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A New Man: The Gospel of Change


Change is a fundamental concept of the gospel of Christ.Change is a fundamental concept of the gospel of Christ. Think of all the people whom Jesus demanded to change. The purpose of this lesson is to consider the Bible teaching that requires us to be new and different people. What principles help us change to please God?

Introduction:

I once read the following statement (paraphrased): "Jesus never left anyone the same. Of everyone who ever met Him, He demanded change" (Christian Counselors Manual, page 247). Think of all the people whom Jesus demanded to change: the apostles, Nicodemus, the rich young ruler, the Samaritan woman, the woman taken in adultery, the scribes and Pharisees, Saul of Tarsus. Some heeded His call for change and some did not, but He required them all to change.

Change is a fundamental concept of the gospel of Christ.

The gospel repeatedly emphasizes that those who are in Christ must be new and different.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Romans 6:4 - We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

The purpose of this lesson is to consider the gospel teaching that requires us to be new and different people.

Many people tend to resist change. Even people who know that the Bible teaches the importance of a new life as Christians, may resist specific changes in our lives. And when we try to make changes, we find change difficult.

Consider the following aspects of the Bible teaching about the need for change:

The Importance of Change

Consider some of the gospel concepts that emphasize the need for change.

A new man and a new birth

2 Corinthians 5:17 - When one comes into Christ, he becomes a new creature. Old things are passed away and all things become new. We must not continue in the old ways. Those have passed away. We must look at everything about our lives in a new way so we change as needed.

John 3:3,5 - This change is the result of a new birth. Becoming a follower of Christ is like being born again. It is like starting life all over again. Jesus intends for each of us to become an entirely new and different person.

Romans 6:4 - When we are buried with Christ in baptism, we walk in newness of life.

Baptism is not just about being forgiven of sins. It is the final step of a process in which we commit ourselves to change, and it is the beginning of a whole new life which must lead us to be different from what we were and different from the people of the world.

Transformation

Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Transformation involves a complete change of nature, like a caterpillar being changed into a butterfly. That is how you and I must change to please God.

2 Corinthians 3:18 - Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. As we observe our Master, our goal is to become like Him. That requires major change.

People in society often talk about the need for change: change in healthcare, change in the economy, change in politics, etc. But not all change is good. The goal is not change for the sake of change. Nevertheless, change is absolutely essential to the gospel.

Becoming a Christian is not just about changing from guilty to innocent. It is about being transformed into different people, so that we become like our Master. And baptism is not the conclusion of this change. Baptism is the beginning of a lifetime of change.

Repentance and works of repentance

Repentance is a fundamental step in changing, because repentance is a change of mind. Repentance is when we determine to become different. To change, we must be transformed by renewing our mind. We determine in our hearts that we will change.

Acts 2:38 - Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

2 Corinthians 7:10 - Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.

Acts 8:22 - Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.

Acts 26:20 - Men must then do works worthy of repentance. [Luke 3:8-14; Matthew 3:8]

Repentance is not just a requirement before baptism. Most of these passages are addressed to followers of Christ. Repentance is needed repeatedly in our lives whenever we sin. It is a fundamental part of the ongoing process of change in the Christian's life.

Conversion

We often refer to the process of becoming a follower of Christ as "conversion." But the basic meaning of the term refers to a fundamental change.

Psalms 19:7 - The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

Matthew 18:3 - Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Acts 3:19 - Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.

The reason we needed to be converted is that each of us was guilty of sin, which alienated us from God. So we must change our relationship with God, but to do so we must change our course.

The life of a Christian begins with a change from sin to righteousness, from guilt to innocence, from separation from God to reconciliation to God, from being lost to being saved. But this is just the beginning of a lifetime of change. To resist or neglect to change where we need to change is to reject the fundamental concept which made us Christians to begin with.

Growth

After becoming a child of God, we must grow as Christians. But growth is change.

John 15:2 - Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Ephesians 4:15 - Speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ.

2 Peter 3:18 - Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

After conversion, a Christian must live a life of growth. We must totally re-examine every aspect of our lives: moral conduct, church membership, Bible study, prayer and all aspects of worship, conduct toward our spouse and children, employer and other employees, neighbors and civil rulers. We must change our action, speech, dress, and especially attitude. Anything that does not harmonize with the word of God must change.

One who is unwilling to change or who neglects to change, can never become what God wants him to be. Change is absolute fundamental to the gospel of Christ and to the life of a Christian.

I want to emphasize two fundamental principles we need to make the necessary changes.

Putting Off the Old and Putting on the New

Ephesians 4:22-24 - Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. [Colossians 3:9,10]

The change that the gospel requires involves both putting off and putting on. Some passages tell us things we must cease or eliminate from our lives. Other passages tell us things we must add and improve in our lives. And some passages tell us to both put off and put on.

Note examples:

Passage

Put Off

Put On

Ephesians 4:25

Putting away lying

speak truth with his neighbor

Ephesians 4:28

Let him who stole, Steal no longer

but labor, to give him who has need

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth

but what is good for edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Ephesians 4:31,32

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away, with all malice.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you

Psalm 1:1,2

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates

Proverbs 15:28

But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil

The heart of the righteous studies how to answer

James 1:21

Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness

receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 5:12

Do not swear

but let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No."

Hebrews 10:25

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together

but exhorting one another

1 Peter 2:1,2

Laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking

desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby

1 Peter 3:9

Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling

but on the contrary blessing

Romans 6:12,13

do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin

but present yourselves to God, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God

Galatians 5:19-24

Those who do the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom

But the fruit of the Spirit is ...

