Updated: Oct 13, 2019
Reunion Church Steve Merryman 09/08/2019
In our series on Karma a couple of weeks ago we took a look at a list of 13 things that we called seeds of the flesh (sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, seduction, sorcery, enmity, rage, drunkenness, etc.). These were the things that we said that we have to stop sowing. Then we looked at the six things that God hates seven that are an abomination to him (eyes that show pride, tongues that tell lies, hands that kill innocent people, etc.) Remember how we all felt so good about ourselves after that message. It was like James all over again! Well that message got me thinking about my need to make some changes. And that got me to thinking about how we all have a need to change and that how the need to change is universal in life. I think that this is one of the things that we all have in common, the need to grow and to change.
I remember having a conversation about our need to change with Becky some years back and I remember her saying that, “Maybe it’s not a universal need. Maybe it’s just your need. You’re kind of a go-go-go, driven, do-a-lot-of-stuff person. Maybe you feel like it’s a need for you, but I’m not wired like you. I don’t have your personality. I don’t know if that really is a need for everyone.”
That set me back for a second. But the more I thought about it – I’m convinced that it is a universal need. Now I’m not right very often in our marriage so I went for it right there. I said, “Let me ask you a question. Do you ever feel like you wish you could be more patient with the boys?” Yes, I need some more patience. “Do you ever wish you would worry less about some of the circumstances in our life?” Yes, I need to change some of my worry patterns. I do need help there. “Wouldn’t you like to get better control of the lust that you have for me?” She said she wasn’t really struggling in that area.
But the more we talked we saw that it’s not really a personality thing. It’s a need thing. We have the need to change. One of the studies that I love doing is on the Names of God in the Bible and how those names relate to how God meets a need in our lives. He has a name that responds to the needs that we have. I think that’s pretty cool! And one of His names is Jehovah-M’Kiddish – Í am the God who sanctifies you.” “Sanctify” or “sanctification” means “to set apart” or “to consecrate.” To make something useful for a purpose and if that is to happen then changes must take place.
Today, we’ll have about 200 people coming through the doors and as I think about that, I think we’ve got people with spiritual journeys’ that are all over the place. We’ve got people who are genuine, sincere people who are checking out this God-thing for the first time and we’ve got people who have been following Jesus for fifty-plus years that have a real and vibrant relationship with Him and we have everybody else in between. It doesn’t matter where you are today because this name for God; Jehova M’Kiddish – I am the God who sanctifies you, still applies to you. God wants to change you. If you’re already a Christian, God is changing you. God is at work. That’s the good news – that He’s not done with you yet. And if you’re not a Christian – if you’re checking this whole thing out – here’s the good news for you: You don’t have to change and get your act together before you come to Him, God will begin to work on you as He draws you towards Himself.
A lot of people think they’re not good enough to be a Christian. They are correct! None of us are. You don’t have to get your act together first. You come to God just like you are and He begins the change process. The promise is in 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!” Circle “old life” and “new life”. This old life is gone. The old life is referring to life without relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s our old nature. This new life has begun, this new nature. It’s a new life, a new supernatural relationship with God. It’s when we go from God’s creation to God’s child. It’s when you might go from being God curious to somebody who is now a believer – a new life has begun. In this new life we are in the process of being sanctified, in the process of being changed.
The Apostle Paul summarizes this very well. Listen to what he says about this process of change; Philippians 3:12-14 (NCV) “I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.”
The big idea here is with this new life we’re in a new race. And in this new race or journey or process, God wants to change us. He wants to take your discontent and change it to joy. He wants to take your insecurity and change it to peace. He wants to change our bitterness to goodness. He wants to take our lust and change it to a genuine love. He wants to take our edgy personalities and transform it to patience. God is in the change business. He wants to take our anger and our rage and change it to gentleness. He wants to take that which is out of control and transform it to self-control. God doesn’t want to just fine-tune our manners and make us quiet little Christians. That’s not what He’s about. He wants to transform our character.
