INTRODUCTION… Change (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/change.htm)
On June 4, 1783 at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a huge taffeta bag 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of "a respectable assembly and a great many other people," and accompanied by great cheering, the balloon was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went -- the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil!
We certainly don’t like change!
INTRODUCTION II… Change (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/change.htm)
When the railroads were first introduced to the U.S., some folks feared that they'd be the downfall of the nation! Here's an excerpt from a letter to then President Jackson dated January 31, 1829:
As you may know, Mr. President, 'railroad' carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by 'engines' which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.
Martin Van Buren Governor of New York
We certainly do not like change!
Change is one of the most difficult aspects of life that happens to all of us. Things do not stay the same because technology, relationships, jobs, prices, our health and just about everything else changes at one time or another. People die and things change. We lose a job and things change. Leadership changes. Our kids and grandkids get older and things change. Computer processing gets faster and faster and things change. The list could go on and on.
It really does not matter what aspect of life you want to look at, change is part of it and we have to either accept it or resist it. Change basically means something has ended and there is a chance for a new beginning. It occurs to me, however, that not all change is good.
* Coke tried to change their formula in 1985 and it lasted 3 months and changed it back after protests.
* Taco Bell changed its prices from .49, .59, .69 in the 1980s and it is certainly more expensive now… poor college students and large families could all go out to eat at Taco Bell for just a few bucks… not anymore.
* I remember gas at .99 a gallon. Now .99 worth of gas won’t get you out of the parking lot.
My point is this, change is a natural part of life, but we do not have to accept all change. What changes should we accept? What changes should we go after? What changes should we praise God for when they come? How do we identify those changes that will indeed give us a new beginning? These are not necessarily easy questions to answer because most of us dislike change so much. Yet there are times when change is desperately needed or when change is thrust upon us. Luke 5 is a portion of Scripture which concludes with three pictures of change that give us a great perspective on accepting change.
I. ACCEPT CHANGE THAT HEALS YOU FROM THE PAST
We find our first perspective in Luke 5:12-15 and it is one that deals with healing.
READ Luke 5:12-15
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
“Leprosy” is a word that is not used much in the United States because we have advanced medicine that treat these infectious and damaging skin diseases and it has become an issue that we do not deal with. For others in Brazil, India, and parts of Africa it is a real issue that is still being worked on (http://www.who.int/lep/en/). In Jesus’ day, there was no cure and no medicine to ease suffering and people stricken were separated from those who were not infected. They were considered “unclean” and should have no contact with people who were “clean.” It’s just safer that way. You may remember in MGMs 1959 film “Ben Hur” which showed that lepers were kept outside the city in a colony… this was accurate of what life was like in Jesus’ day. Lepers had to be separated from their families. Lepers could not work. Lepers relied on charity. Lepers were the lowest of society and shunned at all possible times.
This man sees Jesus and sees an opportunity to be made “clean” (verse 12). He wants to be healed. He wants to see his family again. He wants to have his life back. Make no mistake, the man is asking Jesus to change his situation. His healing would bring change. Jesus amazingly touches the man (quite significant by the way!) and not only heals him but pronounces him clean. The first perspective we see in Luke 5 is that we should accept change that heals you from the past.
What is it you are dealing with from your past that makes you feel like a leper? What is the “leprosy” in your life that changes can heal and enable you to move forward? I see in Luke 5 that we should accept change that allows us to be freed from past sin, past guilt, past shame, and past failure. We serve a Risen Savior that is willing to heal you from the past. Isaiah 53:4-6 tells us, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus died so that we could be free! Once you accept healing from Jesus Christ, we should then accept the change that comes with it.
Accept the change that you can no longer go to sports bars and stay away from alcohol to keep your addiction in check.
Accept the change that you do not engage in sex unless you are married to that person to keep yourself from sexual sin.
Accept the change that your spouse monitors your finances so that you don’t gamble to keep your self-control.
Accept the change of an attitude of forgiveness towards the person who verbally abused you so that you are not holding on to bitterness.
Accept the change of an attitude of forgiveness towards your former spouse so that you are not stuck in the past and tied to sin.
