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River of Change

The Jordan River rises from the slopes of Mt. Hermon on the border between Syria and Lebanon and then flows through northern Israel and into the Sea of Galilee. From there, it meanders through the Jordan Rift Valley until it empties into the Dead Sea, making it the lowest river on earth. It is similar in size and flow to Lycoming Creek.

A River of Change

It was at the miraculous crossing of the Jordan river at flood stage and on dry ground (Joshua 3) that God changed the desert-wandering Israelites into the conquerors of the promised land. God was doing something new.

Two miraculous crossings of the Jordan river (II Kings 2) mark a change in spiritual leadership from the prophet Elijah to the prophet Elisha. God was doing something new.

Naaman’s leprosy was healed, and his life forever changed after washing seven times (II Kings 5) in the Jordan river. Naaman was a gentile. God was doing something new.

John the Baptist’s ministry (Matthew 3:1-6) in the Jordan river introduced the change from 400 years of silence to “the voice of one calling in the wilderness.” God was doing something new.

Jesus the Nazarene is baptized in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17) and emerges as the Spirit-filled “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” God was doing something new.

To change means to become or make different or to pass from one state to another or to remove something and replace it with something else. 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed, “The only thing that is constant is change.” His observation is as true today as ever — and maybe more so.

The call to follow Jesus is always a call to change:

Salvation: to change from Satan’s dominion of darkness to God’s dominion of light (Acts 26:18); to change from the old and become a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).

Sanctification: to change from the pattern of the world and to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2); to change from gratifying the desires of the flesh to walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26).

Mission: To change the world; to go and make disciples, to baptize, and to teach them to obey (Matthew 28:18-20); To serve as Christ’s ambassadors in the ministry of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:16-21).

Every aspect of following Jesus Christ requires change. But for us older believers, changes can be very challenging. Why?

First, because the way we do it works just fine for us. But we must ask ourselves — is it working for our grandchildren — and the lost and dying? Whether we care to admit it or not, the Church in the United States has been shrinking for over 60 years. Are we willing to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working? Sure, it works fine for us old folks, but what about Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha? Are we willing to change to reach younger generations?

Second, because we want to preserve the good ole days, we like it the way it was back in the day. We cherish our traditions, and we’ve built comfortable lives around them. But what’s more important, the future or the past? Are we living like our best days are behind us? If our best days are behind us, then we may as well take the name Church off our signs and replace it with a museum.

Friends, the best days of the Church are yet to come! Do we believe it? Do we believe that something good is about to happen? Are we stepping out and taking great risks of faith to advance the mission of God? To do so, we must be willing to change.

Third, because we’re just too old and too tired to change. Really? Is old and tired a Biblical principle? Does any believer have the right to retire from a willingness to change? Isn’t there still ground to conquer? My friends, there is no such thing as retirement when it comes to the willingness to change. If you’re breathing, then God still has purpose for you on earth — and accomplishing it will require change. Do you believe it? Are you willing to change to see new and life-giving miracles happen?

When Joshua got old, God said to him in Joshua 13:1, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” Joshua’s being very old didn’t matter one bit to God — so why should it matter to you?

Change in the church is always necessary because our mission field is always changing. To be relevant, we must change our methods (not the timeless Message) to match our time. We must be willing to forsake our preferences, conveniences, and traditions for the sake of the lost and dying.

Is there a place for nostalgia in the church? Most certainly! There is great value in looking back and remembering what God has done. Those precious memories give us hope by reminding us of God’s faithfulness and transformational power. But do we believe God is ready to do it again in a new time and in a new way for a new generation? God says in Isaiah 43:18-19.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

God is doing something new. Are we ready? Are we inviting it? Are we eagerly looking for it? Are we willing to let God do something new in us and through us? If we’re willing, He is able.