Do You Need A Change?

Do You Need A Change?

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you follow Jesus,” what would your response be? Because I want to go to heaven? Because He died for my sins? Because He makes my life better? These things may all be true, but the reason behind it all is the recognition that “I needed a change.”

How many of you have looked at yourself and realized, not only are you not perfect, but there are some parts of your life that you don’t even like? Is there anybody like myself, who has looked at themselves and said, “You need to make a change?” The person, who thinks he is basically a good person, is a person who will never love and appreciate that Jesus Christ gave His life to atone for his sins.

Luke 7:36-50 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.  When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner."  Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.  Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"  Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

If we are serious about having a changed life, we have to first recognize the true condition of our “heart” or our soul. Most of us think, “I’m not that bad, and if Jesus would just help me out in this one area, I’d be happy.” That’s not seeking a changed “heart.” It’s more like a new year’s resolution. We remain in control instead of giving control of our lives to Jesus for a complete change.

We often think it’s the stuff on the outside that makes us sinful. If only that guy didn’t look so handsome, if only she hadn’t dressed like that, if only I hadn’t come across those drugs, or if only that money had not of been lying there. But Jesus didn’t say that stuff on the outside of us is what gets us into trouble. No, it’s what is inside, the heart, that gets us in trouble.

Matthew 15:17-20 Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' "

When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we are giving Him permission to change our hearts. Unfortunately, there are some parts of our heart that we do not want changed, and there lies our problem. For example, did you ever determine you were not going to speak to somebody just to pay them back for what they did or did not do? That’s a heart condition that we do not want changed.

Alcoholics or drug addicts cannot quit their habit until they have hit bottom and genuinely want a change. First, they have to admit they’re an alcoholic or an addict and need a change in their heart.

Our problem is that all of us are addicts and we don’t realize it. Just like the alcoholic uses alcohol as means of dealing with life, we habitually use jealousy, bitterness, lust, materialism, greed, gossip, gluttony, unforgiveness, anger, lying, sexual immorality, and a host of hidden sins to deal with life. Some of us do not want to let go of these addictions in our hearts. Therefore, we will not stop doing these things until we admit we are sinners and genuinely want a change.

If we are serious about a changed heart, we have to think in terms of the whole heart. For instance, what would we do if we went to get an oil change in our car and the mechanic changed the oil and the filter but was short on new oil? Then he tells us, “I put in three quarts of new oil before I ran out. So, I put some of the dirty oil back in to fill it up completely, but you don’t have to pay me for dirty oil.” Are we going to say thanks, good job, I really appreciate it?

Sometimes we are praying to be drawn closer to God, and at the same time we insist on leaving some of that dirty oil in our hearts. Are you going to be brave enough to let it go and admit to God you need a complete change today? Or will you settle for less than what God has in mind for you. We can’t get closer to God until we repent of the sin that separates us from Him. Repentance will produce a changed heart, and a changed heart will continue to repent.

For example, Luke 19:1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'" But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

The only way Zacchaeus was going to see Jesus was to find a way to rise above the crowd. Some of us could experience life on a totally different level if we were willing to rise above the crowd. Don’t be content hanging around with people who are not seeking Christ, who have no purpose for their lives. Find the way above that level by seeking Jesus with all your heart.

Zacchaeus did not let his limitations or the crowd set aside his goal of seeing Jesus. He didn’t say, “Well I was born short, so God ought to do something special to get to me.” He didn’t wait for people to voluntarily move to the side so that he could get to Jesus. He took action and started looking for a way to see Jesus.

Where are you in the crowd of humanity? Are you seeking how to get to Jesus and be changed, or are you still blaming others for where you are? The most important person responsible for your future is you. We all have the opportunity to really mess up our lives by going our own way, or to fulfill God’s purpose for our life by following Jesus.

Zacchaeus saw a sycamore-fig tree near the road. He forgot all about how rich and dignified he was and started climbing that tree, just like a child. A week ago, Zaccheus would have said, “Rich men don’t climb trees, we buy them and turn them into furniture to make a profit.” But Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus more than anything else, so climbed the tree.

Some of us look at the tree, which represents the way to see Jesus, and don’t climb, because we think it’s going to be too much work, or it will be too humiliating to let others see that we need to climb a tree. Some of us are afraid to climb. It is risky and we’ve never done it before. Maybe Jesus won’t accept us. Maybe we will fall. What will our life will be like if we come to Jesus? Oh, it is safer on the ground, among the crowd, where we don’t stand out. We forget that the crowd is headed for destruction.

Matt 7:13-14 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Zacchaeus overcomes all the objections and fears and climbs the tree. Then Jesus speaks and says, “"Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." Do you see how eager Jesus is to forgive us? That’s how it is with the Lord. When we realize that our life needs to change, we discover, like Zacchaeus did, that Jesus already knows our name; He already knows what we have done; He already knows our need; and He’s ready to get rid of that dirty oil we talked about earlier. Jesus doesn’t even ask us to get our “house” ready first. He says come down immediately, I want to stay with you.

