Keep the Change
October 14, 2007
Do you remember back in the day—I’m talking about junior-high school—when you went to the skating rink? Did anyone go roller skating? “Couples only, couples only.” Does that bring back memories?
How about this? “You put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and shake it all about. You do the hokey-pokey, and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about.”
I love that song. Let’s stand and do that together. Come on. Everyone, we’re going with the right foot first, okay? “Put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and shake it all about. You do the hokey-pokey, and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about.” You sound great!
You know, when it comes to change; when it comes to transforming our lives, isn’t it true that a lot of us just put our right foot in and kind of do the hokey-pokey, and we don’t really get involved in deep and everlasting change? Isn’t it so true? We change the exterior as opposed to the interior. We get stuck in the superficial as opposed to those significant changes.
“I need to change.” We all would admit that. Yet, it’s sort of paradoxical. Change only occurs when we come to the end of our efforts, and when we throw up our hands and say, “God, I can’t.” Isn’t that interesting? Change happens when I say, “I can’t.”
God, who does not change, is all about change. Change is from the outside. It comes from the outside in. Because when we say, “I can’t;” when we open the lid of our lives and invite Jesus to come in, this exchange takes place. We exchange our guilt for his grace, our failures for his forgiveness, our self-centeredness for the savior of the world.
When Jesus comes into our lives, the first thing he does is place the change agent in our lives. And the Holy Spirit of God, that’s right, redecorates our lives from the inside out. In fact, the number-one thing on his to-do list is to change your life and mine. As we defer to him; as we listen to him; as we walk with him, we experience this thing called change.
When change happens, confession happens. When change happens, repentance happens. What we cover, God uncovers; what we uncover, God covers. How sweet is that?
So often, people that we see live by doing the cover-up thing. Isn’t it true that when we’re covering up—and we’ve all covered up—isn’t it true when we’re like this, that we begin to blame others for our lives? Generation excusers and blaming boomers. “It’s my parents’ fault. My diapers were put on too tight. My nursery was painted orange instead of pink or blue. And that’s why I’m the way I am.”
We begin to live a lie. We’re not truthful with God, we’re not truthful with others, and we’re not truthful with ourselves. And then we find ourselves inviting other people who are covering up stuff to join us under the covers. And we have this invitation-only, black-tie pity party.
What happens, though, when we come clean? What does it mean to tell the truth about our condition? Well, the Bible tags that behavior, that decision, as confession. When we confess our stuff to God, it’s not surprising God. When I confess, I’m agreeing with God. I’m saying, “God, you’re right in declaring my behavior as sin, and I’m wrong in my desire to do it.” That’s what confession means.
We do a 180, which is repentance, and we go the opposite direction by God’s power. And now, we’re covered. We uncover our stuff, but now we’re covered by the grace and the righteousness and the forgiveness of God. And so this is the position to be in. This is the sweet spot of success.
We don’t blame others. Now we take responsibility. “Hey, my bad. I blew it. I fumbled the ball. I messed up. It’s on me.”
We’re honest before God, we’re honest before others; we’re honest with ourselves. We’re not pointing the finger at this person or that institution.
And then we have this strange sensation of being drawn to people who don’t just jam us, but who help us. We find ourselves being drawn to people who encourage us, who challenge us, who pray for us, who bless us.
Change. And this puts us in the spin cycle of success, this process. Now, when I said “spin cycle,” don’t confuse that with the hokey-pokey. I’m not talking about that. The spin cycle of success is change, conflict, growth.
As God tweaks our lives; as he transforms our lives, we experience tension. We face conflict. Conflict happens in life, especially when you take your step of faith and open the lid of your life and invite Christ in. As the change occurs, what happens? You experience some tough times.
And so often they don’t tell you that before you become a Christian. I mean, no one told me, “Ed, the Christian life, walking with Jesus is going to be hard! You’re going to experience a lot of conflict. You’re going to have to swim upstream in many circumstances and situations. The path is a narrow one.” No one told me that. But again, I want to go ahead and tell you, it’s not going to be easy.
But here is where the growth takes place. If we stay with change and negotiate through conflict, we’ll get to growth. So we have change or the tweak, conflict, or maybe the tension, and then we have the peak, the growth. So, change, conflict, growth.
