universe.

Growing up my grandpa Dale had a few apple trees. The apple tree didn’t produce much. It just produced dry, wrinkled, brown and mushy apples. Let’s say gramps decided to fix the tree one year. He went out to the tree with trimmers, a staple gun, stepladder and a box of apples he bought from the store. He cuts off the bad apples and puts on the new store bought ones. Did he fix the tree? Stapling apples will not help because they will just rot too. Forgiveness that doesn’t reach the heart [roots] does not last. Cosmetic changes never satisfy. Are you stapling fruit? You can know if you are forgiving person if you have the freedom to give your best, most, and greatest to God and others without reservation.

Why do I need to be forgiving? What is my motivation? [4:32b-5:2]

“As God in Christ forgave you…” When I forgive I am most like God [cf. Matthew 6:12]. I want to be forgiving because I realize how much I have been forgiven. Stop for a moment. Think about all God has forgiven you. Are you amazed? How can you not be impacted by that truth? Think about those you are having a difficult time forgiving. How can God’s forgiveness motivate you to forgive today?

I am certainly no trekkie, but in conclusion we are going to take forgiveness through to the fourth dimension. Here is how we must deal with unforgiveness: First, defer to God. All forgiveness is from God—He is the final frontier [John 20:22-23]. Second, decide to take the initiative. God gives the grace, and you must you decide to enter the race [cf. Lk.15:20; Rom.12:18]. Third, disengage from your emotions. Even if you don’t feel like forgiving that is not an option [Gal.5 “fruit of the Spirit”; Is.43:25]. Fourth, the final dimension is to deliver your enemies to God through much prayer [cf. Luke 6:27-28].

transformodification

Does God want to change my sinful behavior into behavior that glorifies God? You bet. However, you must be careful that you do not make behavior modification the goal of discipleship. God desires transformation in His followers.

“When morphing [transformation] happens, I don’t just do the things Jesus would have done; I find myself wanting to do them. They appeal to me. They make sense. I don’t go around just trying to do the right things; I become the right sort of person.”[1]

People will come to your church to know more about God [in fact, this was the number one survey reason why teens come to FUEL]. People are curious how God fits into their life. They take the bits and pieces they like or pick and choose the ideas they are convinced will change their situation. However, viewing God like this is no different that believing He is a psychologist, medical antidote, or genie-in-a-bottle.

Changing the outside of a man doesn’t mean his insides are changed [cf. Matthew 23:25-26]. In other words, asking an unbeliever to be like Christ is similar to asking an alcoholic to quit drinking cold turkey. The alcoholic may go to AA, find community, and successfully quit his/her drinking addiction, but often trade addictions [i.e. begin smoking] because they are not encouraged to deal with the root issue of their addiction. Encouraging a non-follower to change attitudes and actions without the heart motivation doesn’t lead to lasting or permanent change. They will eventually fail because they do not have a relationship with Christ or true connection to the community of Christ [His church].

If we teach change before teach about Christ we are setting our disciplees up for disaster. Changing behavior to be like Christ without having a relationship with Christ can feed pride, give false assurance, and create an I-am-all-right-with-this-now attitude. Behavior on the outside might appear Christ-like, but on the inside they have a twisted and wicked heart. Whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over the person’s life and behavior.[2] I am reminded often that God is solely after obedient hearts.

“These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.”[3]

Don’t piecemeal God into your life; He wants to break you so that you give Him everything. I want to encourage those I am discipling to or in Christ to stop fitting God into their plans and start fitting their life into God’s plan. I want to help them count the cost of commitment to Christ. Help facilitate change of the heart first and foremost to see God bring about transformodification [and yes, I did make the word up].


[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1997. 23.

[2] Paul Tripp, Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2002, 68.

[3] Isaiah 29:13

hokey-pokey theology

Who doesn’t love doing the Hokey-Pokey?  I suppose it is in my Polish roots, but this song never gets old It is a classic song of putting various body parts in, then out and shaking them all about.

The song Hokey-Pokey can remind us a lot about biblical change and the God of change. There are often sinful areas of our life that we are willing to put in or give up to God, but other areas we are not so willing. God asks us to put our left foot in, but also our whole self. God doesn’t want us to be hokey or pokey when it comes to biblical change.

First, if we desire to be like Christ we must be the real deal like He is. There are too many fake-n-bake Christians [especially on TV] who display hokey lives.

Second, when it comes to biblical change God desires us to change right now and not procrastinate while waiting for a better day or becoming pokey in dealing with habitual sins. Rather the Bible says we are to put off our old ways and put on the new [cf. Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:1-17]. Christ says if we commit our lives to Him we are a new creation.

