November 8, 2008

Pocket Change

A sermon I gave on Nov. 9th.

We have heard a lot about change over these past few months. And when you hear this word, a couple of things might come to mind: a change of clothes, political change, the coins you find under your car seat. Something I find funny about change is how each of us reacts differently to it. Some of us thrive on change, we need that sense of newness or spice to liven up the status quo. Others of us can’t stand change. We like things the way they are and don’t see any reason to mess things up.

Tai and I were eating breakfast earlier this week and I was complaining about my cereal and her comment was, “well maybe it’s time for grown-up cereal.” And I said, “but I like my Cocoa Krispies." Some things just don't change.

Some of us are paralyzed by the fear of change because we can’t always predict what the outcome will be or look like. We see this often in abusive relationships, where someone has become more comfortable with the emotional or physical abuse then the thought of the change that might come from leaving the relationship.

I want to talk about change but not change on a global, national, or local level; not any sort of change that has to do with politics or outfits or the coins you find between the cushions of your couch. I want to talk about change that can touch your heart. I want to talk about something that can change your life. I would encourage you to, even if just for a moment, forget about all of the other things that need to be changed in this world and focus on the things that need to change in your relationship with Jesus.

James writes in 1:17 and the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s you and I that need to change, not God. He has been and will continue to do His thing…being faithful, just, loving, forgiving, merciful, etc etc. All of the things that I am so often not.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:1-4 that we must change and so I’m wondering if there are any of us that have things in our lives that need to change. Things that are getting in the way of knowing Jesus better; things like pride, busyness and the excuse of “not having any time”, selfishness but not the kind of selfishness that says, “Gimme, that’s mine and I want it.” but more of a subtle selfishness that says things like, “I don’t really feel like serving, helping, fill in the blank…” or "I'm sure someone else will step up to help or volunteer." Many of us want to change and have been telling ourselves that we will change but here we sit, dealing with the very same lack of change in our relationship with Christ.

We’ve just finished a stewardship campaign that not only touched on financial stewardship but stewardship of our time and talents as well. This change that I’m talking about is not to try and get you to volunteer or give more because in my opinion, that’s not what it’s about. What I’m asking you is what is it that needs to change in order for you to be closer to Jesus. We see the change we want to make in our lives, we have every intention of making it but we just can’t seem to do it. And you know what, we can’t. It’s kind of like what Paul says in that sometimes confusing passage in Romans 7, the one with all of the “do’s” and “don’t do’s”. We can’t make life transforming change on our own…

To change is to let go. We have to hand over control, take our hands off the wheel and let someone else drive. The only way I have found to ever really change something in my life is to surrender it over to God. This was not something that happened overnight, it was a process and at times a difficult one. It involved a lot of prayer, discipline, accountability and support from others. It wasn’t until I realized that I couldn’t make the change on my own that I started to see change taking place.

2 Corinthians 5:16-18…verses 16 and 18 are good stuff and really could be separate sermons for another day but what I really want to focus on right now is verse 17. No doubt there are some of us here in this place that need to hear that, we have the power to change our lives, not because you and I are all that great but because Christ is. “If anyone is IN Christ…” To be found in Christ is what it means to be a Christian. No, it doesn’t mean you’re perfect or even close but it does mean that you trying to be like Him. If you call yourself a Christian, if you have a relationship with Jesus then this promise is yours to claim. I heard someone say, “Jesus loves you exactly where you are but He loves you way too much to leave you there.” I don’t know what change needs to take place in your life but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit has laid something on your heart as you’re sitting there that needs to change. Isn’t it time to make this life transforming change that comes through Christ more than just pocket change?


Neal Hennessy said...

hey man i wasnt there but my dad told me you did a great job. so yea great job

dk said...

What would you hope people would do after reading your article?

How do you “surrender” something to God?

What does it mean to “become like a child”?

What does it mean to “let go”?

Is humility and authenticity a prerequisite to change?

Is community required for change?

What is the difference between redemption and change?

Are we not changing with every passing second? Physically, mentally, emotionally… Perhaps the focus is not on what we need to change but rather who we’re to become. Looking at what needs to change focuses my perspective on the here and now, on what’s in front of me and around me. Looking at who I need to become looks beyond my circumstances and surroundings to what I know to be true. Simply changing is an act of my will. Becoming more like Christ is an act of faith, seeing things that are not as though they were. Are these ideas really different or just semantics?

Tommy said...

been praying for change for a long time and one of the hardest things for me to do is allow it...
thank you for posting this. i needed to be reminded i have more to do then just pray.

