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The Process of Change

In the game of tribond, you are given three words and your job is to determine what those three words have in common. 

For example, if I say the words Christmas, family, and oak – what do these things all have in common? They are all kinds of trees.

How about this one: dentures, bats, stars – they all come out at night

How about this one: skates, the lawn, and your shoulder – they all have blades.

How about this one: oil, a diaper, batteries – and as a bonus word, Christians

Answer: They are all things that are frequently changed!

  • Every 5000 km, you’ve got to change oil in your car. 
  • Every few hours you’ve got to change the diaper on your baby. 
  • Every few months, you’ve got to change the batteries in your remote
  • And every day, if you’re a Christian, you’ve got to change to become more like Christ.

And of course, this is all a segway into today’s message.

If you haven’t been with us recently, we’ve been going though a series called Visual Theology.

It’s based on a book called “Visual Theology” by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. And as you can see on the title page, there are four main sections that we’ve been looking at.

So far, we’ve looked at growing close to Christ. We’ve looked at understanding the work of Christ, and today we are beginning to look at becoming like Christ.

And that’s why I’m bring up this whole idea of change – because becoming like Christ requires change.

As you read through the Bible, you will not find one single person who accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour and then didn’t change! It’s just not possible! No one who enters into an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ can ever remain the same. Change is a required part of the equation.

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The Value of Doctrine

Last week we began part two of our Visual Theology message series. You’ll recall that there are four main sections that we want to look at – four reasons why we study theology. 

#1. We want to grow close to Christ, 

#2. we want to understand the work of Christ, 

#3. we want to become like Christ, and 

#4. we want to live for Christ.

Those four things really summarize the four basic goals of the Christian life!

So last week we began looking at “Understanding the work of Christ” and we started with a super-condensed summary of everything that God has been doing since time began. We saw how all of history is part of God’s unfolding drama.  It’s like God is the ultimate writer and director, the world is the stage, and all of mankind are the actors. 

And we divided up this drama into four main acts.

  • Act 1 is Creation where God created the world and made everything good. 
  • Act 2 is the Fall where mankind chose to rebel against God and thus introduced sin and its consequences into the world. 
  • Act 3 is Redemption where God sent his Son Jesus to save us from our sin and it’s terrible consequences.
  • Act 4 is New Creation where God will finally eliminate sin and will once again make everything right.

And we discovered that we are currently living in Act 3 – where everyone of us has the opportunity to respond to God’s gracious offer of redemption which was made possible for us by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now is the time to make that decision. Now is the time to invite others to make that decision. Because at any moment, we could move into Act 4 when Christ returns to judge and eliminate sin and to restore His good creation for all who have been redeemed.

So last week really was a really big picture of what God is doing in the world.

Now today we’re going to shift our focus just a little bit. This morning, I want to spend some time talking about doctrine.

Now the word ‘doctrine’ is just about as intimidating as the word ‘theology’ – but it isn’t as scary as you might think. Doctrine really just means ‘teachings’. In the context of the church, it simply refers to what we believe and teach about God, about the Bible, about salvation, about ourselves, about the church, and all that stuff.

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The Great Drama of God

About six weeks ago we began our visual theology message series – based on the book by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. And as you can see on the title page, there are four main components that make up this series. These are like the four reasons why we want to study Theology (or why we want to study God)… These are four things that every Christian should want to do.

#1. We want to grow close to Christ, 

#2. we want to understand the work of Christ, 

#3. we want to become like Christ, and 

#4. we want to live for Christ.

Those are the four main reasons why we are studying theology – and these four components form the basic outline for these messages. 

In the first component, which Greg just finished for us last week, we talked all about how to grow close to Christ. In that section, we talked about everything from how the Gospel connects us to Christ to our new identity in Christ. We looked at how God speaks to us through the Bible, and how we speak to God through prayer. These are the basics of growing close to Christ.

