A Dead old Man

This summer, on our boat trip, I visited with a dear friend. We got to talking about this idea:

Can people really change?

REALLY change?

Or, are you stuck the way you were born?

It was an important issue to my friend. He has more integrity than any man I’ve ever known. But in his business life, he’s been stung, by people who repeatedly rip him off, or make bad business decisions which affect his business. He’s known scoundrels, and cons. He’s seen alcoholics and adulterers. You know the drill. His question is a wise one. He’s really asking, “Can I ever trust anyone like that again?”

Good question.

Romans addresses that very question. One of the prominent themes in Paul’s book is the issue of man’s sin nature. Paul reminds us that we were BORN to sin. Man is basically selfish. Instead of submitting to God, man is born to want his own way. But when we turn to Christ we are set free from that sin nature.

It is as if we are born with leg irons on. We drag around this propensity to sin from day one. It’s a heavy burden. We are slaves to our sin nature. Even when we are aware of it and want to do things differently, we can’t. Oh, maybe we can behave differently for a while. But my friend is right. Eventually, the good behavior wanes, and the old nature begins to show itself. The bad behavior returns — or perhaps it morphs itself into some new bad behavior.

Paul says it this way, “I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t.”

So, what hope do we have for change? Check this out!

In Romans chapter six, Paul says this delicious line. “Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are NO LONGER SLAVES TO SIN.” (Romans 6: 5-6)

So, how is that good news?

People CAN CHANGE. But they CAN’T CHANGE THEMSELVES!

What happens, when a person comes to Christ, is that GOD CHANGES HIM. I’ve seen it a thousand times. People who wouldn’t care about church suddenly want to find one that fits their needs. People who never cared about others suddenly exhibit kindness. People who were thieves stop thieving. People who swore suddenly don’t want to swear any more. People who didn’t care about society suddenly care about the poor. People who leave a legacy of broken relationships suddenly want to repair their past. I could go on and on.

I know people can change. It happened to me. When I came to Christ, I’d made a rather tangled mess of my own life. Even though I looked pretty good on the outside, I was living a lie. The lie was killing me.

When I turned to Christ, he set me free from bad relationships that I had no power to break on my own.

It isn’t about stopping bad behavior. It’s about becoming a different person. God gives you the freedom to become a different person. He starts over IN you. And your leg irons drop off, and you have a new heart, and it has new concerns.

The new concerns move us to new behaviors.

And that is what it means to be FREE in Christ.

When I came to Christ (in 1974) I prayed that I would never regret that decision.

Do you know that I haven’t? Not for one instant in the ensuing 33 years. Not one regret!

How’s that for free?

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