And we have a choice here. We either bail out right before the breakthrough or we don’t. Isn’t it true that a lot of people bail out because of the resistance? “Wow, it’s hard! I’m just going to [singing] put my right foot in, take my right foot out, put my right foot in and shake it all about. I’ll do the hokey-pokey, I’ll turn myself around, I will. That’s what it’s all about. See ya!”
We either do that, or we say, “You know what? I’m going to listen to God. I’m going to follow him. I don’t understand everything, I can’t answer all the questions; yet I’m going to go through this conflict. Because to get to it, we’ve got to go through it.”
And here is where the character is built. Here is where the real stuff is built. If we stay with this, we’re not going to believe what’ll happen. We’ll look back and go, “Wow! God has changed my life, or God is changing my life. It’s tough; it’s about to wear me out. I want to throw in the towel, but God is changing my life.” The spin cycle of success.
You know what God has shown me? God has shown me over the years a perspective that is unique. Because when I look at things with my perspective, man, I’m all jacked up.
And have you ever wondered why you don’t have a good perspective on life? I mean, isn’t it true that if you’re single—okay, let’s say you’re a student. How in the world can you hook up with the right person; how in the world can you hang out with the right person if you’re covered up like this?
You can’t. You have a warped perspective. You can see your feet. That’s about it. You don’t know how to negotiate the maze of life. You don’t know how to make those wise choices. You don’t know how to make those great decisions. And you can easily fall over the edge and the ledge.
If I uncover my stuff, I can see. Wow! Look at this, man. I can see. I can see what God has for me and all these relationships and my career and which university to attend and where I should go and who I should hang out with. Wow, this is the way to go.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV), “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…”
It’s fascinating that the writer of Scripture chose the word “heart,” because the heart is the seat of our emotions. Our world says, “Go with your heart.” “Girl, trust your heart.”
Well, when I go with my heart and trust my heart, I’m all messed up. I need to trust God with my heart. I need to let go of my heart and give it to God.
[the verse continues] “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…” When I lean on my own understanding, I have my own perspective. I’m messed up. “…in all your ways acknowledge him…” Not just a few ways, in all your ways.
“Wait a minute, Ed. You’re talking about my dating relationship?” Yeah, in all your ways. “You’re talking about my sex life?” In all your ways. “You talking about my finances?” In all your ways acknowledge him.
Now, the word “acknowledge” is not like, “Hey, what’s up? Yeah, Jesus is my homeboy.” No, no, no, it’s not; it’s not that stuff. It’s a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord. It is walking in sync with him.
So, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
I love that, straight. Or in some translations it says, “He will give you a direct path.” But again, we’ve got to talk about the perspective thing.
If you have your Bibles, turn to 2 Kings 6, because we’re going to meet a dude who was covered up. I mean, he didn’t know he was like this. He didn’t know he was confused. He didn’t know he had a whack perspective, but he did. His name? Elisha’s servant. That’s the only thing we know about the guy. Elisha’s servant. We don’t know his name; it was just Elisha’s servant. I didn’t say Eli-jah; I said Eli-sha.
They were in Dothan. I’m talking about over in the Middle East, not in the Deep South. No, no, I’m talking about in the Middle East. And the enemy had surrounded Elisha, God’s man of the hour.
Well, obviously, Elisha’s servant got up early to, you know, look around. He was probably sipping his morning espresso, and he saw this army surrounding where they were living. He could see the shields and the spears and everything reflecting in the morning sun. And he began to freak. He was thinking, “Okay, it’s over.”
Well, he woke up Elisha, and here’s what Elisha said. Elisha prayed in 2 Kings 6:17, “‘O Lord, open his eyes, so he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
That’s a prayer that we should pray. So often, we feel like we have a warped perspective. So often, we’re going through the conflict; so often, we don’t know which way is up. “Lord, open my eyes. I want to see the way you see this situation, the way you see this conflict, the way you see this ordeal, the way you see this temptation, the way you see, God. I want to see like you see.” And as we’re walking with change, we’ll begin to do that.
You might be thinking, “Okay, that’s cool, man, change, yeah. I’m feeling you. I mean, I’m golden with change. I mean, things are happening. Yeah, this is all right.”
