Main Point: God has the power to change us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done.
Attention Grabber: Movie – 16 Blocks, PG-13, 2006, Warner Bros.
16 Blocks is one of the better movies I’ve seen this year. Not a whole lot of people die, the language is tolerable (for the most part), and the whole theme of the movie is about doing what’s right, holding on to truth, and allowing yourself a second chance to live rightly. The movie stars Bruce Willis, Mos Def (The Italian Job), and David Morse (The Green Mile). In the movie, Detective Jack Mosley (Willis) is an old, tired cop, who has been given the assignment of transporting a convict (Mos Def) to the courthouse. The convict Eddie is about to testify against some of LA’s police officers. The officers being testified against (led by David Morse’s character) are in a desperate hunt to make sure Eddie will not testify. It’s a fast-paced movie set in real time, and has a very thematic feel of making right choices, learning to trust someone you normally wouldn’t, and allowing yourself to be changed.
Clip: People change.
The clip we are using features Detective Mosley and Eddie walking through the streets of LA. They are still on foot, running from the dirty cops who are hunting them. The two converse about changing. Eddie begins by talking about what Jack “would normally have done.” Several times in the movie in fact, the cops who know Mosley make reference to “what Jack would normally do.” But of course in this movie, Mosley is not doing what he normally would. Eddie notices this and realizes that Jack has begun to change from a tired old cop into something much more real and virtuous. Later in the conversation, Jack and Eddie argue about whether people can change. Eddie, having a criminal record, swears that he is going to make a better life and become a baker. Jack, however, refuses to believe that people can change. The scene begins at approximately 34:55, or the beginning of chapter 10 on the DVD, with Jack and Eddie walking through the streets. Eddie begins talking about Jack not doing what he would normally be doing. The scene cuts and goes to the officers searching for them, but quickly goes back to continue the conversation. Be sure not to cut off the second part of the conversation. The clip ends after Eddie says he is going to send Jack a cake and make him eat his words. This is at approximately 36:29. Note: I highly recommend having the subtitles on during the clip, because Mos Def tends to mumble and is difficult to understand.
Some think that people can never change. If someone is a good person or a bad person, they don’t have the power to change. Do you guys believe that? We’re going to watch a scene from a movie about people changing. The movie is called 16 Blocks. It’s about two guys, Jack and Eddie, who are running from some dirty cops. Jack used to be one of the dirty cops, and Eddie is a convicted criminal. Jack is trying to protect Eddie and get him to a courthouse where Eddie is going to testify against all the dirty cops. In this scene, Eddie has overheard cops talking about what Jack would normally do, but that he isn’t doing it now. Eddie is grateful that Jack has decided to help him, even though that’s unusual for Jack. Listen very carefully to what they say in their conversation. Eddie is a huge believer in second chances and the ability for a person to change into something better. Let’s see what he says and how Jack, a tired old cop who has been around criminals his whole life, responds. Afterwards, we’ll break up into our discussion groups and talk about the clip.
EDDIE: That cop back at the apartment, he said you should do what you always do. What did he mean by that? (JACK doesn’t say anything.) You’re not doing what you always do, huh? Jack Mosley, I get it. I see the signs. I’m where I’m supposed to be. I was wrong. You’re the right guy. I could have got another guy, did something different, but I got you. I appreciate it. You’re the right guy. Okay?
JACK: Okay, okay.
(Scene changes to the police chasing JACK and EDDIE. After this, the scene comes back to JACK and EDDIE, and they continue their conversation.)
JACK: What’d the deal with that book?
EDDIE: It’s my business plans. I’m moving to Seattle. My sister’s already living out there. I’m gonna open up a bakery. But it’s only, like, a specialty bakery. Like, birthday cakes for little kids; there’s a lot of money in that. But how about this—for your birthday, I’m gonna send you a big birthday cake on your birthday.
JACK: I hate birthday cakes.
EDDIE: You hate birthday cakes?
JACK: First thing that doesn’t go your way, you’re gonna be slipping into Carol’s Clip and Curl, stealing all her hair-care products. Because you’re a thief. And that’s what you are, Eddie, you’re a thief. You’re always gonna be a thief.
EDDIE: People can change, Jack.
JACK: Days change, seasons change. Not people.
EDDIE: Yes you do.
JACK: People don’t change, Eddie.
EDDIE: Yes, you do. You know what, I’m gonna get you that cake. You know what it’s gonna say on the top of it, right? “Jack Mosley, ha-ha-ha, eat this.” Make you eat your words, lick your fingers too.Transition Statement:
It’s kind of sad to hear what Jack’s response is to Eddie’s “business plans,” isn’t it? He says that people never change and that Eddie will go right back to being a thief. In your groups, you’re going to discuss the idea of changing. Is it possible for someone to change? What would it take for someone’s life to change for them to become all that they were intended to be? Really be thinking about what God would want to change in your lives. Go ahead and get into your discussion groups, and explore the possibility of becoming a new person.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: What is the worst (or if it’s a boys’ group, “grossest”) habit you have ever heard of anyone having?
- ASK A FEW: Do any of you have any weird habits that you do without thinking? Is it tough to stop?
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: In the movie clip, Jack says that “people never change.” Which of you agree with him? Which of you don’t agree? Why do you guys believe this?
- ASK A FEW: Have you ever known anyone who changed completely? How did they change?
- ASK A FEW: If you’re one of the students who believe that people can change, why do you think that it is so hard to change?
- ASK A FEW: What do you think it would take for someone to change completely?
Now we’re going to read a section from the book of Luke. You may have heard this before, but really listen to it again. Put yourself in Peter’s shoes. This is right after Jesus has been arrested.
Read Luke 22:54-62 (NLT)
So they arrested him and led him to the high priest's residence, and Peter was following far behind.  The guards lit a fire in the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there.  A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus' followers!”
 Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don't even know the man!”
 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”
“No, man, I'm not!” Peter replied.
 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of Jesus' disciples because he is a Galilean, too.”
 But Peter said, “Man, I don't know what you are talking about.” And as soon as he said these words, the rooster crowed.  At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered that the Lord had said, “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times.”  And Peter left the courtyard, crying bitterly.
(This would be a great time for the leader to share a quick version of his/her testimony.)
For the next couple questions, I don’t want you to answer them out loud. Instead, really think about them. I want you to be honest with yourself.
Now, I want you to listen again to this story about Peter. This is much later, even after Jesus rose from the grave and then went up to Heaven. Listen to the “new” Peter.
Read Acts 2:14 (NLT)
Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this.
And now Peter gives this huge speech, about how the Jews need to understand that Jesus who just died was raised from the dead, and that He had come to save the world. But now listen to the outcome of his sermon:
Read Acts 2:37, 40 (NLT)
Peter's words convicted them deeply, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
… Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church—about three thousand in all.
In 16 Blocks, Eddie is completely convinced that people can change. He refuses to stay the thief that he is known to be. There are two big obstacles that keep people from changing. The first is that they don’t believe that they can. They are convinced that they are stuck in their ways and that no one can do anything about it. The other reason is that even if they believe they can change, they think they can just do it themselves. This is so dangerous! People can only change themselves so much, before they become discouraged and disappointed, and fall back into their old ways. We need to recognize that Jesus is powerful enough to help us change into what He wants us to be. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” As long as we rely on Christ to help us change, He has the power to make it happen! Remember tonight what you said in your discussion group about what you want to change. And understand that if you allow Christ to work, it’ll happen. We aren’t stuck in our ways.
Written by Matt Furby
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.