Some of you are thinking, “That might sound nice for you because you don’t have much changing to do but you don’t know about me. You don’t know about my past and what’s going on.” You’re right I don’t. But I do know me and I do know what the Bible says and I do know the experience I’ve had in my life and seen in the life of others. There are some things in my life, my struggles that I thought I would live with forever. There’s no way it’s going to change. Yet God has transformed those. He’s changed my character. I haven’t arrived. I’m not there yet. But I can see what He does. I used to say this: “That’s just the way that I am.” God doesn’t take that as an answer. He doesn’t say, “Oh, that’s just the way you are? Let me back up and move and work on other areas of your life.” It doesn’t work that way.
How does God change us? How does the change process happen? There are two extreme thoughts about this process and neither one of them are Biblical.
One extreme is this, that the change that takes place is all God. God does everything. All we have to do is kind of kick back on the couch and with this theory, if I don’t change, if I don't transform, then its God’s fault. He messed up and He doesn’t have to hold me accountable at all. God blew it.
Another extreme says that God saves me but then it’s all up to me to change. I’ve got to work and I’ve got to do and I’ve got to transform my behavior and my personality. It’s work, work, work, do, do, do!
What the Bible teaches about change – the biblical position of sanctification – is that there is a God part and there is an “our” part. God’s part is His power. Our part is our cooperation. We cooperate in this process of change but God’s power through His Holy Spirit controls the process. We cooperate, God controls it. It’s God’s Spirit in us that does the changing and we do the cooperating. If you miss this you miss some big stuff. Because God wants to change us and if you miss out on this process you miss out on everything God intended you to be.
Today we are going to look at Five things or action steps, that are a part of this process of God changing us. Ways in which we might better cooperate with this process.
1. Recognize that your spiritual life is a journey.
God changing us is a process. It’s not an event. It’s a journey, not an overnight sensation. Philippians 1:6 (NLT) says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Circle “began”. That is when you first said yes to Jesus and He forgave your sins. If you have a relationship with God, you’ve said yes to Jesus Christ, you’ve said, “Come into my life, forgive me of my sins,” Boom! It began. That relationship began.
Circle “continue”. That is sanctification. That is the process, the change journey.
Have you ever been on a road trip with children? It always starts with everybody excited, packing the car, doing stuff, getting ready. Then you get on the road and before you hit Black Canyon City what are the kids saying? “Are we there yet?” “How many more miles?” “Are we there yet?”
I remember back to when I was 7 years old and we went on our first family vacation. It was a big one! A 6 weeks in a two door 1974 Audi Fox tent camping trip! We covered over 3,000 miles and hit ten western states. After about a week into the trip my older brother realized that my dad would get frustrated by us asking every thirty miles, “are we there yet?” So he began sitting directly behind my dad and would then encourage me to keep asking, “How many more miles?” He would also ask himself a few times as well. After a while my dad would then blindly start slapping whoever he could reach in the back seat. Yeah, you guessed it, it was me. My brother thought this was hilarious! All because we were impatient and kept asking, “Are we there yet?”
That question is a sign of immaturity. The reason that some of us walked away from church for so many years, the reason that some of our friends and family have walked away from God, is because of spiritual immaturity. They kept asking, “Are we there yet?” “Come on God! I’m not changing the way I should or as fast as I should. You must not work.” And they just take off.
I see this as one of the big problems that many Christians have and they walk away from God because of that immature question, “Are we there yet? Are You done yet? I’ve had this problem and I’ve been working on it for a week! But it’s still not fixed!”
One of the reasons we have so much of a problem is we’re an instant gratification society. We want stuff right now! Its like with the vending machines. Some of you will kick the vending machine, if that coke does not drop in 2.2 seconds. We’re out of control. Or waiting for the elevator, we push the elevator button fifteen times! Like the elevator is down on the bottom floor saying, “Wow! That guy on the eighth floor must really be in a hurry. I’ll just skip the other seven floors and get up there right now!”
The reason that we have a problem changing is because we don’t understand God’s economy of time. It’s very different than ours. God’s not in a hurry to change us. He knows His part. He’s got His part. Our part is cooperating. The answer is, “No, we are not there yet.” Calm down. Just relax.
