Within each of us exists the image of God, however disfigured and corrupted by sin it may presently be. God is able to recover this image through grace as we are conformed to Christ. – Alister McGrath
A lot of people declare they don’t like change.
For some, to mix up a routine, rearrange a sock drawer or move some furniture around can bring about feelings of frustration…maybe even anger.
The challenge of change is so real that one person wrote a book about it called Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. How popular was this book? Who Moved My Cheese? remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for almost five years and spent over 200 weeks on Publishers Weekly’s hardcover nonfiction list. It sold more than 26 million copies worldwide in 37 languages.
So here’s the deal: Trying to live the Christian life and avoid change is an exercise in futility. Why? Because Christianity is all about change!
Perhaps the best know verse regarding change is Romans 12:2:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)
As we purposefully engage the Word and our moved by the Spirit, the growing Christian embraces change in the areas of beliefs, thought, attitudes and actions.
As we step into a relationship with God through Jesus, God has three main areas of change he wants us to experience:
A relationship with Jesus is meant to change our perspectives
To know God and follow Jesus means our worldview will change. We will, hopefully, see things from a much more biblical perspective.
For example, the pursuit of power, control and influence is common in our culture. And it was common in the time of Jesus.
One time Jesus’ disciples began arguing about who would have the seats of power and prominence in heaven. After a time of squabbling, Jesus pulled his men together for an impromptu lesson. Here’s how it all went down:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NIV)
In short, Jesus was telling his guys, “You need a new perspective! The people of the world push for power, but the people of my Kingdom are made to serve.”
In his teachings, Jesus offers us the opportunity to change our perspectives on things like money, use of time, prejudice, true spirituality, the afterlife, and so on.
When a person comes to Christ, there are a lot of perspectives that need to be changed. But. even if we’ve known Jesus for a long time, there are always new perspectives for us to attain.
A relationship with Jesus is intended to change our priorities
The reality is most people live for themselves. They rule and reign their lives as if they sat on a throne.
But knowing God means we rearrange our priorities.
In what Jesus boiled down as the essence of what it means to live the Jesus Christ, two priorities emerge: Love God, love others.
In Philippians 2, Paul gave a challenge that goes along with Jesus’ teaching about our priorities:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)
Bottom line, our natural inclination is to elevate ourselves, but the Bible calls on us to prioritize others!
Another way we see the idea of re-prioritizing in scripture is found in the Sermon on the Mount, specifically in Matthew 6:28-34:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
If we a intentional in our pursuit of Jesus, we will naturally find that he has several things in mind that could be re-prioritized in our lives.
A relationship with Jesus is designed to change our practices
In Luke 19, Jesus meets a man named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who made a habit of extorting money from people. But after hosting Jesus in his home, Zacchaeus decided he needed to pay the people back.
What a wonderful picture of how Jesus intends to change our behavior!
When it came to Paul’s New Testament letters, he usually followed a typical blueprint. First, Paul would write about theology. He’d talk about God’s character and God’s plans. He’d share about the workings of justification, sanctification, regeneration and so on.
The second part of Paul’s letters were mainly devoted to the Christian’s practice. Paul would be very specific about how we should live practically in response to the Gospel.
For example, consider Epheseans 4:25-32. Note this passage begins with the word “therefore,” which serves as a hinge between Paul’s doctrinal and practical teaching. What Paul means is this: based on all that I’ve told you about theology, now align the practice of your life with the proclamation of the Gospel.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:25-32 ESV)
In the short space of eight verses, Paul offers direction in the areas of handling emotions, honest labor, watching our words, and how we treat those around us!
No one comes to Jesus without room for change. We all have areas of our life to bring before the Lord, allowing Him to reveal to us our weaknesses, blind spots and outright sinful behaviors.
Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.