This is part 7 in the Bible study series: Let Us Keep the Feasts. Do you sometimes look at your life and wonder, “Have I ever changed and become a better person”? It is a powerful thought. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
American King James Version×) How can we harness this power to bring spiritual change to our lives? Is there a scriptural key we can center on as a foundation of real and lasting change?
[Darris McNeely] Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our Wednesday night Bible study series here from the home office of the United Church of God here in Cincinnati, Ohio. Glad to have all of you out here this evening with us. For those of you that are online, welcome. Many of you will be listening to this live over the Internet, then viewing it later on delay. So welcome to all of you, we’re glad to have you. We’re continuing in our series of the power of the Holy Spirit and leading up to the Feast of Pentecost as we keep the Feasts of God. And it’s a busy time right now here at the office. We are preparing for the annual meeting of the General Conference of Elders, commonly called by us as the GCE. Many elders, I think about 185 elders and wives, possibly more, I saw a list today and forgot the exact number, but we have a number that will be coming in from around the United States and Canada. Many other international areas will begin to convene here this weekend for our meetings. So we’re looking forward to having them with us, and we’re glad to have all of you here tonight for this. So I will go ahead and ask God’s blessing on the Bible study. Those of you that are here, if you would just please bow your heads and we will ask God to be with us. Great God, thank You very much for this evening, for the opportunity to gather in this midweek Bible study. You’ve given us the wonderful facilities here at our home office. You’ve given us good weather here this evening as well. We pray that wherever Your people are gathered tonight, hearing this and even later in their lives, there is peace, there is confidence, and there is courage. Father, we ask that as we gather and study into Your Word, pertaining to, tonight in this case, the ability to change and to become different people through and by Your Word and Your Holy Spirit, it would help us to think deeply about ourselves and where we are in our journey with You toward Your Kingdom. So guide us tonight, be with those who are not able to tune in. And certainly, Father, many are sick, and we need to remember them in our prayers. We ask You to strengthen them, raise them to health and to courage by Your grace. Thank you, Father, for Your Word and for Your love and kindness in our lives. We pray Your blessing tonight and do so in Christ’s holy name. Amen. All right. Well, we’ve had several good studies all the way along here. We had run up to the Feast of the Unleavened Bread and several studies that led us to that point. And now we’re in this period between the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, where we covered the themes of the firstfruits of God’s harvests, the firstfruits of God’s plan of salvation. The theme of the Holy Spirit, the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The beginning of the church and what that means in terms of the power of God in our lives. We chose this particular night’s study to be one that would focus in on the power to change. And those intangible elements of life that we look for and need in order to make the most effective and the most lasting changes in our lives, the changes that pertain to our calling to be sons of God, and to accomplish and to achieve the potential God has given to each one of us to be His heirs. And at the end of the discussion, at the end of any desire to change, is that change and those changes we make in our own lives that mold us into the image and the character of God Himself that are the most important. When I was a student, a senior at Ambassador College, I had an instructor in our senior speech class who was talking to us very earnestly. He was a very good instructor and in many, many ways, taught us a lot. He was teaching us in the art of giving sermons and sermonettes, and the technical term for that is “homiletics,” in terms of preaching. And he was instructing us in that and how we would go about it, and what we would encounter as we were going into the ministry. And he made a very interesting statement that I still remember. Forty-two years later, if you can remember a statement that one of your instructors made, it must have had a profound impact in your life. He said that of all the talk we make about change and overcoming and becoming converted in our typical in-speak methods within the church, he said, “When it’s all said and done after many, many years, sometimes, you don’t see too much change at all for all the talk and the efforts that change in one’s life.” I remember thinking, well, that’s kind of negative, a bit defeating. After all, we’re in the process of teaching the Word of God to people, and we want people to change, to become like God, to be like Jesus Christ, and to be different people in the process of time. How is it that we might get to the point where we would not be making any changes in our life? And I thought about that through the years. And being a minister, being a Christian, I look at my life on a fairly regular basis, certainly like you. When it comes to the Passover every year, we go through a period of introspection, self-examination and connection with the sacrifice of Christ as we prepare ourselves to take the symbols of Christ’s suffering and His death. And we look at our lives periodically, and we sometimes even go through various stages where certain changes and matters that happen to us bring us, whether we like it or not, to change. And I have always thought about that and remembered that. As I look over 40-plus years in the