Now I do not think that the meaning of the song Hokey-Pokey is about being hokey or pokey. It is a joyful party song. We would have more joy in our lives if we would allow God to changes us from the inside out. Here is my take on some new lyrics for Hokey-Pokey teaching a bit of theology:

Put your new self on, put your old self off,

Put your new self on and make a joyful shout,

Don’t be Hokey Pokey or God will turn your life inside out,

That’s what it’s all about!

renovations

renovation site

Have you ever been involved with renovations before? I remember after my house flood a few years ago I had to renovation about 75% of my home. Renovations usually take longer than they tell you it is going to take (3-4 months), cost more than they tell you (way more), are messy and inconvenient, and you wonder why you started the renovation process in the first place.

When we are convicted we need to change sinful habits in our lives they often feel like renovations. Now when the renovations are complete we love the results. Here are are a few truths about renovating types of change:

Change comes with pain. Change hurts at times. When were uncover secretive sinful areas and live in the light the process can be painful. It can be painful because we fail at times trying to change. We don’t like the change and like a magnet we are drawn back to our old ways. As the saying goes, “Old habits are hard to break.” Yet if you continue in your sinful habits you will continue to reap a sinful lifestyle:

Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

sunflower-seeds-stripedI live in Indiana, so this farming analogy God uses in the Bible makes sense. I understand that if you sow corn you will reap corn. If you sow soybeans you will reap soybeans. Now if you sow a sinful lifestyle you will reap destruction, but if you sow the Spirit you will reap life. It is that simple. If you think you are superman or superwoman and that your sin will never affect you it is time you drop your cape. You cannot cover in your sin for long, nor can you break sinful habits without the supernatural power of God. If you think you have super powers of your own: Hosea 8:7 say, “They will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” Prov.22:8 “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble.” Reaping sin is like reaping up the villain and giving him strength rather than killing it.

spin cycleChange comes with cycles. Like a washing machine goes through spin cycles before the clothes get clean, so we go through cycles before we grow in the process of change. The usual cycle goes something like this: Change > Conflict > Growth. There comes a point in the change process that is a battle. The conflict is tough. The desire to give up is there. God encourages us to fight our way through the crowd of conflict because the result will be glorious.

Change comes with a cost. Change can’t be bought at the dollar store. Change isn’t cheap. Our change cost a life. It took the bloodshed of God and the death of Christ to make the payment for your sinfulness. Jesus doesn’t want to just save you; He wants to change you.

Change comes with radical rewards. Our normal response to change is resistance. We resist because of the conflict. Most do not like to deal with conflict, but if they do not fight through it with God’s help they miss out on the reward. The reward is not removal of the mind, but a renewal the mind. We will use more of our minds for Christ.

Remember Prov. 28:13? “He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” God will shower you in His mercy. You cannot handle the amount of mercy and grace He gives. I have had this David Crowder song stuck in my head the past few weeks. There is a line in the song that goes like this:

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

We are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about, the way…He loves us.

We are under construction and the renovation of change in our life comes with pain, cycles, cost, but has radical rewards.

hide-n-seek

hide and seek

What was your favorite game as a kid? When I was a kid I really loved to play hide and seek. You remember begin a little kid and finding that secret spot where no one could find you? As an adult we get better at hiding and our secrets more difficult to be found. No one might know you have been struggling with an eating disorder because of a poor self-image, cutting to stop the other pains in your life, bathing your eyes with pornography or abusing substances to drown out the noises and pressures you feel.

Have you ever noticed how little-little kids play hide and seek? They want you to find them. In fact, when you sneak around the room saying, “Where are you?” They say, “Over here!” They do not get the fact yet that you are suppose to stay quiet and not be found. They have childlike innocence. We need to be more like those little-little kids with God. Uncovering our sin, before He covers it. Wanting to be founds and saying, “I am here!”

We see an example of this in the book of Mark [5:25-26]. Except it is not a kid, but an older woman. Can you picture the scene? There is a loud noise from the crowd. Everybody wants to talk, touch and tweet with Jesus. In the midst of the crowd Jesus has an interesting encounter with a woman hiding in the crowd who desired to change.

This woman had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Women, think of it as a 12 year straight period. In the Jewish culture she would be considered unclean. Therefore, she would have been rejected religiously, socially and more. Maybe you can relate to this woman. I know I have at times. You feel like you are hemorrhaging with sinful habits, bad decisions, secret junk and no one can help. You are just a face in the crowd.

