Let the Change Begin

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Supernatural Transformation

READ AT BEGINNING OF SERVICE:

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

INTRODUCTION

James Calvert (1813-1892) was a zealous missionary to cannibals on the Fiji Islands. His faithful work bore fruit in the lives of those accustomed to taking the life of others. Years later and English earl visited the Fiji Islands and was critical of a chief?s conversion to Christianity. “You?re a great leader but it?s a pity you?ve been taken in by those foreign missionaries. No one believes the Bible anymore. People are tired of the threadbare story of Christ dying on a cross for the sins of mankind. They know better now. I?m sorry you?ve been so foolish as to accept their story.”

The old chief responded with a gleam in his eyes, “See that great rock overt there? On it we smashed the heads of our victims. Notice the furnace next to it. In that oven we formerly roasted the bodies of our enemies. If it hadn?t been for those good missionaries and the love of Jesus that changed us from Cannibals into Christians, you?d never leave this place! You?d better thank the Lord for the gospel, otherwise we?d already be feasting on you. If it weren?t for the Bible and its salvation message, you?d now be our supper!” (quoted in Autoillustrator.com , “SPIRITUAL GRATITUDE” from, Kindred Spirit, Volume 16, Number 1, p. 6)

The transformation that took place in the lives of these former Cannibals was truly amazing and yet was not easily appreciated by the English earl at first glance. And yet, I?m sure that this earl?s opinion of Christianity was affected a little bit by what the Chief had to say.

The Christian is truly a demonstration of a transformed life. And yet, for some Christians the transformation doesn?t really seem all that obvious and hence the appreciation of it decreases. We must realize that God?s desire is that all would not only have a supernatural transformation take place in their lives but also that this transformation would be noticed.

Max Lucado starts his book, Just Like Jesus with a question that poses much to think about ? I?d like to read a few paragraphs from his introduction,

What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you?

What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes his boss, your mother becomes his mother, your pains become his pains? With one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn?t change. Your circumstances don?t change. Your schedule isn?t altered. Your problems aren?t solved. Only one change occurs.

What if , for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with his heart? Your heart gets the day off, and your life is led by the heart of Christ. His priorities govern your actions. His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.

What would you be like? Would people notice a change? Your family ? would they see something new? Your coworkers?would they sense a difference? What about the less fortunate? Would you treat them the same? And your friends? Would they detect more joy? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy from Christ?s heart than from yours?

And you? How would you feel? What alterations would this transplant have on your stress level? Your mood swings? Your temper? Would you sleep better? Would you see sunsets differently? Death differently? Taxes differently? Any chance you?d need fewer aspirin or sedatives? How about your reaction to traffic delays? (Ouch, that touched a nerve.) Would you still dread what you are dreading? Better yet, would you still do what you are doing?

Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next twenty-four hours? Pause and think about your schedule. Obligations. Engagements. Outings. Appointments. With Jesus taking over your heart, would anything change?

Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life, then snap the shutter and frame the image. What you see is what God wants. He wants you to “think and act like Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)

(Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus, p.1-2)

God wants a transformation to take place in your lives ? and this isn?t just any ordinary transformation. This is a transformation that is supernatural in nature. Something that cannot occur naturally.

The word transform or transformation is found three times in the NIV translation of the New Testament. It is interesting to note that there are actually two differing Greek words that have been translated the same way. The first word metamorphoo is used in two of the instances and refers to an inner kind of change (one that affects character, moral behaviour etc.) and then there is the word metaschematizo refers to a change in appearance or outward change.

These three places seem to describe the different “stages” of transformation. There is a beginning, a process and an end or finished product.

START OF TRANSFORMATION

Romans 12:1-2

1 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. 2 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.

Supernatural transformation begins with the sacrifice of ourselves to God and the acceptance of his grace through Jesus Christ.

In one sense this transformation is begun and completed with the initial decision for Christ as the text would seem to indicate in some cases (be transformed, washing of rebirth and renewal (Titus 3:3-7)l, created to be like God [Eph. 4:23-24]) and then in another sense it appears that it is not yet done as we will see further in the next point and with the next scripture.