ministry and in teaching and all the multiple thousands of hours that I have spent teaching, counseling with people, and in many ways, watching them to develop and to mature into productive, intelligent adults. I’ve seen many people make great strides in personal growth while others, in some cases, regressed, and perhaps didn’t make as much as others. But I’ve always wondered about my former teacher’s statement and what that might mean. And as I thought about that in preparation for this study tonight, I put it to one side as I introduced it to you. Because when we talk about change, the power to change, there are many things to learn about that and to look at. And we could look at many different steps, gimmicks, and methods by which we might change. In fact, when I started thinking about this at the beginning of this calendar year…in January every year, people make New Year’s Resolutions. They want to change certain habits in their life. I started collecting a lot of the articles that I would run across on the web and in papers this year, and putting them into a file, and anticipating doing some teaching and writing on this subject of change. And there was one article I remember seeing, it came about three weeks into January, three and a half weeks into January. And the article was talking about, “This is usually the time people fail or stop trying to make any good on their resolutions that they’ve made, after 21-plus days.” And they had statistics and analysis to back that up. I ran across another one of these little short articles that come to you on the web. And for all of us that have smartphones, we can relate to this, it was actually advocating, it was talking about an app that you can get to help you to change. There’s an app for everything for us to get on our phones. Here was an app that could help you change. I just filed that away. I didn’t even click on that article and waste my time reading it because I’ve learned enough to know that there’s not an app made that’s going to make me change probably…at least for me, maybe for you. There’s all kinds of talk and efforts and gimmicks to bring that about, and a great deal of focus and energy upon that. So tonight, as we go into this study, let’s look at the power to change. And we’re going to be focusing upon the Word of God and God’s Holy Spirit. But I want to bring it down eventually to one key that I think will help us understand what it is and how we can make the lasting spiritual changes that really do impact our life on the one thing that really does matter, and that is becoming like God, realizing our potential to be born into the family of God. To understand, in essence, why we were born. If we look at ourselves and change, we might ask a question, “what keeps us from making significant changes and progress in our life?” There’s a scripture in 2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
American King James Version×, we all know. Let’s turn and read that, 2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
American King James Version×, which is a very powerful description of what God has given to each person who repents, and through faith and baptism, receives the gift of God’s spirit. Paul says as he writes this letter, he says in 2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
American King James Version×, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” It is not a spirit of fear. It is a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind. Taken together, this is a very complete verse to explain this whole subject for us to focus on. When you look at what he says at the beginning, he says “We have not received a spirit of fear.” Fear is one of those parts of life that is a real big inhibitor to change. Years ago, I remember reading one of these very early self-help books in the early ’70s, and one of the chapters was talking about fear and guilt. The two matters, the two emotions that really do paralyze people – fear and guilt. Just to focus on fear, it does paralyze you. Any of us, when we fear something, it will keep us from changing. It will paralyze us in place, wherever we might be, stunt our growth. We might fear any number of things. And we’ve all had phobias and fears that we have had to deal with and grow out of, or overcome, or face. We might fear tomorrow. We might fear today. We might fear our past, that something might catch up to us from our past. We might fear something that we don’t understand, something that we don’t know. We might fear something and things that we cannot control. And the list could go on and on and on in terms of things that we might fear. And fear is not of God’s spirit is what Paul is saying here. The spirit of God does not motivate to fear. And it does not bring a person to change by fear tactics either, by abusive, forceful, openhanded tactics employed by anyone that provokes us to abnormal fear. I know the Bible talks about the fear of God. And that we go to the Feast of Tabernacles, as it tells us in Deuteronomy 14, that we might always fear God. That, when it’s fully understood, is not that we stand in trepidation of God; it really means to respect and to worship God, that we might learn to love God. That’s what that means there. But the fear, this human emotion that could be because of guilt or emotional immaturity or some other quirk of our personality that paralyzes us, is not something that God’s spirit engenders. And God’s Word, God’s law, God’s teaching, God’s way of life in itself does not engender fear, and fear is not a means to growth. We could have the daylights scared out of us over something. But you know, that might then fade. And we might go through a temporary change of behavior. But if it’s not a change of the heart, if it’s not an inward change, then chances are, it won’t be a permanent change and will not be that change of a heart. If you look at the changes that you have made through