The Bible is a book of change. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Abraham left his country when he was 75 years old. Israel became a nation of slaves in Egypt and after hundreds of years was set free. John the Baptist came to announce yet another change in the relationship between God and humans. God walked with human beings, not like he walked with Abraham, but as a man and this time he came to die for all. Things have also changed dramatically throughout 2,000 years of Christian history. Some of it has been good. Some of it has been bad. Good change is necessary. What do we need to change?
This sermon is an encouragement for us to step out on faith and be willing to change for the good.
Let’s have a look at John the Baptist as an announcer of change. The change that was to come was a change of light. Not all change is good; some is a wrong change. Change in worship styles is often a good change. Finally, let’s look at the consequences of not changing and ask the question, what does God want us to change?
1. John the Announcer of Change
Change is scary for people. We tend to demonize those who change things. Even in the church when the bishop announces the need for change some suspect him of a hidden agenda. Changes made by mere human beings can be scary because we tend not to trust them. Even if it is God making the changes, we still tend to be wary. In John 1:6-8, 19-28 we read of John announcing an upcoming change in the way things were done. However, he announced that the agent of change would be none other than the Light. When asked if he was the Messiah, or Elijah or that prophet, he stated clearly that he was not. He said simply that his purpose was to be a voice admonishing people to make the way straight for the one who would institute change.
2. Change of Light
John came to point people to the Light (John 1:6-8, 19-28). He was not the Light but a witness of the Light. Imagine people living in almost total darkness, who have never seen light believing that they live in the light. Those who live in the true light can see the difference, but those who have never seen it are fooled by their lack of experience into believing they have the best of everything. So it is with this world. Let us not be fooled by the politics, the advertising, the fashions and the deceit of this world into trading in the Light of Christ for the darkness of empty ideas. Light has come into the world and it is that Light that we celebrate at Christmas. Like John, the church is not that Light. Jesus is that Light.
3. A Wrong Change
God sent John to testify about the Light that was about to come into the world (John 1:6-8, 19-28). The Jewish leaders sent delegates to ask him some questions. When a religious leader speaks it is important to ask ourselves by whom the person was sent. Is it merely a human ministry or divine? That is not always an easy question to answer, but there are clues in the message given as to the sending authority. John did not claim his own authority, but pointed others to the true authority. It is only human to want to wield authority and be recognized for being somebody. Bishops, pastors and preachers do not have authority to change the Gospel into something other than that taught by Jesus. Humble servants of Jesus Christ know that their job is to point to him.
4. Worship Changes
Change in worship styles is unavoidable. We can approach change in peace. The Hegelian model for change of thesis, antithesis and synthesis suggests that conflict is inevitable. It does not have to be. The Hegelian model implies that a thesis or proposal for change is made. An example would be John announcing messianic changes in John 1:6-8, 19-28. Conflict came from those in opposition or antithesis to Jesus. Eventually cooler heads prevailed and a synthesis of the old and new was possible. Circumcised Jew and uncircumcised Greek worshiped together. The law was not discarded but fulfilled in the new law of love for God and neighbor. Those entrenched in the old system found change difficult, while others readily dropped their nets and moved forward. We can face the challenge of traditional and contemporary worship styles in peace and love.
5. Refusing to Change
What happens if we refuse to change? Remember the vacuum tube? The electronics revolution of the 20th century possibly began with the vacuum tube. The first general-purpose computer, the Eniac was built in 1946 with 17,000 vacuum tubes. It took 1800 square feet of floor space and consumed 150 kW of power. Although there is still a niche market for vacuum tubes, the industry has largely died. You can still buy them from a small company in Memphis, but they no longer dominate the market and companies that refused to change died. How dangerous is refusing to change? In John 1:6-8, 19-28 John prepared the way for massive changes in God’s covenant relationship with humanity. Throughout church history change has always been difficult. The Gospel does not change, but the culture does and churches must adapt or die.
We looked at John the Baptist as an announcer of change. The change that was to come was a change of light. We also saw that not all change is good; some is a wrong change. Yet, change in worship styles is often a good change. The consequences of not changing can be death of a good thing. What does God want you and me to change?