Can a leopard change it's spots and the power of Romans 8
There are some people in our past or maybe our present that will speak words of death into our lives. There are some people that cannot handle nor do they want to accept that Christ has the power to bring the dead to life and make the blind to see. If others have not personally experienced the life giving power of being saved by God, also known as regeneration, then they will see our new life as foolishness.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.
They will see the change in our lives as superficial or outward behavior modification. They will just simply not believe it. They will assume that we are following a "self help" religion and they are literally waiting, analyzing, dissecting our every move and action to prove and point out that we are the same as when we were dead.
If we have been believers for quite some time, or believers for a short amount of time, we need to be prepared to face the challenges of interacting with people from our past or people from our present that are looking, waiting, and scrutinizing over every single action that we, as new creations, make in order to metaphorically vomit accusations at us.
"see!! you are a liar. You have not changed one bit"
"oh, so I thought you were a Christian. Well THATS not very Christian of you to.....
The Bible tells us that Satan is an accuser and that he is the father of lies (John 8:44)
Revelation 12:10 says
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
This verse in Revelation tells us that these accusations are incessant, never ending.....literally day and night. The enemy of God does not want us to live in the light of the Gospel so he will do everything in his power to get us to take our focus off of the life line of the Gospel. God's enemy does this with accusations and lies.
The other day I found myself in a situation where accusations were being thrown my way. Accusations to try to convince me that there is no such thing as life saving Gospel transformation in our lives. Accusations to try to make me doubt the reality of being saved by grace.
"Leopards don't change their spots", I was told.
"You think you can just call yourself a Christian and have a clean slate? Oh, how convenient!"
By default, I felt the need to have to prove that Jesus does indeed change people's lives. But once I attempted to invoke even the mere mention of certain words, instantly I am accused of being a hypocrite and laughed at.
What really disturbs me to the core is the blatant denial of the simple yet POWERFUL fact that Jesus does transform people and gives them new lives IN Him.
There are people that will belittle and deny our new lives that God has so graciously yet powerfully transformed and we need to be prepared for when..not if...we have interaction with them.
Once we come to realize that because Jesus first loved us, we are now able to love Him back..... and because of this deep love for Christ, we take it very personal when our accusers deny the power that Jesus has exhibited in our lives.
As I have faced these particular attacks personally, I have realized that by the sheer graciousness of God, He equips us to get back to the Gospel.
Here is what I have learned:
As insults and accusations were thrown in my direction I prayed for wisdom and discernment for the particular situation I was in. I prayed to be kept tethered to Jesus. I prayed to not be overcome with discouragement or frustration. I prayed that in my response, I would show grace and truth simultaneously because its not automatic to do this and it's definitely not easy.
Praying from the heart for guidance on how to best respond will always put us in a posture of humility. There is absolutely no way that one can pray to God with a right heart and not be brought low.
Praying keeps us from getting angry and feeling the need to retaliate with harsh words. It would be so easy to slip into a stubborn and prideful mindset that these accusers are just evil and they deserve wrath. There is no way that one can pray and still stand in a stubborn, willful and prideful posture.
Prayer is acknowledging our need for God in all things. Not only do we need God to help us deal with the situation we find ourselves in, but we also need Him to protect and guide our hearts. Anger is easily stirred up in us when we find ourselves in conversations where others are attacking our new lives in Christ. We need God to keep our hearts humble.
2) Remember Jesus
If we can remember the last days of Jesus' life, when insults were being hurled at Him, along with false accusations....He did not find it necessary to open His mouth to defend himself, preserve His dignity...not even to save His life. He accepted the insults and the accusations knowing that He very well was the Son of Most High.
That ought to give us deep encouragement in that we don't need to have the last word to prove our point or to self defend.
If we are indeed new creations in Christ, our very lives are self evident.
Jesus reminds us of some important truths in John 15:18-25
“If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you."
Remembering that Jesus was hated, accused of blasphemy for claiming to be God's son and was put to death for it....yet....did not self defend...this ought to encourage us to run away from the need to self defend. It should also help us to not be discouraged when people from our past or present hate us for being new creations because this verse tells us that the world will indeed hate us simply for being people that Jesus chose to save. Oh, what comfort is that sweet nugget of truth.
If Jesus...who was indeed God's son... didn't feel the need to self defend....even in the midst of His truth......we should look to Jesus as our example for comfort, reassurance and encouragement.
3) Memorize scripture
It's always a good idea to memorize scripture. Many times when a friend in need comes to us, we can be most beneficial and helpful to them when we can remember scripture and share it with them.
It's an even better thing when WE are in need and we find ourselves right smack in the middle of a conversation that is difficult. There is NO truth that trumps the truth of God's word so we need to have scripture tucked away in our hearts and minds to guide and direct us.
Even as new creations, our default mode for self preservation immediately goes into high gear when we find ourselves in difficult conversations or situations with other people. However, if we have God's truth tucked away in our minds, that truth will help guide and direct our thoughts resulting in redirecting our hearts. Without it, we will despair and anxiety will rise, causing us to feel emotionally burdened or panic stricken. This default anxiety mode is the exact opposite of how Jesus wants us to live and react. The gospel and God's truth sets us free. Completely free.
