Let the Change Begin

Examining The Question, How Does Jesus Change Your Life?

Scott Kelly
Jan 3, 2021    39m
Have you ever made New Year resolutions? At the beginning of a new year, it is common for us to want to change our lives. But this message takes it a step further and examines how does Jesus change our lives. While also looking at what part do we play in this change? Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Scott Kelly: 00:18 Well, that is our heart's prayer this morning that there would be change. And we're so glad that you've chosen to be in worship with us today. I'm not the first, but let me say to you happy new year, welcome to 2021. Are you excited? A few of you are, I see a clap down there. Well, I don't know about you, but we were very excited in our household to turn the page on our calendar last Thursday night and welcome and greet 2021. There's no doubt that in many ways, 2020 checked all of the biblically catastrophic boxes, right? I mean, there were wars, there was famine, there was pestilence, there were earthquakes, and there was the disruption of the college football season, and many of you are still grieving over the score on Friday night. Well, just let me say to you that come on, it is the end of 2020, what did you expect after a year like we've had?

Scott Kelly: 01:19 Well in that spirit, I want to let you know that my name is Scott, I'm one of the pastors here at Shandon, and it's my privilege to share a message with you today. Our senior pastor George Wright, and his family, are in fact in quarantine because of COVID. And so I know that you'll want to be praying for them, as he is praying for us this morning, as we're gathered for worship. Many of you have had to navigate the same thing over the last several weeks or months, and so we've been praying for you, we're grateful for your patience as we've moved into 2021.

Scott Kelly: 01:52 But today is exciting, and there's little doubt that we all feel the lingering drag of a very disappointing and difficult and challenging year. But here's what we want you to know as we dive in to 2021, God wastes nothing. God wastes nothing, even a year like 2020, he leverages everything, both good and bad, to accomplish his purposes and to glorify his name. And in that spirit today, we're kicking off a new message series entitled, 'I Need A Change'. Now, if that's your cry, if that's your hope, then you're in the right place. Because for the next three weeks, beginning today, we're going to dive into the Book of Colossians chapter 3, and we're going to talk about what we need to know and what we need to understand in order to experience genuine change in our lives.

Scott Kelly: 02:52 Now, what I'm going to do today is to effectively provide the appetizer, I am the introduction. The main is coming the next two weeks, because our senior pastor is chomping at the bit to be with us. And he will be next week, God willing, and we're excited about that. So my job today is to introduce this series, I Need A Change out of the book of Colossians. So this morning we're going to begin in chapter 3, and we'll read together the first four verses of Colossians. And so if you're willing and able to stand, our practice at Shandon is we stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God.

Scott Kelly: 03:27 Let's stand together and read Colossians chapter 3 verses 1 through 4, the Apostle Paul writes, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

Scott Kelly: 04:10 I need a change, well, let's pray about that. Father, thank you for the glory of your son, Jesus. And as symbolic as it is, we have turned the page of our personal calendars with great expectations and great hope. So Father, I pray that today, and in the coming weeks, that our hope would be grounded in the truth of the gospel, and in the person of your son, Jesus. For it is in his name that we pray. Amen. Thank you, you can be seated.

Scott Kelly: 04:49 Well, it would seem strange to me that we would kick off a series on change, and not define the word change. And so if you were to go to your dictionary, here's what you might find, a definition of the word change. My dictionary said, to make the form, nature, content, or future course of something different from what it is, or from what it would be, if left alone. That's a standard definition of the word change, and certainly it's suitable for us this morning.

Scott Kelly: 05:22 So with that definition in mind, let's begin with our first point from Colossians chapter 3, because Paul's foundational idea here in Colossians chapter 3 is this, genuine change is not possible, apart from the gospel. Genuine change is not possible, apart from the gospel. In the first part of verse 1, Paul says this, "If then you have been raised with Christ." Now the two words, if then, taken together, literally means, since. In other words, "Since you have been raised with Christ.", Paul says. So this is an established, not a potential reality. And the verb here is in the passive voice, "Since you have been raised with Christ." Indicating that the Colossian believers, and that includes us as well as followers of Christ, were granted this resurrection status before God through no effort of their own. This echoes the beauty and power of Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9, which is so familiar to some of you. Where Paul says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."

