24(Jer 13,23) Can a Leopard Change its Spots
§ Read Jeremiah 13:23.
A. Consider one of life's most fundamental and troublesome questions.
§ The Old Testament prophet phrased it like this: Can a leopard change its spots?
§ We might ask it differently: can people change? Can I change?
§ Can you--not even will you, but can you ever be any different that you are right now?
B. For lots of people, maybe all of us, this is no academic question.
§ John is an alcoholic. He has finally admitted it after years of failure. But can he change or is he doomed to die a drunk?
§ Jane started her marriage on the right track, but somewhere something went wrong. She had an affair, left her husband and broke her parent's heart. Now her new life has fallen apart and she wants to go back. Can she change? Can a leopard change its spots?
§ Bobby is a troubled teen. He was messed up before that, always in trouble. He has dropped out of school and is running with the wrong crowd. His step dad has given up. Mom is at her wits end. The neighbors say he is no good. Can he change?
§ Warren is the pillar of the church. He has held it together for years - so most people say. Others say he has held it back for years. He is a worker, no one can dispute. But he is also angry, bitter man. On the outside he is deeply religious, but inside he is a mess. His memories are full of hurts, doubts, and secret sin. Can next year be any different? Can a leopard change its spots?
C. On and on the stories could go.
§ We could all tell them. We all know them. If not our own, then those of people we know and love.
§ Can life ever be different? Can next year be better than last?
§ Can I get out of debt and on top of my finances and stay there?
§ Can I be a better parent or husband or wife? Can a leopard change its spots?
§ Can I overcome anger or an enslaving habit that I can't break despite years of N.Y.'s resolutions?
§ Can we ever become the kind of bold, disciplined Christians preachers talk about? Or will this year be like last - a flurry of good intentions in January, limping into disappointment in February?
D. What do you think? Can people really change? Can a leopard change its spots?
§ As church-going types we know what we are supposed to say.
§ But do we really believe that people can fundamentally change?
E. Some people say yes.
§ Of course, people can change, we are told.
§ It is simply a matter of education or training or re-training or rehabilitation.
§ Many of our best social programs are based on this. From welfare reform, to counseling and 12-step groups, to psychological therapy - all presume the ability of people to change or be changed.
§ Most of these efforts are well intended. Some seem to accomplish a little bit for a little while.
F. On the other hand, there are many cynics in our world.
§ Some have concluded that people simply don't change, period.
§ More than that, people can't change.
§ Some point to one's surroundings and say that a person can never rise above their upbringing.
§ More and more folk are looking for genetic explanations for why people are the way they are.
§ Bad seed produces bad fruit and there is nothing that can be done about it, is the principle.
§ We live in an age that doesn't like to place blame, or hold people responsible for bad actions.
§ The popular view is to explain behavior as conditioned responses or genetically determined actions.
§ The issue is not whether upbringing or heredity has some role in behavior. They certainly do.
§ Popular view goes way beyond to insist that some behavior is pre-determined & can’t be changed.
§ The truth is the scientific evidence for such conclusions is very weak, despite everything you hear.
G. Some of us are cynics about ourselves.
§ You can't teach an old dog new tricks. I am just too set in my ways.
§ I am just not a religious person. My parents weren't church goers so I guess I never will be either.
§ If I ever came to church, the roof would probably fall in.
H. Some of us are cynics about others.
§ He will never change.
§ You know his kind. You know what they are like.
§ She's from the wrong side of the tracks. She will never amount to anything.
§ You can't trust her. You remember what she did.
§ There is no use talking to him about Christ. He will never change.
§ Some are overly optimistic, thinking that people can be changed if you use the right techniques.
§ Other see things just the opposite. People can't change, we are told by many.
§ The Bible has a third view. It is very important to understand this.
§ Without this perspective, the Bible will always be a frustrating book of rules and laws for you.
§ It will never be a source of hope and transforming power.
§ Put simply, the Bible teaches that we humans are sinners.
A. Our behavior is messed up because our heads and our hearts are messed up.
§ We are bent and broken and not at all what God intended us to be.
§ You can philosophize about the whys but the result is clear.
§ Something is wrong and until it is fixed we are forever failing to do what we know we should.
B. But God didn't leave things there.
§ From the beginning, he set in motion a plan that could result in the restoration of human kind.
§ Jesus Christ came into the world to bring that plan about.
§ The result: personal, spiritual, and moral change is hard. It is rare. It is difficult.
§ But with God all things are possible. What we do not, and could not do - Christ makes possible.
§ John 1:12-13
§ Romans 7:21 – 8:3
§ 2 Cor 5:14-19
§ While the world may tell us that people are just too far gone to be changed, there is good news.
§ Unfortunately it doesn't happen to everyone, but it can happen to anyone.
§ No one is too evil or too far gone to be radically and totally remade by the power of Jesus.
§ Do you catch the significance of these words from (1 Cor 6:9-11)?
C. Jesus changes people
§ Not just a little spit and polish on the outside, but fundamental, deep to the bone change.
§ That's something we all need to hear and hear again.
§ Without the reminder, we will turn into pessimistic cynics or simple-minded optimists.
§ With Jesus we are reminded how difficult lasting change is, but how possible by grace thru faith.
D. Change is an on-going process.
§ That's why we return to God in prayer and the Word daily and to church weekly.
§ We must keep getting re-filled because we leak.
§ Billy Sunday- A lady asked the famous evangelist, "Why do you keep having revivals when it doesn't last?" "Why do you keep taking baths?" Sunday replied.
§ A new year provides an excellent opportunity to give change the proper attention it deserves.
§ What changes do you want to make in the new year?
§ Better yet, what changes might God want to make?
§ It doesn't make any difference what anyone else does or wants.
§ What do you want to make different this year?
§ It doesn't make any difference how many times you have put it off or tried and failed.
§ There is good news, despite what many believe.
§ It may not be easy. But fundamental, life-changing, re-direction in life is possible through Christ.