A message presented Sunday, September 20, 2020 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
I’m beginning today’s message with what I will refer to as a universal truth:
In our world, change is inevitable.
I’ll add to this truth and quote John Maxwell, whose specialty as an author, speaker and pastor, is in leadership:
“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
—John C. Maxwell 1
His statement has application in a number of different areas, and many people have used it to promote their own theories or ideas for self-promotion. This is a common approach within our culture. Catchphrases are often used because they help people to remember products or endeavors. In this case, we are looking at not one but two universal truths within this statement:
Change is inevitable.
Growth is optional.
So let’s look more closely at these truths as we examine the tenets of our Christian faith. Some of this will be an exploration into common sense, and some will hit close to home for a number of us, but in all cases, I want you to consider the premise of how we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are called to do a very important thing as we continue to build upon our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:
Standing firm in your faith in Jesus Christ.
In spite of change, we are to stand firm in Christ.
In order to grow, you must make the choice to stand firm in Christ.
Let’s explore this together…first, with the inevitability of change.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
The verses that follow this passage in Ecclesiastes, which you can look at on your own, reveal various stages of events in life that involve some sort of change. Birth, death, dancing, mourning, war and peace. Change is indeed inevitable.
First, I note that there are a number of people that I have known over the years who don’t like change very much. I’ll avoid using names and just leave it with “you know who you are.” It’s also important to note that most people understand that things are going to change over time, but it doesn’t mean that the change is comfortable.
The level of comfort that experienced with change has much to do with how God is communicating with you in that change. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. It helps to prepare you for the second part of John Maxwell’s quote—the area of growth.
Now let’s expand upon this change to look at how it has impacted our world values. Much of this change has diminished the importance of family values and morality. We are now looking at areas where lines are being blurred in areas of sexuality and gender identity. Much of these have been folded under the umbrella of diversity. It is true that it is illegal to discriminate against minorities, but it is also applies to one’s choice of sexuality and gender, as well. There is now open discussion over these issues in a number of organizations and workplaces because of recent news events.
So, how is the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to respond to these changes that have now taken place?
The answer is very simple. Love everyone…and stand firm in your faith.
I go back to the verse of John 3:16-17 as to how Jesus wants every one of us to understand the importance of loving everyone without compromising truth. Loving one another is by no means a contradiction to the principles of your faith, as some have implied or perhaps have even taught within the Christian faith. Loving one another is a command of Jesus Christ.
John 3:16-17 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 13:34 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
These verses reflect God’s love for everyone and also the importance of not condemning those that He loves. Please understand that, as a part of His new covenant, Jesus has always sought after every living person in the desire to give them eternal life with Him. It is an ongoing effort, and it is His nature to seek after the lost (John 3:17).
1 Timothy 2:3-6 ESV
This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.
And let’s throw in that Jesus is very patient and operates with grace in order to accomplish reaching others with His testimony:
2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Here is where change—spiritual change in one’s life—is nothing but good. In order to live eternally with Jesus, there must be a change in your life.
And yet this change is indeed optional. It comes down to a choice to acknowledge the need for Jesus to lead and guide through the paths of life.
Here is something for each of us to consider as we face change and differences with those that are not following Jesus: God loves everyone. You are not called to change your beliefs as you befriend others. You are called to love others. Love the sinner, and hate the sin.
We are to hate the sin because God knows what it does. We certainly know what it does to us. But even as we acknowledge what sin does to us, it doesn’t change how we are to look at the other person. Do you get it?
Let’s take a close look at the passage in John Chapter 4 about Jesus and the woman from Samaria:
John 4:1-9 ESV
1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Let’s consider the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. There are so many things to look at here that were outside of the norms of society that we cannot possibly ignore them. Keep this in mind, please, as we move along.
Jesus, a Jew, spoke to a Samaritan woman. It was a no-no back then, and yet, here He was speaking to her.
When speaking to people that have a difference in how they see life, please speak to them and treat them as human beings. This is the essence of God’s love.
Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
1 Peter 4:8 ESV
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Your attitude is to be that of Christ. It doesn’t matter what the other person believes. Period.
Let’s continue with the Samaritan woman and her dialogue with Jesus and pick up with His response to her comment about speaking to her in the first place.
John 4:10-15 ESV
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to the woman that if she knew about God’s gift AND if she knew who He was, she would have asked for the living water, and He also referred to the words “eternal life.” As He was speaking to her, there was a desire for her to learn more about who this man was.
Listen to our truth once again…”Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” The woman had to make a choice to grow and learn more from hearing the words of Jesus. Not everyone will respond this way. It’s a choice left up to the individual.
Following Jesus Christ is not compulsory. It is a choice. That does not change how we are to speak to those who have philosophical differences. Love always prevails in any situation like this. That is how we, as believers, are to live.
Romans 13:8 ESV
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
And just as a reminder, note that Scripture addresses when there are differences between people, even within the body of Christ. We are to always take the high road.
Romans 12:17-18 ESV
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
It is a passage of grace, humility and forgiveness. This is how we are to live with Christ-like behavior.
Always take the high road in your communication with others.
Back to Jesus and the woman from Samaria:
John 4:16-18 ESV
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Well now—here is an important factor as we strive to remain in the quest for loving Jesus Christ, especially when speaking with others who have different lifestyles. Jesus was already speaking with authority here, but she also knew the heart of the woman. He knew that she knew that her lifestyle was not what it should be. So now that this was revealed, notice how Jesus did not condemn her with her comments. Words to the wise. Even when speaking to someone that reveals information to you about their lifestyle, it is not for you to offer condemnation or judgment. God’s Word always stands on its own. You are still to love the other person…no matter what.
A second reminder about Jesus and His command to us:
John 13:34 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
It is important to note that the difference between you as a believer in Jesus with others is the foundational love you have for Jesus Christ and all that it represents. This, in itself, reflects a change that has to take place each day as we learn more about Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:2 refers to the renewal of our mind when it comes to this change, and it happens in order that we become more like Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Let’s finish up with the last part of the dialogue between Jesus and the woman.
John 4:19-26 ESV
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Jesus spoke to the woman respectfully and knew that she was very knowledgeable about some aspects of worship. She just needed guidance and direction as to where that worship should be.
When speaking with others who have a different philosophy about life, we are to remain sensitive to the Spirit as to how to provide direction and instruction, and honestly, we are always to stay in that lane. The moment that we exit from following the love of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can lose our ministry before others.
All of this can be accomplished in Christ as He did without compromise of the Word. We are to do as Jesus Christ did for others throughout His ministry.
Do not condemn.
Speak to others as human beings as you lean on the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you continue reading in John Chapter 4, you can see what the power of love and compassion, without condemnation, can do for the cause of Christ:
John 4:28-30, 39-42 ESV
28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Jesus knew that His communication with the woman would create the multiplier effect. A woman who was well known in town sang the praises of Jesus Christ, and many came to a saving knowledge of Christ because of her testimony. Through Jesus, she was an agent of change.
We can’t always know how Christ will use us or even the people we speak to, but if we are always thinking about the change that Jesus can have in the lives of others, we can be effective servants for Him and give Him the glory when He calls upon us to speak on His behalf
This is a radical approach in today’s world of change. But so was Christ’s ministry on earth. If you live in this manner, you are in very good company.
Love changes everything.
1 Stoner, D., Maxwell, J. C. (2019, February 08). Change is Inevitable. Growth is Optional. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.livingcompass.org/wwow/change-is-inevitable-growth-is-optional
© 2020 Melvin Gaines