You are a work in progress. God’s not done with you yet. If you’re married that’s great news. Some of you look at your spouse and think, “If this is as good as it gets, we’re in trouble.” But I tell you it’s not as good as it gets. We’re changing all the time. Guess what, God isn’t finished with Pastor Steve, Pastor Todd and myself either. He’s not done with us yet either. I’ve been a committed Christian for 35 years now. I haven’t arrived. We’re all in this journey, just at different points along the way. This roadmap to change that we’re talking about here starts with the understanding that it’s a journey, a long one. Be patient and just trust in God’s process.
2. Set our sights on the final destination.
If you want to cooperate with God’s change, you set your sights on the final destination. This is basic travel etiquette and common sense.
This is a “Merryman Family Vacation Book.” I have one of these from every family vacation that we have taken. I create these for two reasons. The first one is that I am a planning freak! I like to have everything all planned out ahead of time. The route we are going to take. All of the reservations (in sequential order) of the outings that we are definitely going to do. Then we have a section for the potential places that we might eat at during the trip and then a section of possible new things that we can do. Maybe some new hikes or adventures that we should take, etc, etc, etc. its all planned out in this folder. The second reason that I have this is to have my mind set on the final destination. When we take vacations we don’t stay close to home. We try to get as far away from this heat as we can. For this particular vacation we went from Phoenix, to Mt. Rushmore to Cody WY to the Grand Tetons and then back home. The one thing about going on vacation that I learned from my dad is that you don’t stop until you have reached your first destination. Its as non-stop as humanly possible until you reach your first camping spot. The first leg of this trip was just over 1,200 miles and we made it in 22 hours total elapsed time while pulling a 30’ camper. That is why I have the book! The book provides my motivation to endure the insane first leg of the journey. It keeps my focus on why I’m enduring the hardship. To get to the destination!
If you’re a Christian, the picture of your final destination is Jesus Christ. Another way of saying it is this: the final destination is wholeness. Hebrews 10:10 (ICB) says, “Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do. And because of this, we are made holy …” And Leviticus 20:7,8 (NLT) says “So set yourselves apart to be holy for I the Lord am your God. . . who makes you holy.” Be set apart – that’s what holiness is. It’s not set above everybody else, its set apart from the world’s way. The final destination is Jesus Christ. Holiness. Being like Him.
People flip out on this holiness word. Some of you when I say that’s the final destination, you feel uncomfortable, intimidated. “What if I mess up?” Oh yeah, you will. That’s part of the process. If you’re anything like me, you’ll mess up a lot. That’s consistent with scripture. The final destination of holiness is our internal world. God is an inside God. He’s changing our inner world. We are typically outer world people, concerned with how we look, where we will live, what we look like. God’s internal. He’s a great investor. God says, “I’m going to focus on the part of humanity that will last forever. Our bodies are decaying, but God is an inside God. He’s changing our insides.
That’s why years ago I had a little bit of problem with the whole WWJD thing. I prefer the question “How would Jesus be?” As we talk about change, we’re not talking about doing. We’re talking about being. Inside of you is the Spirit of God, a new nature. God is in the process of working in your will until He transforms your character. It’s about being.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT) says, “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” There is a common misunderstanding with many people about church today. It’s this: people think that church is about becoming more religious. That’s not it. It’s about becoming more like Jesus. Don’t confuse religion and Biblical knowledge with the transformation of your heart. It’s an easy thing to do if you have.
When I was a new Christian, people impressed me by what they did. If a guy could quote scripture from memory I was impressed. I would hold these people up like they were something special. I went to Bible College and guys would be talking about these incredible theologians like Aquinas and Luther and Calvin like they had just had breakfast with them that day. I was impressed. I equated knowledge with depth. And then I went to work in churches and I started interacting with people. I met a lot of people who would cram their cranium full of all this knowledge but they never allowed it to influence their decisions or impact their life. They had their Bibles all marked up and went to all the appropriate events, but they lived their life as if they were saying, “You expect me to apply this? You expect me to be humble? You expect me to forgive that person? You expect me to work on my own issues?”