With scripture to guide us, no longer will the desire of our hearts be to "set the record straight". Our hearts will be softened and we will even be compelled to pray for our accusers.
Here is a good one to tuck away in your mind and heart.
Romans 8:1 - There is, therefore, now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Yes...that's right...no condemnation what so ever. Nobody gets to condemn us. Nobody has the authority or the right to remind us of our past.
Actually, Romans 8 in its entirety, is superb to help us remember who we are in Christ and it would be a good idea to tuck this whole chapter into our hearts to apply to the many areas of our lives as new believers.
Let me just say this.....memorizing a verse here and there should not be our end goal. We should work towards memorizing whole chapters. Why?
Dr. Andrew Davis wrote a book addressing this very issue.
An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.
You can find a blog review of the book HERE.
Here is an excerpt from the blog review.
What are some of the biggest benefits to memorizing entire chapters or books of the Bible?
The Word of God comes to us, for the most part, in paragraphs---developed trains of thought that tell a story (narrative, Gospels), unfold a law (Pentateuch), make a doctrinal argument (epistles), make a case against God's people and their sins or reveal the future of God's people (prophets), or describe in complex imagery an apocalyptic vision of the future (Revelation).
Individual verses do not capture the train of thought and therefore are more likely to be taken out of context.
The fuller the section of Scripture we can memorize, the better.
Also, Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
Memorizing individual verses usually gravitates to the more "famous" verses and likely misses some precious truths hidden in less familiar verses.
Memorizing whole books gives people a sense of the perfection of every word of God.
It is a continual learning experience, a journey of discovery in which details come alive with incredible power.
I am in awe of the majesty of every word of Scripture, and that has come in great part from 30 years of memorizing less famous verses and seeing the wisdom of God in every letter.
With that encouragement to memorize large chunks of scripture, it makes sense to see why memorizing large pieces of scripture is the most beneficial. Memorizing and applying fuller sections of scripture to our minds and hearts will safeguard us in such a way that we will not simply pull out verses here and there, potentially, taking them out of context.
I've always made it a habit, when faced with a particular verse, to read above and below the verse in question for a fuller view of how the verse is being used. If I can't get a good grip on what it's saying overall, I'll read the entire chapter.
I'll be honest though.... I have not memorized large portions of scripture....at least not yet...but I would like to. I might even start with Romans 8. (anybody want to do it with me?)
So.....going back to a few other verses that have proved helpful to me when faced with accusations from someone that denies the truth of living a new life in Christ:
2 Corinthians 5:17 - This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Ephesians 6:12 - For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
I know trying to memorize entire books of the Bible seems daunting. It seemed daunting for me too.
Here is another great blog post to encourage us to get us started. Ten Reasons To Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible.
4) Remember who is behind the accusations
The above verse in Ephesians in particular is very helpful to remind us of the spiritual truth behind the accusations. In the midst of a person hurling accusations at us this verse allows us to see that our accusers are actually being used by God's enemy. That's scary stuff....is it not? That would be enough to see that the person accusing us needs some serious prayer. Any person that denies the life saving power of God is so emotionally and spiritually handicapped (literally dead in sin) and in their blatant accusations it becomes evident that they desperately need life changing prayer. This revelation allows us to stop reacting to our hurt feelings. It also helps us stop mulling over being offended at hearing the accusations. This verse helps us to see our accuser as a lost soul in very desperate need of prayer.
Jesus exhorts us to love our enemies. In Mathew he says
You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
I am under no illusion that this is easy. But once again....we must look to Jesus for the mental strength and humility to do this. He is our perfect example. We are made perfect in Him. Not in our ability to love our enemies perfectly.
Realizing that we are made perfect in Christ, actually gives us the ability to see our enemies for who they are. Lost souls...dead in sin who need Jesus. Plain and simple.
We dare not boast in being saved because it was nothing we did that earned favor with God. We can remember Romans 5:8
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(another good one to memorize)
5) Have a community of believers for encouragement.
After the conversation with the accuser ended, I re-hashed the conversation over and over again in my head. I struggled with whether or not I showed enough grace, was I too harsh, was I too flippant....etc. Maybe the accusations were not that bad or maybe I was just being overly sensitive. So many thoughts I wrestled with.
After meeting with my discipleship group, I was reminded that sharing my struggles with fellow believers is a good thing in that I don't have to walk alone in my struggles.
I am also thankful for my sister, who is also my sister in Christ, who helped me to see that I was indeed dealing with spiritual forces that were from the enemy of God and she once again reminded me to pray without ceasing.
We are not called to walk our sanctifying journey alone. Having a safe group of believers to walk along side of us is extremely important, especially when faced with something as detrimental as accusations that undermine our new lives in Christ.
Going back to Romans 8, we should remember these life encouraging words.
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died,
but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God
and intercedes for us.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
Because of You
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
No one can bring an accusation against God's elect...and if we are new creations in Christ...we are chosen by God.
So can a leopard change it's spots?
But thank God we are not leopards.
We are new creations in Christ, elected by God to live new lives...for His glory and our good.
So is it convenient that we can get our slate wiped clean?
You bet it is!
But not because we deserve a clean slate.....but only....and ONLY because God is gracious.