Sunday Bible Study
Have I Changed?
January 25, 2015
“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person” 2 Cor. 5:17
Phillip was introduced to Christ at a small California church when he was about nineteen. He was thrilled to find something worthwhile at last. His life had been mundane, unsettled and filled with a roller coaster of emotions as he looked for some kind of answer; something that made sense. And now he’d found it…Jesus Christ, God’s Son. And now his Savior. What a relief.
But, as it does, life moves on, carrying each of us along the strong current of circumstances, failures, needs, crashing businesses and broken hearts. Phillip had not tended to his newborn faith. He’d not watered with the words of the Bible. He had not learned to pray to dispel the weeds of doubt and uncertainty. In short, Phillip returned to what was convenient in handling the problems of life, what he had learned, even though his methods were faulty and weak. In a few years, Phillip’s faith was a distant memory. Change was no longer a possibility for him, he was alone in this troubled world, setting aside the only hope he had.
Faith in Christ, however, does bring the possibility of change, change that is permanent and eternal. In Phillip’s case, his daily struggles weighed heavily on him as his faith in Christ became more distant. His Bible sat beside his chair, unopened and unread. He was facing life on his own while his only hope lay in the unopened Bible beside his chair. Phillip was not protected, he was vulnerable. The armor of God, provided for every Christian, lay in a heap, collecting dust beside his chair also.
Phillip represents any Christian who has given up the battle to make the best choices in life even though God has prepared everything needed for victory. We are not alone in this fight which means if we are not victorious it is our choice, our fear, our laziness. Victory, however, is just a prayer of repentance away. The Holy Spirit is armed and ready to defend and guide every Christian. God has not abandoned us–we have turned our backs on Him when we refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit and make all our own choices. Don’t forget, when we are weak (totally giving up our own strength), then we are strong (through dependence on Christ).
2 Corinthians 12:10
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Victory takes effort. Willie Davenport, who won the 110-meter high hurdles at the 1968 summer Olympics, came back from a severe injury to compete in the 1976 Olympics.
”It was the semifinals of the A.A.U. outdoor championships in 1975,” he recalled in an interview with Red Smith of The New York Times four years later. ”Taking off for a hurdle, I busted a tendon in my left knee. I had surgery the next day, and two days later I had a blood clot in my right lung. The surgeon wasn’t very optimistic. He told me I would walk with a limp and should forget about running. That was June. By January I was hurdling again, and that summer I won the Olympic bronze.” At 33, Davenport was the oldest competitor, ten years older than his fellow American, who was fourth.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!
But the Lord says,
“Do not cling to events of the past
or dwell on what happened long ago.
Conditioned athletes do not lay around on couches, sipping energy drinks while dreaming of success. The most gifted musicians do not spend their days leading up to a concert walking on the sandy seashore, twisting ringlets in their hair, wistfully hoping they will perform acceptably. Just the opposite is true.
“If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.” Ignacy Jan Paderewski, composer and pianist.
Our lives as Christians require daily practice, daily workouts at the Faith Gym to demonstrate change. Life is an accumulation of daily and hourly events, decisions, actions, thoughts and choices. God has given us everything we need to make the changes…but it does take practice and effort.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
For he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”