The following message was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Session One, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Session One. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.

Session one – Sin & the Heart:

  • Every Christian knows what it’s like to struggle with ongoing patterns and habits of sin. Even after a sinner trusts in Jesus for salvation, they continue to struggle against old ways of living and indwelling sin. This struggle can be extremely discouraging.
  • But hope is a beautiful thing. Hope is something that can sustain a discouraged Christian who is struggling to change their sinful habits. In the end, this sustaining, strengthening hope will never be found in rules, systems, or techniques. It can only be found in Jesus. We’re not changed by systems or rules.
  • We need a Redeemer to set us free, and we have a great Redeemer in Jesus. Putting Jesus at the heart of our efforts to change reminds us that we turn from sin to a greater joy. This is good news because Jesus is bigger and better than anything sin offers.
  • So coming to session one, we need to know that sinful behaviour always starts in our hearts, which means that change must also start in
    our hearts. So tonight we’re looking at the what, why, how, and when concerning change:

1. What Would You Like to Change:

  • Text – Mark 7:21-23
  • Explanation – So according to Scripture, the source of all human behaviour and emotions is the heart. Heart refers to our thinking and desires. Therefore, understanding that temptation and sin begin in our hearts will enable us to truly understand how times, situations, and circumstances contribute to our ongoing battle with temptation and sin.
  • We can never throw our hands in the air and blame times, situations, and circumstances. Our struggles and temptations often trigger sin, but they never cause it. The root cause is always the heart and its sinful desires. If this is true, our efforts to change have to begin with our hearts.
  • Illustration – So what do you want to change? We all want to change in some way. Some of these changes are good, others not so good. But the problem with all of them is that they’re not ambitious enough. God offers us something much more!
  • In Genesis 1:27 we read, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him.” So we were made to be God’s image on earth: to know Him, to share His rule over the world, to reflect His glory.
  • After each day of creation God declared what He had made to
    be “good.” But on the sixth day God’s verdict on a world that now
    included humanity was “very good.” God’s work wasn’t finished
    until there was something in the world to reflect His glory in the world.
  • We often excuse our actions by saying, “I’m only human.” There’s nothing “only” about being human: we’re truly human as we reflect God’s glory. The problem is that this is now a broken image because humanity has rejected God. So we try to live our lives our way, and we make a mess of things. We struggle to be God’s image on earth.
  • Application – We’ve failed to be the image of God we were made to be. We can’t be the people we want to be, let alone the people we ought to be. Therefore, enter Jesus, “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4): He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature. (Hebrews 1:3)
  • He makes God known in the world. He is God in human form. He shows us what it means to be the image of God and to reflect God’s glory. That’s why the New Testament sometimes says we should be like God and sometimes says we should be like Christ. It’s because Christ is the true image of God.
  • Conclusion – Jesus came to remake us in God’s image. He’s the second Adam. So being made in God’s image, and because of the fall, we’re made in the broken image of Adam. Therefore we now have a built-in bias against God.
  • But Jesus is the second Adam, and all who are united to Jesus by faith are being made new in Christ’s image, the image of God as it should have been. Jesus took our brokenness, our hatred, and our curse on Himself on the cross.
  • Bridge – He took the penalty of our sin and in its place gave us a new life and new love. So our distorted image needs to be changed to a restored imaged only through Christ!

