Episode 1. The Power to Change
They say that old habits die hard. It’s true. And it’s even truer about bad habits. Have you noticed how difficult it is to get rid of bad habits. Some … me included … some would say, it’s …
They say that old habits die hard. It’s true. And it’s even truer about bad habits. Have you noticed how difficult it is to get rid of bad habits? Some … me included … would say, it’s virtually impossible. So, what bad habits do you need to get rid of out of your life?
We’ve all been there. There is this one bad habit that we just can’t seem to get rid of. There is this one, no let me start again, let’s call a spade a spade, there is this one sin that we just can’t seem to get rid of. That’s better, sin – it’s the right word. I know that some find that word just a tad confronting maybe even anachronistic, a bit old fashioned, irrelevant in this day and age. And I understand that.
If we focus on today, our lives here and now, it can seem just a bit irrelevant. But if we zoom out and look at our lives as a whole we can see how our sin, the bad things we’ve done, has left a trail of destruction in our lives and in the lives of others. Zoom out a bit further and look at the whole world and you can see how sin, the sin of men and women and even young folk, is tearing families and societies and nations apart.
Now twist the lens some more and zoom out even further and look at the whole of the history of humanity and the thing that’s wrecked a great world and a great plan has been what? The sin of humanity, the hatred, the selfishness, the anger, the wars, the exploitation, the genocide.
Think about it, God gave us a perfectly good world in which to live. I mean He’s given us an amazing world, an amazing universe in which to live. He’s created each one of us so incredibly, the way our bodies function, the incredible talents and gifts and potential that each one of us has.
And yet somehow humankind has been on a course of self- destruction, whether down in our personal lives or in the geopolitical events that are sweeping the globe today, the destructive power of sin is as plain as the nose on my face and yours, you just can’t miss it. Its effects are totally devastating.
And yet we kid ourselves that somehow our personal little brand of sin, whatever that may happen to be, doesn’t really matter. I’m not such a bad person, really I’m not. Okay I get this wrong, I get that wrong but I’m not that bad. Everybody’s entitled to one or two bad habits, aren’t they?
Do you see how easy it is to rationalise our own personal sin when the truth is that the cumulative effect of my sin and yours and everyone else’s is what sets us on a course to destruction? Do you see how easy it is to downgrade our sin and write it off as just a bad habit?
So deep down we know that sin is sin even if we don’t like to admit it to ourselves and what’s more we use the sin of others as our excuse to escalate our sin and get revenge. The problem is, call it sin, call it a bad habit, it’s the same thing. But try as we might we can’t seem to shake it, it’s entrenched, its deep graven in our flesh. We know the difference between right and wrong, we know what’s right to do, it’s just that we can’t seem to do it, have you noticed?
The reason for that is that it was always meant to be like that. The reason for that is that God wants to have a relationship with us. And the only way, THE only way that that’s going to happen is through what He does and what He has, in point of fact, already done for us not through what we do for ourselves.
Have a listen to this, it was written by the Apostle Paul a couple of thousand years ago. He was writing about this self same problem that you and I have, the problem that even though we know what’s right we can’t seem to do it, Romans chapter 7, verses 21 to 23.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what’s good evil lies close at hand. You see I delight in the law of God in my innermost self but I see my members another law at war with the law of my mind making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members, wretched man that I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?
That’s rather a good question, who indeed? Well our first response, yours and mine, is to get a handle on our sin, when we finally do and decide for ourselves, ‘You know what, I just have to do better. I just have to stop sinning. I have to overcome this one bad habit that’s totally ruining my life – my anger, my gossip, my jealousy, my smoking or my over eating’. Or whatever other addiction happens to be plaguing us.
It’s just that it never works and in fact that’s exactly what Paul goes on to say just a few verses later in Romans chapter 8, verses 3 and 4.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, couldn’t do by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and to deal with sin, he has actually condemned sin in the flesh so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
Let’s just focus on the first part of that for a moment. God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. In other words the law, a bunch of rules, is completely and utterly powerless to help us to change and get rid of this rubbish particularly when those rules, in effect, are weakened by our own sinfulness.
So many people, So many people believe with all their hearts in Jesus and yet because they themselves can’t seem to overcome their sin they live with a constant sense of guilt and condemnation before God. Well if you know anyone like that I have some good news for you today. Who will rescue me from this body of sin and death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord for there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death because God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, couldn’t do by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and to deal with sin he condemned sin in the flesh so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit. (Romans 7:25 to Romans 8: 1-4)
What Paul’s saying there is the answer is Jesus, the answer is grace. But the grace of God in Jesus Christ is something that you and I struggle to get our minds around because grace is completely unnatural to us.
And that’s why today we’re kicking off a series of messages that I’ve called The Grace Transformation. The only thing that is ever going to change us, the only thing that is ever going to transform our lives by gradually getting rid of sin that is so destructive is the amazing grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Amazing Grace is one of my favourite hymns but every time I sing it,I wonder to myself whether I really grasp what grace is all about, do you? Do you have a real handle on the amazing grace that God afforded to you by the death of Jesus on that cross to pay for your sins?
I think I’m going to spend the rest of eternity and then some trying to wrap my heart around the grace of God. But as we begin to do that what we discover is that the transformation and the freedom we’ve been trying to make happen in our own lives and failing miserably, just starts to happen of its own accord as the Holy Spirit makes grace real in our lives.
You have been saved by nothing more and nothing less than the incredible grace of God, the unmerited favour of God, the sovereign decision of God to spare your life and to give you a new start and a new eternity by heaping the punishment that you so richly deserve onto Jesus on that cross.
And if it is by grace it is no longer on the basis of works otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)
So as we spend some time together in this series over these coming days my prayer for you is that the grace transformation that God intends for you will become a reality in your life as you come to know the truth and that truth sets you free.