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About this series
Yes! You Really CAN Change
What to do When You're Spiritually Stuck
Is a "changed life" really possible? If we're honest, most of us would say no. Maybe you've tried numerous programs that promise big changes, but in reality, they deliver very little results. You long for transformation, but don't know where to begin. There's good news for you! Life change is possible! God created you to grow, to change, to experience intimacy and adventure. In this series, from Ephesians 4, you will learn how true life change can happen to you. You'll be able to identify the barriers that have held you back from receiving God's best and you'll also learn how to break out of a destructive lifestyle so you can become the person you've always longed to be. This fresh approach to spiritual transformation is designed to move you from the frustration of failure to the freedom you have in Christ.More from this series
Life change always begins with the truth. It’s objective. Here’s what I want you to get: We are so in an existential world. We think it’s our experience, we think that life change is trying harder, we think there’s some formula, we think of religious activities – we have all kinds of people telling us self-help ways of how life change happens. Life change, metamorphosis, from the inside out, New Testament – it always begins with the truth. And here are three truths that come out of this: Number one, you are free. Sin’s power has been broken. Write that in your notes, “I am free.”
Number two, you are forgiven. Not only has sin’s power been broken, but sin’s penalty has been paid for. Christ, when He hung upon the cross – the sins of all people, of all time, were placed on Him, and He absorbed it for you, in your place. So, write, “I’m forgiven.”
And third, you are secure. Death doesn’t have dominance over you anymore because you have eternal life. The moment you turned from your sin, in the empty hands of faith, trusted in Christ, the Spirit of God came into you, sealed you with His Spirit, adopted you into His family, took you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, gave you new relationship with God the Father through the blood of Christ, relationship with a supernatural community called the body of Christ, gave you an inheritance. He’s preparing a place for you, deposited spiritual gifts in you, gave purpose for your life, and you’ll never be the same.
But it happened in objective, space-time history. These are facts. Satan does not have power over you anymore. You can give in to sin, you can give in to temptation, you can be fearful of demonic spirits, but you, as a believer, a child of God, a son or a daughter, can look death straight in the eye, can look sin in the eye, and realize, you can give in to it, but it doesn’t have power over you. You’re not a slave to it. You have a choice. You have power. You have access.
Truth - That’s the beginning of real life change. You can feel it, or not feel it. You’re forgiven, you’re free, and you’re secure. It begins with the truth.
Fact number two: We become co-partakers of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and Satan the moment we receive Christ as our personal Savior, by faith. Remember what I said? Whatever is true of Jesus, the teaching of the New Testament and the Bible, it’s true of you.
This gets a little bit vague, and hard to understand. I’ve got a picture that will help you. But I want you, if you will, turn to Romans chapter 6. I’m going to ask you to do a little work here. And as you turn to Romans chapter 6, I want to read a few of the verses that came before the questions that the young man asked me. They came before the questions that the young mom asked me.
The apostle Paul – what I’m going to share is so radical, even in that day, because God is going to say that the grace of God is so overwhelming, no matter where you are, or how far you are, however deep the sin is, grace abounds still more.
So much so that people were bending the truth, and they started saying, “Hey, you know something? This New Testament stuff is really great. If God gives more grace if you sin more, why don’t we just start sinning more?”
Chapter 6 opens up with an emphatic, “That is not, at all, an option.” He says, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”
Now follow carefully, this is the key: “We died to sin; how then can we live in it any longer? Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might live” – or, literally – it’s our same word – “might walk in newness of life.”
Now, follow along carefully. “If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died is freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe we’ll also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once and for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way” – application – “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
And then, he begins to explain what that is, and how to do that. And we’ll discuss that. As we go along in this process, you will learn how to count yourself dead to sin, and how to present your members by faith.
But let me give you a picture that’s been very helpful to me. I’m going to just take this block of wood – I put a cross on it – and let’s let this represent Christ. And let’s have this very heavy-looking bolt represent us, apart from Christ. And all I want you to get is, what we know is, wood has a certain nature, or properties, and steel bolts have a certain nature, or properties. There’s a gravitational pull in life, and there’s a gravitational pull, for all of us, away from God, called “sin.” And left to ourselves…
Does anybody know, if I take this heavy bolt and put it in this water, what will happen? Any predictions? It’s going to sink. Let’s test this theory. My lands! We’re an amazing group!