the years, and if you can catalog those or write a list of any changes, what would they be? What type of habits have you kicked? Did you kick a smoking habit? Did you kick a drinking habit? Did you kick some other type of physical habit that was abusive or detrimental to your health? Was it an emotional habit? Have you become more productive in work as a result of just determining and applying yourself to be a more productive, harder worker, more proficient, whatever it might be. What kind of changes have you made? Have you become a more loving husband, or a more patient wife or parent? Look at the changes that you’ve made. When I look at myself, I can see that in some matters, I have made big changes. And in some ways, I think, perhaps I have proven my college teacher wrong. But then there are times that come up in my life where I realize, “Oh, man. I’m still like that.” And I have to be the same. I’m still the same in some ways. Sometimes, we will find ourselves slipping back into habits. That can be discouraging a bit, especially if it’s pointed out by someone close to you, as we all or want to have someone that may do that at various times. I’ve come to realize there are some parts of our personality, personalities we have, in a sense, that are destiny. I think I will always have certain traits of my father, probably always will. And I hope it’s always the good traits. But there may be some of the traits that he had that were not always the best that I will have to be aware of. And same with you. And we have to, I think, understand that, that some matters of personality just might be our destiny, but there are others that we can modify. We can change with effort. And if we do that, we will be better people as a result of that. Now, there are changes that come about as we grow older, as we mature in life, and go through experiences. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 1 Corinthians 13:11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
American King James Version×, the apostle Paul makes this well-known statement. He says, and this is one of those brilliant statements that Paul made that has multiple layers of application. He says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child. I understood as a child.” And we can be a fully-grown adult and still think as a child in some ways, and so that applies there. We can be children and only have limited understanding about many aspects of life and speak accordingly. “I understood,” he said, “as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” At one level of understanding, this verse talks to us about the seasons of life that we go through. That as we mature, as we become adults, our thinking changes. When we get married, it should change in other ways as we begin to love another person, begin to form that one flesh concept that the Bible talks about. Sometimes, people still don’t make the deep changes that they need to make if they’re, let’s say, 20, 21 years old. They get married, they love somebody, but they still like to run around, still like to party, still like to do certain things. And it may not be until a child is born that the real dynamic begins to change and to kick in, and that husband, or sometimes the wife, sees that baby and the whole world changes. And they reach another level of maturity as a result of now having the responsibility of a child. I’ve seen people then, they make tremendous changes of growth as a human being when a child comes along. So again, the stages of life that we go through bring about maturity, change, just as this Scripture shows us that it will. There’s another key thought expressed over in the book of Colossians 3 that talks about change as well, Colossians 3. I’m going to talk about this, read this verse from the New Living Translation. Colossians 3:8 Colossians 3:8 But now you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
American King James Version×, he says, “Now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, and malicious behavior.” There’s a time to rid yourself of that anger, rage, and malicious behavior. Anger can be a problem that sometimes people struggle with, an emotional disability. And anger can be a very crippling emotion if it is something that controls us at inopportune moments and one cannot deal with the emotion that turns into a rage. Or a feeling toward malicious behavior, or slander, or dirty language. He says, “Don’t lie to each other. For you have stripped off your old, sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.” And he is speaking about this in the context, again, of God’s Spirit being with us, having been raised with Christ, and beginning to seek those things which are above, back in verse 1, and he’s really speaking to a mind that is led by God’s Spirit, has the Holy Spirit. This spirit of power and love and of a sound mind can help us really accelerate toward these matters as well. And then be able, as he says, in verse 10, “To put on your new nature, and to be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.” Many of these emotions of rage and slander should be put off. Now, to be honest and to be fair, there are many, many very fine people in today’s world who may not even be religious, but they’re good people and they don’t fight anger, and they have learned to control their language and their tongue. You don’t necessarily have to be religious to have a certain level of morality and ethical nature and behavior that has many of these things in control. That’s true. That is true. But keep in mind that, as Paul is talking about this, it is in the context of putting on, learning to know your Creator and becoming like Him, but also becoming so at a very deep level to where we understand exactly why we should be like this. Again, because we are created in the image of God, and we understand that are we to be joint heirs with Christ, and heirs of the promises