Changes are not all bad. Certainly change is good if it enables you to be healed from the past and to move forward with a fresh spirit and a new healed outlook on life.
II. ACCEPT CHANGE THAT GETS YOU MOVING TOWARDS GOD
We find our second perspective in Luke 5:16-26 and it is one that deals with holiness.
READ Luke 5:16-26
16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. 17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."
I love this passage of Scripture for so many reasons. One of the reasons is that it is quite obvious that the friends of this paralyzed man loved him dearly… enough to get him on a roof, dig through, and then lower him into Jesus’ presence. The other reason is that it is a wonderful miracle. This man has been paralyzed for who knows how long. He was unable to work. He was unable to run or walk or swim or do any of the things that the others around him could do. He was stuck in place. It was a common belief in Jesus’ day that if a person was ill or maimed in some way, it was because of sin. We see that specifically in John 9:2 when the disciples ask who sinned that the man was born blind. Illness and sickness were tied to sin in their minds. Because of this belief, a person could never know they were forgiven until they were healed. Like the leper, this man was asking Jesus to change his situation.
We of course know today that not all illness is tied to sin… sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. In this particular case, it seems that Jesus, in verse 20, heals the man not only in his body but in his spirit as well. Jesus came to heal those who were physically sick and soul-sick. Jesus tells him “your sins are forgiven” and the man is able to move. His feet move. Feeling comes back to his knees. His paralysis is gone. I want you to notice what the man did after he was healed in verse 25 and what all the other people watching did in verse 26. He “went home praising God” and all the other people “gave praise to God.” The miracle led them towards God. The second perspective we see in Luke 5 is that we should accept change that gets you moving towards God.
I know that in this passage it is quite obvious that the man is physically paralyzed, but because Jesus said “your sins are forgiven” I cannot help but think he had faith issues as well. Are you in such a state? Are you in a spiritually paralyzed state? Is your faith stagnant and unmoving? Have you been just going through the motions with God? Are you a pew sitter who just comes and checks the box that you were in church and you hope no one asks you do actually do anything? Is your faith moving you towards holiness with God or are you paralyzed and unmoving?
Philippians 3:10-15 says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”
Did you catch what Paul said at the very end? People who are mature in their faith want to know the power of Christ, want to fellowship with Him, press on to increase their faith, strain towards holiness and hope, and press on in faithfulness. Verse 15 tells us if you think differently, you are mistaken. True mature faith in Jesus Christ is moving and active and bears fruit for God. True mature faith in Jesus Christ means you do not gave to tie fruit onto your life, but it grows naturally from your faith. So I ask you again, Are you in a spiritually paralyzed state? Is your faith stagnant and unmoving? Have you been just going through the motions with God? If so, it is time for a change!
Accept the change that you must be in the Bible daily and get up earlier or watch less TV.
Accept the change that you must use your money the way God wants you to and so you start tithing and you buy less “stuff” for yourself.
Accept the change that you must get to church at 930am for Sunday School which means you sleep a little less or eat your breakfast faster.
Accept the change that you must get into a LOGOS team at church to fellowship and learn which means you have one less night a week all to yourself.
Accept the change that you can’t just sit in the pew and do nothing and volunteer for the dozens of needs we have around the church.
Overall, the point is that we must accept the changes in life that move us from being stagnant and immature in our faith to moving towards Jesus Christ and being mature in our faith.
III. ACCEPT CHANGE THAT GOD COMMANDS
We find our third perspective in Luke 5:27-31 and it is one that deals with obedience.
READ Luke 5:27-31
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
In Jesus’ day, Jewish tax collectors actually did all the work for the occupying Roman government. Jewish tax collectors were hated by the masses because they were traitors to Rome collecting money for them, but also because most would extort money from the people and make huge profits for themselves. They were wealthy at the expense of others. Their loyalties were a little murky. And so there sat Levi the traitorous tax collector. Levi is also known as Matthew. There sat Levi in his booth collecting taxes for the hated Romans and making money hand over fist. And then came Jesus. Jesus said two words to him, “Follow me.”