The second component of this series (that we’re going to start looking at today) is designed to help us understand the work of Christ. In other words, not only do we want to have a personal relationship with Christ, but be also want to understand what He is doing in the world. This is a key element of the Christian faith – we need to understand what God has done, what He is doing right now, and what He’s going to do in the future.

You see, the Bible tells us that we are living smack-dab in the middle of an incredible story! We are all part of God’s unfolding drama. Our life on this planet is just one scene in an eternal, cosmic story that’s been playing out since time began. It’s like God is the ultimate writer and director and the world is the stage for his drama to unfold.

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The Bible Does…

So last week we were reminded of the many characteristics of the Bible.

It’s authoritative. It’s trustworthy. It’s without error. It’s alive. It’s powerful. It’s cohesive. It’s truth. It is the Word of God.

Simply knowing what the Bible is should be reason enough for us to want to spend time daily reading God’s Word – hearing what God has to say to us.

But we can’t stop with just reading it. Simply reading God’s Word isn’t enough. That’s a critical step #1, but step #2 is equally important – and that is that we have believe it and obey it. We have to live our lives in a way that reflects what we’ve just read.

James talks about this in James chapter 1, starting at verse 21….

So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
James 1:21-25

We can’t just read the Bible – we have to accept it as truth and then live accordingly! If we don’t, James says it’s like glancing at your face in the mirror. Most of us do this every morning, we get up glance into the bathroom mirror – and we’re usually appalled at what we see! Crusties in the corners of our eyes, hair looking like we just went at it with the weed-whacker, drool residue on the side of our face – maybe even some pimples that grew up over night.

When we look in the mirror, the mirror tells us the painful truth. We’ve got some issue that we need to deal with. The question is: What do we do when we see that truth?

Do we walk away and forget what we look like? Do we just go on through our day oblivious to the disaster on our face? Hopefully not! As I look out at your smiling faces this morning, it looks like most of you – when you saw the truth in the mirror this morning – you did something about it!

You combed your hair. You washed your face. You popped the pimples or whatever…. But you addressed the issues that you saw in the mirror.

Well, we have to do that when we read the Bible too! When we read the Bible, it’s very much like a mirror – it shows us the things in our lives that we need to change. It tells us the truth about our situation. It points out the areas where our attitudes and actions are out of line with God’s.

Like we read in 2 Timothy 3:16 last week:

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16

The Bible makes those things quite clear. But the question is: what will we do about it when we see the truth?

When we read those things that point out where we’re off track, will we walk away and just ignore the issues in our life – or will we actually do something about it?

Like James says, we can’t just listen to God’s Word – we must do what it says. Otherwise, we’re only fooling ourselves!

But on the flip side of that, if we do listen to and obey God’s Word – James tells us that we will be blessed. He writes in verse 25….

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The Bible Is…

To begin this morning, I want to ask you a question that I’ve often asked at the end of my messages, but I don’t think I have ever asked it right at the beginning. Preachers will quite often ask a question like this one as the concluding thought of the sermon – it’s the main point that everything has been driving towards. After all has been said and done, this is the question that they want you to take home and think about and hopefully act upon….

And the question is:

Do you have a personal relationship with God?

Normally this question is asked to encourage you to think about accepting Christ as your Saviour – to make that first time decision to follow Jesus and become a Christian.

But that’s not necessarily where I’m going with this one today. 

The question is not “Do you want to become a Christian?” – The question is “Do you have a personal relationship with God?”

And maybe before you answer that question, I should define what a personal relationship is. You see, having a personal relationship with someone requires having personal interactions with them.

For example, I do not have a personal relationship with Donald Trump. I believe he exists. I believe he has said things and done things that have impacted my life (to a certain extent). I’ve even read some of his tweets and heard him speak on tv. But I do not have a personal relationship with him – because the two of us have never had any personal interactions. We’ve never had a conversation – we’ve never emailed back and forth. We’ve had no personal interactions with each other – and therefore I do not have a personal relationship with him.

So when I ask the question “Do you have a personal relationship with God?” – I’m not asking if you believe he exists or if you believe that he has said and done things that have impacted your life. I’m not asking if you’ve read some books about God or heard a preacher preach about God.

