Do you ever get on your own nerves? Really – do you get tired of struggling through the same battles and wondering if you'll ever get right the things in your life that have been wrong. I drive myself crazy a lot because I go through a period where I'm learning a lot, I'm surrendering my heart and sensing a real closeness with the Lord and then – BAM! – I start to fall in one area after another – selfishness, impatience, anger, lack of discipline and organization. I'm one messed dude. (I'm sure that’s something everyone wants to hear from their pastor!)
Christianity means change is possible - deep, fundamental change. It is possible -
• to be disciplined when you, at one time, weren’t
• to become tenderhearted when you were once hard and insensitive
• to stop being dominated by bitterness and anger
• to become a loving person no matter what your background has been
The Bible assumes God is the decisive factor in making us what we should be. With spectacular bluntness the Bible says to put away malice and be tender-hearted. It does not say –
• If you can…
• If your parents were tender-hearted to you…
• If you weren’t terribly wronged…
It says - be tender-hearted.
This is incredibly freeing - it frees us from the terrible fatalism that says, “Change is impossible for me”. It frees me from enslaving views that make my background my destiny. If I was in prison and Jesus walked into my cell and said, “Leave this place tonight,” I might be stunned, but if I trusted His goodness and power, I would feel a rush of hope that freedom is possible.
If it is night and the storm is raging and the waves are breaking high over the pier, and the Lord comes to me and says, “Set sail tomorrow morning,” there is a burst of hope in the dark. He is God. He knows what He is doing. His commands are not throw-away words – they always come with freeing, life-changing truth to believe.
For example – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4.32-5.2)
1. God adopted us as his children - We have a new Father and a new family. This breaks the fatalistic forces of our “family-of-origin.” Matthew 23.9, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”
2. God loves us as his children - We are loved children. The command to imitate the love of God does not hang in the air, it comes with power: be imitators of God as loved children. Love is the command and being loved is the power.
3. God has forgiven us in Christ - Be tender-hearted and forgiving just as God in Christ forgave you. What God did gives us power to change. The command to be tender-hearted has more to do with what God did for you than what your mother did to you. This kind of command means you can change.
4. Christ loved you and gave himself up for you - Walk in love just as Christ loved you. The command comes with life-changing truth - Christ loved you. At the moment when there is a chance to love and some voice says, “You are not a loving person,” you can say, “Christ’s love for me makes me a new kind of person. His command to love is just as surely possible for me as his promise of love is true for me”.
Let's pray together, for our lives and our church, as St. Augustine did, “Lord command what you will and grant what you command”!