Matt said...

neal hennessy: ha, thanks!

dk: thanks for the read and great questions. first i must say that this was a sermon i gave this past sunday so this is not the "full version" of what i said that morning. having said that...

i would hope people would be challenged to look at their lives and find the things that are getting in the way of their relationship with Christ and then go about changing those things.

i think you "surrender" something to God by allowing Him to carry some of the weight of stress, anxiety, fear, etc. you realize that you can't control the situation even if you want to and allow God to be God.

Jesus explains in verse 4 that to "become like a child" is to have a sense of humility and innocence.

for me, to "let go" is very similar to "surrender".

i think you have brought up a great idea/question about humility and authenticity as they relate to change. i think i'm going to share my thoughts in my next blog about this idea/question. i'm really liking this thought a lot right now...

i think community is required for change because i don't think we can do it on our own, at least not the kind of change that lasts.

as i'm writing this response i've realized there is a lot here and have decided to blog some responses to these thoughts as well as the redemption vs. change idea. be looking for those and know i'll be looking for your comments.

tommy: thanks for the read and for sharing. it's hard because sometimes change requires us to act to bring it about when it would be much easier to sit back and let it happen but i find when i do that, it seldom does.

dk said...

What a good topic to preach on. Change "preaches well".

Good responses to my questions. The topic of change is huge. There are so many layers to change. So many different ways to discuss it. I think the paths are worth investigating. Change is a complicated thing because it occurs on different levels.

The reason I pose these questions or even want to engage in this dialogue is the past year has been a year of significant change for me. I used to be on staff at a large church and unfortunately sent several inappropriate emails to 2 women and in looking back I've learned was relating emotionally inappropriately to other women. Nothing sexual but just more emotionally connected than I needed to be. When the emails were discovered I resigned and was asked to not attend for 6 months. However, after trying to re-engage after 6 months, some were too emotionally upset about my return so I made the decision to leave for good. So for the past 12 months I haven't attended services anywhere. It's been the longest time in my life that I've not attended church in some form or fashion. Also, my relationship with God was totally flat. The morning I resigned from my position I walked into our auditorium and gave God my calling back. From that moment something changed in me. My relationship with God felt different. I felt distant from him and I couldn't sense or hear his voice in my life anymore. The bigger problem was I didn't care to. In some ways I felt I deserved it. I understood it. Despite my lack of connectedness to God I was for the first time in my life "free". No more lies, no more wondering if I was crossing the line. I became very committed to healing myself. I was willing to do whatever it took. I immediately began going to a counselor and did everything he instructed me to do. I knew I was broken and was tired of just managing my sin. I wanted to change. And change I did. Through our time together I discovered things about myself I was blind to. I also finally identified what had been triggering an emotional response in me towards women my entire life. The far greater thing than just identifying it was we actually "cleared" it from my heart. There were a couple of "big dominoes" that he was able to clear and I can't tell you what a difference it made in my life. Night and day difference. I've often wondered if I would have come to the same place without his expertise or knowledge. I don't know how I would have. One other point to mention is he is a Christian counselor. I certainly believe God played some role in the process. Honestly, when people start talking about change I'm not sure how I feel about it now. Does everyone need a counselor? We all go to doctors that work on our bodies. Who do we go to to work on our souls, our hearts, our minds, our emotions? I emotionally limped around for most of my life. Not even thinking about going to a "doctor". We would never tell someone who was physically sick to not go to the doctor but to just "give it to God". And yet we tell people who are "emotionally" sick to do just that. Except in extreme cases we tell people to go to a counselor. If a person has a cold, penicillin makes a big difference. When a person has an "emotional cold" is something a counselor could do to make a big difference? I don't know.

I've gone on long enough....I guess I would like to wrestle with the role of "emotional doctors" (counselors) with change. Can we truly change without them? I would venture to say with some things, yes, but with most maybe no because just as a simple infection leads to something more deadly, so an emotional infection does the same.

I look forward to the continued dialog....

At some point if it sounds like I'm pushing your ideologies it's in a good way. Hearing your explanations helps me better understand where you're coming from. Just wanted to let you know. Thanks for raising the discussion.

Matt said...

dk: again, thanks for sharing. and yes, change does "preach well"...usually.

interesting story you have and thanks for being willing to share. sounds like you and 'change' have been pretty close over the past year or so. i was going to guess that you were either a pastor or professor at a Xian school simply based on the questions you asked in your previous comment. i appreciate them and you certainly didn't disappoint in this comment either. the concept of "emotional doctors" is interesting, we'll have to see where we go with that from here. thanks again for reading and sharing.