I’m asking if you personally have some sort of interactions with God. Are there times when you speak and He listens and are there times when He speaks and you listen? Because that’s what a personal relationship is all about.

It’s two people speaking and listening to each other – it’s the two-way street of communication. Without those back-and-forth interactions, it’s pretty hard to say that you have a personal relationship with someone.

As Christians we have the awesome privilege of having a personal relationship with God. God has invited us to have personal interactions – those back-and-forth conversations with Him – which is pretty amazing when you think about it. 

We think it’s pretty awesome when we meet a famous actor or athlete – We’re thrilled when they say three sentences to us and autograph our posters. But how much more awesome is it that the Creator of the universe wants to connect with you and interact with you on a regular basis?!

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Our Identity in Christ

This morning I want to begin with a mini-interview. I know that Greg has been part of our church for a couple of years now, but I think there are still some people who don’t really know Greg all that well. So I’m going to ask Greg to come up here and I want to have a brief interview with him.

So Greg, come on up here. Actually, I just want to ask you just a single question, but I think this question will really help us get some insight into who you really are. So here is your question: Who are you? That’s the one question I want you to answer. Who are you?

[ Greg to respond several “I am….” statements  ie… I am Rob & Nancy’s son, I am Nicole’s husband,… (uncle, brother, son-in-law, neighbour to, oilers fan, etc…) ]

As you can see, there are a lot of different aspects that make up our identity. Things like the family that we’ve come from or the relationships we’ve grown into –  things like the jobs we have or positions we hold – things like the hobbies we enjoy or the sports teams we cheer for. There are a lot of aspects that blend together to create our identity.

But the interesting thing about our identity is that some aspects never change – while other aspects do. For example, Greg will always be the son of Rob & Nancy Waddy – that will never change. He will always be their child. However, he may not always be an Oiler’s fan. One day He might see the light!

Maybe that’s not the best example. How about this: Last year at this time, he was not the husband of Nicole. But today, he is.

As of August 10, 2019, Greg’s identity changed. And with that, his entire life changed. In fact, he’s probably still adjusting to his new identity as a husband. He’s learning to act like a husband, he’s learning to think like a husband, he’s learning to take on the responsibilities of a husband. And for those of us who have been there, we realize what a huge adjustment it is to take on this new identity that comes with marriage.

But it’s critical that we do take on that identity, because there are always responsibilities and privileges that comes with every aspect of our identity. 

For example, as a child of Rob & Nancy, Greg had many privileges – they fed him for years, they gave him a place to live, they provided for his needs, they gave him love and support. He got that all simply because he was their child. But at the same time, he had some responsibilities to them. He needed to obey them – he was subject to their authority. I’m sure he had some responsibility to help around the house (cleaning his room or washing the dishes or whatever) – and now, as they grow older, he’ll have the responsibility to help to care for them in their old age – and that all comes simply because of his identity their child.

In the same way, when Greg takes on his new identity as a husband – that too comes with certain privileges and responsibilities simply because he is now Nicole’s husband.

So it’s critical that Greg embraces this new identity as a husband. If Greg fails to do this, he is not going to have a happy life! Not only will he miss out on the joys and privileges of being a husband, but if he neglects his responsibilities as a husband, he’s going to cause Nicole to miss out on the joys and privileges of being a wife.

And certainly, embracing and adjusting to his new identity takes time, but it’s so important that Greg makes that transition from living and acting like ‘single Greg’ to living and acting like ‘husband Greg’. 

And I don’t say all this to pick on Greg! Just for the record, I think Greg & Nicole are doing a fantastic job of learning to be husband and wife! But I know it’s a challenge – because I’ve been there. I’m still there! It’s a long process to embrace this new identity!

And the fact is that all of us have to go through this process. Not necessarily the process of taking on a new identity in marriage, but the Bible tells us that then when we accept Christ as our Saviour, we take on a new identity as a Christian.

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