The Power to Change
The Power to Change (1) - The Struggle Within
I wonder how many of you started the day, or went home last week feeling like there was something that you wanted to change in your life? In other words, there was something you saw, something you felt, or something that you experienced that you were determined to change. And yet, even though you had good intentions, you didn’t follow through, and by the end of the day you are not even sure that change is possible. Well, if you can relate and I would imagine that most of you can, this message is for you.
I want to talk to those of you who have wanted to change, that hoped to change, and even tried to change. But like many of us, you tried and you failed, and you have been left feeling frustrated, exhausted, embarrassed, and even ashamed that you can’t change. And so, maybe you wanted to change, but you still wake up with anxiety, you still weigh more than you want, you still spend more money than you make, and you still want to pray and read the Bible every day but usually you don’t. Instead, you find yourself acting in a way that you don’t understand and the good news is that you are not alone.
In fact, the apostle Paul, the great missionary of the first century church tells us that he understands what it’s like. In Romans chapter seven, verse fifteen, he said,
“I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:15-17, NLT).
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:18-20, NLT).
In other words, he says it’s like you’re stuck in a rut, this cycle of failure, and it affects everything about you, and everything about your life. It affects what you’re afraid of, how you react, your moods, your disposition. In fact, look at what Paul says, look at his description of this, he says,
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me” (Romans 7:21-23, NLT).
“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25, NLT).
I don’t know about you, but I can relate with the apostle Paul. Maybe some of you feel like that too, you want to do what is right, but you don’t do it? You try to change, you make goals, you bought a daily planner, and you did everything they said to do online, or everything the self-help book you read said to do. And so, you have the right intentions, but like so many of us we have the wrong strategy, because we are trying to change, but we are trying to change in the wrong way.
I want to talk to you today about what God’s word teaches us about the power to change. We’re going to look at what the Bible says because God is the one who created us and I want to talk about real lasting change, not just behavior modification, but true transformation. In other words, not just changing what we do on the outside, but allowing God to change who we are on the inside.
You see, that’s what the apostle Paul was struggling with and that is why his words in Romans chapter seven are so important when he says,
“I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:18-19).
And so, if you are sick and tired of trying, frustrated because you’ve been stuck in a rut, you’ll be able to identify with the apostle Paul when he expresses his exasperation in verse twenty-four,
“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24, NLT).
Answering his own question, Paul said, “Thank God,” it’s not by my own effort, it’s not my outward behavior, but the answer is…
“In Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25, NLT).
The problem is that many of us have this perception that we’ve been saved by God’s grace, we’ve been adopted into his family, and the Holy Spirit has sealed us, but now it’s entirely up to us to live a godly life.
In other words, we’ve come to believe that if there is going to be any change in our lives or in our habits, it’s going to be up to us, and so we need to try harder. But the truth is that real lasting change is not achieved by behavior modification, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit working through us.
Consider the testimony of the apostle Paul, he’s the guy who said, “I’m trying to change,”
“I want to do what is right, but I can't… I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway… Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? …The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:18,19,24,25, NLT).
In other words, he says, “Who can help me? Only Jesus Christ.”
And so, let’s look at how he comes to this understanding, because we know that he received divine revelation, but let’s look at his personal self-examination. Now, remember this is the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament, Paul started churches all over the known world, and yet he says with humility,
“I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
In other words, he says, he doesn’t deserve any acknowledgment, recognition, or credit based on his history of sinfulness. He says, it’s not by my skill, not by my education, not by my good works, not even by my effort, but by “the grace of God that was with me.” And so, it’s with the greatest humility that he says, “I don’t deserve this, but his grace has changed me, impacting my life, and I am what I am because of his grace at work in me.”
The apostle Paul recognized that real lasting spiritual change is God working through him, because the Lord has said,
"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).
That means the power to change is not God plus you. Real spiritual change is God in you, his Spirit working through you, because it’s the same grace that saves you that is the grace that changes you. In other words, it’s spiritual transformation and not behavioral modification, because the power to change is not found in your willpower, but you have to be empowered by God’s Spirit. Which is why Jesus promised,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8).
And so, let’s talk about what that looks like, because this is key to having the power to change.
Now, we all know that life happens, situations happen, and it doesn’t have to be a new year to cause you to think, “I want to change this.” I know summer is over, but maybe you wanted to make a change so that you feel better or you look good in your swimsuit. Or maybe you wanted to get back into those jeans you used to wear, and so you have your what, you have your why, and you’re going to make a plan. For some of you it may be something you heard about or read online, it might be the latest diet fad, or maybe something that worked for a friend, but whatever it is you want to make a change.
And so, you have your what, your why, but to be truly effective let me suggest that you add God to your reason. In other words, you add God to your why, adding God’s purpose for you and God’s power through you. That’s important, because this isn’t by your own power, it’s not by your own effort, but it’s a spiritual transformation. That is why the Bible says,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a).
And so, your spiritual why might be to love God, because you want to worship and honor him by stewarding or managing your body. Now, if you add a spiritual why to what you want to do,
“Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2b).
And that slight adjustment, that tweaking of your motives will change your heart, because you’re not worried about pleasing others, you’re not worried about looking good at your high school reunion, but instead you are honoring God and recognizing,
“That your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
And so, now you’ve tapped into the key, the spiritual reason, which is necessary for spiritual transformation to take place. And when you add a spiritual how because it’s by the Spirit of God.
“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
You are no longer struggling, trying on your own, because when God’s Spirit is working through you, you have a mighty power working in you. As the apostle Paul said,
“Not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
You see, it’s not your own power, but it’s the Spirit of the Lord, and it’s the grace of God that results in true spiritual transformation.
