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.
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.
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 week one? 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.”
Life change begins with the truth. Life change demands that we act on the truth, by faith. 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 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 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. 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 he’s 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?
Well, I was pretty honest with you. This last week, I wasn’t humble, and gentle, and patient, and bearing with, and making every effort, all the time. I had a lot of the right side. And you know what I need? To learn to be humble, I need people who put me first. I need people who will be patient with me. I need people who won’t be critical and judgmental, who will be grace-filled, and loving, and kind.
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.