8/20/2014 2:00:00 PM
At World Harvest Church this year's we have been talking extensively about transformation. When it comes to developing as Christians, there's no neutral in the gearbox. We are either becoming something better than we were before, or we are moving further away from our divine purpose. There's a direct correlation between growing closer to God and getting better, just as there's a direct correlation between getting worse and drifting away from Him.
Two things I believe about being a pastor are that: 1) there's a better person in everyone God brings me to care for; and 2) if I can help those persons find a better self by challenging them, that's exactly what I should do!
Paul gives us an insight into transformation in the 12th chapter of Romans, his theological manifesto:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind
, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
- Romans 12:1-3, ESV, emphasis added
As motivational speakers in the secular world will tell you, your mind controls you. What you do is a result of what you think, and think about. So it stands to reason that if we renew, or make new
, what we think about, we will undergo a transformation. More specifically, if we set our minds on the things of God, we will be transformed into men and women of God that act in harmony with who He is and what He wants. Do you want to be more loving to the people you influence? Set your mind on love.
I've been thinking about this passage in the context of prayer lately. I've been seeking the things of God all my life, and sometimes I think I'm more comfortable when I'm in prayer than at any other time. But I understand that there's a mental hurdle that many believers have about prayer, and my sense of things is that it's often a result of a flawed image of God. If we view a time of prayer as a trip to the principal's office, where we'll be scolded for our shortcomings and belittled into believing we'll never amount to anything, then of course we won't be eager to pray. But if we see God as He is – as a loving Father – we're much more likely to approach Him with all of our cares and concerns. It's also helpful if we understand how He sees us – as His beloved children. The better and more realistically we view our relationship with God, the more we become like Him in our interactions with others.
Another interesting aspect of this passage is that we know part of it by heart, and then try to ignore the rest of the verse. We're called to what? To be transformed. How? By the renewing of our minds. But we don't know what to do with the rest of verse 2, which in many ways is the key to understanding the rest of it. "That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect
." Years ago the Argentinean pastor Juan Carlos Ortiz was found of saying we should go back to our Bibles and read all the verses that we hadn't underlined. My guess is that there aren't a lot of Bibles in our churches that have underlined or highlighted the last part of Romans 12:2!
Karma is not a Christian concept, but that doesn't stop many believers from hoping that it comes to pass in their lives anyway. Testing doesn't seem like it should be part of the plan for living the Christian life. But it's right there in black and white, even if it isn't underlined or highlighted: we learn the will of God by being tested. That means testing is not something we should avoid. It is something we should welcome, because it serves to transform us into more Christlike men and women.
Do you want a testimony? Make sure that you do before you ask for one. Most people aren't willing to endure what it takes to get a testimony. I promise that if you commit to the entire process of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ, the testing that is part of your transformation will be painful. But it will be worth it.
- August 20, 2014