I love you and I love this church. Hear me as clearly as you can. Biblical knowledge, doctrinal awareness and theological understanding are all very important. They’re essential for you and I to have so we’re not blown back and forth by the winds of every belief. But that knowledge has to go hand in hand with the desire to submit your life to the Author of this book, not just to know about Him. You want a picture of a changed life, don’t just always look at the Bible-answer person, or the person who shows up to a lot of events. If you want a picture of a changed life, you look for the person who has humbly rearranged their life and their marriage and their parenting around what God says. If you want a picture of a changed life you show me someone who, when no one is watching their life, they choose God’s way instead of the way of the world. If you want a picture of a changed life, show me someone who manages their money and their resources the way God teaches, somebody who hungers and thirsts after knowing God so he will be transformed to have a genuine love and concern for other people. That’s when you know you’re getting closer to the final destination when you have a genuine God like love for people. And guess what, it takes a while to make it there. So, no, we are not there yet.
3. Ask God FOR help with your roadblocks.
Roadblocks are areas of life that slow down movement. They slam on the breaks of change. What I’ve found out about many people’s roadblocks is that their hidden and they’re often silent but they’re very, very real.
When you ask God to help you with them you’re going about three steps deeper than what we normally do. Normally we identify it –“I have a problem!” Then we determine to take action – “I must do something about this problem.” It’s like if a tarantula was to come out from under this podium and begin crawling up my leg, I would identify it. Tarantula! (“Tar” meaning “Oh no!” and “rantuala” meaning “I’m about to die!”) Then I would take action. As a mature adult I would probably scream and then I would kick it to about the fourth row! But just like all of our problems, what’s that tarantula going to do? He’s going to turn around, smile at me, and start coming back at me. He’s going to keep coming back, as all of our problems do.
Some of us, when it comes to our roadblocks, we try to just brush them away. We deal with them and think we can take care of it in a day or an hour or a week – “I don’t deal with that anymore. I took care of it. I went to a seminar! I’m good now!” Really? Are you? I’ll give it about two weeks.
2 Corinthians 7:1says, “…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Look at the word “everything.” – “everything that contaminates”. What are the “everythings” that contaminate your character? Have you ever made a list of your “everythings” – all the roadblocks in your life? Have you ever made that list? I have. It is not a pretty sight. As a matter of fact, it’s an ugly list. But I encourage you to do it. Think of one thing, one roadblock that immediately comes to mind that stunts your spiritual growth. You name it – pride, gluttony, lust, overspending, anger, too controlling, stealing, having an affair. What is that roadblock in your life?
Do you want to get well? Do you want to get past that roadblock? If you do, listen to what Ephesians 4:22 (NLT) says, “Throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.” Anytime I talk to somebody about problems they go, “I know! It’s killing me! It’s rotten through and through!” And if you’re like me you probably discover that the problem is so serious that there is no way in the world that you can handle that problem on your own. It’s become so enmeshed into your life it’s going to take a miracle.
That’s the asking God part! The tarantula keeps coming back and now I need a miracle. I’ve got to ask for a supernatural intervention by the hand of the sovereign God to take that and remove it from my life because I can’t do it on my own. Some of us are going to go to the grave constantly stuck at that roadblock unless we’re willing to humble ourselves and take a time out and say, “God, I can’t do it on my own. I can’t remove this on my own strength. You are my only hope.”
How do you do that? Pray this kind of prayer, “God I’m ready to get past this roadblock that’s causing so much damage to me and to other people in my life and keeping me from growing with You. God, I humbly ask You to remove this because I can’t do it on my own.”
This change process is summarized pretty well in Proverbs 28:13 (NLT), “People who cover over their sins will not prosper but if they confess and forsake them they will receive mercy.” Do you want God’s mercy for an area of your life that you can’t control? Humble yourself and ask for it. That’s a big point! That’s how we get past the roadblock.
4. Learn how to refuel.
This is good journey advice. You’ve been driving your car in the middle of nowhere and you pass that exit that says last gas station for 55 of miles. You’re thinking you can make it because you’re not on “E” just yet. You want to keep on going. Now 30 miles further down the road you’re living with this stress and fear and your body tightens up because you know you might really run out of gas. And you know Becky will kill you if you do. You’re looking to see if there is any space between the red empty line and the line that tells you how much fuel you have left. Well trust me, that’s not a smart way to travel. But yet that’s what so many of us do. We don’t refuel. We don’t take time to get connected with God.