Well, here’s the question I want to ask you, though. How do you keep the change? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself. I mean, how do we keep the change?
People say, “Keep the change, man. Keep the change.” You ever say that? “Keep the change.” Well, how do we keep the change? We keep the change by the revolve.
Do you know what the word “revolve” means? The word “revolve” means “to be centered.” I love that! I’ve got to revolve my life around something. We’re all revolving our lives around something. I mean, don’t act like you’re not; we all are. What are you revolving your life around?
[On the table is a jar full of sand and a large rock.]
See this on the table? This is a giant rock. And I want to challenge you, if you’re here, if you’re at one of our campuses, if you’re watching this by television, I want to challenge you to revolve your life around this, the Rock.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 (NKJV): “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
The Scripture continues. In Matthew 7:24, Jesus even went on. He said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
So I need to revolve my life around the rock. I need to be centered. The rock is Jesus. The rock is the church, the body of Christ. So what Jesus gave his life for is what I should give my life to. What Jesus gave his life for is what I should give my life to—the church.
The Bible says our lives are containers, dwelling places for God himself. See this sand right here in this container? This sand represents everything in your life and mine, all the decisions, all the choices, all the stuff we do. “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
Jesus said we need to build our lives on the rock. That’s the foundation. He said a man built his house on the rock, Matthew 7. The storms came, the house stood. Then he said another guy—he called him a foolish dude—built his house on the sand. The foundation was the sand. And the storms struck, and it just messed his house up. Blew it away.
Are you revolving your life around the rock or sand? All the sand is all the stuff that we do what we say, what we think, what we feel. And isn’t it true that a lot of people will go, “Okay, okay, man, this is me. I mean, I’m the sandman. I’m the sandwoman. And, okay, I understand that Jesus is the rock, the church. And I’ll just go ahead and fit the church in after everything else. That’s cool.”
But that’s not going to work. And you wonder why your life seems to be overcommitted and over-stimulated and over-the-top. Could it be that you’re revolving your life; could it be that you’re building your house on the foundation of sand?
ILLUS: I have a good friend of mine who lives on the Gulf Coast. And several years ago we were in his little boat just flying down the surf line. And he pointed out to me a house that was right on the water. This house was just beautiful. The sun was rising, and the people were outside having breakfast.
He said, “Ed, the next storm that blows through is going to wipe that house out.”
And I looked at the people, and I knew they had no idea their house was going to be wiped out.
It was built with a sorry foundation. It was not positioned right.
And I’ve got to ask you, what’s holding up your house? What’s holding up your structure? Are you a sandman or a sandgirl? Or are you building it on the rock? Because, I’m telling you, it’s not going to work this way (build on the sand).
And here’s how most of us schedule. We really don’t revolve our lives around the local church. We say we do, but we don’t. Most of us are just doing the hokey-pokey, “Right foot in, right foot out, right foot in, shake it all about. I’ll do the hokey-pokey and turn myself around. That’s what it’s all about.”
We’ve got to revolve our lives around the church. So every time I have a decision, every time I have a calendar question, I need to ask myself, “Am I revolving my life around the rock or sand?” That’s a great question.
“Do I follow this extracurricular activity on the weekend? Is that the first thing on my agenda? Or take this trip or play in this golf tournament or go hunting with the group of guys? And then, if I can, I’ll just take the rock and fit the rock in. I mean, I’m—grrr!”
No wonder your life isn’t working! No wonder you’re not on that direct path! No wonder you’re not really revolving around something that matters. The direct path—we’re to revolve.
But notice also, we’re to involve ourselves within the context of the local church. We’re to serve. And when we serve, we feed ourselves. We get outside of ourselves. That is where spiritual depth occurs. It’s like diet and exercise. I’ve got to eat clean. But then also, I’ve got to exercise. I’ve got to eat clean; I’ve got to learn how to feed myself. I’m talking about the Scripture. We’re talking veggies and protein here, whoo! So I’ll feed on this stuff, and then I’m ready for action, A-C-T-I-O-N. I need to serve.
And if you’re not serving, you’re swerving. If you’re not serving, the body of Christ is incomplete. So let’s just hold that thought for a second, and let me turn again to Scripture.
