The Uneasiness of Change

Change

Change, it is not easy. It is not something we usually want. It, however, is necessary. It was necessary for those in Jesus’ day, and it is necessary for us today.

The Day Jesus Changed Things in Jerusalem

In Matthew 21, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey with a procession essentially shouting He is the Messiah. Given the commotion, the shouts of the people, it is clear this man is claiming some sort of Jewish kingship. Rome ruled the Jews at this time. Rome wouldn’t take this man’s claim lightly. They didn’t in the past. If you remember, in Matthew 2 when the Wise Men came into the city asking for the king, Herod had all the first born babies killed.

The people are worried. They don’t know what is going to happen. They don’t know how Rome would react. Threatened by this man’s presence, they want to know who He is. At the end of verse 10, they ask just that. They ask:

Who is this?” (Mt. 21:10b)

The crowd responds by telling them:

This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Mt. 21:11)

While there is debate over this point, I believe they mean He is the prophet like Moses prophesied about in Deuteronomy 18. There the text says,

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is him you shall listen -…And whoever will not listen to my words that He shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” (Deut. 18:15, 19).

So the crowd, observing all that Jesus has done and said, determines He is the prophet like Moses that God has sent. He is the One who has come to lead God’s people. With that pronouncement Jesus is not only set against Rome but also against the religious leaders of the day.

Hearing the crowds answer, the citizens of Jerusalem knew their comfortable peaceful life was being disrupted. Their life as they knew it was being threatened.

Jesus Disrupts Our Life

Isn’t that what Jesus does? He comes into our life and shakes things up. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us don’t want Jesus messing with things in our life. Disrupting what we have going for us.

We don’t want Jesus to change things because we like our sin. We like being in control. We like what’s comfortable. We don’t want anything to change. Jesus, however, wants things to change in our life. He not only wants things to change, He changes things. He comes into our life and changes things just like He did in Jerusalem.

Jesus Doesn’t Change Things To Hurt Us

Instead, He changes things because that is what is best for us. He does it to set things right in our life so we will live according to God’s will, which is what we were created to do. So Jesus doesn’t change things to hurt us, He changes things because it is what is best for us. He changes things so that we will better accomplish our God given purpose.

Question for Reflection

  1. What is Jesus changing in your life right now?

Resources

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What is the Wrong and Right Way to Seek Change in Our Life?

I recently read an article by Tim Keller entitled: Gospel Preaching. In Appendix B: Applying Christ, he gives reasons people may say no to ungodliness before giving us the real way we can change. I would like to quote Keller at length, rather than attempting to summarize. Keller says,

The Wrong Way to Seek Change

Think of all the ways you can ‘say no’ to ungodliness. You can say “No-because I’ll look bad!” You can say “No-because I’ll be excluded from the social circles I want to belong to.” You can say “No-because then God will not give me health, wealth, and happiness.” You can say “No-because God will send me to hell.” You can say “No-because I’ll hate myself in the morning and disappoint myself and have low self-esteem.”

But virtually all of these motives are really just motives of fear and pride – the very things that also lead to sin. You are just using sinful self-centered impulses of the heart to keep you compliant to external rules without really changing the heart itself.

Also, you are not really doing anything out of love for God. You are using God to get things – self-esteem, prosperity, or social approval. So your deepest joys and hopes rest in other things beside God. This kind of ‘obedience’ does not issue from a changed heart at all.

How to Change

Paul is saying: If you want to really change and gain self-control you must let the gospel teach you – a word that means to train, discipline, coach you over a period of time. You must let the gospel argue with you. You must let the gospel sink down deeply until it changes the structures of your motivation and views of things. John Stott says on Titus 2:14: “Grace not only saves, but undertakes our training. Grace bases her teaching upon the great facts in which her first grand revelation of herself was made, and finds all her teaching power in those mighty memories!”

This Does Not Mean

This does not mean that Christians should not use every possible means to exercise self-control in the crucial moment. If you feel an impulse to pick up a rock and hit someone with it – do anything at all to keep yourself from doing it! Tell yourself “I’ll go to jail! I’ll disgrace my family!” Anything. There’s no reason why in the short run a Christian can not simply use ‘will-power’ like that to make a change that is necessary.

But in the long run change will only come from changing the heart’s deepest affections with the melting, moving grace of God.

Conclusion

In this article, Keller provides us with three things that are happening when we do not seek change at the heart level: (1) We will not truly change. (2) We end up using God to build our self-esteem, prosperity, or social approval because our hope lies in something other than God. (3) We end up using sinful self-centered impulses derived from fear and pride to exact external change in order to remain compliant to our social circles accepted actions, or because we believe compliance to rules will gain us favor with God; thus, meriting us health, wealth, happiness, and a ticket out of hell.

In contrast, the only way for us to really change is if our heart is affected by the Gospel. Instead of forcing ourselves to keep external rules, we need to seek change at the heart level by preaching the Gospel to ourselves and allowing the grace of God to melt away our hearts deepest affections for our own self promotion, glory, satisfaction, and pleasure.