This evening I want to begin with two readings. I deliberately want to make connection with our thoughts from the past two weeks. I want these readings to focus our thinking.

Romans 12:1,2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 3:17-21 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

In the past two weeks I called your attention to this truth: the way God defines humanity and the way we humans define humanity is different. (1) God's definition is based God's intent and purposes for us when He made us. (2) The human definition is typically based on influences that have nothing to do with God, that often even deny God is our origin.

God's objective in Christ is to change us into what God intended for us to be when He brought us into being.

  1. Let me begin with a warning.
    1. Typically the religious world that declares it defines itself by acceptance of Jesus Christ [and that includes far too many in the Church of Christ] does not stress transformation.
    2. Typically what is stressed is grace to the exclusion of transformation.
      1. Often it is suggested in one way or another that God's grace makes transformation unnecessary.
      2. Often, in some way, this seems to be the current stress: "Because God knows your heart, how you behave is unimportant."
      3. Too often we at least create the impression that transformation is the enemy of God's grace instead of God's grace being the opportunity for transformation.
    3. The result is that too often we become addicted to what often is called "cheap grace."
      1. What does the term, "cheap grace," mean?
      2. It means "I cannot earn salvation" [true], "I cannot deserve salvation" [true], "I cannot place God in my debt" [true], so "How I live and behave is unimportant" [false].
      3. It is the concept, "God's grace will cover everything, so I can just live as I please because I am in God's grace."
    4. The motive for Christian obedience has nothing to do with earning salvation, deserving salvation, or placing God in my debt.
      1. Grace gives me the opportunity to make the journey of changing the person I am.
      2. No matter how evil my past has been, I can be a different person.
      3. Transformation is my way to say, "Thank you!" to God for the grace that made my forgiveness possible.
      4. As a Christian, I cannot make transformation's journey without changing my life.
      5. My salvation is not all God and it is not all me, it is God and I in partnership--God doing for me what I cannot do for myself [forgiveness, etc.] and me showing my appreciation to God by wanting and agreeing to transformation.

  2. Let me continue with a question: "Do you like change?"
    1. Your answer to that question will depend on your environment factors at the moment you hear the question.
      1. Some would respond, "No! I do not like change! Change is terrible!"
        1. "I wish gas prices could go back to the levels of 50 years ago!"
        2. "I wish cars did not cost more than my first house cost!"
        3. "I wish marriage was like it used to be!"
        4. "I wish parenting was like it used to be!"
        5. "I wish you could have a lifetime job or career like we used to!"
        6. "I wish we could go back to a time when cars did not use computers, when businesses did not use computers, when homes did not have computers, when banks did not use computers--every time you turn around, you have to deal with another computer!"
        7. "I wish the church was what it was 50 years ago!"
      2. Some would respond, "Yes! I am glad change can occur! Change brings blessings!"
        1. "I am glad that you do not have two year olds for life or teens for life."
        2. "I like microwaves, hot water "on demand", tubeless tires, power steering, power breaks, power windows, something beside a coal or wood heaters to heat your home with, air conditioning, and comfortable mattresses."
        3. "I like knowing who won a political race immediately after the vote instead of two weeks later."
        4. "I like the new medicines and medical procedures that add years to life."
        5. "I like cell phones."
        6. "I like having variety in what I eat."
        7. "I like the availability of college educations."
        8. "I am glad we can know so much more about scripture and the will of God today."
    2. Whether we realize it or not, life involves change, and it always has.
      1. Aging is a change process--not just physically, but hopefully in wisdom as well.
      2. Experience is a change process--only an extremely foolish person refuses to learn from experience.
      3. The entire process of education is a change process--in mind and understanding that results in changes in life.
      4. While we all hate death, I hope we realize that the ability to age but the inability to die would be a curse right now in this physical world.

  3. Conversion to Jesus Christ produces change, a change scripture calls transformation.
    1. Allow me to call your attention to some statements found in scripture.
      1. The first is this statement from Peter in 2 Peter 1:2-4 which occurs just before what is typically called the Christian graces.
        2 Peter 1:2-4 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
        1. Let me point out some things in this reading we really like.
          1. We like the thought of the multiplication of grace and truth--that is good stuff!
          2. We like the divine power that grants us everything pertaining to life and godliness--that is good stuff!
          3. We like precious and magnificent promises--that is good stuff!
        2. Let me point out a couple of things that strike many as less than desirable.
          1. God expects us to partake of the divine nature--"if I do that I won't fit in."
          2. God expects us to escape the rottenness produced through ungodly desire---"but I like some of those ungodly desires, and I would debate the idea that such desires cause rottenness."
      2. "Oh, David, you are exaggerating!"
        1. "Partake of the divine nature--that is a stretch!"
        2. "Ungodly desires do not produce rottenness--they produce pleasure, and I like pleasure."
    2. Consider Paul's statement in Ephesians 4:20-24.
      But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
      1. If we put this statement in its fuller context, it is about transformation
      2. Paul said, "This is the kind of persons you were before you became Christians."
      3. "This is the kind of persons you are to become because you accepted Christ."
      4. "There is to be a 'before and after' because God, with your permission, changed you--your reason for coming to Christ was to put off the old self and put on the new self."
      5. "You committed yourself to becoming a person created in the likeness of God, a person created in the righteousness and holiness of truth (Jesus Christ).

  4. The word Paul used for transformation in Romans 12:2 is the same Greek word that gives us metamorphosis. butterflycaterpillar
    1. Metamorphosis is the word used to describe what happens when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
      1. Now, that is change!
      2. They neither look nor function alike!
    2. God's intent with Jesus Christ in you is to change you!
      1. Not merely a superficial change is a few habits and behaviors that allows you to do the "going to church" thing.
      2. But a radical change, a change of who you are as a person.
      3. God wants it to be evident in you that this change occurs as a continuing process because you are in Christ.
    3. Please note how this change occurs.
      1. It is a change you want to happen, that you cooperate with God through Christ to make happen--it is not some mysterious happening that occurs against your will!
      2. First, you change the way you think--God teaches you a new way to think.
      3. Second, you begin a search, a continuing study to prove what is God's will--you do not wish to live your life on your assumptions, but you wish to live in an understanding of God's purposes and priorities.
      4. The end result:
        1. You adopt God's definition and concept of good.
        2. You change your understanding of what is acceptable.
        3. You want God to form your concept of perfect or complete.

Is that what is happening in your Christian existence as a man or woman who has, by choice, placed yourself in Jesus Christ?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 20 June 2004

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