Look at 1 Peter 2:4-5, “As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
A heart of God to see people that matter to him swerving, not serving, doing the hokey-pokey and not really revolving their lives around the rock.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, the rock.” And then check out what can happen in every life if we make this choice.
A calendar question happens, an opportunity. And instead of just jumping on it and going, “Yeah, I want to do that. Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, I’m going to go there,”—now and then that’s fine—but we’ve got to look at the rock.
It’s the rock first. It’s Jesus first. It’s building his house first. It’s being a living stone first. And then all the other choices and decisions—check this out—can fill up around the rock after I build my life on the –rock. And look at this…
Ed puts the rock in the jar first and then pours the sand in…everything fits.]
A perfect fit! Only when I build my life on the rock; only when I revolve and involve my life on the rock can I truly play in the sand and enjoy the sand.
I would argue you can’t really enjoy the sand until you first start with the rock. Just think about it just for a second. Think about it. You’re a single adult, you’re a student, a single parent. You’re married with 2.5 kids, or maybe you have 4 kids like I do. You’re a grandparent or whatever.
Think about the horizon of our world today, just for a second. Just do a quick panoramic view, a quick one. Think about education. Education is fine and dandy. But education does not support and highlight the transcendent values taught in Scripture. It doesn’t do it.
How about the government? Surely, the government will take care of me. Surely, the government will do it.
How about the arts? How about the arts? Yeah, surely, the arts will underscore and highlight those transcendent values.
Generally speaking, no.
How about the media? Surely…
Hmm, not really.
There’s only one institution that highlights and underscores the transcendent values from Scripture. It’s the rock. It’s the local church. Revolve your life around it, unashamedly. Revolve your life around it. Revolve your marriage around it. Revolve your relationships around it. If you’re single, revolve your friendships and all the people you date around the church.
Make sure, parents, that your children and junior-high students and high-school students are here for age-appropriate teaching. Because when the roof caves in; when the storm strikes, the select soccer team is not going to deliver the goods that you need during that time.
When the rogue winds strike and when the storms hit, the football team or the trip or the foursome you play golf with or the people who play tennis with at the country club—they don’t have the stuff that you need, only the church.
So, what Jesus gave his life for is what we should give our lives to. He said it. I mean, it’s a narrow path. We’re swimming upstream. It’s not going to always be easy. There will be some tension, there will be some conflict. Yet, it’s worth it. It’s worth it.
The change that will take place; the transformation that you will see; the energy that you will save and that you will allow God to focus, you’ll walk on a direct path, a straight path. You’re not going to swerve; you’re going to serve.
So, revolve, involve. And then here’s what will result from that: you will evolve; you’ll change. Because the Christian life is a step, followed by a process.
What’s the next step for you? What’s that next step? Maybe it’s being baptized. Maybe it’s going to our Newcomers’ Class. Maybe it’s joining a HomeTeam. It should be volunteering. Do you know we have volunteer tours that we lead all the time here around Fellowship?
Everywhere you turn, there’s a place for you. You’re living stones, a part of God’s house, the body of Christ. Without you, the body of Christ is missing something. It’s incomplete.
Maybe you need to get involved in one of our FC Studies. Maybe you need to begin sharing your faith, I don’t know. God wants to do some mighty things in your life.
You know, I decided to change the lyrics on the hokey-pokey song? And here are the new lyrics. And today I want to roll these new lyrics out. Are you ready for this? Again, against a backdrop of everything we’ve said, here are the new lyrics.
“Put your new self in, throw your old self out. Put your new self in and you shake it all about. You do the hokey-pokey, and God will turn your life around. That’s what it’s all about!”
Let’s stand and do that together. Come on. A-one and a-two and a-three, [Audience joins in] “Put your new self in, throw your old self out. Put your new self in and shake it all about. You do the hokey-pokey, and God will turn your life around. That’s what it’s all about.” Please be seated, everyone.
Here’s the church; there’s the steeple. Open the doors and see all of the changed people. Okay? Do you really want to see some changed people? Watch this.
[A video is played on the side screens of testimonies from lives changed by God at Fellowship Church. After the video, Ed leads in a closing prayer.]