1 John 3:1-3 Romans 12:1-3
July 21, 2013 If Only I Could Change
Last week we learned that the foundation of spiritual growth is this: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1. In Christ we are set free from the burden of our sin and free to grow as God intends. This week we consider spiritual growth, which means change. Change is hard isn’t it? Go to any bookstore and you will see an entire wall of self-help books. Helping people change is big business. But when we look in the mirror all we see is the same old person looking back at us. That’s why we move, change jobs, get a facelift, buy a new car, start a new career, find a new boyfriend, go to a new church, join a chess club, start working out, buy a new outfit, and on and. And the older we get the harder it is to change. Deep inside don’t most of us harbor desires to change something about our lives? Inside or Outside Which changes are harder to make in our selves: those on the outside or those on the inside? Suppose you could change anything about yourself, where would you start? Lots of us would start on the outside. Would you be . . . Skinnier? Taller? Shorter? Better looking? Would you change . . . Your eyes? Your hair? Your teeth? Your legs? Your bulges? If you could wave a magic wand and change your outward appearance would it be a light touch-up or an extreme makeover? I think my teenage years were the worst in terms self-consciousness about my looks. Do teenagers still live in a state of fear that they don’t look good enough and so they experiment with all kinds of styles, or whatever the “cool people” are wearing? But as we grow older we… Do adults spend time trying to find just the right dress or blouse, or just the right shirt or just the right pair of pants, or hairstyle? We diet and work out, which is good for our health and can make us look good, but gravity is working against us. Finally you reach the stage in life where it’s easier to simply try to cover it up than to lose it. In extreme cases, we may stop caring altogether about how we look and that’s not good either. Outward changes are tough. But it’s the stuff on the inside that’s really hard to change. What would you change about yourself on the inside if you could? …an impatient spirit? … a critical tongue? … envy of those around you? … a spirit of discontentment? … lingering resentment? … lust you can’t conquer? … financial mismanagement? … a guilty conscience? … a destructive perfectionism? …an inability to work with others? … an overbearing
stubbornness? … a judgmental spirit? … a quick temper? … profound discouragement? … an inability to appreciate life? … an ungrateful spirit? … a disorganized life? … an inability to say no? … a mean streak you can’t seem to get rid of? What would you change about yourself on the inside if you could?
Change Comes Slowly Our mailboxes, our email inboxes, and the airwaves are crammed with ads promising that you can lose weight now, make money overnight, learn a new language, and become a better lover. Advertisers know that secretly we dream of being something different and better than the person we are today. I just heard another one on the radio saying, “Watch unwanted pounds melt away.” It sounds easy and fun. Take this pill or eat this supplement or drink this superduper energy drink, and Presto! Those unwanted pounds will just melt away. What could be easier? Sadly, change isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. If it were easy anyone could do it. There is no growth without struggle. High school coaches have been saying for years, “No pain, no gain.” Long-held habits can be changed, but it won’t happen overnight. “Can’t teach old dogs new tricks” – we are not dogs, but made in the image of God. Patterns of sin can be broken, but it will take more than a quick prayer at the end of a worship service. You can have significant growth in your spiritual life, but it won’t come without some effort. Genuine and lasting change – for the better – is possible and it goes like this:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2. Circle the word “transformed.”