The reason for this conflict, I believe, is because God?s perspective of what has happened to us is much different from our perspective of what is happening to us!

When God looks at a believer He sees the transformed soul or spirit of the believer. He sees the new self which has been birthed by the grace of God through the believer?s faith in Christ.

When we look at ourselves we see an incomplete picture because we are still in this world. So we know yes, that there is something different in our lives ? but there seems to be a struggle between that something different that is in our lives and what has always been there.

I?m not saying that God is blind to our failings and where we are now. But what I am saying is that when we become saved God accepts and loves us completely because who we are has changed from who we were. Our spirit which once was dead because of sin is now alive through the grace of God and our lives which once were limited to the natural realm are now set free by the supernatural contact we can have with God. It is our spirit that is alive within us with salvation that enables us to sense and know and commune with God. And it is this part of us that has been transformed completely and fully in an instant. It is this part of us that God sees so readily and yet we aren?t always fully aware of.

But because we are still in our earthly bodies that are subject to sin and death ? it sometimes takes a while for the supernatural transformation that has happened instantaneously in our spirits to filter on down into our everyday lives. That is why Paul often used the language of “old self” and “new self” because of the dilemma we have as Christians where we have been given a new nature by God that is in conflict with the abiding place of where our old nature once resided.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

So when Paul writes in Ephesians, “Put on your new self” he is recognizing that we have a new nature that must eventually supplant the effects of the old nature still resident our lives. BUT remember, if you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, your OLD NATURE is dead ? your sinful nature is DEAD. The Bible says that when you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour for your life that you DIED with Him and were given NEW life by him.

Romans 6:6-11 (NIV)

6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Colossians 3:3-4 (NIV)

3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

So the struggle we have is not with our old nature but with the leftover residue of our old nature still in our lives. That is why there is still the process of supernatural transformation taking place in our lives here on earth.

PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

18 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.

2 Corinthians is fairly clear that there is a process of transformation that takes place in the life of a believer. And it is this process that God wants every single one of us to go through. It is the process of aligning our physical selves with the new creation found in our spiritual reality which is truly who we are. It is one thing to be a child of the King ? but it is another thing to act like it!

Sometimes the hardest thing to do with Scripture is apply it to your life. For many folks it is easier to make the application for other people. One pastor became acutely aware of that when a church member consistently met him after the service and said, “You sure preached to them today.” The pastor frequently dreamed of someday hearing this woman take the message personally. He thought he had finally gotten his chance when a severe storm prevented all but the pastor and this woman from showing up one Sunday. After the message he knew she couldn?t quote her standard remark. Indeed she didn?t. She said, “Too bad they weren?t all here because? You sure preached to them today” (Humorous Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes, Leslie & Bernice Flynn, 1973, p.72, quoted in Autoillustrator.com, BIBLICAL APPLICATION)

Many of you may know that Pastor Chris and I have been steadily trying to do some transforming in our house. We?re switching the location of our kitchen. I originally thought this switch would be a 1 month job and we would have it done in the month of July. Chris and I have had fun trying to come up with inventive excuses for our wives every time we?ve had to extend the deadline for finishing this project.

God has a switch he wants to make in our lives ? it?s not enough that he owns us (because we?ve given our lives to him) but He wants to change us. And no expense is spared. This switch God wants to take place in our lives is to replace our heart with His heart – the heart of Christ.

If you were a car, God would want control of your engine. If you were a computer, God would claim the software and the hard drive. If you were an airplane, he?d take his seat in the cockpit. But you are a person, so God wants to change your heart. (Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus, p.2)

This might explain some of the discomfort some of us get in our life. This process of switching hearts is not always pleasant. And this is because it is a process. Unlike the change that takes place in your spirit which is instantaneous ? the change that takes place in your heart takes time. You see God wants you to be just like Jesus ? and this is the essence of Supernatural Transformation ? to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. He wants you to have a heart like His!

Max Lucado coins a phrase that captures what I believe God?s desire is for each of us,

?

God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus. (Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus, p. 3)

God?s love is not to be confused with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. God?s love does NOT become stronger with greater faith nor does it grow weaker with an increase in failure. God?s love never ceases.