And so, when your what and your why is connected to a spiritual reason, a spiritual how, the result is spiritual transformation through Jesus Christ our Lord. And so, when you need the power to change, maybe to become more organized because you feel like your life is too cluttered and too chaotic. You pray about your spiritual reason, the motive behind what you want to do, praying that with the help of Jesus you will be able to get more organized because the Bible says,
“God is not a God of disorder” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
And so, when you’re praying, you want to pray according to the will of God who likes things to be orderly, who arranges things in seasons, and you have a spiritual reason to organize your life so that it is manageable.
And so, you can order it around the things that matter the most, beginning with defining your reason, your spiritual why, and then implementing a spiritual how, because Christ in us is stronger than the wrong desires in us.
In other words, when you’re tempted to look at something, think about something, or do something that you shouldn’t, something that is hurtful and isn’t helpful, and you make a purposeful decision to honor God with your life, his power is unleashed in you. The Bible says,
“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
And no matter how you are tempted, no matter where you are tempted, God will always give you a way out.
You can always walk away, and so you’ve got your why, and you’ve got your how, because it’s not by your power, it’s by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you. He is available to you and the fruit of the Spirit is working through you, giving you,
“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
That’s how we have the power to change, that’s how we experience real change, it’s God working through us giving us a change of heart.
That is so important to understand because if you only change your behavior, but don’t change your heart, the behavior will come back. And that’s why it’s not about trying, it’s about trusting, because it’s a spiritual motivation, it’s a spiritual power. And so, real and lasting change in our lives is a reflection of God’s power working through us.
Today, if you are tired of being stuck in this cycle of failure, feeling like the apostle Paul who said,
“I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15-16, NLT).
I’ve got some good news for you, because there is a power greater than you, beyond your own strength, that is dwelling within you, that will help you change. Paul said,
“The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25, NLT).
And so, there is a helper, Paul says, “Thank God, Jesus can, because I’m not good enough.” I know that,
“For I am the least of the apostles… But by the grace of God, I am what I am… yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
In other words, it’s only by grace, the same grace that saves you is the grace that changes you. Paul says, it’s the grace of God that was with me, because God said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And so, you can walk, run, work out, diet, take the class, buy the app, and do all the stuff you want to do, but the real power to change is always God’s grace. His grace is sufficient and when you don’t have the desire, the willpower, and you don’t have the strength, God says, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” And so, Paul responds,
“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Because Paul says it’s not about me, it’s God through me, and through me, again and again and again.
You see, Paul knew that he had been saved, because he was headed for hell and God stopped him. He knew that the Lord was with him because his enemies had not prospered over him, and God had given him the power to overcome. In fact, there are some of you who know that you have been through some stuff that should’ve killed you, you should’ve lost your mind, but just when the enemy was coming in for the kill, God stopped it.
I believe there are some of you here today whom God is getting ready to change some things. God is getting ready to stop some things that the devil meant for evil, but God is going to use it for good because,
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
And so, today, if you find an area of your life where you can’t change, stop being ashamed about it, and confess that this is an area of weakness that God can change and declare with the Holy Spirit,
“When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Because his power is made perfect in your weakness... And so, God’s going to give you the power to change, turning everything completely around in your life, your diet, your appetite, your disposition, your personality, the way you walk, the way you dress, the way you think, what time you get up, what time you go to bed, everything about you is going to shift, everything is going to change, once you come to an understanding of his grace.
You see, if you stumble and fall, if you mess up, it’s his grace that saves, his grace that changes, his grace that forgives, and his grace that strengthens, because this is all about spiritual transformation. And so, I want you to take hold of this word, to stand on this word, because it’s not for your entertainment, it’s for your freedom, it’s for your deliverance, it’s for your breakthrough, and God is going to give you the power to change.
This is important, because Jesus didn’t just come to make us better. He said,
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32).
In other words, he came to rescue us and save us and change us and free us. That’s who he is, that’s why we declare,
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
You see, the devil can’t threaten you anymore, because you’ve got the power to change. The adversary can’t control you anymore, because he doesn’t have any power over you. Jesus gave you the power to change. And I know maybe your father did it, your mother did it, or maybe your grandfather did it, but today you’ve got the power to change.
It’s Christ in you the hope of glory, and you can’t have this much Holy Spirit and not have the power to change. I pray that someone in here is recognizing right now that you’ve got the power to change as Paul reminded the church, “I pray also… that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:18-20).
I hope someone is recognizing that you’ve got power. You’ve got the power to change. Power is coming back in your life, power to walk right, talk right, and think right. You’ve got the power to go forward, to prosper, and to endure all things. You thought you were going crazy, but you’ve got the power to change.
You’ve got the power to make it where God is getting ready to take you, but there’s some stuff that’s got to stop, there’s some things that need to change in your life, and I feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit about to break out in this room. He’s about to unleash his power in this place, giving you your fight back, your testimony back, your righteousness back, your voice back, your children back. So that you can declare with confidence,
“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
We’re talking about the power to change, but if you keep thinking like you were, you’re not going to be prepared for who you are. You see, this next season is not going to require your talent. God’s going to give you the victory without the sweat, without the work, and so your whole method has to change, because it’s all about grace.
This morning, as we close, God wants to break the struggle off your life and he’s going to give you the power to change, but you’re going to have to humble yourself before God. You’ve been telling yourself that you can’t stop, you can’t help it, you can’t change this, but the devil is a liar. God said you have the power to change.
And so, do you want the power to change bad enough to come out of your habits, to come out of your struggle? God said to come out of it, because this is holy ground. And if you’ll come out of it, if you’ll walk away from it, he will give you the power to change.
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.