Set In Our Ways?
Do you know anyone - who is “set in their ways”? Are any of us, set in our ways? If you’re married... or ever been married... or if you have kids... I’m sure you’ve known someone who’s “set in their ways!”
I just turned 52 years old... and I can assure you... I’m pretty “set in my ways.” It takes a lot to change my opinion or my belief system. But at least I can admit it...
Abram was surely set in his ways, too. By the time of our scripture lesson today, Abram was already 75 years old. Of course we’ve all heard the old saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” - and that may or may not be true.
But what is definitely true... is that Abram was beyond the point in life where most people start over. Most people by the age of 75 are retired… they’re settled. You’re not thinking about starting a new career or picking up and starting a new life. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule… but for the most part… 75 is not the age to start over! 75 is an age where most people are settled... and “set in their ways”.
But starting over is exactly what God called Abraham and Sarah to do. God said, “Abram, leave your hometown, and your friends, and your family, and go to a place that I will show you.” God did not say, “Abram go to this or that city, or country, or region.” God didn’t even say, “Abram, go to the Promised Land.”
When God called Abram, he didn’t tell Abram where to go! He simply said, “go and I will lead you… Go and I will show you the way… Go and I will make you a great nation… Go... and I will bless you… Go... and I will make your name great… Go... and I’ll make you a blessing to others.”
So that’s what Abram did. He stepped out in faith. Out of his comfortable, peaceful life. Out of the rocking chair on the front porch of the old home place… and into a future with no specific place in mind... no guarantees... other than his faith in God’s direction.
Now... I cannot speak for you… But for me, that’s faith! God said GO, so Abram went! He didn’t reason, or question why… He just did what God called him to do.
You know, God‘s always calling people to step out in faith. A simple glance through the Scriptures… And you’ll remember Noah who was asked to build an ark just because God said there would be a flood. There had never been a flood before! So people laughed and poked fun at Noah. But God said “do it” so Noah did it. What about Moses? God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand the release of the slaves. Who in their right mind would dare oppose the king! But Moses did it… for no other reason than because God told him to. What about the prophets who were asked to prophesy all kinds of unbelievable things just because God spoke?
Of course, that’s what faith is! Faith is stepping out of our comfortable patterns of life, simply because God is calling us to do it. Faith is trusting God’s promises... trusting God’s Word even though we don’t fully comprehend… even though we can’t really see the whole picture. Faith means taking a chance on a promise that we don’t completely understand. And for some of us, it may mean changing… Even though we’re 75, or 52, or 32… and set in our ways.
God’s word reveals the remarkable truth about faith... and how important our faith is... because it tells us we’re actually saved through faith; faith in God; faith in Christ.
That’s what Jesus was talking about to Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a lot like Abram, because he lived a comfortable, settled life. He was a Pharisee... so he enjoyed power, position, wealth. But all of his power and wealth could never afford him what he actually needed. Because what Nicodemus really needed was a restored relationship with his Creator. What he needed was the saving grace of Christ.
So one night Nicodemus came to Jesus looking for help. Jesus told Nicodemus, “what you need is to be born again.” Of course the phrase “born again” actually means, to be born from above. So Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he needed to be reborn, from above, from God. It’s a rebirth that comes from a place and a power that’s far greater than we are.
But Nicodemus, of course, didn’t understand. He thought Jesus was speaking of physical birth… so how could he possibly be “born again”? Jesus told him you have to be born of water and the spirit. Of course we’ve all experienced physical birth… That’s why we’re here… But we also need to experience the water baptism which represents the spirit of God coming upon us from above (the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit).
In other words... Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he would have to start all over again… He’d have to make a new beginning. Not a new beginning in the flesh… Because this new beginning wasn’t something Nicodemus could do on his own. Jesus was talking about a new beginning in the spirit of God. Starting over by the power of God’s spirit, in faith.
The fact is, Nicodemus had lived his whole life trying to earn God‘s favor. Because like any good Pharisee, Nicodemus thought that IF he could be good enough, if he could only keep the law well enough, he somehow earn God‘s saving favor… God‘s grace.
And I’m sure all of his family and all of his friends were telling him that he was on the right track… And that he should just keep on trying. But Jesus said “no, you have to start all over again with Gods help.” You have to step out in faith in a new direction and trust God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Because whoever places their faith in what God’s doing in Christ... finds life... eternal and whole.
Faith is all about stepping out in trust. It’s a faith that trusts in God‘s word, and trusts in God‘s promises enough to risk believing in those promises. Abraham took a chance on leaving home at 75 start a new life! He didn’t do it because he had a plan or an idea. He didn’t do it to pump up his own ego, or to build a name for himself. Or to satisfy his own needs. He did it because God said do it... and I will bless you.
Very much the same way, Jesus told Nicodemus to take a chance on starting over - a new beginning - a new life. Not a new beginning created through works of the flesh. Not based on intuition, intelligence, or good works. But one based on the grace and forgiveness of God, offered in Christ... and given through the Holy Spirit.
And of course, the fact of the matter is… God’s calling each and everyone of us to step out in faith, too.
When we hear Christ’s call… We step out in faith and take a chance. We place our trust in Christ and his promise of salvation. And God blesses us… He blesses us with the benefits of salvation, the fruit of salvation. Peace that passes all understanding, love that will never ever let us go, and a joy that fills our lives with satisfaction and happiness beyond measure. And as we grow in Christ, God always calls us to step out in a new direction… And take a new risk… And experience new challenges of faith… So we can grow and mature in the image of Christ… An experience more and more of what it really means to live an abundant life of faith.
So what are we waiting for church? Step out in faith! Trust God. Trust in his unfailing love. No matter what your personal situation in life is today, God wants to bless you… And love you… And give you his saving grace. God wants you to have an abundant life that’s filled with happiness and peace and joy - that comes, not from this world, but from God’s Spirit within us.
But you must be willing to trust God‘s word… To listen to God‘s calling… And if you don’t know how to do that… Then ask God… He can always be trusted to show you the way.
God always blessing those who place their trust in him... and God blesses you and me when we’re willing to step out in faith believing. Amen.