Summary: This sermon deals with our need to change as taken from Philippians 2:12-13, and how it entails both our part and God's. We look at the resources given by God for change including the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and Life's Circumstances.
Change We Can Believe In
Change is a word that seems to be bandied around quite a bit. It’s a word that for whatever reason seems to be in vogue. In politics “change” is a buzzword, like Barack Obama’s initial campaign slogan, “Change we can believe in.”
People are always changing. They’re moving towards healthier lifestyles, like changing their eating habits, from pizza to salads, or from sitting on the couch watching TV to working out while watching TV.
People are also making changes in the way they appear. A change of wardrobe is seen as a way to build a person self esteem. Books from the 80’s talked about how people could dress for success, and now we have personal shoppers who will match a person’s wardrobe to fit their body type, personality, and career.
People also talk about our need to change the way we think. Tolerance is the buzzword of our day, but we’ve changed the way we view it. It used to be that differences were tolerated and people were free to disagree and discuss their differences. Now tolerance has changed to intolerance because we’re no longer free to disagree.
The Bible also talks about the desperate need for humanity to change before it’s too late.
“Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die … Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31-32 NKJV)
God’s desire is for there to be a change in the way we live so that there can be a change in where we spend eternity, and that change is called repentance. And so today I’d like to talk about a change that we truly can believe in.
As believers we talk about how God has changed our lives. But how does God do that? Does He change our minds, does He do some closed heart surgery, or does He zap our spirits to change us.
There’s also a lot of conflicting advice. We hear people tout our need to wait upon the Lord, while others say, “If it’s meant to be it’s up to me.”
So how do we facilitate change? Is it our responsibility, God’s, or a combination of both?
The Apostle Paul deals with this issue. It’s found in his letter to the Philippian church. And what we see is that both God and ourselves have a part to play.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV)
Underline “work out,” and “work in.” To work out is our part, while to work in is God’s, and what Paul is saying is that we’re to work out, that is, to develop what God is working in.
Notice Paul didn’t tell us to “work for” our salvation. Instead he said to work it out. It’s important to understand we’re not to work for our salvation, which Paul makes clear.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
Getting back to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, it’s important to know that Paul is addressing believers, and since we can’t work for our salvation, what he’s saying is that we are to develop what God has created to us to be. It means growing in our faith, or what is called, sanctification.
Also, by inserting the third person, “your,” he’s telling us to accept personal responsibility for our growth.
God has made each on of us unique, because He doesn’t want cookie cutter Christians. He doesn’t want a bunch of spiritual clones. He doesn’t need another Billy Graham or Mother Theresa; rather He wants us to be exactly what He’s created us to be.
This is why he says we’re to do this with fear and trembling. Now, this doesn’t mean we’re to be afraid of God, but rather we’re to be afraid of missing out on what God has made us to be. Nothing is more important as believers than our own spiritual growth.
Paul then shares with us God’s part in this overall change.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13 NKJV)
The word Paul uses for “works” is where we get our word “energizer,” or “energy.” God is the energizer for change. He’s the One who will give us the power to do what we know needs to be done.
I believe this is why Paul said later on, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)