that God has made to all, and to ultimately, to become like God. We understand that God is making a family, and through this process of salvation, He is bringing people into…ultimately, they will become spirit beings because they have overcome the world to a degree and to a level that is even deeper than what many very good people are able to do, even as they also take from the knowledge, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and can live decent, moral, good lives. We’ll see how deep that has to be as we go along here. He said, “In this new life,” in verse 11, “it doesn’t matter if you’re Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us,” and He does. Paul said in Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×that the life he now lived, “The life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who lives within me.” That is the life that we live. Christ does live within us, as we use that Spirit and we become different people. This is, again, the great lesson that we should be thinking about in this period between the Days of Unleavened Bread to Pentecost. Frankly, from that period that follows after, to be more specific, the timing of the wave sheaf offering and that Sabbath, that day following the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread when Christ Himself was accepted, and from which we begin to count toward Pentecost, that 50-day period, there is that 50 days that we’re now in the middle of, that we should be thinking in terms of what that means for Christ to have been accepted as the wave sheaf offering, and for us now, as He is our high priest, He’s our intercessor. And as His life lives within us, this is a period to focus on that power that is within us to change and to live a better life. Now, let’s go back here to Colossians 3:12 Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;
American King James Version×, he says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy.” We’ve put off the other elements of verse 9, but we are to put on these others. We are to clothe ourselves with a tenderhearted mercy, with kindness, with humility, gentleness, and patience. Again, because we understand just how important that these qualities are, as they reflect the quality of the Father and our Brother, Jesus Christ. And as we understand that, then we are that much more eager to become like our Heavenly Father, to be perfect in the sense that They are, to follow after, and yes, even to strive for that perfection, as we make the efforts that we must make on the human level to overcome and to put this type of character on. It does take a level of striving and effort, and if you will, work on our part. At the end of the day, as I said earlier, there’s no smartphone app that you and I can download that’s going to make a change for us. There’s no one article, there’s no one life hack that we’re going to find that will make us, of and by itself, the type of person that these Scriptures and others describe, not by itself, and not through some magic formula. Now, they can be inspiring, they can be motivational, they can be helpful, and I’ve got a whole electronic folder full of articles that I’ve collected through the years that help me to, as I label them, they’re my “sharpen the saw” file. For those of you that remember one of “The 7 Habits of Effective People” that Stephen Covey wrote about, one of those habits is to sharpen the saw, to keep your saw sharp so that it cuts easily through the wood, whatever you’re working on. We have to sharpen ourselves, and there are many things that motivate us to that, primarily of which is the Bible. But at the end of the day, to be honest, we have to come to the point where we sit down and we do it. Or we make an effort to do it. And we have to strive to become perfect as our Father is perfect. We have to make some sweat equity investment into it. At the end of the day, you have to. I’m a writer, I make a big part of my living, draw my paycheck as a result of things that I write. And you know what? The only way you write something is to sit yourself down in the chair, and you stay there until you crank out the words. You can take all the walks in the woods you want. You can go down to Starbucks and just sit there and wait for that inspiration to come through the wafting aroma of that nice, strong coffee, thinking, “That’s where I’ll find inspiration.” “I can read this book, I can read this magazine. I’ll wait until the news hits me and I get that inspiration…” No, no. The only way you write that article, that blog, that book, if that’s what you’re doing, you sit yourself down in that chair, and you keep yourself there until you get it done and you sweat it out. Sometimes, the only way we’re going to make any changes that really do count and are necessary is when we make ourselves, we determine and we strive, and we exercise some physical character to get it done. And then if we are really astute and spiritual enough to know to go to God and to ask God for His help, and to study His Word diligently to do that, then that power will be with us to help bring us to a love and to a sound-mindedness that we can then have that peace, and know that God has literally given us extra measures of help to do certain things that, even of and by itself, we may not be able to do. But when He sees that heart, when He sees that determination, then it will be there. So don’t look for the quick fix, don’t look for the slick app. Recognize that we have got to apply ourselves when it comes down to it. And then know how to employ the tools of God’s spirit, the Word of God, to enable that to be done as well. In verse 13 here, he says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you. You must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love (put on love) which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members as one body, you’re called to live in peace, and always