Lessons to be learned

Gospel change requires both eliminating evil and adding positive good works.

Many people seem to think that doing some good will compensate for their sins.

Immoral people may feel justified because they donate to charitable works, help their neighbors, or work hard on their jobs. For example, some people tell how kind and generous their homosexual friends are, as though somehow good works compensate for homosexuality.

When you point out the errors of a religious group, members may tell about the good works the group is doing, as though that means their sins should not be criticized.

On the other hand, people in faithful congregations may neglect positive works of service, but they think they should be accepted because they are not involved in moral or religious error.

As we have seen, the gospel requires a complete new man. This requires both eliminating evil and diligently practicing good works. Both are necessary, and neglecting either one is a failure to change as God's word teaches.

Adding good supports and encourages removing evil, and vice-versa.

Matthew 12:43-45 - A demon left a man but later found the man's life still empty. He moved back in bringing seven other demons with him! Jesus applied this to Israel, but it is a general principle. Replace bad habits with good and the bad is less likely to return.

Removing evil and adding good tend to encourage and strengthen one another. A person who attempts to do good will find that any evil that remains in his life will hinder his good works.

On the other hand, as with the man with the demons, our attempts to remove evil will be more successful if we replace the sin with good works. For every bad habit you "put off," find some useful activity to "put on" in its place, and keeping out the evil will be much easier.

Proper change involves both removing evil and adding good. Put off and put on.

Practice Makes Perfect

Success in changing ourselves to please God requires just plain hard work and diligent practice. This is especially so if sin has become habitual in our lives or if we need some good work to become a habit. God does not promise change will be easy, but He promises it is possible if we work diligently according to His word.

So in order to change to serve God, we must compel ourselves to do what we know is right and repeat it until it becomes "second nature."

Consider some Scriptures.

Diligence and hard work

1 Corinthians 15:58 - Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

James 1:22-25 - Be doers of the word, not just hearers.

Luke 9:23 - If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Exercise and training

The changes we need to make are often described like the training programs and practice that athletes must use to develop their skill.

Hebrews 5:14 - But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Luke 6:40 - A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

1 Timothy 4:7,8 - Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (NASB: "discipline yourself")

1 Corinthians 9:27 - But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Most of us have some understanding of the exercise and practice that athletes undergo in order to be winners. In comparison to a sport, becoming a godly person is far more important. But in a similar way it requires persistent hard work.

[2 Timothy 3:16,17[

Lessons to be learned

Habits are formed by repeated action.

Changing to become a righteous person will require repeated, diligent practice and training in doing right instead of wrong. This is true in the formation of any habit. Our bad habits developed by repetition of bad practices. In the same way, in order to break our bad habits and establish good habits, we must diligently practice good instead of bad.

At first this requires conscious, deliberate effort and may not feel comfortable or natural. We may need to force ourselves to do right instead of wrong until it becomes second nature.

Consider how you learned to ride a bicycle or drive a car. At first you had to consciously control each action, even when it felt unnatural and uncomfortable. You had to think about each step, and make yourself do what needed to be done. But repetition produces habits that soon feel natural.

The same is true in spiritual matters. When we first cease our sinful practices and begin doing good works, we may feel strange. Our old ways may seem comfortable because we are used to them. New ways may seem uncomfortable and unnatural. This may be true of attending church meetings, studying the Bible, prayer, teaching others, and leading in the worship assemblies of the church. Each new step may seem strange.

But as we learn them by continual use and practice, we find that it soon becomes a part of our lives. Then we would not feel right if we went back to our old way of life.

Success in change requires persistence and patience.

The kind of serious and significant change that the gospel requires often takes time. That is why the Scriptures describe it as a growth process.

Growth does not happen overnight. It often involves mistakes, stumbling, and even falling. Consider how our children learn to walk and run and eventually become useful workers. So, we must not let our problems and failures keep us from getting up and going on.

Likewise, the athlete does not learn his skill in just a few attempts. His training requires discipline and diligence. He must practice his skills day in and day out to achieve his goals.

The Christian has far greater goals to accomplish. His change requires becoming a fundamentally new person in his conduct, his speech, his dress, and his whole outlook on life.

And every change requires action: we must act to eliminate sinful practices, act to develop good habits, act to improve our attitudes, act to improve our speech, act to learn to help those around us. Christ requires change, and change requires action. And we must persist in the action till we succeed.

Conclusion

Acts 17:30 says God commands all men everywhere to repent. But repentance is a decision to change. So God requires all people everywhere to make up their mind to change and turn from sin. This is not just a surface change or tweaking a few habits here and there. It is a fundamental change of one's entire character and outlook on life from the inside out.

People who have never become Christians must repent of their past sins and make up their minds to receive forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ. This requires them to confess Christ and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Then they must bring forth the fruits of repentance by diligently changing their lives to become faithful followers of Christ.

But those who are already Christians must continue this lifetime of change and growth. And they also must repent when they find that they have failed to change as they ought to. Then they must pray for forgiveness and make correction with those against whom they have sinned.

Please consider your own life and determine to make the changes that God requires.

(C) Copyright 2018, David E. Pratte
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Topics for further Bible study

The Importance of Bible Knowledge
You Can Serve God Successfully
How to Study the Bible
The Meaning & Purpose of Life
Why We Need Salvation from sin
How Can You Be Sure of Forgiveness?
Anger, Controlling Your Temper
Prayer
Steps to Maturity
God Helps with Your Troubles

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