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Sermon24-8April07-EasterSunday-YouDon'tHaveToStayTheSame(RW-EasterChangesEverything)

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                                                           EASTER CHANGES EVERYTHING

                                                              You Don’t Have to Stay The Same                                1981 words

German theologian Jurgen Moltmann expresses in a single sentence the great span from Good Friday to Easter Day: “God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him.” Easter is all about change.  God took the worst possible situation – the death of His Son – turned it around, used it for good and changed the world.  Easter changed history.  Every time you write a date, the focal point is Jesus.  The events of Easter split history.  It’s the most important event of history.  More than that it is still changing individual lives today.

The Bible says, “If we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of His Son just think how our lives will expand and deepen by means of His resurrected life.”  (Rom 5.10) The purpose of Easter is not for religious people.  If you’re not a particularly religious person, I’m delighted you’re here.

You see, Jesus did not come for religious people.  He couldn’t care less about religion.  He was only interested in people having a relationship with God - not a bunch of rules, regulations or rituals.  Jesus said, I came for religious outsiders, not the in-crowd.  Easter is God's invitation to you and that invitation is to have a changed life.

Perhaps you feel you’ve no need to change. You probably think you’re a pretty good person and you are.  You think, “I’ve got a good life, I’ve got a great family, I’ve got a good career, I’m a pretty nice person, I live in a great place, I’ve got it good.”  I’m sure you’re right - you’re probably a pretty nice person.

But, it’s nothing compared to what you could be.  Assuming you’re only using a fraction of your God- given potential, you’ve barely scratched the surface.  You see, you were made for more than you are right now.  That’s what Easter is all about.  How to change from good to better. 

It’s not a case of becoming a better person by trying harder. Because you can’t change by starting with outward behaviour; with externals.  You’ve got to focus on internals.  If you want to change it starts in your heart and mind not in your behaviour.  It starts in the way that you think. You’ve got to work on the inside.

If you really want to do it God’s way there are three steps...

I.  OPEN YOUR MIND TO GOD'S POWER

You’ve got to change the way you think first.  The Bible says: “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”(Rom 12.2) You don’t change by trying harder.  Will power doesn’t work.  It’s a bit like New year resolutions - you try really hard, then you get tired and you give up.  No, you change your life by changing the way that you think and by opening your mind to the possibility of God.  The possibility that God exists, opening your mind to the possibility that He loves you.  Opening your mind to the possibility that He might know everything in your life and still care about you.  That He knows the problems you’re going through and He can help you.  Open your mind to the possibility that He has power that you don’t have and you could tap into that power and make some changes that you haven’t been able to make on your own.  It starts by opening your mind to the possibility that God is real, He exists, He loves you and wants to help you.

Most people think they are open minded but they aren’t.  In fact, you just mention God and watch them freeze up.  They’re talking to you about some problem they have in their life that’s kind of impossible – “I’ve got this relationship with my girlfriend (or husband or wife or child) and it’s not going well.  And I’m watching this relationship, this marriage fall apart before my eyes.  I’m helpless to do anything about it.  I just can’t change it.”  So you say something to them like, “Have you tried taking it to God in prayer?  Have you talked to God about it? That’s when you get this blank stare like, “What planet did you come from?”  They say things like “Doesn’t the Bible say that ‘God helps those who help themselves’?”  No!  The Bible doesn’t say that. ‘The Bible says, God helps those who trust Him when they don’t know what to do.  God helps those who let Him work in their lives.  It’s a matter of trust.

The Bible says, “Many are far away from the life of God.  They have shut their minds against Him.  They can’t understand His ways.” (Eph 4.18)  The reason why you don’t understand God is because you’ve closed your mind to Him and until you open your mind to the possibility of God, there’s not going to be any real lasting change in your life. 

What causes us to close our minds to God?

Hurt can cause you to close your mind to God.  If you’ve ever been hurt by a “Christian” or so-called religious person, if you’ve ever been hurt by churchy type people, the typical reaction is, “If that’s what God's people do, forget it, God!”  If you think about – why does God always get the blame? But sometimes if you get hurt by other people you close your mind to God.

Pride can cause you to close your mind to God.  Some say: “I don’t want to be open to God.  I want to run my own life, do my own thing.  Never mind God.  I’m going to make my own choices in life.”  Pride, ego causes us to close our mind to God.

Another is fear.  “I’m afraid if I open my mind to God, He will turn me into some religious nutter.  And I'll become a fanatic like some of those people on television evangelists that make you cringe.  Fear can cause you to close your mind to God.

