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Do You Really Want To Change?

September 17, 2013

John Piper during a sermon on 1 Timothy 1:12-17 on Christmas in 1983:

Before anyone says, “Oh, I’ve tried religion and it didn’t help,” let me ask this: How many of you have ever fasted for three days? Two days? One day? Have you taken the Word of God, asked for a vacation day, gone away by yourself Friday through Sunday, and saturated your mind with holiness and poured our your soul in longing to the Lord for change? Have you gathered around yourself two or three spiritual brothers or sisters, shared with them the habit you want to break, sought their daily earnest prayer, and stood yourself accountable to them? If not, then don’t say religion doesn’t work.

Moses fasted forty days. Elijah fasted forty days. Jesus fasted forty days and spent whole nights in prayer. When was the last time you wanted any change in your life bad enough to spend one whole day in prayer and fasting seeking it from the Lord, not to mention three days like Paul (Acts 9:9), or three weeks like Daniel (Daniel 10:2, 3), or forty days like Moses? The problem with most of us is not that the Christmas message is powerless, but that we don’t really want to be changed. “You will seek me and find me (says the Lord, in Jeremiah 29:13) when you seek me with all your heart.” When you want with all your heart to rid yourself of what is evil and undesirable, God will give you the Christmas gift of change.

God could give the gift of change apart from the struggle of prayer. But then we would never appreciate it as we ought. If he didn’t usually cause our prayers to mount up with fervency and earnestness before he changed us, then we would be like people who are fed before we are really hungry. The Christmas dinner of God’s transformation would go down on a full stomach. There would not be so many oohs and ahs to his glory.

What’s more, when God gives the gift of change, it is always pure. But our motives for change, even the best change, are not usually pure at first. Only when we begin to seek him earnestly and saturate our minds with large doses of his pure Word and test our affections through self-denial, do our motives become pure and ready to receive the pure Christmas gift of change.

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