From Point A to Point B
Change is not something with which I am comfortable. I like my daily routine. I can go for years having the same cereal and be happy. I can watch the same movies and never tire of them. I like to visit the same places every day or week at the same times and locations. The gym, the news, checking my mail and email, sports websites, Church, study times, these all have a given time slot in my life and I am happy.
Everything fits in its own little box and I don’t want them to ever change. It takes a lot to cause me to desire a change in my physical environment. I don’t believe I am too unlike many people.
Whatever routine we fall into in our lives, it will be interpreted by others around us. When I study, I tend to lock the world out around me. My wife can talk to me, but my brain is not engaged with what she is trying to convey. At one point she may have interpreted that as, “He is mad at me or he isn’t interested in me”. She now knows that I am in my thought box and oblivious to the world around me. Such interpretations are also common in the world outside of us. Some folks I have known march into the gym, go through their exercise routine, leave the gym, and never say a word to others. The look on their face seems to say “I am not interested in anyone around me.” Having taken the time to introduce myself, I have found that they were interested in others around themselves. However, they just cruised through their day and didn’t really think about such interaction before. It took an effort on someone else’s part to break the bubble and bring about change. My interpretation of their actions was mistaken. Of course, some of those folks with whom I tried to interact, really didn’t want to talk to me, they weren’t friendly, nor did they desire me to bother them again. The point is we all put off signals and other folks will take note.
Consider the Following:
Marley was dead: to begin with… There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate…
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?” No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”
We know this literature from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge put off some pretty good signals. “Darkness [was] cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” There was no failure to interpret what type of character Scrooge was at all. Yet, he changed:
He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.
Now Consider a man named Saul:
Act 7:58-8:3 – Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. … And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Act 9:1-2 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Gal 1:13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
Like the fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge, no one had to guess what signals Paul was giving off in his life. The interpretation was pretty easy to decipher. However, Paul was not a fictional character. He was real. He was dangerous. He was committed to a course of action which guided his life and people avoided him. Still, as difficult as it may seem, Paul changed. Reflect on words from later in his life:
Tit 1:1-3 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
2Ti 4:7-8 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day;
Both of the men we have examined underwent a great metamorphosis from point A to Point B. This great change is perhaps why they stand out as prominent characters in our minds. But why are we examining these men today? First we want to examine change in the life of an individual. Second, we want to examine the interpretation of our lives by others.
As mentioned previously, I believe most of us do not like change. However, as Christians, our lives have been subject to change and transformation. We have had to leave and battle worldly desire and comforts of varying levels of attachment. We have had to change strong convictions and humble ourselves to the truth which God has presented. In some ways, we have traveled from Point A to Point B. In others, we are still in the middle of that journey. Where do we want to end up?
Mat 22:37-40 And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.
John 14:15 – If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.
Yes! We want to end up in a situation which is the definition of love. In other words, We want to be the image of our heavenly Father. For mankind, this means change. It means behavior which is representative of His commands.
2Co 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.
2Co 5:17 Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.
So where are we at in this examination and where are we going? It is evident man must change from his desires to what God desires. The journey is a life long commitment to change. Aargh! Yes change haters, it is so. However, the change is to a much greater and grander place and we are charged not to go alone. This engages the interpretation aspect of our discussion.
We are on a road of change, but in moving others, some kicking and screaming, we must be aware that they have been interpreting our lives. This is true in the world and it is true of our Christian brothers and sisters. Here is what they should have been seeing:
1Th 5:14 And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be longsuffering toward all.
2Ti 2:4-6 And the Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will.
Jas 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Now some would like to go down a road of discussion about man not knowing the hearts of others. They would cover their tracks by saying the path of a man’s life is paved by good intentions, however, it is written:
Pro 20:11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
Jas 2:17 Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself.
Again, what is the point I am driving at? Lost Influence! We are called to change ourselves to an image of the heavenly Father. Folks inside and outside of the church are actively considering the manifestations of our individual lives. If we call ourselves Christian and do not represent the Biblical definition of such, they are going to take that into consideration when determining if they are going to change their own lives. We already know men are not disposed to change. What are we doing to encourage them to change?
We can tell people we have changed our lives. We can even engage those changes in our lives. How many people do you think really will believe us initially if ever? Consider Scrooge again:
“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”
This fictional character did not convince everyone his change was genuine. Some thought the change was almost comical. Many Christians are faced with this same dilemma. They are laughed at, teased, ridiculed, then ignored. In Scrooges case, the critical element of influence is not examined, in as much as knowing those who never heeded him. For a Christian, it is sad when we lose the opportunity to influence anyone for good.
From the account of Saul, we read the words of Ananias who was instructed by God to visit and convert Saul:
Act 9:13-14 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many of this man, how much evil he did to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon thy name.
Saul’s actions had been interpreted by Ananias. Ananias was not crazy about making a personal visit to Saul. Saul’s actions have spoken louder than any words or anticipated change. This conversion most certainly was not met by Christians immediately coming out of the woodwork to meet “Saul the Changed”.
Jesus who was perfect and sinless did not have a 100% success rate in converting the Jews or the rest of the world to Christianity. He had miracles to demonstrate the truth he preached. Still, rejection and the cross were the physical reward for his labor. When an individual decides to change and take others with him, there are going to be trials. When a Church decides to change and take others with them, there may indeed be a crucifixion! There will certainly be those who will not follow in the hange or believe it will be a lasting one.
There are going to be those in and outside of the church who are not going to believe it. Outside of the church, they will scoff at a one time attempt when as a member of the community for decades you have never approached them. Inside the Church, some will want the status quo. They will not want to change their routine. They will not be able to find the time. They will even silently or openly say, “I told you so”, when a visitation program doesn’t yield immediate results. Remember, our job is to plant and water. That is to provide the example of change and the message of hope. God will provide the growth. Demonstrate love. Fight the Good fight. Take your visitation programs from point A to point B in the mode of Scrooge and Saul. Transform yourselves into the image of God and change the interpretation of those clinging to the world one soul at a time.