What can we do when we are in a situation like that? We can learn a lot from the example of the woman in this text:

1. Quit Trying to Change on Your Own [5:27-28]. This woman came to the ropes end. She is rejected, spent and tried it all, and failed. We often make attempts to make drastic changes in our lives only to fall flat on our face. Discouragement creeps in and we no longer make any attempts to change.

There are numerous ways people try to change their secret sin struggles: money, self-help, work, medicate, recruit others to sympathize with you or ignore it all together. None of these permanently deal with the problem, rather they just deal with the symptoms, not the problem, bring others into sin with you, and create bigger and harder issues to deal with later. Without realizing it you have become a puppet and these so called easy fixes are like the puppeteer controlling your life. The truth is: if you do not kill the sin, sin will kill you.

This woman had no promise that Jesus would heal. Maybe He would reject too. Many think that God cannot change them. So they keep themselves covered by concealing their sins. We are professional concealers. Think of all the household items you own that conceal [ie. White Out, table cloth, make-up, bandaid, etc.]. Are you a professional concealer?  Don’t conceal, deal with sin by allowing God to heal it.

2. Fight through the Crowd to Find Christ [5:29-32]. The woman is desperate to change. She fights through the crowd. She swims against the current of those who reject her. Decisions of faith are often a fight. Faith goes against the norm. Faith is often the opposite message you hear from friends, culture or school. I remember when put my faith in Christ it was an all-in-and-no-looking-back leap.

It is not that Jesus didn’t know who touch Him; rather he wanted to recognize the woman. Sometimes we think that if we uncover our sin to God that He will humiliate us, when He really wants to honor us in front of the crowd.

3. Confess your Sin and Be Free [5:33-34]. Pride is what usually prevents us from falling before the feet of Jesus. Humble yourself and uncover your sin and let Christ free you from the guilt and shame of secret sin. Face your fear by falling at the feet of the one who wants to heal you permanently.

Quit playing your childish games and be like the little-little kid that wants to be found, “I am here!”

Hide no more in your sin. Seek the protection of your God. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:7-8

change that covers it all

crazy costumes for kiddos

Halloween. Tis the season for costumes. Sometimes it is fun to change into a costume to represent or pretend to be something that you are not. We cover up who we really are to be something we are not. Do you remember some of your favorite costume as a kid?

Everyone has something they want to change. Some want to change their appearance, others, situation in their life, and others bad habits. When it comes down to it changing is difficult. Change might excite you or scare you to death.

Since this week is the holiday to horrify, I have something shocking to tell you: YOU CANNOT CHANGE!! Think about it. It is true. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you cannot change. Alone. As hard as you try you cannot change on your own. It takes supernatural help to make lasting and permanent change. It takes the hand of God.

God is a God of change. Though interesting enough the Bible says, “I do not change.” [Mal.3:6] How is this possible? How can God be a God of change if He does not change Himself? God is the only One who can help us change things in our lives. When we open the lids of our souls and allow Him in He will change us from the inside out. Sure I can change things in my life, but only God can bring about lasting and permanent change. Without Christ and His salvation we are just trying, trekking and tweaking superficial change. What we need is supernatural change. Only Christ can give us the capacity to change. He changes us by gives us the power and desire to change.

You see we are masters at keeping areas of our lives covered and unchanged. Like the vendors in big cities who sell Foakleys, Fo-purses, Fo-jewery, and Fo-movies, we can become Fo-Christians who model Christ-likeness on the outside, but on the inside we are dirty rotten sinners. We have all lived lives like that before. We show one thing, but reality we are another. Yet we cannot cover up for long.

What we cover, God uncovers.

You might have heard it said that “Sooner or later your sins will find you out.” [Num.32:23] Like a celebrity tabloid your dirt will be revealed. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sin does not prosper…” Nothing good comes from covering up our sin. If we try to cover it up we will never discover the life God wants us to live.

When we cover ourselves in sin, we cover ourselves in darkness [1 Jn.1:5-10]. We cannot walk in the light. We stumble and fall over our sin. It is time to step in the light. What we cover, God uncovers. But that is the first half of the verse. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t leave us hanging there? Proverbs 28:13 goes on to say, “…but whoever confesses and renounces [sins] finds mercy” That is good news.

What we uncover, God covers.

The word “confess” means, to agree with God about your condition. It is saying, “I see that I am a sinner.” It is telling the truth to God. God is not surprise, “You did what!?” Of course God already knows that you are a sinner, but He enjoys it when His children admit it.

