Saturday, May 21, 2016

Prepared to Stand Alone

The longer we live in a habit of thinking, speaking, working, driving, or relating, the deeper the groove we dig and the harder it is to change that habit. Some of us are no longer stuck in a rut, or a valley, we are in a deep gorge and see no way of scaling the walls of difficulty the we have managed to build over time. 

Jesus once asked a man, “do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6) Perhaps we don’t change because deep down the circumstances we live in have become a part of who we are. Though where we are isn’t a lot of fun, it’s what we know, and the prospect of real change or the price of that change scares us, so we stay the same. We need to want to change, to want to get better.  

Something happened to Jesus’ original set of 12 apostles. They were once average guys, doing life, minding their own business, and looking out for themselves. For a long time after Jesus gathered them, they still argued about who would be the greatest and the like. But after a few years with Jesus, they lived with selfless boldness. They each had the courage to stand alone in the face of withering persecution and in the end, death. How did this happen?

It took time. It did not happen fast. But there were milestones along the way. They originally brought their own dreams to their relationship with Jesus. They were trying to work him into their plans. They saw his power and initially had visions of greatness, their own greatness, like a bunch of groupies following a professional athlete. But over time, their lives were transformed so that they joyfully sacrificed themselves for Jesus’ honor. 

Is it possible we have stopped believing this kind of change still happens? Have we despaired of change in ourselves or in those who are closest to us? God’s power and character have not changed. Our confidence in God and in his slow process of effecting change in us is what has changed.

In the next two Sunday mornings at Bethany Place, we will look at texts that show important milestones as to how this kind of change happened in the disciples and how it can happen in us. I plead with you to come (or attend your own church) with a fresh sense of hope. Our confidence must be in God to work through his word, his Holy Spirit making it come alive in us to bring long awaited change. And if our faith is shaken, perhaps we need to pray along with the dad we will meet next Sunday who cried out to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Here's the outline for this Sunday’s message, Prepared to Stand Alone.

I close with a quote from Martin Luther about the role preaching plays in how God brings change: 
No one desiring comfort should wait until the Holy Spirit presents Christ to him personally or speaks to him directly from heaven. He gives His testimony publicly, in the sermon. There you must seek Him and wait for Him until He touches your heart through the Word that you hear with your ears, and thus He also testifies of Christ inwardly through His working.

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