be thankful.” When we use that power of God’s spirit, of love, and of a sound mind, when we use that, then we can come to a peace that comes from God. A peace of mind. And that is much, much deeper even than what might be there in someone else’s life who doesn’t understand what these Scriptures are saying, and yet can come to a control of a certain habit or problem. We all understand that people make changes in their lives every day. Alcoholics go to Alcoholics Anonymous, or some other addiction anonymous program, and they employ a 12-step formula, and they kick a habit, and they change. It happens every day. And thank God for those programs that do help people pull themselves out of those gutters of life and kick a habit that is destructive to themselves, to their family, to society. They do it all the time. They curb anger. People do grow out of that, or they overcome it. They may invoke a higher power as they understand it in their way, and, through a combination of belief and even grit and determination, are motivated to make changes. A couple of years ago in a sermon on Pentecost, I made famous a guy that I called “Tattoo Guy,” as some of you may remember. A guy that I had run into at the health club who’s covered up with tattoos and body piercings. A rather fearsome-looking character that was working out all the time, and as I got to know him, found out he’d been a drug addict. And he had kicked the habit, and he was there every day at the gym working out, as he said, “getting a high,” from pumping iron, rather than shooting up in his arm. And I called him “Tattoo Guy.” When I asked him what caused him to kick the habit, he said it was his little girl who had visited him in prison and said, “Daddy, I’m tired of visiting you in prison.” And it was the motivation where all the other addiction programs had not worked. The jail sentences handed down by the judge didn’t work. Ultimately, it was his little girl. People make those changes and they’re real changes. Let’s not forget that. And all kinds of other changes. Do you ever watch the commercials for diet plans that are inundating us on television? How many of you know what I’m talking about? I’m not going to mention any of them by name. This is going out on the Internet and I don’t want to get any product placement problems here. But you see them all the time on television. Usually what they do, these are the ones where they have some formerly famous person selling their diet plan. And they tell you how much weight they’ve lost, and how much better they feel because of the specially crafted foods that they will send to you for so much a month. And they’ll send you a week free to begin with, and they’ll throw it all in. And it’s an absurd amount of money when you add it all up as to what it costs. And you look at some of these personalities and you wonder how much cosmetic surgery they’ve had. We were watching one the other night and Debbie said, “She looks better now than she did 25 years ago.” And you know she’s got the money to have had the cosmetic surgery, but she’s hawking this diet plan, and the diet plan can work if you apply it. No question about that, that’s why they’re still in business. But eventually, you run out of money or you go off of it. And if you haven’t learned…they send you portion controlled items. And if you do eat only what it is in that package, then you will lose some weight in time. But if you don’t and you go off of that, you’ve not learned how to do that yourself and cook in the right ways yourself, then chances are, you’re going to go right back and balloon the weight back up when you can’t afford their diet plan anymore, and have UPS send it to you in the truck every few days. But those are out there and those systems work, but unless you make the structural changes in your diet and your lifestyle, they come right back. The point is change is hard work. As I’ve said, it’s kind of like writing: you have to employ the grit and the determination to get it done. But there’s a level of change that we must achieve if we’re going to become the children of God, as potential heirs of God’s Kingdom. Paul talks and gets down to that here in Colossians when he talks about the peace that comes from Christ ruling in our hearts. That’s a level of change, and that comes from God. In 2 Peter 1, Peter talks about the result of this change that comes from God. 2 Peter 1. And beginning in verse 2, 2 Peter 1:2 2 Peter 1:2Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
American King James Version×, he writes, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This power that God gives us, a divine power, helps us then to take on the divine nature. We are partakers of the divine nature through this process of salvation that God has called us to. And that is the nature of God. That is His mind, His personality, His kindness, His love, His grace. All of these things that Paul talked about in Colossians 3, this is what is the nature of God that we take part in through this power that God gives to us. And that’s the level of deep change that is the change of God in us, molding us, and shaping us into His character and into His image that will transcend this physical life into the resurrected, glorified body that awaits us at that change and at that time. It is that character, the nature of God that we take on in this life as we are being prepared, that transcends the mortal flesh. This is how important it is, and this is the level of change that we must come to. And it is a change that comes from the heart. Back in Mark 7, Christ’s statements about this, Mark 7. And a passage where He is talking about the defilement that can come from within, rather than from the outside, the importance of what happens in our lives. We come down to verse 20. I’ll read this again from the New Living Translation, Mark 7:20 Mark 7:20And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man.
