Can We Be Changed?

Section 1. Introduction

  1. In October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg church. His first sentence was, "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent…', he meant that the whole life of believers should be one of penitence." (RUPP & DREWERY, Martin Luther, Edward Arnold 1970, p19). This could be seen as the first sentence of the Reformation, a period of history that has transformed our modern understanding of the church and other doctrines.
  2. This was a reference to Mt 4:17. The word 'repent' is the Greek metanoew, to change one's mind. It stems from the same root as the word metamorphosis. A caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly; our repentance should be a similarly radical transformation (not just saying sorry and then turning to do the same thing again).
  3. Therefore, transformation is at the heart of the gospel. The aim of this sermon is to illustrate the relevance of the question 'Can we be changed?' and provide examples of transformations brought about by the power of God. Secondly, I want to look at how we can have that power work on us and, finally, I want to lay a challenge as to what you are going to do about it.

Section 2. Relevance

  1. Films and other stories - Dead Poet's Society and The Matrix, two of my favourite films, both explore transformations for the better. There are many other stories that do this, as well as stories that instead portray transformation for the worst (eg. Shakespeare's Othello) or that suggest we cannot change at all (That's the Way it Is by ?). Although there are many points of view it remains that it is a common question.
  2. Personal - How much has your personality changed over the past ten or twenty years? Many things seem to stay the same and often what changes is not for the better. For me, positively, as long as I can remember, I've always been ready to eat and drink from other cultures - in terms of food but also in terms of sharing with and appreciating people from other backgrounds. I've never found myself to have a problem with racism, and I'm blessed to be part of such a multicultural church. I don't want to change this! On the other hand, I do have a tendency to procrastinate and put of doing things that I ought to do. Again, I've been like this for years but this is something that, I think, does need changing. What about you?
  3. The Word - Ro 12:2; Col 3:5-10; Eph 4:17-24; Eze 36:26

Section 3. Examples of Transformation

  1. Biblical: Lk 19:1-10; Da 4: 28-37
  2. We Dance Because We Cannot Fly, Guy Chevreaux, Marshall-Pickering 2000): pp 1-4, pp 230 - 233 (précis), p 234
  3. Ugandan history - at this Summer's Revival Fire camp, Arnold Muwonge shared how his native Uganda has had an up and down history over the past century but how it is currently being swept by God's transforming power in many ways.

Section 4. How can we be changed?

  1. Come past the outer courts, past the holy place and enter into the holy of holies (cf. Kyle Horner's sermon from the first night of Revival Fire - in short, he said to be ready to worship, to repent, to keep moving forward, and to focus on God). Come to the place where we are truly in awe of God and what He has done for us.
  2. Go out in the power of God, and walk in the power of the Spirit. Eph 4:1, 5:1-2
  3. Stand firm in resisting the devil and focusing on God (Jas 4:7; Php 4:8)
  4. In other words, sit, walk, stand (cf. Watchman Nee's summary of Ephesians, Sit, Walk, Stand). Look back to what Richard, our pastor, taught on that earlier this year and see what you are doing about it.
  5. Finally, in whatever you find you are lacking, ask God. 2 Ch 7:14

Can We Be Changed? - Cell Group Questions

The following questions were written for use in the Cell groups. Their aim is to look at the practical application of the above message.

Section 1. Knowledge Questions (warm up)

  1. What are the easiest verse, chapter and book of the Bible to memorise? (ans. Jn 11:35; Ps117, 2 John)
  2. What was Jesus' first public sermon? ("Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand", Mt 4:17)

Section 2. Main Questions

  1. Explore the cultural relevance of the question. Have each person name and briefly describe a film, book, play, song or other window on society that suggests:
    1. We can change for the better
    2. We can change for the worse
    3. We cannot change
    You may not want to have each person name an example of each category, but try to ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute.
  2. Do you believe that God can transform individuals and societies? Give an example to support your opinion. Again, make sure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute.
  3. Can you pinpoint any changes that have happened in your life since you became a Christian? It may help others if you briefly describe when and how you became a Christian. If you are not a Christian, you may instead want to ask, "Have you seen God make any changes in your life?"

Section 3. Groupwork and Accountability

  1. In pairs or threes, identify an area in which you want to see God's transforming power at work. This might be in your life, in the lives of others you know or even in a whole society. What will you do to help bring that about? How can the other people in the small group support this desire, either practically, in prayer or by holding you accountable for your actions and prayer? (Anchor verse: Ps37:4)

Wulf F-B, August 2000

Section Index: Believing

On being a christian

General background
Songlist 2004
Songs sung at HGBC this year
Cell Groups
Read about the Cell concept
Covering aspects of faith

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