Scott Kelly: 06:41 But here in Colossians chapter 3, verse 1, there is a question lingering in this text. What does it mean to be raised with Christ? Well, if you're not a follower of Christ, if you've never given your heart to Jesus, this is going to sound strange to you. But here's how we'd like to articulate it for you this morning, Jesus, didn't come to make bad men good, Jesus came to make dead people alive. Jesus did not come to make bad men good, he came to make dead people alive. Now, why is that true? Well, again, Paul in Ephesians chapter 2 said, "Even when we were dead in our sin, dead in our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ." Now I want you to hear this respectfully in its spiritual context, dead people do not change. Dead people do not change, only living people change. And so this is the catalytic moment for change, is being raised with Christ. So back to our definition of change, look at this, to make the form, nature, content, or future course, of something different from what it is, or from what it would be, and look at this, if left alone. If left alone. But Paul is saying that spiritually dead people, and that's all of us before we enter into a relationship with Christ, spiritually dead people, if left alone without Christ, will perish in their sin, and that is the gospel. Let's be clear, you can change your clothes, you can change your calendar, you can change your address, you can change your waistline, you can change your social agenda, you can change your hair color, you can even change churches, but one thing that you cannot do is change your eternal destiny apart from the gospel, apart from faith in Christ. And this is Paul's first, and foundational, idea when it comes to change, genuine change is not possible apart from the gospel.

Scott Kelly: 09:04 But Paul continues, because he goes on in the middle of verse 1 and he says this, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." So here Paul makes what amounts to his second point, once you've been raised with Christ, number two, genuine change is formed through gospel perspective. Genuine change is formed through gospel perspective, or a gospel mindset. Now, as many of you know, and perhaps you detest, this of course is the season of new year's resolutions. But this year it seems is very different, one study that I read recently revealed that 70% of Americans are ditching traditional new year's resolutions, because the top resolutions this year do not focus on things like exercise and weight loss, the top resolutions focus on things like life skills, such as saving money for the future. More than two thirds of us want to have more experiences in life, we want to spend more time with our family, we want to travel more, we want to have a more positive outlook on life, and certainly that makes sense coming out of the year that we've had in 2020.

Scott Kelly: 10:26 Now, I don't want to throw cold water on anybody's resolutions, even resolutions like that. But here's a fact that we need to look at, we can resolve to travel more, but what if another pandemic hits? We can resolve to save or give more money? But what if our job is eliminated? I suspect that resolutions are a way for us to gain a sense of control, over an uncontrollable future. So with that in mind, how are we supposed to live in a world that we really cannot control? What should our perspective, our mindset, really be in a world like we've experienced in 2020? We'll Psalm 118 verse 24, a familiar verse to many of you says this, "This is the day that the Lord has made." You know that verse, you've probably quoted it before. And there is nothing pie in the sky, no whistling in the dark, about this verse. And here's why, with all of our scientific sophistication, with all of our scientific progress, we cannot create, make, or orchestrate, one second of time. We cannot do it, it's not within our power, we cannot do that. So every day that dawns, including this one, where you woke up this morning and came to church, or perhaps you're watching online, every day that dawns is actually a gift from God, every minute is on loan to us from God. And we need to understand that, how crucially important that is. But the question it begs is, why, to, what end? Why did God give you this day, and give you that last and next breath? Well, Second Corinthians chapter 5 verse 15 says this. And he, speaking of Jesus, died for all. Why? "That those who live, those who have been raised with Christ, might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." The reason you've been given this day, and any day that follows, is on loan from God. And it's on loan from God, so that you might not live for yourself, but for him who died and was raised for you.

Scott Kelly: 13:09 But here's the problem that most believers have, and we've all been there, I know that I have. Is we literally get stuck in our spiritual life, in the middle of verse 1 of Colossians chapter 3, "Since you have been raised with Christ." And then the story comes to an end, and we never experience the second part of the verse where Paul says, "Seek the things that are above." We get stuck at the comma. And look, this is true in other areas of our lives as well, and you've all experienced it. How many of you have a gym membership, and you never go to the gym? I mean, you have the membership, you have the credentials, but you don't have the vision, or the perspective, or the desire, for real change in your health. Go to the gym this month, and you'll see a lot of good intention, won't you? Every class and every machine is taken up, you can hardly move through the gym, typically in the month of January. Go back in March, and it's a ghost town, always true. How many of you have a library card, but you never go to the library and check out a book and read. How many of you have bought a Bible, and it sits collecting dust in the corner. How many of you have registered for school and then skipped classes? I don't see any hands on that one, I just thought I would ask. How many of you have ever joined a church, and then stopped attending?

