Change: The Secret

His name was Bernard, and the first time I saw him he had walked across from a bar to join the church young people on a Friday night activity. Later he admitted that it was the sight of “all those pretty girls” that attracted him. He had been drinking, had a cigarette in his mouth, and had probably been smoking something stronger, which he did inhale, before joining us. I remember the Christian couple in charge of the activity being under enthusiastic at his arrival.
Three months later Bernard was baptized. Today he is a Christian father and a deacon in the church. Needless to say, he has “kicked” more than a few worldly ways. The question is, how did he do it? Where does such a radical transformation begin?
Paul gives us a hint. “Do not be conformed,” he urges Roman Christians, “to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Romans 12:2). Here is how it works:
1. We must begin with a motivation that is adequate. Paul begins Romans twelve with the words, “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy” (Romans 12:1). Paul has just spent eleven chapters explaining the grandeur of God’s mercy. Now comes the pay off. If we were in such dire straits, and if we were saved so thoroughly, then God’s mercy should motivate us to change our living.
2. We must understand that Christianity is not a moonlight, and it is not an occupation; it is our preoccupation, consuming our time and talents, our desires and our allegiance. Paul says, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” While we want to negotiate strategic parts of our lives, the Lord demands an unconditional surrender.
3. We must be able to distinguish between the siren call of the world, and the holy call of God. Perhaps more to the point, we must recognize that the holy call of God is different from that of the world. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”
4. We must change our actions by beginning with our thinking. The way we think is important. Paul urges us to “transform” our lives by “renewing” our “minds”. Cosmetic repentance does not change the heart. It is, if you will, only skin deep. Change begins with the mind, renewed and cleansed by a constant diet of God’s word.
I would not have put much money on ever seeing Bernard again when I met him that night in 1973. He seemed so far from the life Christ would have demanded. But Christianity is by definition the life where change can happen. It did with him, and it does today!

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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