I stumbled upon an article recently about a man who angrily left one of our WELS churches. It broke my heart to read it. The article talked at length about how judgmental our churches are and how this man found what he was looking for in a different church. When the interviewer asked him what it was that drew him to his new church, he said, “I finally found a church that doesn’t expect me to change.”
I’ve been thinking about that. “I finally found a church that doesn’t expect me to change.” Is that what you’re looking for? Wouldn’t it be nice to find a church that doesn’t expect you to change?
Watch out! It wouldn’t be a Christian church. Know why? Jesus expects you to change. Does that surprise you? Over and over again, Jesus preached: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). Do you know what repent means? Change! Turn around!
Jesus loved hanging out with sinners. He showed compassion, love, and forgiveness to people caught in adultery, demon possession, greed, and a whole bunch of other sins. Jesus welcomes sinners. What comfort that brings to you and me! But Jesus didn’t hang out with sinners so that they could continue to sin. Jesus came to save them. To forgive them. To change them.
Jesus loves you the way you are, but he doesn’t leave you the way you are. He loves you too much for that. Jesus called on tax collectors to leave their greed and find contentment in his forgiveness. Jesus called on prostitutes to leave their adultery and find true satisfaction in God’s grace. Jesus called on self-righteous Pharisees to ditch their sinful pride and find their identity in being the children of God. Are you angry? Lustful? Greedy? Bitter? Jesus loves you. But he doesn’t leave you in your sin. Jesus changes you!
Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, you can be sure of two things: Jesus loves you so much that he died for you and Jesus calls you to repent. The guilt in your heart needs confessing. There are sins in your life that need repenting. If your church isn’t telling you that, it’s not speaking for Jesus. Don’t look for a church that doesn’t expect you to change. Look for a church that preaches, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Here’s the best part: God’s Word doesn’t just tell you to change. It changes you. There is power in Jesus’ cross. Power to wash away every one of your sins. Power to raise your heart from the dead. Power to fill your soul with grace and forgiveness. Power to say no to sinful desires. Christ’s salvation empowered the apostle Paul to write: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1,2).
As we enter a new year, what sin are you hanging on to? What guilt weighs down your soul? Jesus loves you just the way you are, but Jesus doesn’t leave you the way you are. Come to Jesus with all your sins, your faults, and your disappointments. Then watch as Jesus’ grace and Jesus’ Word change you.
Author: Nathan Nass
Volume 109, Number 01
Issue: January 2021