(Tear sheet has no date)
My brother the skeptic says scandal in the American White House is not a new thing. He named incidents in the past and asserts, correctly or not, that the current president will never reform or change. He implies a bad apple is always a bad apple.
In a different context, a church is looking for a suitable pastor. Someone cautioned them that “Past actions determine future behavior.” In other words, watch out for the flaws in the previous ministry of any potential candidate. They will continue the same pattern in your church.
Howard Hendricks, a well-known Christian speaker, writer and professor at a large seminary says, “Change is the one thing people resist the most, yet for Christians, change is our destiny.” He firmly believes there is hope, both for fallen presidents and others who seem to be stuck in a rut.
The Bible is filled with stories of change. David was a shepherd who became king of Israel. He had his faults. When he was a teenager, his brothers thought he was impertinent and self-seeking. As king, he fell into sin because he could not resist beautiful Bathsheba. Yet God changed him and eventually called him “a man after My own heart.”
Saul, in the New Testament, also changed. His story starts with him on a vendetta to kill all the Christians he could find. In hateful rage, he was on his way to Damascus when the Lord stopped him. Within moments, Saul was on his knees in submission. God changed his motives, his character, and even his name. He became Paul, a great man of God who loved God’s people with all his heart and spent his life serving them.
What accounts for the transformation of a person’s life. Is it turning over a new leaf? Certainly the Bible tells us to change, to think differently, to behave in a manner that pleases God and does good toward others.
However, there is a part of us that we are unable to change. It is that deep-rooted resistance, not only to change, but also to God and to the things of God. Romans 3 says God looks at us and declares, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Because this is true, God offers to change us. He does it by giving us new life. Jesus called it a new birth. Paul described it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved from our sinful rebellion and the judgment that is on sin by God’s grace, not by anything we do: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Paul said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” He added that nothing he could do “means anything; what counts is a new creation.”
For some, abandoning the “fun” of sin sounds impossible but it can be done. The Bible says Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” For him, short-term sensual pleasures were no match against freedom from sin’s bondage or against the hope of eternal life.
Change does mean doing things a different way, abandoning old habits and getting in step with the plan of God but whatever else change brings, we do not have to try and do it ourselves. Our most earnest efforts cannot be compared with the transforming power of God’s grace.