2. Why Would You Like to Change:

  • Text – Romans 5:1-2
  • Explanation – Why do you want to be more like Jesus? Why do you want to keep a lid on your temper or overcome lust or stop living in a fantasy world? Why do you want to feel less depressed or bitter or frustrated? Why do you want to be a better parent, a better husband, a better wife, a better employee? Here are three answers you may have given.
  • Illustration – Some people want to change in order: To prove their righteousness and worthiness to God. To prove themselves to others. And to prove something to themselves. So what’s wrong with wanting to change so we can prove ourselves to God or people or ourselves?
  • It doesn’t work. We might fool other people for a while. We might even fool ourselves. But we can never change enough to impress God. And here’s the reason: trying to impress God, others, or ourselves puts us at the centre of our change project. It makes change all about my looking good. It is done for my glory. And that’s pretty much the definition of sin.
  • Application – Sin is living for my glory instead of God’s. Sin is living life my way, instead of living life God’s way. Often that means rejecting God as Lord and wanting to be our own lord, but it can also involve rejecting God as Saviour and wanting to be our own saviour.
  • Pharisees do good works and repent of bad works. But gospel repentance includes repenting of good works done for wrong reasons. We need to repent of trying to be our own saviour.
  • Conclusion – Ultimately, only those who have turned from sin and turned to Jesus can seek change for the right reasons. Therefore the motives for change should be to enjoy the freedom from sin and delight in God. Our job is to stop wallowing around in the dirt and instead to enjoy knowing God, to give up our cheap imitations and enjoy the real thing.
  • Bridge – Remember becoming like Jesus is something that God gives to us. It’s not an achievement that we offer to Him. It’s enjoying the new
    identity He has given us in Christ.

3. How Are You Going to Change:

  • Text – Colossians 2:20-23
  • Explanation – Our Christian lives began when we received the Spirit by believing in Christ crucified. We become Christians by faith in Jesus, we stay Christians by faith in Jesus, and we grow as Christians by faith.
  • The Spirit gives us the desire to do what is right and opposes our old sinful desires to do what is wrong. Our job is to follow the Spirit.
  • Application – Christians must approach change and sanctification with the following understanding:
  • 1. We must repent of our unrighteousness and admit our inability
    to produce lasting, genuine change.
  • 2. We must remember that change is God’s work. He is the only one who can change hearts.
  • 3. We must think about change in Trinitarian ways, which means accepting the discipline of the Father, living in union with Christ, and walking in the Holy Spirit.
  • 4. We must know that change is unavoidable for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Conclusion – 1 John 3:9 puts it like this, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” Jesus sets us free from the penalty of sin. But Jesus also sets us free from the power of sin.
  • We’re free to live for God, yet we continue to struggle with sin. We’re like a former prisoner who still wakes at prison hours. That’s why Paul must urge us, “Let not sin . . . reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12).
  • We have the power to say no to temptation. We also have a new motivation to battle with sin: we’re no longer under law, but under grace. And grace enables us to live for God. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
  • Bridge – Grace wins our hearts. Sinclair Ferguson says, “Only when we turn away from looking at our sin to look at the face of God, to find his pardoning grace, do we begin to repent…”

4. When Do You Struggle:

  • Text – Exodus 3:7-8
  • Explanation – “I have surely seen . . . [I] have heard . . . I know their sufferings… I have come down.” That was God’s message to his Suffering people in Egypt. We often think no one knows or no one cares. But God knows, and God cares for our struggles.
  • Illustration – So in what kind of situations do you act in a wrong way or experience negative feelings? What makes you depressed, angry, bitter, irritated, or frustrated? When are you prone to temptation? What sets you off? Is there a pattern?
  • Look life is tough. All of us face challenging situations. Yours may be
    difficult family relationships or sickness or financial worries. It may
    be people who rile you up or a dead-end job. It may be singleness
    or a loveless marriage. Peer pressure may push you toward sin, or it may be the stress of having too much to do. We are messed-up people living in a messed-up world
  • Application – Understanding the times, situations, and circumstances that lead to temptation and sin in your life is certainly important. However, there are other truths you need to know in your struggle against sin:
  • 1. Jesus is truly God and truly human. Because He took on a human nature, Jesus was able to experience temptation. His experience with temptation enables Him to relate to us and sympathize with us (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:14-16).
  • 2. The situations and circumstances we face in life only reveal
    the sinfulness of our hearts
    . We are not forced to sin by the things that happen to us, but the things that happen to us can reveal the sinfulness of our hearts.
  • Conclusion – so there is a twofold problem in the heart: what we think or trust and what we desire or worship. And sin happens when we don’t trust God above everything and when we don’t desire God above everything. Sin happens when we believe lies about God instead of God’s Word and when we worship idols instead of worshipping God.
  • Bridge – So we struggle when we trust our heart and not God. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.