I want you to notice that the word “follow” is in the imperative mood when it comes to languages. That means it was a command. It was not a suggestion or a possibility or a guideline, but a command. Jesus said, “Follow.” Matthew then had a choice… didn’t he? He could stay sitting in the tax collector’s booth and ignore the command of Jesus of Nazareth or he could get up, leave his job behind, and follow Christ. The change means a new job and calling. The change means less money. The change means his life would be totally different. Which is better? What should he choose? What would you tell him if Matthew asked you… ‘what should I do?’ We would of course tell Matthew that following Jesus no matter the changes is best in this life and eternally better than all other choices. So why don’t we take our own advice? The third perspective we see in Luke 5 is that we should accept change that God commands.
This perspective is a little different than the other two. The leper asked for healing. The paralytic asked for healing. Matthew was just sitting there and Jesus comes to him and lays out a command. God commands and we, like Matthew, have a choice whether or not to obey. When it comes to our own life we often balk at obeying God’s commands because most of the time following God means we have to change our plans, change our finances, change our vacation, change how we spend our days, change our habits, change our pleasures, and the list goes on. Change that God commands is the kind of change that we should put ourselves fully into! Why? Because God’s way for us is the absolute best. We will be most happy, most full of joy, and most content when we follow the commands of God.
1 John 2:3-6 tells us very plainly, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
Accept the change that you must forgive one another and let go of the grudges you have and stop punishing the people around you.
Accept the change that you cannot be greedy and live within your means and stop gratifying your physical nature by instantly purchasing everything and putting it on a credit card.
Accept the change that God wants you to actually talk to people about your faith instead of using the excuse that you are shy or the bosses at your work frown upon it. “Just live it out as an example” is a bunch of junk.
Accept the change that it matters that you don’t rest on the Sabbath, steal from work, and take the Lord’s name in vain and you must act differently.
Jesus is walking up to each and every one of us today and He is not suggesting, implying, or outlining that maybe we should follow Him. He commands we follow Him and we need to pursue and accept the changes necessary to do that.
IV. RATIONALE FOR CHANGE: SO THAT YOUR INSIDE MATCHES YOUR OUTSIDE
Luke finishes chapter 5 of his Gospel by recording some teaching of Jesus that occurred after He heals the leper, the paralytic, and calls Matthew to be a disciple. I hope you understand that not all change is bad and some change is necessary. We should accept change that heals us from the past. We should accept change that moves us towards God. We should accept change that God commands.
I hope you are asking one last question this morning. I hope you are asking: “Why?” Why should I do that? Why should I change to pattern my life after Jesus Christ? Why should I change and forgive? Why should I change how I spend my money? Why should I change what I do and where I go and how I talk? Why should I get out of an utterly sinful relationship? Why do any of that?
I’m glad you asked. I believe it is because our inside needs to match our outside.
READ Luke 5:33-39
33 They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." 34 Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast." 36 He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'"
Jesus says many things at the end of chapter 5. He teaches the Pharisees and the disciples that He will not be with them forever and that His time on earth is limited (verse 35). Jesus teaches those standing around that He is teaching a new and more full way of living and not all the patterns of the past will fit (verse 36). Most of all I think Jesus teaches the disciples, the Pharisees, and anyone who will listen that their inside must match the outside. Inside an old wineskin one expects vintage wine. Inside a new wineskin one expects new wine. Mixing the two does not work as the new wine ferments in an old skin… it breaks and everything is useless. Everything works best when the inside matches the outside.
Jesus teaches the same thing in Matthew 23:24-28 when He says, “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Jesus wants our insides to match our outsides. This makes us authentic disciples of Jesus. This makes us authentic worshippers of God. I want that for me and I hope you want that for yourself.
In order to reach the goal of our inside matching the outside of our lives change needs to occur. Not change that we can ignore, but change that we need to pursue and accept.
So I suppose I must ask you today what changes you need to make in your life. Any change that comes your way that enables your inside to match your outside in Christ Jesus is a change worthy of pursuing and worthy of accepting. I don’t know what changes need to happen in your life.
Are they changes that will lead to healing for you?
Are they changes that get you moving towards God?
Are they changes that God commands?
Pursue them. Accept them.