I need to be refueled every day. I’ve got to be “topped off” by the Creator. I think in the Psalms David understood the importance of being filled when he said in Psalm 23:3 (NLT) “He renews my strength. He guides me along the right paths.” I need to be refueled. I need to be connected. Things work best when they’re connected with God. We talk about this a lot. In our previous Wednesday night class we talked a lot about John 15 where Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches and that as long as we stay connected to Him we can produce fruit. Well the same is true on this roadmap to change. We must stay connected to Him.
How do you do it? Is it coming here and getting a little thirty-minute message and that’s it for the week? That doesn’t last for me. I’ve got to learn to get refueled on my own. It’s great to come to church and corporately be refueled, but we got to stay connected to Him throughout the week. We need to refuel daily.
2 Peter 1:3-8 (NLT) tells us the result of being refueled; “As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life… So make every effort to apply these promises to your life. Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence. A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better. Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone.”
How do we get to know Jesus better? We have to stay connected. When we do get to know Jesus better we then begin to see the positive changes that these verses are talking about. But don’t get the idea that this change that’s going on in your life is so you can stand back and say, “Look how spiritual I am and bring attention to yourself and play your spiritual harp and do things like that.” The Bible says this change process is always expressed in the context of community – love for others, a genuine love for others. That’s why God is changing us so we might love others. You are never more like Christ than when you express a genuine love for someone else.
5. Pause along the way to celebrate the progress.
If you’re a Christian, God has worked in your life whether you think so or not. You may be slamming on the breaks stuck at a roadblock but God is still working in your life. When you look into the window of your soul can you see that God’s doing some changing. He is. Some of the reasons that you don’t think He is, is because you’re not looking. You haven’t paused. You’re not reflecting. You haven’t stopped and looked at your life.
I was in 10th grade when I really said yes to Jesus for the first time. I’d grown up in church all my life. I thought I was a Christian but I’d never really made a commitment to Him. I remember part of the message that was given; 2 Corinthian 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold the new is come.” The guy said, “When you wake up tomorrow you’re going to be a new person and God is going to begin to work in your life. God is going to change you.”
The first time I really noticed a change was about a year and a half later when I was 17 years old and I had this cool little mini truck. It had a really nice sound system in it. I was teaching the teen-aged Sunday school class even though I was just a teen myself. I had a little briefcase where I had a couple of study bibles, some bible study guides and the Sunday school curriculum. I also had one of those double-sided cassette carrying cases full of Christian cassette tapes. Well, one day while I was at work my truck was broken into. They stole my radio, my briefcase and the cassette carrying case. It was all gone. Now this was not the first time that I had my stereo stolen out of my truck. The first time that it happened I was furious! I wanted to get all my friends together and try to hunt down who took it and make them pay! But, this time, I was different. I was still upset about what happened, but the next Sunday after this happened I told the Sunday school class about it and we prayed and asked that God would touch the heart of whomever stole all of that and that they would turn their life over to God. They had all of the materials right there to start following Jesus and learn all about Him! That was God changing me.
Psalm 40:5 (NCV) says, “Lord my God, you have done many miracles. Your plans for us are many. If I tried to tell them all, there would be too many to count...” I think many of us in here could say that if we paused, if we reflected, if we took a little bit of time out of our day or week, we could see where God has changed us little by little. Where He provided little miracles of change in our lives. When we notice these we need to take a little time to celebrate what God has done.
Here in Phoenix the traffic is horrible and the amount of road construction that we have going on around here right now only makes it worse. When you’re driving this week and somebody cuts you off just smile and you hold up two fingers, as if to say, “peace bro!” celebrate that! Because we all know that last week it only would have been one finger! That will be God changing your life. That’s Him transforming your character.
When you go two weeks without doing greedy things, if that was your roadblock then you throw a party. You celebrate.
If you’re an over spender and you go a month and live within your budget, throw a party! A cheap, inexpensive party.
When you didn’t make yourself look better at the expense of another person like you normally do, celebrate. God’s doing something in your life.
When you take cash out of your business and you record it as income instead of making up some miscellaneous, fictitious expense you smile that you’re taking steps toward integrity.
Those are the actions of God working in your life. You celebrate the goodness and greatness of God helping you turn your life around.
Your homework for this week is to look back at your life from when you first started this journey with God and identify five ways that God has made a small change in your life. Then celebrate those!
A test that I use all the time, my measuring stick, is Galatian