Scott Kelly: 14:50 Look, I would imagine your basement, your garage, or perhaps a storage area in your house, is in fact a graveyard of good intentions. I mean, come on, when's the last time you actually pulled out that Thigh Master that you bought from Suzanne Summers in the middle of the 1990s. Now, if you don't know what a Thigh Master is, when you go home for lunch today, just Google it, and you'll have a very entertaining few moments. We have good intentions, don't we? Well, it's true in our spiritual lives as well, we have great intentions, but we get stuck at the comma. We discovered the gospel and by faith, we are raised with Christ, and that's as far as we make it. And we spend the rest of our days, the rest of our lives, wondering why, why we don't feel any different, why our prayers don't have any impact, why our faith never grows, and why we never experience the power of the gospel and the presence of Christ in our lives. And sadly, sadly, when this happens, and I've seen this over and over and over again, we begin to take offense at every difficult circumstance and every painful encounter in our lives. And before you know it, we're blaming God, we're blaming God, God, how could you? God, how could you let that happen? Did you know that the most searched word on Google in 2020 was the word, why. Why is there a pandemic? Why is there racial tension in our country and in our world? Why is our country so politically divided? Why, it's the most searched word in 2020. There's nothing inherently wrong with asking the question why, God can take it, read the Psalms.

Scott Kelly: 16:52 But here's the problem, when we don't have a gospel perspective, our why questions begin to take on the form of a courtroom drama, where we stand in judgment of God, and we put him on the witness stand, and we make him the object of our cross examination, and then we act surprised when all we hear is silence. Why does that happen? Why has that happened in your life? And why have you felt the pain and disappointment of that? Well, Paul tells us right here in Colossians. He says, "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is." If you want to find Christ, if you want genuine change in your life, you have to be where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. How powerful, how powerful that imperative is. Be raised with Christ, receive the gospel by grace through faith, but then seek the things that are above. This word seek is loaded with meaning, it literally means to explore and fully search out a matter, until you have full understanding. So if you think that you receive salvation by grace through faith, and then leave the gospel behind, think again. The gospel is not just the diving board, it's the pool that we jump into. It's not the entry into the Christian life, it is the Christian life. It's not the 101 class, it's the entire curriculum. What we need is a gospel perspective, because that is where Christ is, and that's where change will come. Here's the sad truth, without a gospel mindset, we will all languish under the burden of our own self-interest. Did you get tired of hearing yourself complain a little bit last year? If you didn't, the people around you did. Look, we had a lot to complain about last year, didn't we? But you see the reason why some things never change, is because we never change. We're alive in Christ as a follower, but we're stuck at the comma, never seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, and trusting the gospel message and what it can show us.

Scott Kelly: 19:42 Each year at Christmas, our immediate family, my wife, and my, son and I, we exchange Christmas letters. These are not cards, these are letters. So on Christmas morning, a few days ago, our 13 year old son presented his letter to Meredith and I, and here's a picture of the letter. I wanted to show it to you, don't worry, I'm not going to read the whole thing, I don't want you to get nervous. Besides that handwriting is so small, I'm not sure I can make out all of it. Well, there is an excerpt out of this letter that I want to read to you, and I think you'll understand why. Our son Jackson wrote, during quarantine, and this was to his mom and I. During quarantine, we were able to spend much more time together than we were ever able to before. We read several books of the Bible together, and I was able to watch tons of TV shows and movies with you. They were all documentaries, I might add, I know more now about Turkmenistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo than I thought I would ever learn in a lifetime. But here's the payoff, at the end of the day, 2020 wasn't the greatest year overall. However, it was the little moments we shared during this year that made it a great year. Now, do you think for one second, that I would trade that letter for everything that our family personally experienced in 2020? Not on your life, not on your life. You see, without this letter, without this relationship, 2020 would've probably been a pretty bad year. But with this letter, with this perspective, 2020, it was a great year. That's the difference gospel perspective makes.

