Gospel-Centered Change

Life

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By: Mark Roberts

The Change Wanted

Amber has always been a free spirit. She enthusiastically pursues life, her studies at college and her faith in Jesus. All her friends think she is talented and gifted, but Amber struggles to find stability in her life.

She frequently feels urges to change her career interest and she is always dividing her time into several areas of service in her church. Amber is stretched thin. Sometimes Amber has fascinations of being faithful and successful, however on other days she is frequently discouraged and frustrated over her lack of focus. Sometimes throughout the day, she is scattered, struggling even to finish little things around the house like laundry and dishes. Other times she secretly battles depression due to feeling like a failure. The people at church are always welcoming and friendly; however, she feels insecure.

One day at home, Amber angrily slammed her hand on her desk sending everything on it crashing to the floor. Amber was stunned; she had never been an angry person before college. She struggles to believe that she will ever break out of this cycle of frustration and discouragement and find God’s true purpose for her. Amber wants change; for her life to be better so that she isn’t constantly disoriented and can begin living like “every other Christian” who seems to get it.

The Change Hated

Ted is a single Christian guy who loves his church community. He always enjoys the fellowship events and loves how he feels free to express himself with others in his small group. Ted is always looking for ways to be involved in the planning of events and fellowship gatherings. He feels very appreciated when the leadership includes him in planning the details of different programs.

Recently, the church made some changes. The fellowship ministry has taken on different leadership with different ideas. They made some changes that Ted has since struggled with. Now Ted feels left out, misunderstood and overlooked. Before the change in leadership happened, Ted was hoping to take on a specific role in the fellowship ministry but was not selected by the elders to become a leader. 

Ted is hurt, offended and deeply angry. After a few weeks, Ted has become more and more distant with his community. Ted doesn’t understand why the leadership doesn’t appreciate him. Resentment over what happened seems to distract him during the week at work. He rehearses over and over in his mind what happened and how things once were. During the week, he often thinks about attending another church. Ted feels stuck, alone and without purpose in his church.  

The Change Needed  

Life…Amber and Ted are both smack dab in the middle of it. The raw, messy existence we’re all wandering about in. Ted was angry because of the change in his life. Amber was angry because change wouldn’t come for her life. They just wanted to serve God and enjoy life.

Yet something had gone wrong. Change…it either delayed to deliver or came at random. It either promised to give or came to take away. What Ted wants isn’t entirely wrong. What Amber wants isn’t either. They both desire good things, yet something else was being revealed in their hearts. 

Amber believes the key to getting what she wants is found in the change of her abilities, time management, emotions and personal capacities. She’s aware of her desperate need for change, but only the change that address her time management skills, concentration, and personal abilities. This reveals her love of self and deep fear of inadequacy and failure.

Ted believes the change of his circumstances to be the source of his troubles, anger and discouragement. He believes his feelings are justified because the changes the church made are wrong. His struggle with change reveals his love of self, deep fear of loss, abandonment and loneliness. Amber and Ted both need change…but not in the way they anticipate. They need change worked in their hearts by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

The Change to See

If Amber and Ted explained their struggles and how they felt, I wonder what conclusions they would have? If someone asked them why they are angry, or what has become the source of their disappointment, what would they say? It makes me curious to know how they would interpret what’s happening to them because I believe it’s profoundly important.

I am sure if both of them were asked where they find hope and fulfillment in life, the answer would sound something like, “In Jesus, of course. In what He did for me on the cross.” though this is true, something is disconnected. 

Their understanding of the Gospel isn’t entirely connected to where they actually do life. The Gospel is conceptual in their thinking but disconnected from where they actually live. Jesus’ death, resurrection and promises have somehow become severed from the way they relate to their difficult circumstances and struggles. As a result, they’re looking to other things to give them what can only be found in Jesus. Yet they can’t see this…their perception of what they want and need is blurred by sin.    

Consider this; in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus addresses hypocritical judgment yet makes a profound statement, not just about rash and hypocritical judgments but also about seeing. Look very closely. “…First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brothers eye.” (Matthew 7:5 ESV) Question, did the person actually see the speck in his brother’s eye? Yes, he did. There was no illusion. He saw what he was seeing.

Yet Jesus says, he still didn’t see clearly. Only until the log was removed could he then see clearly. What’s Jesus’ point? People can actually see without seeing. In other words, the physical eye can see yet the spiritual eye is poked blind by sin. Though this verse is a principle of interpersonal judgment, Jesus’ point of spiritual blindness is relevant for Amber and Ted. They believe to have rightly judged the bothersome splinters of their struggles yet a logjam remains in their hearts. This logjam has blocked their view and understanding of change. Therefore they now see change as something that either deliverers wants or gets in the way of them. 

The Change Jesus Wants For Us All

Whether you like it or not, we are more like Amber and Ted than unlike them. Just like them, we can have our hearts exposed by how we relate and/or react to change in life. We too can see without seeing due to logjams in our heart and allow the Gospel to drift away from where we actually live our lives. Like them, you and I are impatient and angry not because change comes or doesn’t, but because we don’t get what we want. Change for our lives is first about God and His glory before it is ever about us. “He died for all, that those who live, might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2nd Corinth. 5:15 ESV).

Your understanding of change in life will always be shaped by the condition of your heart. In the Gospel, change is something that you need more in you than just something that gives or takes away what you want. Amber wanted change of her abilities and emotions, Ted wanted change in programs and ministry structure, but this was not something they necessarily needed. We too want lots of change but often fail to see where change is needed most. Our heart.  

Like Amber and Ted, Jesus puts us in situations that we would never choose to be, to effectively work in us what we can’t: Christlikeness.

Reflection:

In what ways do you see Jesus shaping a gospel-centered understanding of change in your life?

Where are you quick to see and attempt to change the bothersome specks in yours and others’ lives? How has this affected or distracted you from addressing logjams in your own life?

In what ways do you express anger and impatience toward change in your life? How is Jesus still being faithful and good to you during your struggle?

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