But if you really want to change, you’ve got to open your heart up.

You need to hear and understand this!  The same power that raised Jesus back to life two thousand years ago is the power that’s available to you to make changes in your life.  But there’s a key word – it’s ‘understand’.  If you really want to change your life for the better, it starts with a new understanding.  It starts with a new perspective.  It starts with opening your mind to the power of God.  It starts with changing your mind.

So, the first step is to open your mind to God's power.

Here’s the second step…

II.  OPEN YOUR HEART TO GOD'S GRACE

First, you open your mind to God's power, second, you open your heart to God's grace.  Grace is when God gives you what you need instead of what you deserve.  That’s grace.  Grace is when God forgives you even before you ask.  That’s grace.  Grace is when God says, “Come on home!  I’m not angry at you.”  That’s grace.  Grace is when God forgives you and then gives you a second chance and a third chance and a fourth and a hundredth chance to start over.  That’s grace.  Grace is the power God gives you to make the changes in your life that you can’t do on your own.  We all need grace.  So we need to open our hearts to God's grace.

We don’t normally experience grace from other human beings.  But God shows you grace 24 hours a day.  The next breath you’re going to take is because God's grace gives it to you.  You have nothing without God's grace.  Everything you have in life is a gift from God.

You say, “Wait a minute!  I’ve earned what I got!”  Where do you think you got the power to earn it? Where do you think you got your brains, your health, your mind, your arms? Everything you have.  You would not even be alive if it were not for the grace of God.  Literally, every single thing in your life is because God is good and gives you what you need and not always what you deserve.  That is the grace of God.

God understands you better than you understand yourself.  God’s watched every moment of your life.  He saw you formed in your mother’s womb.  He watched you take your first breath.

He knows every thought you’ve ever had – good, bad or ugly.  He’s seen it all and He still loves you unconditionally.  That’s called grace.  He knows what’s best for you.  Even when you don’t know what’s best, He knows what’s best.

Sometimes we think that before we can open up our life to God, we’ve got to get our act cleaned up, but God says, “Come to Me as you are!”  Bring the good, the bad, the ugly, the embarrassing, the stuff you’re ashamed of, the stuff nobody else knows about.  Bring it all to Me and we’ll work on it together.”  No matter who we are or what we’ve been like God says we can have His grace.

God is not interested in religion.  He’s interested in you having a relationship with Him.  He says you can come to Him no matter who you are or what you’ve done.  That’s God’s grace in action.

You will never earn God's grace.  You will never deserve God's grace.  You will never be good enough for God's grace.  You can’t buy God's grace.  It’s simply a gift, a gift of His love, His forgiveness, His help to change.  All you do is humbly accept it. “God gives grace to the humble.  So say a quiet yes to God and He will be part of your life.”

 

You want to change? You want to be different? You want to be better? Yes, you’re good but you can a be better.  First, open your mind to God's power.  The possibility that He loves you, that He exists and wants to help you.  Second, open your heart to God's grace.  That He wants to forgive you and give you a fresh start.  Then here’s the third and final step...

III.  OPEN YOUR LIFE TO GOD'S LOVE

No one will ever love you more than God does.  He loves you unconditionally.  It’s not based on anything you do.  He loves you because He made you.  He created you to love you.  And He created you to know and love Him back.  That’s what He made you for.

Jesus proves how much God loves you by coming and dying on the cross even before you knew it or understood it. 

I pray that today you will experience the love of God.  Not just know it in your mind.  It is only when you experience, when you feel the love of God that you are changed by it; it starts transforming you on the inside.  Open up your life to God's love so you can feel it.

You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life does not make sense. You were made by God and you were made for God for a relationship with Him.  And until you understand that, life does not make sense.  You were not put on this earth just to go to school, get a job, make a lot of money, spend it, retire and die, to take up space, use resources, breathe the air, and die.  No.  You were made for an eternal relationship with God, one that goes on long past this life.

Throw open the doors of your life to God and say, ‘Yes’   

Easter gives us the power to start over.  Jesus has his arms wide open for you. He gives us the power to keep going.  He gives us the power to change, to be different.  The bottom line is, Easter is not about big numbers, church is not about bums on pews.  Easter is about a personal, intimate, internal change in me and in you.  If you miss that you miss the whole purpose. 

Let’s Pray: Father, I pray that this Easter You’ll give those of us here who haven’t already done so, the courage to open their minds and their hearts and their life to You; that they’ll say:   “Yes, God.  I want to open my mind to Your power and open my life to Your grace”.  Father I pray this because Your grace changes everything. Amen

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