Changed? Really possible?

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In Victor Hugo’s great story, Les Miserables, Valjean is stalked by an officer of the law, Javert, who is an inflexible man, consumed with the idea that a person cannot change. When Valjean is discharged from prison after a long, unjust sentence, Javert sneers at him, declaring that he will see him back in custody again. “Men don’t change,” he says. “You were born a criminal and no matter how hard you try, you cannot change that fact.”

Valjean experiences grace at the hands of a local priest who tells him that he has bought him a new life with his gift. He is transformed and becomes the beloved mayor of a prosperous little town. When they meet again in those circumstances, Javert refuses acknowledge the new character of Valjean. Consumed by shame over his own ignominious past, he cannot bring himself to admit that Valjean is not who he once was.

What do you believe about change?
Is it really possible?
Can a person, no matter their past, become new and whole?

In Joseph’s story there is a lengthy passage of his interactions with his brothers who come to Egypt looking to buy food during a famine. (Genesis 40-45) In what appears to be a cruel game, Joseph tests them, imprisons them for a time, and sends them back to Canaan to bring their brother, Benjamin, to him. He sets them up for an accusation of criminal behavior. Why all this? It is not retribution!

He is trying to understand if they have grappled with what they did to him 20 years before and to determine if they are changed men.  In a crisis moment, when it appears that Benjamin will be kept in Egypt to be Joseph’s slave, Judah, one of the older brothers, steps forward with a plea – “Take me in Benjamin’s place.” He confesses the sins of the past without excuse. At that moment, Joseph knows they are different men.

Often we are hardest on ourselves, unable to let go of guilt and shame from the past. We may profess to believe in grace, but we let nagging accusations remain a festering wound in our souls stealing the joy of Christ, holding us back from what He promises to us.  And, sometimes even as we say we hope for redemption, we hold the past over the head of another, refusing to free them with complete forgiveness.

Here is God’s truth – “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, “Be reconciled to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, NLT)

God, the Holy Spirit, desires to lead us to transformation – to make us His saints!  Paul, in that amazing transition passage in Romans 7 and 8, points out the deep inner conflict of the sinful nature and the spiritual nature. He teaches us that it is not self-help, not determination of our will, that frees us to for change. It is a work of the Spirit, as we open our lives to Him in confession, faith, prayer, worship, service, and devotion.  There is this grand statement about the reality of God’s work for us and in us.  Because of Jesus’ death and Resurrection we know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, NIV)

Will you become wholly new, a truly holy (dedicated to God) person?
Will you receive the grace that is His gift to all who come to Him in faith?
Will you hope for transformation, praying for a new heart and changed mind in yourself?

Our word from the Word is a paraphrase of Romans 8, quoted above. As you read this, pray for faith to make it the living Word today. “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, The Message)  Hallelujah and Amen!

__________

No Longer Slaves
(Zach Williams sings this amazing song in Harding Prison and it brings me to tears!)

You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone

 I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

 From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins

 You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God

Brian Johnson | Joel Case | Jonathan David Helser © 2014 Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

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