Scott Kelly: 22:01 Paul says, "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." Now Paul continues in verses 2 and 3, think about it, we've only made it through the first verse. How about that? Paul continues in verse 2 and 3 and says this, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Now here's the third point I think Paul wants us to know this morning, this is our final point, genuine change is sustained by gospel identity. Genuine change is sustained by gospel identity. I want to unpack this for you, because this is a powerful truth that Paul is giving us here. Paul tells us in verse one, that change begins at the moment of conversion. "Having been raised with Christ, we should seek the things that are above." And then in verse 2, he adds, "Set your mind on the things that are above." Seeking is about our vision, it's about what we see, it's our ability to visualize what could be in our relationship with Christ. Setting is about capacity and execution, it's the doing, if you will. It's our spiritual constitution, Paul is trying to say. In fact, the word seek here is often employed to describe the diaphragm or the midriff of someone's body, it literally means your core, the core of who you are. In some ways, Paul is saying, we have to gut it out. Now for some of you, that's not very helpful.

Scott Kelly: 23:45 So let me be clear about this, Paul is not saying that we should be morally perfect people who are looking and sounding miserable, Paul is not suggesting that that is the Christian life. You've met those people, right? You've met those people who are morally perfect, and yet they are miserable, and they're miserable to be around. You've probably met them in church too, haven't you? Several years ago, Zig Ziglar said, "He's met a lot of Christians who act like they're second birth was just as painful to them as their first birth was to their mother." You've met some of those people, haven't you? They're followers of Christ, but they're miserable, they are miserable, that's not the life that Christ is calling us into. You see, it's not just about being good people and doing good things, it's about living in Christ and having a eternal heavenly perspective.

Scott Kelly: 24:45 So how do we develop this constitution? This core for change? Well, in verse 3, Paul tells us, and he makes it very, very clear and you don't want to miss this. He says this, "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Well, there is a deep logic to this poetic phrase here in verse 3, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God." It's cosmic in its scope, but it's also personal in its application, and you don't want to miss this. You don't want to miss this, the cosmic message is this, according to Jewish teaching, the plan of salvation was to be kept hidden as a mystery until the promised Messiah, foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament. That's the cosmic message, and in Jesus, that promise of a Messiah has been fulfilled. And we just celebrated that, the incarnation, during the Christmas season. But this promise is fulfilled, not just for the Jews, but for everyone. This is why John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world." That's everyone, you and me included, that is the cosmic message.

Scott Kelly: 26:13 So it raises the question, what is the personal application, the personal message of this phrase, to be hidden with Christ in God? Paul would want you to know this, there is a real danger, a real danger, for those who have been raised with Christ, but refuse to live seeking the things above. There is a real danger there to live vertically in relation to God, where Christ is, and choosing rather to live horizontally. There is a terrific danger in that, and here's why. The horizontal self, a believer who only looks horizontally, looks to other people for their sense of identity, rather than something larger and transcendent like the person of Christ. So their sense of self is always defined within and from society, and culture, and from other people, because when God plays no authoritative role in your life, when you dismiss God outright out of your life, he is no longer there to inform your identity. So we look naturally to others to define us, that's the danger, without Christ, you can only look to your peers and to the culture that we live in to gain your identity. But you need to know this, culture, peers, society, can only relay back the messages that you communicate to them. You say, I'm not cool because I say, I'm cool. I'm only cool, when you tell me that I am cool, then I have that sense of identity in me. This is why social media is such a powerful, and popular, and at times destructive tool, it's because we're inviting others to tell us who we are. That is a danger to live horizontally, because that is where you will begin to find your identity. And without a vertical gospel perspective in this world everyone and everything becomes a mirror or an echo chamber, and all it does is it becomes a vast audience from whom we gain our approval and our identity. Spiritually speaking, that is deadly, that is deadly.

Scott Kelly: 28:57 So how do we experience sustained change in our lives? How does that happen? Well, you're going to love this, the word hidden in verse 3, is the word crypto. Don't miss this, yes, that's where we get our word kryptonite. And if you remember the story of Superman, kryptonite was the only thing that could defeat Superman. You may remember that from your childhood, or perhaps from last night when you were watching Netflix. So here's the truth behind that, with all due respect to Superman, and this is important, being hidden with Christ, finding your identity Christ, finding your identity vertically, is the one thing that will render this world's horizontal power over you, null and void, that's it. Your identity has to be found in Christ, or you will find your identity in this world, and the results are disastrous. Genuine change is sustained by a gospel identity, "Set your mind on the things that are above, where Christ is." Why? "Because your life is hidden in Christ with God." We look to God for our identity, and there we will find our purpose.

