By Pastor Ron Branch
July 11, 2014
I am not sure when it was started, nor do I remember the circumstances for starting it, but my Uncle Harvey and I, years ago, started referring to one another as Number One and Number Two.
Uncle Harvey was Number One and I was Number Two. It was just a little humorous ditty between the two of us that provided the basis for laughter within our families over the years.
Recently on Sunday night about 10 p.m., I received a call from Aunt Thelma. When I saw the name of the caller on my cell phone, I instantly figured that I was going to hear some bad news.
As soon as I answered, Aunt Thelma said tersely, “Ronnie, you are now going to be Number One. Number One is not here anymore.” Then there was verbal silence mixed with some slight sobbing. It took me a few moments to realize what my aunt meant. It was indeed sad news — Uncle Harvey had died. She asked that I take part in the funeral, to which I agreed.
The next day, I made preparations to travel to Salisbury, N.C.
Of course, Uncle Harvey’s funeral also involved the assemblage of my first and second cousins, whom I had not seen for several years. Their greetings were two-fold. First, they would comment how much I look like my Dad.
But, second of all, they would say, “You have not changed a bit,” to which I would reply, “Have I always looked this old?” Being 62 years old and very much gray-headed these days, I know quite well I have “changed a bit.” Physical change in terms of appearance and practice comes with the territory of getting older. Each of us knows that fact very well.
But, there is a comparative and critical concern about change that is all too often overlooked, especially by people associated with the church. It involves the necessary and progressive changes that involve living for and with Jesus Christ in your life.
From Scripture, two noteworthy examples leap out at us. The first has to do with the encounter of a blind man with Jesus Christ. The Lord healed the man, whose countenance was changed because of it. When other people saw the man, they were confused about his identity.
“Is this the blind man that sat and begged.” This former blind man looked differently because Jesus had worked profoundly in the man’s life.
Furthermore, apostles Peter and John healed in the name of Jesus Christ a certain lame man. Upon receiving the news of the healing, the religious leaders called Peter and John onto the carpet to brow-beat them about invoking the name of Jesus Christ in the healing. But, one thing that was particularly noted by the religious leaders about the two disciples was “that they had been with Jesus.” It was clear that the lives of the two had been changed by Jesus Christ.
The sidebar of the Gospel message is that “Jesus Christ changes lives.” This is a true statement about the transforming work of Jesus Christ in the lives of people. But, the ancillary concern is that people should give clear and continual evidence that Christ has truly changed their lives. The Scripture is sure about it, which states, “If any man be found in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new.”
When a person professes that Jesus Christ has saved them from the guilt and consequences of sin, a person’s countenance very well may change, as noted previously. But, more importantly, practices should change. Profane language should change to gracious language. Immoral practices should change to spiritual and Scripture-based practices. You should stop not going to church, but you should start going and faithfully go to church.
You should not only give the appearance of having had experience with Jesus Christ, you should clearly represent Jesus Christ in the things that you say and do.
You should, oh, most certainly, “change a bit” — even a lot!
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.