When God looks at a believer in Christ He recognizes that person as His son, or His daughter ? and He loves and accepts us without reservation. Yet God also sees something greater for each one of us.

It?s like a parent who has bought an ice-cream treat for their child and when they go to give that child the treat they notice that the child?s mouth is full of dirt. Does the parent stop loving the child because they?ve got dirt in their mouth? Of course not! Would the parent allow the child to keep the dirt in their mouth? No way. The parent would love their child right where they were but would refuse to leave them there. This good parent would take the child and wash out their mouth.

And so our Father does that to us, “Spit out the dirt, my child ? I?ve got something better for you.” And so he cleanses us of filth: immorality, dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed. Sometimes we don?t enjoy the cleansing ? we even might choose the dirt over the ice cream ? “I can eat dirt if I want to!” we pout and proclaim. Which is true ? we can. But if we do the loss is ours. God has a better offer. He wants us to be just like Jesus (Lucado, p.4)

Isn?t this awesome? We aren?t stuck with who we were ? and with the corruption of our old nature. And for those of you who have yet to experience the transformation of your spirit ? you don?t have to be stuck with who you are. Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his!

his heart vs. our heart

Our hearts seem so far from his. His is pure; we are greedy. He is peaceful; we are hassled. He is purposeful; we are distracted. He is pleasant; we are cranky. He is spiritual; we are earthbound. The distance between our hearts and his seems so immense. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Christ?

The answer is folks ? the switch has already begun! If you are in Christ ? if He is your Saviour and Lord you already have His heart ? God has already started to make the switch. If you have given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given himself to you. He has made your heart His home. As the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “Christ lives in me”. And as Paul writes further in 2 Corinthians 3:18 ? Jesus has unpacked His bags and is ready to begin the process of remodeling your heart into His.

But the process only goes as fast as you let it and as you give all your hang ups, and heart troubles to Him. God has made the offer to transform you into the likeness of Christ but it is up to you to accept it. Will God stop loving you if you don?t? No, but He will keep posting the offer. Remember I?m not talking about the transformation that occurs with salvation ? I?m talking about the transformation that takes place as you allow God to change you by removing the corruption of your old nature and switching your heart ? the process of receiving His heart! Will you accept the offer?

For the next few weeks we?re going to take a long look into the heart of Christ, In a series of messages I?m going to present some thoughts as to what it means to be like Jesus. The transformation will occur when we “Fix our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2) and see what we can become. We?re going to look at his heart, and my hope and prayer is that as we do this your desire will be to see the fulfillment of God?s desire ? that your heart will become His.

FINISHED PRODUCT ? THE ONE TRANSFORMED

The third occurrence of the word transformation occurs in Philippians,

Philippians 3:21 (NIV)

21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

The greek word used here is metaschematizo which if you will remember refers to a change of form ? an outward change. This passage refers to the hope that every Christian can have. That one day, Jesus Christ will finish completely what he began here on earth. He will transform our bodies (which are subject to sin and death) to be like His glorious body. In other words ? what is already true about our spirit will THEN be reflected in our bodies.

So rejoice fellow believer! We are not stuck with these bodies ? we are not stuck with our failures ? we are not stuck with our nastiness ? we are not stuck with our bitterness ? we are not stuck with our hurts, our pains, our illnesses, our cancers of the body and mind. All this will one day be burned away as Christ transforms us. BUT don?t wait until then ? God has made His offer to start the transformation now! Will you let Him?

Paul writes earlier in this same chapter of Philippians, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Phil. 3:16) Christians are already sons and daughters of God ? live like it!

CONCLUSION

In England there is a paper factory that makes the finest stationary in the world. One day a man touring the factory asked what it was made from. He was shown a huge pile of old rags and told that the rag content was what determined the quality of the paper. The visitor wouldn?t believe it. In weeks he received from the company a package of paper with his initials embossed on it. On the top piece were written the words “Dirty rags transformed.” (Autoillustrator.com, CONSEQUENCES/CONVERSION)

The same is true of the Christian life. It is a process of SUPERNATURAL TRANSFORMATION from what we were into something new and wonderful.

Do you want to be supernaturally transformed?

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