~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Peter DeWitt. You can hear the whole sermon, Making Way for God to do Something New, by clicking here.
Cicadas, just like many insects have exoskeletons. They have flesh on the inside and “bones” on the outside” whereas mammals have bones on the inside and flesh on the outside (an endoskeleton). These external skeletons work well for insects but as they grow internally, they actually get to the point that they cannot grow any more without shedding their exoskeleton. The process of shedding their exoskeleton is called “molting” and after an insect molts its exoskeleton it is able to grow again.
In order to make way for new growth, sometimes you have to shed old structures.
Mark 2:22 says “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Leather wineskins are a beautiful picture of our heart. Once used once, the leather would tend to harden and become inflexible – unable to receive new wine without bursting. New wine required a fresh wineskin and God’s fresh move requires a supple heart.
It is natural to stagnate and stiffen up. While we do (by way of practice) learn to remain softer and softer to the prompting of the Lord, there is always going to be a measure of needing to soften up to God and allow Him to do something new.
When God is wanting to do something new, you have to actually “take something off.”
Prepare the Way of the Lord!
God will often send a messenger to alert you to the fact that He is wanting to do something new . . . and after your heart has been softened to the idea of Him doing something new, He does something new! God is so gracious! He knows it is so hard for us to shed old ways of doing things that He will actually send messengers in your life to nudge you, poke you, prod you, and encourage you along into a new thing.
God signals to us ahead of time about the part of our heart or life that has become a bit latent and hardened – old and stale. He signals to us that He wants to do something new with us! He signals to us that He would like to breath new life into that area. And, if we pay attention to His signaling, a beautiful thing happens: our heart gets prepared.
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3) Repentance is “changing your mind.” John had a ministry – to encourage people to “change their mind” because the kingdom of Heaven is at hand! When God wants new facets of the Kingdom of Heaven to be expressed in your life, God will send a messenger to you too!
God is always wanting a greater and greater expression of His Kingdom in our lives. He will constantly bring our hearts into a place of being ready to receive and express something new about the kingdom of God. John was sent to prepare the way in people’s hearts to receive Jesus Christ. When people were baptized by John, they were baptized into a baptism of repentance. (see Matt 3:11) John baptized people into a change of mind! God sent a messenger ahead of time to bring people into a mindset change. The specific change of mind that John baptized people is shown by the result of their baptism . . . they were “confessing their sins.” This was a group of people who were treating the 10 Commandments as an opportunity to prove their righteousness before God. So, God said “I am going to send a messenger to you so that you don’t have a dull heart when Jesus shows up.” God knew that unless their heart softened from that mindset of self-righteousness, Jesus was going to show up and say “I am the light of the world” and the people were going to reject Him because they didn’t even know they were looking for a light!
This principle applies to every area of our life – God will send a messenger to prepare the way of the Lord! He is so gracious. Consider this … the Israelites should not have needed John. They had the Law. They would have needed to be delusional to have read the Law, looked at themselves and come to the conclusion that they had “measured up!” So, why did they need John? Because they were in fact delusional! And who sent John? God! Why? Because God loves them and He wanted them to be able to receive Jesus! It doesn’t matter that we’re dense. God sends the messenger to say “wink, wink, nudge, nudge . . . going to change something here. Get ready.”
God will actually minster to your heart ahead of time about a change He is wanting to make.
When we Reject the Signals of God to Change our Mind, we Miss His Move
Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus said: “This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God (declared God as just), having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” (Luke 7:27-30) Notice that the tax collectors (thieves) had gone from stealing from others to declaring God as just as they listened to Christ speak – what a change! What caused that change in heart? The scripture says it clear as day “having been baptized with the baptism of John” – into the baptism of repentance. “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him (John).” How did they reject the purposes and will of God for their lives? They didn’t get baptized into the baptism of mindset change. God had purposes for their life, but they didn’t get baptized into the baptism of a mindset change – and in so doing they missed God’s will and plans for them.
God has plans for you! Your boss might not have plans for you, your spouse might not have plans for you, your family may not have plans for you, you may not have plans for you . . . but GOD HAS PLANS FOR YOU! But you will reject the plans and purposes of God for your life if you do not get “baptized by John” so-to-speak. God is wanting to minister that “mindset change” process to you over and over and over and over! The plans that He has for you, He knows them but you don’t. He wants to do exceedingly and abundantly more than you have imagined yet! His plans are outside of your current box! He has tier upon tier of opportunity for you – opportunities for you to change your mind and experience more and more of His Kingdom at hand! Often God will place a learning opportunity in our lives – and it is our choice whether we will place ourselves under that teaching (whether we will be baptized into that mindset change).
When we don’t place ourselves under the opportunity for a mindset change, we don’t get it! God has plans and purposes for you, but if you don’t allow God to expand your box, if you don’t cast off an old exoskeleton, if you don’t say “I’m ready to molt. I’ve made it as big as I can be inside this territory. I’m going to shed it off! I’m ready for a new thing! God, my heart’s supple to you. Whatever you want to do . . . I’m going to do it!” If you don’t go there, he can take you to where He has planned for you! If you want to go glory to glory to glory to glory, you have to change! Otherwise you would have arrived at the penultimate glory to begin with!
Often we wonder how some people so quickly and accurately perceive the will of God in a situation. Often that situation was not their first exposure to the idea. The Holy Spirit will often put things on our hearts. Speak to us ahead of time about things. Mention this or that . . . and then when we see it come to pass we know that it was God.
God is sending a messenger to soften your heart to prepare you for a new thing. A thing you may not have been willing for or ready for before.
God is sending messengers to your heart to make slight changes in your thinking – to soften your heart little bit by little bit – to make way for Him to move! Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s move in your heart. Be sensitive to what He’s asking you to change in your mind. And know that it is a two-step process. You don’t have to know what He is asking you to do. You just have to know that He is asking you to get ready – to make that place supple again. “God I am going to make that place supple again, I am going to shed that old exoskeleton, I am going to let you do a new thing!”