All About Transformation Look at your bulletin - our church mission statement: “To bring people to the transforming power of Jesus Christ through membership in His family and to equip the members for ministry in the church and the world.” Did you notice that word “transforming?” Transforming = changing. We’re here to bring people to Jesus who has the power to transform lives. Sure, we want people in church, and yes we want people to read and study the Bible. But those things serve a purpose. They’re avenues for the real purpose, which is to bring people into relationship with Jesus so they can be transformed by His grace and power. We’re all about transformation. Bible knowledge alone will not save us and knowledge alone will not change us. You’ve got to do something with the knowledge. Otherwise all you have is a
bunch of notes and outlines. We’ve got to act on the knowledge that Christ can save us and change us for the better. Transformation: An Inside Job The Greek word for “transformed” in Romans 12:2 is metamorfousqe. That’s where we get our word “metamorphosis.” Maybe you remember from science class that metamorphosis is the process by which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly or a tadpole becomes a frog. It’s a gradual change on the inside that produces a total transformation on the outside. I used the word “transformed” because this same Greek word is used in Mark 9 - the transfiguration of Christ when His true glory was revealed to His disciples; “he was transformed before
them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2-3). When Jesus was transfigured, he did not cease to be Jesus, but for a brief time James, Peter and John saw the “real Jesus,” the true Son of God from heaven. He did not cease to be a man, but his true identity was revealed to them as “true God of true God.” If you knew nothing about metamorphosis and looked at a caterpillar you’d never suspect it could be more than a creepy, crawly thing. You can’t tell by looking at a caterpillar that one day it will fly. It seems impossible. Caterpillars can’t fly. But they were born to fly. When a caterpillar enters the cocoon it doesn’t change its basic nature. Metamorphosis reveals what was always there in the DNA of the caterpillar. When the caterpillar has been transformed into a butterfly, it becomes what God always intended it to be. When the apostle John said that “now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known,” 1 John 3:2, he was talking about our future when we are with the Lord. It’s in our DNA to become like Christ – we were made in God’s image. God is transforming us even as I speak. When Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross, He made it possible for God to include us in his holy family, and so the transformation begins – from sinfulness to holiness. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” John 1:12. Renewing Our Minds
“… be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Circle the word “renewing.” Romans 12:2 teaches us about spiritual metamorphosis: God intends that we will slowly but surely be transformed into the image of Christ. We’re not finished, not glorified, not perfected, not completed. God is transforming in you and in me everything that doesn’t look like Jesus. In my case it’s clear that He has a long way to go. But I am encouraged by the certain knowledge that he won’t quit halfway through a project. What God starts, He finishes. If you concentrate on your flaws, you will lose your confidence. If you concentrate on God’s faithfulness, you will grow in confidence.
But let’s not confuse our spiritual growth with our emotions. It’s not about “feeling” the presence of the Lord, as important as feelings are. The Scripture here tells us that transformation happens when the mind is renewed. How do we get the “renewed” mind? T + HH + GE = SG Time plus Habits of Holiness plus Godly Encouragement equals Spiritual Growth. The transformation of the mind takes time, and it takes a determination to develop those habits of holiness. And what’s Godly Encouragement? When I went away to seminary one of my mentors – an 80+ year old pastor said this to me: “choose your friends wisely because you will become like them.” I doubt that anyone will grow spiritually without others who encourage them to make godly choices each day. The right friends make it easier for you to grow in the Lord and the wrong friends make it much harder. Change and growth doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t happen overnight. It cannot happen without the Holy Spirit. It happens when we make a personal commitment. It happens with the godly encouragement of other Christians. It happens as we pursue the Lord so that we may know him better and better. It happens as we behold the glory of Jesus Christ. Then and only then will you be transformed by the renewing of your mind. If only I could change. You’ve got to do something! 1. If you have not yet given your life over to Christ do it right now. Pray: “Lord Jesus, I’ve gone astray from you, I’ve ignored you, I haven’t let you be my salvation and guide. Forgive my sin, accept my life, become my Lord and Savior. Amen.” Until you do that nothing happens. 2. Ask God to help you change. Pray: “God you know what needs to change in me. Begin the transformation now.” 3. Then develop holy habits, right now. Yep, that means Bible study and prayer – everyday. 4. Get friends who give you godly encouragement. Join a small group at church. It won’t be easy and it won’t always be fun. It can be nerve-wracking to have your flaws exposed. But there is no other way to get better and no other way to grow in Christ. When you do that then you can say with integrity: “Be patient with me, God’s not finished with me yet.” “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope, fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed,” 1 Peter 1:13. Final Product If only I could change… change is possible, you can change for the better! In Christ Jesus transformation happens. God is in the transformation business, and you never know how someone will turn out.” God is determined that we will all be like Jesus in the end. “…now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure,” 1 John 3:2-3. At the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, there is the spot where Ruth Graham is buried. Engraved on her tombstone are these words: “End of construction. Thank you for your patience.” If we’re really quiet we may hear the reconstruction going on inside us. When God is finally finished you will be like Jesus. “… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2.