Now, the properties of wood are quite different. If I take this piece of wood, and lay it in the water, can you tell me what’s going to happen? It’s going to float. Why? Is it better? It’s just different. It has a completely different nature.
What the Bible teaches in Romans chapter 6, what Paul is explaining in verses 7 through 10 of Ephesians chapter 4, is that Christ died in your place. He descended to the lower parts of the earth, He declared victory over the wicked. He proclaimed new life. He rose from the dead. He’s conquered sin, death, and Satan. And the moment that you believe and trust in Him, you become a co-partaker, by faith, which is this rubber band.
And so, what you see is, when God the Father sees you – remember justified? When God sees you – and you need to get this. You need to get this in your intellect, and get it into your heart. God declared you righteous, based on His work. And when He looks at you, despite your experiential times of sin, He sees you as righteous, as forgiven, as through the lens of the blood of His Son, as precious, as a child, as adopted. You will never be more loved than you are today. And you’re connected to Him forever.
Now, in this journey of sanctification, how do I live out what’s true of me? He says, “This is how it works. Whatever is true of Him is now true of you.”
Now, can I pull the rubber band off, and get wet if I want to? Sure. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And this life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me.”
It’s not religious activity. It’s not a formula. It’s not my self-effort of trying hard. It’s understanding the bedrock truth that when you trusted Christ, you’re connected to Him for all eternity.
So, principle number one: Life change begins with the truth. Principle number two: We must act on the truth for life change to occur. Life change demands that we act on the truth.
Do you know what acting on the truth is called in the Bible? Faith! Faith! That’s what it is! Now, faith isn’t a feeling. Faith isn’t some ooey-gooey thought. Faith is believing what God has said to the point of acting on it, whether I feel like it or not. Let me say that again, because sometimes I think we think, I don’t have enough faith. You don’t have to feel anything! Faith is believing what God has said to the point I act on it, whether I feel like it or not.
God says that, “Sexual purity is My will for this relationship.” I don’t feel like that, maybe, in a relationship. And I say, “You know what? I’m going to act on that.” And the moment I act, and make provision to be sexually pure, God gives grace. And then, He does a lot of wonderful things in that relationship that sin blocks.
Faith says, “I’m going to prioritize the first portion of my life, my future, my priorities, and my relationships by what God says.” I don’t always feel like loving my wife. I don’t always feel like turning off the remote, and walking over and dealing with one of my kids. I don’t always feel like doing it, but when, by faith, I trust. The other side of faith is, the moment I take that step, it’s obedience, and I get grace.
That’s how transformation occurs. Left to myself, I don’t do very well. So, there’s community of people whose gifts, and love, and encouragement help me on my walk. Because remember? What did we learn about the little babies when they walk? Step, step, step, great, then…right? And we’re all going to keep falling. And we have a heavenly Father who understands, who says, “Look, that’s who you really are.”
My dad did not grow up as a Christian. And I had been a Christian a year. And sometimes, when God is changing you, it’s so close to you, you don’t see how it really works. And all I knew was what I just shared with you, about what Christ had done. I trusted Him in 1972.
I went away to college, and there was a bricklayer who was a godly man, who came up and taught me how to get in the Bible for myself. And so, I started reading the Bible in the mornings, and I memorized just a few verses. And I got in a small group, and did some Bible study. And little by little, the old was passing away, and the new had come. But I had a long way to go.
And I came home that summer, and after about three weeks, my dad said, “What happened to you?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “What happened to you?” I said, “Dad, I don’t – I mean, what do you mean, what happened to me?” “There’s a peace about you I can’t understand.”