We may have disobeyed God many times and given up resisting temptation. Others may have given up on us. Family or friends may have given up on us. However, God will not give up on us. A change of heart begins when the Holy Spirit knocks at the door of our heart. He waits there for us to invite Him to enter our life. He wants to stay at our “house.” To go to someone’s home and share a meal is an intimate experience. So this was Jesus’ way of saying to Zacchaeus, “I want an intimate relationship with you.”

No matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, Jesus comes to us, and He keeps coming to us, and He keeps extending His love to us, until we come out of the tree and let Him into our home—that is, our heart. After we let Him in, He will begin the change that is needed.

Have you sensed that God might be doing that within you? Is Jesus asking to come into your life? Have you felt His gentle knocking at your heart? Is He bringing people into your life that have been trying to point the way to Jesus?

Zacchaeus was surprised that Jesus desired to come to his home. After all, he was a sinner, a tax collector, and a cheat. He was surprised that Jesus would initiate love. That might surprise you, too. All of us have been surprised by the amazing love of God.

When we meet Jesus, there is going to be a change. The change will give you tremendous peace and joy, but as Jesus forewarned, not everybody is going to be happy about you getting your life right with God. Some will be jealous, some will despise you, some will think you have lost your mind, some will think you have rejected them, and some will keep reminding you of what a sinner you are. Therefore, you must desire Jesus more than you desire the approval of others.

Second, recognize that a changed heart results in some changed actions. When Zacchaeus made Jesus his Lord, a change took place in him. Zaccheus shocked everyone when he said, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." His change of heart was accompanied by an immediate change of action in his life. He was ready to remove all of the dirty oil out of his life.

Therefore, when we get saved, we may need to make some things right or make some restitution. Some of us need to go and offer apologies to people we hurt. Some of us need to give back things that we took. Some of us need to forgive somebody that we’ve had a grudge against for a long time. A changed heart wants all the dirty oil out of its life.

It is not enough to be sad about the things we have done. Never mistake remorse for repentance; remorse simply puts a man in hell while he is on earth. Repentance leads to change.

It is not enough to be sorry. It is not enough to cry our eyes out. Repentance allows me to hate sin, not just the consequences or the effects of sin.

It is not enough to mope or be depressed. Repentance is taking God’s point of view of good and evil and admitting we are sinners, incapable of doing anything pure without Jesus.

The gospel message isn’t I’m OK you’re OK, but repent--admitting we are going the wrong direction. We haven’t repented until we change the way we are going and start following Jesus. Here are just a few of the Scriptures that demonstrate repentance.

2 Cor. 5:17 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Eph. 4:28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Eph 4:1-2 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Eph. 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We all need a change. No one believed in Jesus more than Peter. He was the one who first realized that Jesus is the Christ. Peter thought he loved Jesus so much that he would die for Him. However, when Peter was among the crowd, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus three times. The crow of a rooster and the glance of Jesus brought him to the realization of what he had done.

Luke 22:60-62 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Sometimes we boast too much about our faith and pray too little. Like Simon Peter, we believe we would never deny Christ. We may not deny Him with our words, but we deny Jesus by our walk. Not only are we called to practice what we preach, we have to practice what we hear and learn about following Jesus. It’s not only how we live and act on Sunday mornings, but the other six days of the week outside the walls of the church. If we are one kind of Christian on Sunday mornings and another kind Monday through Saturday, then we are only fooling ourselves about our faith. Others can see what we are. When our lives do not express the faith we profess, then we deny Christ by our walk. We deny Jesus by our works, or lack thereof. If a person is truly a follower of Jesus, it will be evidenced by the work they do and the fruit their life produces.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We are called to put our faith into practice. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Is the Holy Spirit speaking to you about your need to repent and change? For some of us, Jesus is “saying come down, I want to go to your home today.” We’re so close to responding, but for some reason we won’t come out of the “tree.” It’s not worth waiting for another day in order get down, because we don’t know how much time we have left. If Zaccheus had waited for the next time Jesus came to Jericho, he never would have been with Jesus.

God is knocking at our hearts to make a change today. But each time we don’t say yes, it gets a little harder to hear the knock. Why carry around dirty oil when we can be clean and filled with the “oil” of the Holy Spirit. Why live with regret when we can repent and live in restoration?

Change is possible because of Jesus’s work on the Cross. He has provided the way. Confess to Jesus what you have done. Don’t be afraid, He already knows. Confessing your sin is part of the restoration process. You must first admit you are a sinner who is in need of a change. Give your life to Jesus and make Him your Lord, Savior, and Master. If you have not been baptized, follow Jesus in baptism and receive a new life. Ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit. All of us need to make that request.

Luke 11:13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Repentance is not a one-time act. The filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time occurrence. These things are a life-style. Continue to walk in repentance by walking after the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Do you need a change? Are you ready for one? You can’t change yourself. Come to the only one who has the power to change a person—Jesus Christ.

  December 2017  
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