Scott Kelly: 30:32 I'm going to close with a story. One of my favorite spiritual heroes is German Pastor and Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, many of you have heard of Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was born in 1906, and in the 1930s, he became increasingly disheartened and frustrated over the way German churches embraced, and even endorsed, the Nazi regime, which was on the rise. So to lead believers back to the gospel in his sphere of influence, Bonhoeffer led a resistance movement in the middle of Nazi Germany, called the confessing church. He even started a small seminary, gathered believers in biblical community, so that they could resist the oppressive destructive presence of the Nazis in Germany in 1930s.

Scott Kelly: 31:34 Well, in May of 1939, at the age of 33, Bonhoeffer received notice to report for military duty. Well, not wishing to take up arms in support of the very ideology he opposed, not to identify horizontally with what was going on in Germany, Bonhoeffer accepted a long standing invitation to teach at union theological seminary in New York, it was his parachute out of Germany. So two weeks later, Bonhoeffer boarded a ship, and he headed for the U S. But immediately upon arriving in New York, Bonhoeffer was deeply out of sorts, convicted as he would later describe, by a vision of Germany without the gospel. And that conviction turned into outright misery, and so literally 26 days later, Bonhoeffer laid aside his personal safety, and he set his mind on the things above, and he boarded a ship and he returned to Germany to serve and suffer alongside other Christians who were fighting for the gospel to take root in Germany.

Scott Kelly: 32:57 For more than three years Bonhoeffer taught and preached in a clandestine manner, and he even became a non-violent conspirator in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Which was sensationalized in the movie Valkyrie, starring Tom cruise, many of you saw that movie. Well in April of 1943, that plot was uncovered and Bonhoeffer like many others was arrested, and for two years he was moved from prison camp to prison camp across Germany. But he continued to teach and minister to his fellow prisoners, and even administered the Lord's Supper on a regular basis to his Nazi captors. Well, in April of 1945, upon hearing personally of the details of the assassination plot against him and the conspirators involved, Adolf Hitler issued a direct order for the execution of Bonhoeffer. And so, at dawn on April the 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was hanged at the Flossenbürg prison, two weeks before American troops liberated the prison, and three weeks before Hitler committed suicide. One of the most pointed statements ever written by Bonhoeffer, he wrote years before he was arrested. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he wrote these words, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." You see for Bonhoeffer, that was no abstract theological metaphor, it was an invitation that defined his life, and today it defines his legacy.

Scott Kelly: 35:02 So what's your legacy going to be? It's 2021, it's a new year, it's going to take more than turning the page of your calendar from December to January to experience genuine change in your life. But Christ calls us to come and die, die to self. Why? So that we can be resurrected with him, and in that, we can set our mind on the things that are above. And there, we'll not only find our identity, we'll find our purpose. And that's our prayer for you in 2021.

Scott Kelly: 35:45 Let's pray together. Father, you have heard our cries for the better part of an entire year. And, Lord, I know that there are so many people in this room, and others who are watching us online, who have been crying out, who've been asking why. And each of us in our own way, we want change, we need change, so we confess that to you today. So, Father, I pray that you would give us a new and fresh vision of what it means to experience change in our lives. May we hear the words of Paul, who made it very clear that genuine change cannot occur apart from the gospel? So, Father, for those that are listening, for those that are watching, I pray, I pray that they would find new life in Christ, that they would be raised with Christ. Apart from that, there is no change, no genuine change. Father, for those of us that have been languishing at the comma in the middle of verse 1, we've accepted Christ, we know the gospel. But, Father, we've never set our mind on the things that are above, we're not seeking Christ, who is at your side. Lord, I pray that this day, and every day moving forward, that that would be our heart's desire. That we would seek our identity and our purpose in you, stop looking horizontally, and asking everything and everyone else to define us, to tell us who we are.

Scott Kelly: 37:56 Father, thank you for the gift of salvation which comes through your son. Now, may we swim in the gospel, understanding the depth and riches of your son, Jesus, and his death for us. Father, thank you for Shandon, we're grateful for the people that are gathering with us today in worship, whether in this building or watching online. And I pray that this year we would emerge with an extraordinary passion for the gospel, and how it can change our lives, our community, and our world.

Scott Kelly: 38:36 Lord, we confess that your son is seated at your side, and in that we recognize your sovereignty. So, Lord, bring on 2021. We trust in you, we trust in your son, our hope is in him alone. Father, we offer this prayer to you, in our hearts of service and worship, in the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206