1 Peter 2:9 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out fo darkness into his wonderful light.
Philippians 1:4-5 and 9-11 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
2 Corinthians 5:15-20 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
A doctor said to his patient, “You are in terrible shape. You’ve got to do something about it. First, tell your wife to cook more nutritious meals. Stop working like a dog. Also, inform your wife and kids that you’re going to make a budget, and they have to stick to it. And have your wife keep the kids off your back so you can relax. Unless there are some changes like that in your life, you’ll probably be dead in a month.”
“Doc,” the patient said, “This would sound more official coming from you. Could you please call my wife and give her those instructions?” When the fellow got home, his wife rushed to him. “I talked to your doctor,” she wailed. “Honey, I am sorry to tell you, you’ve only got thirty days to live.”
Change. Not many people look forward to it. But change is what is constant about the Christian life. I might add that change is what keeps life with Christ exciting and new. I have said it recently, “You can’t go with God and stay the same.” We weren’t made for mundane, routine, ordinary, religious-rut living. We were made for transformation. We were made to change and become like Jesus. We were made to be able to walk with the Spirit of God and to move as God directs.
Some of us here today may not think life can be any different. Some of us may not understand what God expects from us and for us. God has sent me to tell you that like we just heard from Mike through his testimony, change is possible and is purposed by God for His children.
I want to speak about three facets of the transformation God has in mind for us. First of all, Philippians 1:6 tells us it is an
Ongoing Transformation-Philippians 1:6
There we read that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” You and I are a work in progress. We are being made new. II Corinthians 5 tells us that when we are in Christ, we become a new creation. Our soul is redeemed, and we begin a process of recreation that changes us from the inside out. It is an ongoing process because God’s work goes on until the day of Christ Jesus which is the day of His return or the day we meet Him in Heaven! Turn to your neighbor and tell them, “He’s still working on you, and I am soooo glad!”
Notice Who it is that does the transformation in our lives. Philippians 1:6 says “He who began a good work.” Salvation begins with God. Transformation is carried out by God. God takes the initiative to take on the likes of us. We are all big projects, and He still takes us on. Our confidence doesn’t have to be in ourselves or in our ability to get the Christian walk “right,” but in God who will lead us and work in us and work with us and not give up on us, but will complete what He has begun in us at salvation. HE who began a good work will complete it!
Notice also that God calls His transforming work in our lives, good. God says change is good! He is doing a good work in us, and He will keep it up all the days of our life as we surrender to Him. And because He is bent on completing this ongoing work, He isn’t going to leave us alone and have us just become spiritually stale and ineffective Christians. He is going to challenge us in order to change us. He will disrupt us in order to direct us. He will discipline us in order to define and refine us. And He says of that process, “It’s good.”
Would you agree with me that whenever God does a work it is a miracle? Salvation is a miracle! When someone is brought out of darkness into the light of God, when their soul is converted, when forgiveness of sin takes place because of the substitutionary blood of Jesus, it is a miracle. But what I want you to understand this morning is that the life of a believer is a series of miracles because the transformation you and I undergo all throughout our life because of God’s work in us is just as miraculous as the salvation moment.
When we change and become like Jesus, we are undergoing a miracle. I like that phrase! Undergoing a miracle! We all want miracles in our lives, and often we look to an outcome and desire for some outcome to be miraculous. But what if we viewed transformation as the greatest miracle that could take place in us!? What if we viewed our whole lives from beginning to end as a series of miracles!?
Our minds our changed. Our outlooks are changed. Our personalities are infused with Holy Spirit help and understanding. Our faith increases. Our desires shift. Those are all mighty miracles! So, think of this ongoing transformation as a series of miracles. I am so glad that God finishes what He starts and He keeps working on us until we see Jesus face to face.
When you are feeling God’s conviction, you are undergoing a miracle! When you are being disciplined in order to redirect your thoughts and behaviors, you are undergoing a miracle. When your faith is being tested in order to produce something new in you, you are undergoing a miracle! When you find yourself in a tight spot that requires you to pray without ceasing you are undergoing a miracle! Listen, if you are being stretched and challenged to become more and do more for Jesus, rejoice, you are undergoing a miracle! And He won’t stop working in you and through you until you reach Heaven’s Gates! Woohooo!
So, salvation is the beginning point of a lifetime of miraculous transformation. Just what takes place specifically in this transforming process?
Well, it is an
Inward Transformation-Philippians 1:9-11
Here are the details again of what we can expect God to do inside of us as He works on us: 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
Abounding love. Growing in love. Increasing in spiritual knowledge. Increasing in spiritual depth. Becoming mature in our faith. Having discernment to live a holy life. Taking on the character of Christ, the righteousness of Christ. These are the inward miracles of transformation.
It is interesting that Paul listed the growing of love first. He understood it was paramount for Christians. What did Jesus say in Matthew 22:37-40 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Romans 5:5 tells us the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God is at work to create an increasing love for God and the things of God. Why is that? Why such a focus on an increasing love for God? Well, what we love, what we give our hearts to becomes our passion, our priority. What we love is what we are committed to and then give our time and resources to. When God has our hearts, He has our all. A deep love will result in a deep, daily commitment and surrender to Him.
