Have you noticed how easy it is to offend people these days? There seems to be such an overt need to accept and to be accepted that we go overboard with the “correctness” of our words and behavior lest we hurt anyone’s feelings at any time. Now, being accepting of others is a good thing, but is it the most important thing? Should we willingly lay all other principles and standards upon the altar of mutual acceptance? Are we compelled to accept the world the way it is without regard to the good we have gleaned from the way it was? How did Jesus do it? He certainly spent time with the sinners of his day but was it at the cost of higher principles? Did Jesus actually “hang out” with sinners? Was his time with them to make them feel good or accepted? What is God’s role in all of this? If we want a relationship with God, does He accept us as we are or is there more to it?
Tell us if this is familiar: You have decided that your life feels pretty empty, that what you have tried and how you have tried it just does not work. You know there has got to be more meaning to life, and so you are drawn to Christianity and you accept Jesus. For a while, you feel better, but slowly you get that gnawing feeling that nothing has really fundamentally changed in your life. What do you do? How do you find the real bottom line change that you have been looking for and actually let it change you? If this description fits you or someone you know, then stay with us, because we are going to get basic and practical! I am a Christian but want to REALLY be a Christian. So, where do I start?
A few weeks ago we began to tell the story of the dramatic events that led up to the conversion of the Centurion Cornelius to Christianity. Because the expansion of Christianity to Gentiles was such a radical shift in God’s methods, radical measures had to be taken! Today we will finish the story and see how its conclusion would change the history of Christian faith by the inclusion of you and me!
Sometimes things need to change. When there is a great plan in progress, the need for great change is likely to be a part of that plan. Since Adam’s fall from grace, God’s plan for man’s redemption has been punctuated by changes, including the great Flood which ended the old world, the calling of Abraham which began the age of the Patriarchs, and the death of Jacob which ushered in the age of Jewish favor. Each change had a distinct purpose. Today’s story about the conversion of Cornelius signaled that another change was on the horizon – a change that would be played out through the experiences of the Apostle Peter and Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. God’s plan was progressing and great change was necessary. But why Cornelius? Why a soldier?
Happy New Year! Happy new beginning! Happy new opportunity to resolve to make changes in your life once and for all, only to be shot down later by the steady force of habit, life and expectations later…wait a minute...that’s not happy! The truth is, for most of us a new year and a new beginning spells disaster and defeat. How can we approach change in a way that offers different results? Well, stay with us – we have a few ideas and a textbook (the Bible!) to back them up!
Sometimes change is in order. Sometimes it becomes evident that the path we are currently following is not leading us in the best direction and a decision is required to alter not only our direction, but our thinking as well. This is what we are faced with when we profess Christianity. This profession requires us to observe, perceive and follow through on a different life. So, are you ready for that?
Time for a Christian Questions pop quiz! Who here in our listening audience is so satisfied with their Christian life that they see no need to focus on further change or development? As you look at your life and imagine yourself before Jesus would he say to you – wow, your character is so fully developed, your prayer life is so complete and your sacrifice of your will is so overwhelmingly perfected that you can stop trying – just relax, for you are the perfect example of my disciple! No? Well, then what are we doing about it? Are you resolving to change, but more importantly, are you keeping your resolve?
Did you ever stop to think how much of our lives are built around our habits? The words we use, the thoughts we think – driven by habit. Our morning routine...a habit. The time we arrive at work...habit. Our actions and reactions to our co-workers...habit. What we eat, where we eat, how much we eat...all connected to habit. How we treat our spouse, our family, our friends and acquaintances – you guessed it – all connected to habit. So, if such a large portion of our lives are based in habit, then we ought to understand what makes a habit and most importantly how to better our habits!