American King James Version×. Christ says that, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft and murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.” Take your pick of any of these that we may have been part of at any point in our life or in the past, and Christ says that the germ, the seed for this defilement, these sins, come from the heart. All of these vile things come from within. They are what defile you. Now, this is also what is to be put off as God forgives us for all of these when we repent in faith and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But He identifies that they come from the inner person. The inner seat of emotion, called the heart, from which comes are all of these desires that, in some cases, are pretty extreme when they are not controlled, that can lead to murder, or adultery, or theft, and a violation of God’s law. But He’s making this in the context of showing the people that, look, it’s not the outward washings and ceremonialism that one needs to be concerned about. It’s really what we’re thinking, what’s inside. And there’s a remedy for that is His ultimate point. There is an app for that. But it’s not something you download from the Internet. The app is God’s Holy Spirit. That’s the power to make those changes and to deal with the impact of these, and through the power of God’s Word, a living, breathing, Word of God that is sharper that any sword that cuts to the innermost parts of our lives and helps us to discern all things. How do we get to that key? How do we get to that point where this is living within us, motivating the thoughts, the emotions, the drives from inside into our actions and words and deeds that reflect a changed life, led by God’s Holy Spirit? Indeed, a life that is powerful and reflective of the love of God, and enabling a person to be sound-minded, rather than fearful. There’s a story from the Gospels that is one that we pay little attention to. And I will have to admit, until a few years ago, I had not paid much attention to it. And it was almost like reading it for the first time. Have you ever run across that and you read a passage and a story or something…even a verse. “I had not read that before. I didn’t know that was there.” Well, there’s a story that we don’t always focus on. It’s in Luke 24. And it’s a story that happens during the Days of Unleavened Bread after Christ’s resurrection. It is the story of two disciples who are walking down a road, talking about the things that have happened. And they’re on the road to a little village that is probably to the north, and historians say to the west of Jerusalem, but a short enough distance that they could be walking from Jerusalem to this little village of Emmaus, beginning in verse 13. And it’s a fascinating story that I think holds a key for us to learn from. So let’s spend a few minutes going through this briefly. Beginning in Luke 24:13 Luke 24:13And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three score furlongs.