It does not stop at confession. We must “renounce” our sin. In other words we are to leave it behind, turn from it, walk the other way, chose the Light, repent. This is the moment God does His supernatural changing work inside of you. When we uncover our junk the blood of Jesus covers our sin [1 John 1:8-10]. He covers us with His mercy and forgiveness.

Are you inconsistent with church or personal Bible study because you are afraid of changing in Christ? Do you hang around sinful sympathizers to cover up your sin and keep your junk and funk from God? The key to change is: uncovering your sin and allowing God to cover it in His mercy. Confess and renounce your sin today.

Note: this message is adapted from ineed2change.com

God NEVER changes, but you must ALWAYS prepare for change

A study that I did months ago, but learned in my life just recently:
 
God NEVER Changes, But You Must Prepare for Change
 
“Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.” Issac Newton, First Law of Motion
 
Q: How many of you would like to change something about yourself right now if you could? (I would change my nose size) What would you change about you? Your church? Youth group? Home? School? Friends? Etc.
Q: How have you changed since grade school?
Q: What changes have you seen in another person in this group?
Q: How do you react to change in your life? 
 
1.     Turtle ~
a.     “That’s not how we do it!”;
b.     “We’ve never done it that way before!”;
c.     “If it’s always worked, why change it?”;
d.     “Remember, the good ol’ days, the way things use to be?”
e.     (lack of change was fall of Jeroboam, 1 Kgs.13:33)
 
2.     Rabbit ~
a.     Accept change for changes sake
b.     Jump from fad to fad, no questions
c.     Lingo: “hipgroovyswayfar-outhappeninggnarlycoolsweet”
3.     Balanced view ~ “a Tur-bit”
 
Ways God Never Changes:
1.      God’s Love Never Changes
“I the LORD do not change” Mal.3:6
“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jer.31:3
 
“See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love.” Ps.119:159
 
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom.8:38
 
2.      God’s Word Never Changes
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Is.40:8
 
“Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.” Ps.119:152
a.     Jesus Christ Never Changes
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and  forever.” (Heb.13:8)
b.     God’s Mind Never Changes
“The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind:” (Ps.110:4/Heb.7:21)
3.      God’s Purpose for your life Never Changes
“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” 1 Sam.15:29
 
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
 
Q: Which part of God’s unchanging character are you most thankful for? Why? (His presence/forgiveness/waiting for you)
 

Lesson from Ezekiel on God and Change
Ezekiel 36:25-29
 
Theme“the Knowledge and Glory of God”
Key Phrase“this is what the Sovereign LORD says” (210X’s)
Background: God just judged Israel for sin, but now is promising both present and future restoration (vs.23-24). This particular restoration is of the New Covenant. The Problem in this context is the sin of worshipping idols. God is making a way for man to change his problem of sin.
 
1.      A person cannot change what is wrong on the outside until they first change what is inside.(v.25)
a.     Fact: Change of heart is to happen before idols are removed.
b.     Fact: If I don’t change the heart (internal), I don’t change the problem (external).
c.      Fact: Promises to change are worthless, unless there are priorities that change first.
 
2.      A person cannot change what is wrong on the inside without God changing them. (v.26a)
a.     Fact: Real change in your life can only come from God.
b.     Fact: God is the one doing the work of change, all I do is allow Him change me.
c.      Fact: Your change will not last if it’s done in your own effort.
 
3.      When God changes a heart, it becomes more aware that it is not the only one with needs and problems (v.26b)
a.     Fact: There are people with equal or great problems than me.
b.     Fact: When your problem seems big, it is probably because you are focusing too much on your own problem.
c.      Fact: When I help other people with their problems my problems look smaller.
d.     Fact: When you help others problems it helps your problem.
 
 
4.      When God changes a heart, it becomes more sensitive as to how God wants them to live.(v.27)
a.     Fact: When God works on my heart I become more aware of how He wants me to live my life.
b.     Fact: When I become dull as to how to live my life, it is evident I have not allowed God to work on my heart in a while.
 
5.      When God changes a heart, God shifts ones attention from dealing with problems to building a relationship with the Father. (v.28)
a.     Fact: God does not focus on the negative (sin-idol worship), He focuses on the positive (a relationship with Him).
b.     Fact: Focus on the Father, the problem will become blurry and fade.
c.      Fact: All things fall into place when God is at the center.
 
6.      When God changes a heart, the success of the problem is in Gods hand and work, not mine.(v.29a)
a.     Fact: Your change will not last if it’s done in your own effort.
b.  Fact: Change in my life is more dependent on God, than it is dependent upon me.