As we have begun a new cycle of life, with summer holidays in the rearview mirror and a new year unfolding before us, it is time to revisit the theme of “Encountering God’s Transforming Presence.” Today we speak about the last in our three-part series – Transformation …
When we decide to become followers of Jesus, what we are essentially doing is turning away from every bit of self-justification. We recognize that we cannot stand before a holy God, resplendent in the glory of his own outshining, and rely on our own good behaviour. We would be deluded if we do. That would be like Adolf Hitler imagining that he were Mother Teresa! Instead, we rely on the gracious gift of Jesus’ righteousness that he gave to us when we put our trust in him. It would be as if Jesus put a trillion dollars in our bank account when we put our life in his safe hands. What an unbelievable gift from a gracious God!
The Apostle Paul refers to this gift as God’s mercy. How are we to respond to such an incredible act of generosity on God’s part? He says this: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind … (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
Our ultimate and supreme goal – transformation!
The only appropriate response to what Jesus has done for us is authentic worship, that is, to love him with all our heart. It is to be continuously laying our lives – as best as we can – at his feet. This is what Paul exhorted the Corinthian church to do and the Scriptures are calling us to do (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
It would be to completely miss the mark for a follower of Jesus to engage in anything less than the radical pursuit of devotion to Jesus and transformation into his image.
As we devote ourselves to Jesus, the way we think actually changes. As we continually choose his will over our own, as his truth replaces the lies that we have believed, we find that we begin to think, speak, act and see life more like Jesus does!
As a feeble illustration*, when I got married to Elsie a number of years ago I had clear-cut preferences, opinions and convictions about various issues of life. However, the truth is that after continually bumping up against Elsie’s preferences, opinions and convictions about various issues of life, I find that my thoughts and feelings about various things have actually changed. It has not been an easy process. It has required that I deal with my pride, self-centred thinking and unwillingness to listen to another’s point of view. As a result, I dare say I’ve become more loving and gracious in my thoughts and feelings because I’ve been encountering someone who is more loving and gracious than I.
In a way more profound manner, bumping up against Jesus’ thoughts and feelings changes the way we think, feel, make decisions and act. We are being changed from the inside out. In fact, that change is supposed to be a truly radical one. The word that we translate, “transformed” can also be translated, “metamorphosed”. Like the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly, we too are being metamorphosed from one state of being to another. As someone has said, Jesus is not just about making bad people good, he’s about making dead people live!
The struggle is real though. The caterpillar goes through an intense battle in its cocoon. We wrestle with our own instinctively self-centred nature.
For this reason, as I wrote [last week], we absolutely need to regularly encounter God who sustains us in the fight. We also need a body of likeminded believers – the church – to encourage and sharpen each other.
Pursue his presence! As I wrote [two weeks ago], it’s in his presence that we enjoy encounters with him. Those encounters lead to Christ-like transformation. Amen!
*it is a feeble illustration because Elsie has changed through my influence as well. Whereas, Jesus the Perfect One has not become better for knowing me!