American King James Version×. Keep in mind, this is the day after the resurrection. On that week, Jesus was crucified, three days and three nights in the grave, and then resurrected. It’s a Sunday; it’s the first day of the week. They called it the first day of the week. Today, it’s called obviously Sunday, but it’s that time period. So it’s during the Days of Unleavened Bread. “Behold, two of them (two disciples) were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” Here are two disciples, not of the 12 it would seem, walking and talking about the things that had happened – the arrest, the death, the crucifixion, and now, the empty tomb and the resurrection. And they’re talking about it. Two disciples, and Christ just appears on the road, just slips in among them here is what happens. He draws near; where did He come from? Well, He’s a glorified spirit being; He’s resurrected at this point. He can come and go at will. And as the accounts show, He does. “He started to walk with them. “But their eyes were restrained, they did not know Him, they didn’t recognize Him. And He said to them, ‘What kind of conversation is this that you had with one another as you walk and are sad?’” They were discouraged. The death of Jesus, now an empty tomb, and not fully understanding it, perhaps somewhat still fearful. “The one whose name was Cleopas answered and said, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?’” Have you been living in a cave? Where have you been? The ground shook. The sky turned to dark in the middle of the day, and people came up out of the graves. And you don’t know what happened? They’re trying to figure all this out. “And He said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to Him, ‘Things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today’s the third day since these things happened.’” They were looking for Him to restore the Kingdom to Israel, which is the question that had been put to Him some days earlier. “’Certain women of our company, they arrived at the tomb early and astonished us when they did not find His body. And they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.’ And He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” But they still didn’t fully understand who they were talking to. And as “they drew near to the village where they were going and He indicated that He would have gone further, they constrained Him saying, ‘Abide with us, for it’s toward evening, the day’s far spent.’” In other words, stay a spell. Come on in. Have a meal. Stay with us here. It’s late. “And it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them.” And it was at that moment that “their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.” Just like that. He came and He went. But now, they knew who they were talking to. When He broke the bread and when He gave it to them, it all now came together. And they understood that they had been talking with the Rabbi, their Master, Jesus of Nazareth. And now, it began to make sense. It’s in verse 32 that is a critical thought, as we are talking here tonight about the power to change. And the deep changes that we can make, will make, because we understand that we are created in the image of God, that we are achieving day by day, year by year, season by season, the very purpose for our living, and that is to be ultimately born into the family of God, to be joint heirs with Christ, heirs of God of all of the spiritual promises. When they came to this point, “they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” Didn’t our heart burn within us? There was an excitement. There was a life. There was an energy. Remember, they were walking along, talking about the things that had happened. Christ came among them and began to further the conversation even to the point of talking about the Scriptures from the Old Testament that pointed to Him. They were talking about the Word of God, and for this moment, they were actually being instructed in the Word of God, by the living Word of God now resurrected and glorified. What a great Bible study! Would that any of us would ever have such an occasion? These two disciples had a unique moment where the resurrected Christ explained the Bible to them. I bet they didn’t have any questions. They understood it pretty clearly. That’s what they said. But they said, “While He was talking, didn’t our hurt burn within us?” Do you ever put yourself through a concentrated time of Bible study? Bible reading. Where you just sit down and you open the Bible, and for 30 minutes, for an hour, you read the Bible. You just read the Word of God. Maybe it’s a dedicated reading program that you’re systematically going through. Perhaps it’s some other time that you will pick a certain passage, book, or section to read from, and you just sit down and you read from the Bible. And then you might take a break and you might take a walk. You might go and pray for a while. And you come back and you sit down and you read for another 30 or 45 minutes, and you just read the Bible. You don’t need to have another concordance or Bible study aid or anything else – no smartphone, no computer, no other distraction. Maybe it’s just the warmth of a fire on a winter afternoon, or the warmth of the morning sunshine that’s coming through on a Sabbath morning or a Sunday morning or another morning that you may by luxury or by choice or design give to yourself. And you are just spending time reading the Bible. You’re not reading anything else with it. And you’re praying, and then you take a walk. And if you are inclined to keep a journal or a prayer journal or something, and you write down your thoughts about it of what you’ve been reading, and then you go back to it. The feeling, the joy, the depth of understanding that can come