Sunday, August 14, 2011

Transformed by Christ's Love

            TRANSFORM, vb: To change in composition or structure, to change the outward form or appearance of, to change in character or condition.
            I have been reading Dallas Willard’s book Renovation of the Heart. He masterfully makes the case that to be a follower of Jesus is to be transformed from the inside out. My heart resonates with what he is saying. I desire to be transformed by the love of Christ. Not only that but I desire to see others transformed as well. Our church has committed itself to being a place where lives are transformed by the love of Christ. I believe in that vision. I desire to see that become a reality. But I must confess that I am a little discouraged. The majority of what I am reading paints a less than rosy picture of the church. Instead of seeing lives transformed in significant ways we see all of the problems of the world resident in the church. How do we turn this around? What does it mean to be people whose lives are transformed?
            God has been challenging me with several thoughts about living a transformed life. I offer them to you not as the end of the conversation but as the beginning of a dialogue.

            First, true transformation is an act of God and not the product of our efforts. I have always been one who wanted to do it myself. I have struggled with the false idea that I had to somehow change myself so that I would be acceptable to God. The bad news is that I will never make it. The good news is that I don’t have to. God, by His grace and mercy, has done all that needs to be done for me to be transformed.

            In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us to stop trying to measure up to external standards. Instead he tells us to yield to the transforming power of God from the inside.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

            So how do we put ourselves in the place where this transformation can happen? Paul gives us the answer in Philippians 4:8-9. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
            Paul tells us that there are two things we can do to access the transforming power of God’s grace. We can fill our minds with the right things and we can fill our lives with the right actions. As we meditate on the right things our whole way of thinking is changed. As we consciously act on what we are learning the way we live is changed.
            The second thought I have about transformation is that it takes place in community not isolation. As Americans we have been trained to think and live independently. We are “rugged individualists.” This kind of thinking is foreign to scripture and hinders us from experiencing the transforming power of God. The Gospel is an invitation into a community of faith. Colossians 3:15-16 helps us see that being a part of a community is at the heart of our spiritual transformation.
            Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
            Genuine transformation takes place through relationships. First we enter into the life-giving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That relationship empowers us to develop new relationships with others. God uses the community of faith to be the agent of transformation.
            The third thought I have is that genuine transformation means submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In Romans 12:1 Paul calls us to give our all for Christ.
            Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
            If we are going to experience the transforming power of the Gospel we must yield completely to Christ. Jesus said we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
            The last thought I have is that transformation is a process and not a product. Although I firmly believe there is a point in time when we cross from death to life through faith in Jesus that is not the end of the story. We are always in process spiritually. The transforming work of Christ is a long term commitment on his part to restore the image of God in us. Paul clearly states this in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.
            Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
            Many people are staying away from the church today because they do not see the transforming power of the Gospel in the lives of Christians. We can change that if we are willing to humble ourselves before God and let him do his work in us. We are the light of the world. It is time to shine. 

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