Monday, August 29, 2011

What Made the Difference?

Ronnie Milsap and Amy Grant both made a song famous, it was written by Archie Jordan, here’s what it says:

What a difference you’ve made in my life.
What a difference you’ve made in my life.
You’re my sunshine day and night.
Oh, what a difference you’ve made in my life.

Which of us, during the course of a week, doesn't think "I need a change!"?
It may be we are thinking of a new job, new scenery, or just some type of a positive shake up in our lives, our families, even in our church!. Most of us have begged God for things to change in our lives.

Perhaps you have come to a point where you are hoping against hope that something might change your situation. That you might find relief, hope, something positive in your life.

I’d like to share with you some stories of people whose lives were changed forever in just a few moments or hours. I’d like us to think about what it was that changed them, what impacted them to the point that things were never the same?

1. Jacob - Jacob had an all-night smack down with an angel that changed him forever. Gen 32:24-31.
a. He saw God face to face –when you meet God, you will never be the same! If you meet Him on His terms, it will be the best change you could ever have.
b. His life was preserved – he was facing death the next morning as he met Esau whom he had wronged. But God turned a hopeless situation around. If He could do that for a low down wretch like Jacob had been, don’t you think He could do it for you?
c. God touched him and he never walked the same again. “Let me go” “I will not let you go until you bless me” and He did!
d. His name was changed from Jacob (Trickster) to Israel (Prince with God)
So what do we see happened with Jacob? A change was needed. When he was all alone, everything was lost, things looked absolutely hopeless, then God showed up in the middle of the night and changed everything for him.
2. Moses - Consider the difference in Moses before the burning bush and after. Exodus 3:1-14
Moses had been a fugitive for 40 years. He lived as a shepherd on the back side of the desert. Let me bring you up to speed. Moses grew up in the household of Pharaoh. But he saw an Egyptian beating an Israeli. He let his anger get the better of Him and killed the Egyptian. So now, he’s hiding out in the Sinai for 40 years. 40 years!!! Imagine, 40 years with no convenience stores, no air conditioning, no state fair, no mall, no pizza.
He went from living the life of Reilly for his first 40 year to the life of Ahab the Arab the next 40. Do you suppose he was hoping for, needing a change?
So, one day he’s following his sheep and goats through the desert and he sees something that gets his attention. He sees a bush on fire. I am sure in his 40 year desert experience, this isn’t the first time he’s seen that. I am sure he wondered if it was lightening that started the fire, or a campfire, maybe spontaneous combustion. But what was different was that the bush kept on burning and never burned up. So he walked over to try to figure this one out. Then a bass voice comes out of the bush. It wasn’t speaking Arabic or Egyptian, but Hebrew. And it said, “Take your shoes off, you are standing on holy ground.”

Well, he didn’t need any shoes after that because he was on his face!

With that exchange, Moses went from a “Who am I?” (vs 11) to a miracle worker who parted the Red Sea and became one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world?

What was the difference for Moses? He was a stutterer, a murderer, he had anger control issues, he was the meekest man on earth. Now, he would be mighty Moses! The difference? A face to face meeting with God!

If after 40 years of needing some serious change, God could do something unimaginable with a nobody like Moses, what could He do for your situation.
3. The Disciples - There was a huge change in these men from before the resurrection and after the resurrection.
At the arrest of the Lord in Gethsemane, the disciples fled to the 4 winds. They reconvened in the upper room to hide out. They had been faithless, they failed often and when the chips were down, they had fled. That was before the resurrection. But let me tell you about the Apostles post-resurrection.
*Peter preached and 3,000 were saved and baptized in one day. He ended up giving his life for the Lord, crucified up-side-down because he felt he was unworthy to die like the Savior.
*After pastoring in Ephesus, at the age of 90, John was boiled in oil as a martyr for Christ, but he survived and was exiled to the island of Patmos where he received the Revelation.
*Thomas took the gospel to India and was run through with a lance in the East Indies.
*Andrew preached to the Scythians [modern day Georgia] and Thracians [modern day Bulgaria], and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree, at Patrae, a town of Achaia [Greece]; and there too he was buried.
*Bartholomew preached in India, where he gave the Indians the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward, and was buried in Armenia [modern day southern Georgia].
*James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem, was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.
*James, the brother of John, According to the Book of Acts, James was killed by Herod, beheaded with a sword
*Philip preached and was executed in what today is eastern Turkey, crucified with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.
*Paul was beheaded in Rome for preaching the Gospel.

Acts tells us that these men turned the world up side down!!!

What was the difference? They had known Jesus intimately, but when they saw Him alive after He had spent 6 hours on the cross, His side run through with a spear. Now, He walks through the wall of the upper room and says to them, Peace, be not afraid. These disciples needed a change and they got it!

What made the difference? The power of the resurrection! If He can change these men from wimps to warriors, he can put some steel in your backbone.

If he can roll away a stone and come out alive, He can roll every burden off your shoulders.

If He can walk through a wall assure them everything is more than alright, then I don’t think what you are going through is a big challenge for Him.

4. The Early Church - There was the church before Pentecost, with its 120 members and the church a couple of years after Pentecost with 100,000 members. The difference was the coming of the Holy Ghost upon them.
5. Saul/Paul - There was a marked change from Saul the persecutor and murderer of Christians to Paul, the Apostle who left the greatest footprint on earth of any man in history. The difference was the Damascus road experience where he was struck down to the ground and blinded by the light of Jesus. And then there was the time when he was stoned to death and went to heaven and saw such glorious things that he refuse to elaborate lest someone would have him arrested. He came back to life and was never the same. Talk about a great change!!!
6. Isaiah - There was a change in Isaiah before Isaiah 6, where he saw the Lord high and lifted up and his train (the hem of His robe) filled the temple. And he saw seraphim with 6 wings hovering around the throne of God, And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
And Isaiah went from being a sinful man of unclean lips, dwelling in the midst of an unclean people to being a holy prophet, a man of conviction and holy boldness carrying the Lord’s message to the entire nation.

What made the difference for Isaiah, a man needing a change? He saw God and would never be the same, he would never go back to the old ways. The things of this world no longer held any power or influence or control over him. There was no longer any earthly charm for this man who had seen heaven.

What was the difference for all of these people?

Being an eye witness to the glory of God!

*It changes your perspective from temporal to eternal
*It makes you realize the problems of this world are no match to the power of God
*It helps put things in perspective.
*It helps us in daily outlook and attitude. We don't know what the future holds but we know who holds the future
*It changes things from being worrisome to being confident.
*We go from being defeated to being conquerors
So how do we go about seeing the glory of God? Is that just for Bible people? What do you think?

I suggest four ways of seeing the glory of God:
1) You can see Him in the pages of the Bible
2) You can see his hand at work in your life
3) You can experience the presence of the Holy Spirit
4) You can witness Him in the testimony of other who have seen a great change personally.

But you have to open your eyes. Are you ready for a change? Are you ready to live confidently? Are we ready for a heavenly vision for a Damascus road, for a Pentecost, for some Resurrection power, for a backside of the desert, burning bush?
God wants to reveal Himself to you. He wants you to see His glory. But you’ve got to lift up your eyes above the hood ornament on your car. Above the petty problems you face. Above the things of this life that have no meaning. Look to God for a change that makes a difference, that is eternal, that will impact your life and your eternity!

What a difference you’ve made in my life.
What a difference you’ve made in my life.
You’re my sunshine day and night.
Oh, what a difference you’ve made in my life.

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