through something like that, to me, gets close to perhaps what these two disciples were talking about. Where they say, “Didn’t our heart burn within us when He talked with us and He explained these things?” Give yourself such a moment. Give yourself such a time. You know, the ministry is going to be exhorted this weekend at the General Conference meetings to labor in the Word. Labor in the Word. Now that can take on different meanings. But to labor, to any degree, in the Word of God, we have to clear the deck, give ourselves the luxury, and yeah, it might be for some of us, a luxury. Because we can think of a dozen other things we should be doing: cleaning the house, mowing the yard, doing this, doing that. Yes, I know that, and life is busy and we have all those things. And we might think, “I can’t do that.” I know, I’ve said that to myself. I’ve said, “I’ve got to go work. I’ve got a class to prepare for. I’ve got an article to write. I’ve got to do all these other physical chores and things about life, as well.” And maybe there’s other things I might think I’d rather do. Read a novel that I’ve been wanting to get to, or another book, or a stack of magazines that are piling up in the house. Or watch a Cincinnati Reds baseball game. You insert whatever favorite pastime you have. I know all of those things and you do, too. But more and more, we get to a point where we recognize that we’ve got to labor in the Word. We have to allow God’s Word to be with us long enough as we read it, prayerfully think about it, and pray about it, and reflect on it, so that it does, in a sense, burn within our heart. And we come, then, through that method to a deeper understanding of whatever it might be. Maybe it is an obscure prophet such as Hosea that we might have touched on, if you were at ABC at any time, or you heard a sermon or Bible study on it. Or you heard Minister So and So give a taped presentation on it that you downloaded from the Internet. And maybe you did a low-flying swoop over it at some point in your past in a study, but it’s something that doesn’t really relate to you and doesn’t inspire or encourage you, but is part of the Word of God, and it’s there for a reason, and there’s instruction, whatever it might be. Any other passage of the Bible. Even Luke 24, which you haven’t read before. Or you knew it was there, but you didn’t know it was there, because it hadn’t been something you turned to for a while, and you gain a deeper understanding. These disciples came to a point where they recognized that while He was with them and while He talked with them, their heart, in a sense, came alive. This is really what it means. And that’s what happens when we apply ourselves to a deep, concentrated period of just letting God’s Word speak to us and wash over us. It produces change. It produces a depth of thought about the Word of God far beyond anything we can ever plan, imagine, or even, at times, receive in any other fashion. Sermons have their place, and Bible study has their place, and the public teaching of the Word has its place within the church, and we have ample means for that. On our UCG.org website, we’ve got hundreds, thousands of sermons and Bible studies that are there, that are very beneficial from all the ministers and others who have spoken. All that’s been placed up there. And as good as they are, and as valuable as they are, none of them are a substitute for the Bible, and the Word of God, and what it does, as it is the living Word of God, profitable for instruction in righteousness, for reproof, for doctrine, for strengthening our faith, and for even, in a sense, causing our emotions in our inner heart to come alive when we spend the time with that. And that, I submit to us tonight, is the depth of letting the power of God’s Word coupled with His Spirit mixing with us, to bring us to the point where there are tangible changes and depths of understanding, and conviction and sense of understanding. And yes, a peace of mind. And yes, a power and a love that dispels all fear. All the doubt that bombards us from all different sources and quarters in our world, in our life today. That’s what moves it out of our lives. That’s then what gives us the power to change and to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. That, I think, is a key lesson from this story of these two disciples on the road to Emmaus who learned a very important lesson that day, and was inspired by God’s Word to be a part of what we can go to today and help us. So let me leave this with you tonight, that you take a lesson from these disciples. And that, in your efforts to dispel fear and develop with that Spirit power, and love, and a sound of mind, as God says He intends for us to do, that you spend that time, and you give yourself that gift in your life at some point, in your week, in the next month. And you carve out a block of time, and you devote yourself to a deep, reflective, prayerful study – a labor, if you will, in the Word of God, and let God’s Word talk to you. Let God talk to you through that Bible study, through that Bible reading and that thought to the point where it does cause your heart to come alive and to sing, and to come to a point where you then find the courage and the power to change and to become more like your Heavenly Father. Give yourself that gift. And you will realize then what it means to have the power to change. Thanks to all of you for coming. We will be holding our next Bible study in a couple of weeks. I believe Steve Meyers will be conducting that Bible study. So we’ll look forward to having you then. And I think that’ll be the last one then of this series prior to the Feast of Pentecost. So have a good night to all of you, drive safely going home, and we will see you next time.