And I said, “Well, Dad, I…” We went to church, but we didn’t believe the Bible, and we didn’t know about a personal relationship with God, so it was hard to say. I said, “Well, I put my faith in Christ, and I have a new relationship with God.” And so, he said, “Well, how did you get it?” And honestly – this is not really good news for the people that were helping me, I suppose. I said, “I don’t know.” And so, eventually, I just said, well, the one key, I said, “I started reading the Bible.”
And so, you’ve got an ex-Marine, “Okay. That’s how you do it?” He got up at five every morning, read the Bible, for a year almost – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Matthew…
And then, finally, like, six months into it, he goes, “Do these guys not know the story? They keep telling the same story over and over.” And I had to say, “Well, actually, Dad, Mark is writing to the Romans, and Luke to the Greeks, and it’s sort of a composite picture.”
And after six months, my dad comes to me, and he had been religious all his life, and, in his own words, he would say, “I went to church, whether I was drunk or not.” So, he’s a recovering alcoholic who, because he knew he was going to lose his marriage, stopped drinking a year earlier. And he wants to change, and doesn’t know how.
His kid comes home, and there’s something different. His kid can’t explain even – I wish I could have said, “Oh, Dad, it’s the substitutionary work of Christ. He died in your place on the cross, rose from the dead. What He wants you to do? By faith, turn to Him.” I couldn’t explain it.
And so he just, but here’s the point: truth. Life change begins with the truth. He got in the Bible. I’ll tell you, with the people that I meet and talk to, in terms of their journey with God, I would much rather have someone read the Bible with me, and have coffee, and put my arm around them as a friend, and, “Let’s just talk about what this is like,” for months, as opposed to someone feeling some quick moment of guilt, and praying a quick prayer. Because I will tell you, God’s Word never returns void.
After six months he says to me, “You know something? I don’t know what this whole deal is you have, but it has something to do with faith.” Here’s a guy who’s never read the Bible, “It’s faith.” And I said, “Dad, I think you’re right.” He says, “So, what do I do?” I said, “I don’t know.”
So, he goes another nine months or so, and I go off to school. And I get a call a little bit later, and he said, “I got it! I got it!” I said, “What do you mean, you got it?” “I’m a Christian now!” I said, “Really? What happened, Dad?”
He said, “Well, I knew it was about faith. I kept reading, reading, reading. And I don’t know where it came from, but I was walking by my dresser, and there was a little pamphlet called The Four Spiritual Laws, and I read it. It had all the stuff I’ve been reading! ‘God has a plan for your life. What separates you from God is your sin. Christ died in your place. You need to trust Him by faith,’ and it had a little prayer. And it was like, Wow! So, that’s how you do it!”
And he said, “What I did was, I got down, right on my bed, and I said, God, I have killed thousands and thousands and thousands of people, and I have lived with nightmares and shame all my life. But I receive the blood of Jesus to forgive me right now, at this moment.” And in my dad’s late fifties, he came to Christ.
Life change begins with the truth. Life change demands that we act on the truth, by faith. Let me give you the greatest example of acting on the truth. At the very bottom, I put a little chart, if you will, and I put a verse. Because it’s truth, and I want you to get to act on it if that’s where you’re at.
The truth is Romans 6:23. It says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now, what I’ve put there is a picture of two cliffs, if you will. There’s us on this side, and there’s God on this side.
And when you look at that, on the “us” side it says, “The wages” – what are wages? It’s what you earn, right? It’s what you get for what you do. “The wages of our sin” – what’s sin? It just means you miss the mark. It means you blow it. It means you had a thought that was not a good thought. It means that you know what’s right to do but you don’t do it. Everyone has sinned, and falls short of the glory of God. But the wages of sin…
There’s this chasm, like in Luke 16. There’s this chasm that separates us from God, forever. But the free gift of God, through Jesus – you have eternal life.
So, what you need to do is, you need to pull your pen out, and I want you to make a bridge, because, well, Jesus is the bridge to life. So, make a little bridge, okay? And once you make the horizontal line, why don’t you make it a really cool, nifty bridge, and put a vertical line. And if you put a vertical line and a horizontal line, what do you have there? You’ve got a cross.
