Changing Hearts and Lives

Changing Hearts and Lives February 13, 2024

Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash

God’s grace means more than “just” forgiveness. Paul says that the message of grace means changing hearts and lives!


Leviticus, chapters 20-22; Acts, chapter 20

Acts 20:17-24 (CEB):

From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus calling for the church’s elders to meet him. When they arrived, he said to them, “You know how I lived among you the whole time I was with you, beginning with the first day I arrived in the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears in the midst of trials that came upon me because of the Jews’ schemes. You know I held back nothing that would be helpful so that I could proclaim to you and teach you both publicly and privately in your homes. You know that I testified to both Jews and Greeks that they must change their hearts and lives as they turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. What I do know is that the Holy Spirit testifies to me from city to city that prisons and troubles await me. But nothing, not even my life, is more important than completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace.

Observations:  Changing Hearts and Lives

Last fall, I posted a reflection on the latter part of Acts 20 (“The Message of God’s Grace”). That reflection dealt with Paul’s charge to the leaders of the Ephesian church. He knew he would not see them again (see Acts 20:25), so he wanted to prepare them for the challenges to come. Paul entrusted to them the message of God’s grace, “which is able to build you up and given you an inheritance among all whom God has made holy” (20:32).

Today’s passage gives us more context about “the message of God’s grace.” We understand that grace means that God gives us life and forgives our sins – we don’t earn any of it. But that doesn’t mean that what we do is unimportant! Paul emphasizes this as he describes the message he first brought to them. “I testified to both Jews and Greeks that they must change their hearts and lives as they turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Changing hearts and lives – different attitudes and different actions.

Paul proclaimed that message, and he demonstrated it with his own life. He who persecuted the Church became the one who planted churches. He had stood by approving the stoning of Stephen; now he was prepared to give his own life to complete the mission God had given him. It was an incredible transformation, but Paul did not do it in his own power. He was compelled by the Spirit. That doesn’t mean that he couldn’t disobey; it means that he felt that it was the only proper response to what God had done for him.

Application – Changing Hearts and Lives

What we do matters. Every day, every decision impacts us. Each act of obedience softens our hearts and strengthens our ability to recognize God’s voice. Each act of disobedience hardens us. And that goes beyond our actions. Changing hearts and lives reminds us that our attitudes are just as important as our actions.

We also need to remember that we can’t change our hearts or our lives on our own. The Holy Spirit does the work of changing our hearts, but we have to cooperate with His work. As He changes us, we act in accordance with His leading. We stack day after day of obedience and faithfulness, and God is changing us all along the way.

This does not mean that God’s saving work is somehow defective or incomplete, simply that we continue to grow in grace as we walk in obedience. That’s why Paul could tell the Philippians: “It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14, CEB).


Father, thank you for reminding us that the goal of your work is changing hearts and lives. Jesus’ victory over sin enables us to live in victory over sin. Help us to know and to do your will today. Grant us the grace to experience changed hearts and lives in Jesus Christ. Amen.


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