Now, here, we’re right back to what Jesus said. Jesus said, “The day will come when I’m going to speak to all that are dead.” One day, all of us will be dead, and one day, Jesus will return. And He said, “Truly, truly” – or, “verily, verily” – that’s just for emphasis; this is really important – “I say to all of you, those of you who hear My word and believe on Him who sent Me has” – present tense – “eternal life.”
So, you are looking at truth. The truth is, there is a fact that the eternal Son of God, fully man, fully God, walked upon the earth, lived a perfect life.
He built a bridge, and He paid for the wages of your sin, and He atoned, or He’s covering, death. And it’s by grace; it’s a complete free gift. And if, by faith, you received the free gift, you move from this side of the bridge to the other side.
And according to Jesus, it means you hear His Word, and then you believe. And when you do that, the gift of eternal life: You’re taken from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. You’re free, you’re forgiven, and you’re secure.
There are some of you today that this is the most wonderful day in your life, ever. Today is better than the day that you were born, because today is the day that you will be born a second time, or be born spiritually. Jesus said, “Physical life requires a physical birth; spiritual life requires a spiritual birth.”
If you have never, by faith – not come to church, not tried to be a moral person, not tried to read the Bible a little bit. I’m not talking about giving to the United Way. I’m not talking about being religious. If you have never, by faith, said, “I’m going to trust in the objective facts of what Christ did in my place,” then right now, in your seat, the greatest thing you could do is cry out to God, whether you feel, or not feel, is to say your sin separates you from God, for all eternity.
And God’s Word says, His desire is that not one person would perish. And so, He has offered you a free gift. And so, you, by faith, say, I’m going to trust in Christ. I want to be united to Him. Will You please forgive me, right now? I’m sorry for my sin. I turn from it – it’s called repentance – and I want to receive, right now, eternal life.
You can pray that in your seat, right now, at this moment, and God will hear. Jesus came to give you that today.
Fact number one: His death and resurrection is the key. Principle number one: Life change always begins with the truth. Fact number two: You become a co-partaker when you receive Christ personally. Principle number two is, life change demands that we act on the truth.
Remember when the conquering victor, general, or king – when he was declaring his victory, remember? There’s the military, he humiliates his foes, but remember what’s in the back? The spoils. He gave gifts to everybody. He gave gifts of what was conquered. So, every time people got a gift, they were reminded – what? The love of their king, and the victory that they shared in.
Fact number three: Every believer is given a spiritual gift, a supernatural enabling, at the moment of salvation, for two reasons. Every believer. What does it mean? He gave gifts to men. Reason number one: To remind us that life change occurs on the basis of grace, not self-effort.
When that lady’s milking that cow, when that other lady sees the bracelet, when the blacksmith – when the king came through town, he said, “Hey! Wow! Here, you can have a donkey, and two camels.” When the blacksmith is taking care of those animals, he’s reminded, My king won a great victory. The evidence and reminder that I was given this gift is my king’s work for me. And that’s the imagery.
Can you imagine what would happen if every time you used your spiritual gift – if you really discovered what it was, and you realized you have this supernatural, sacred endowment that you use to get to love people in a supernatural way – that it would remind you, it’s a gift? Your salvation is a gift!
The second reason is to be empowered as others-centered agents of grace, who supply what others need to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Remember? If life change happens in community, in that spiritual cocoon?
Because you know what happens? Whoever you’re around, you become like. And when the Jesus inside of you, and the Jesus inside of me, as we do life together, from the heart, honestly, the Spirit of God will take your gifts and meet my needs, and my gifts to meet your needs. And so, you’ll have wisdom, and I’ll make a great decision to experience God.
Or I’ll really blow it, and I’ll feel ashamed and down on myself, and beat myself up, and the enemy will say, “See, Ingram? You’re a lousy, stinking…” And you’ll have the gift of mercy, and you’ll say, “No, no, no, no, no. Chip, that’s your experience. This is who you are. God loves you. The world’s not over.”
And so, it gives us power as we use our gifts with one another. The principle is: life change is both a gift, and a responsibility. It’s a gift.