God desires for us to grow in our love for Him as we spend time reading His Word, as we spend time in prayer, and spend time in worship. I urge parents of young children to make a commitment to being regularly, weekly engaged in the life of the church as it becomes a wonderful opportunity for your children to cultivate a heart of love for God. Children experience God often through His people, and as they are regularly put in the situation where they can hear the Word and worship God regularly, that love for God begins to grow. We were made for more than religion. We were made for a love relationship with God that is real and personal.
God desires that we not only grow in our love relationship with Him, but that we also grow in our genuine love for others. I Corinthians 13 tells us what love for others looks like. It is patient and kind. It is generous and not jealous. It is humble and helpful. It is courteous and tempered. It is encouraging and enduring. God wants to do a work in us that helps us treat others that way.
After growing in love, Paul said God’s internal work in us involved an increasing spiritual knowledge and discernment. God wants to take us from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. It’s a natural progression to move from feelings of love and devotion to greater intimacy. Paul often talked about the difference between new believers who drank spiritual milk and mature believers who had moved on to spiritual meat. We are supposed to move on in our spiritual walk.
God desires that we journey with Him to a place of understanding and maturity. He wants to show us more of Himself and His will, but we have to cultivate the capacity to be able to receive those things. Quite honestly, if God were to reveal some of His plans, some of His ways to new believers, it would freak them out. We can’t possess more until we mature more, until we desire to receive more. God has to work in us to get us ready for the more He longs to reveal to us.
Parents, you understand this concept. As our children grow, we give them more responsibility, more life instruction, more information about facets of life that await them in adulthood, but it is a step by step process. We don’t overwhelm our children with all that is ahead when they are four or five, but as they grow we teach them more and more that will help them as they move into adulthood. They are able to understand and accomplish greater things at ten than they did at five. They are able to understand and accomplish greater things at fifteen than they did at ten. We want them to continue to gain insight and discernment so that they make solid life decisions. The same is true for us as believers as God accomplishes His inside work in us.
Finally, Paul says about this internal work, that what we learn, know and discern will impact the way we live. The internal work will produce a Christ-like character in us so that our lives are characterized by the fruit of righteousness, that we are able to live pure and holy lives. People are drawn to the Lord through our witness as they see Christ manifested in us which leads me to the last point of this “made for transformation” message.
As we allow God to work in through salvation and in us through transforming our character and thoughts so that we reflect Christ, there is a shift in our focus, a change in our motivation.
Motivation Transformation-2 Corinthians 5:15-20 and Galatians 2:20
We go from living for ourselves to living for Christ. Look again at II Corinthians 5:15: 2 Corinthians 5:15 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Do you see the shift? There is a transformation in our basic understanding of what life is all about. It isn’t about us. It is about living for Christ and representing Him for others to see. II Corinthians 5:20: 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
When we were dead in our transgressions and sin, we were obsessed with ourselves. Our happiness, our pursuits. Me, me, me. But as we grow in Christ, a transformation of focus takes place where we move away from self and our fleshly desires and we are motivated by Christ and Kingdom desires. We become aware of our responsibility to represent Christ to the world. We are compelled by His love to reach others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. That is what Paul says. He wasn’t giving a graduation speech to a group of seminary students! He wasn’t addressing the religious elite. He was speaking to everyday ordinary people.
Jesus was an Ambassador. He came on behalf of the Father to reveal the love of the Father and to speak for the Father and to demonstrate what kind of life would please God. He said in John 14:9 that to see Him was to see the Father. You and I now, because of the authority Jesus has invested in us, we are ambassadors with the same mission-to show everyone what the Father is like!
God transforms us in order that He can “make His appeal” to the world through us. Is there any higher calling? Is there any greater joy? We are being transformed from sinner to ambassador; from disconnected to representative, from unworthy to a mouthpiece for God Himself. And the more we know Christ, the more we can represent Him and testify to Who He really is. And the more we know Him the greater our desire becomes for others to know Him!
Isn’t it awesome that God would take unworthy people like us, selfish people like us, and transform us to the point where He trusts us with His very own message and agenda? We become people who not only speak on behalf of Christ, but we also do the things He did which was serving and caring for others.
We were made for more than self. We were made to serve and share God’s love with others as direct representatives of God Himself. Do we see that Christianity is more than a label? It is a lifestyle that is born in us as we submit to Christ and does His transforming work in us!
Paul put it so eloquently in Galatians 2:20. We memorized this verse together earlier this year: Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
As were undergo transformation, we rely on Christ to live in us. That is what Galatians 2:20 really means. We make the choice to stop living for self and allow the manifest life of Christ to be demonstrated in us. Think of this transformation as exchanging your life for the One who exchanged His life for yours.
But let me testify that once you make the exchange, once you choose to die to self and allow the Holy Spirit to work in you, His life in you will become your pursuit and passion because when you fully surrender, and Christ in His fullness comes to live in you, His will becomes your will. His ways become your ways. His power becomes available to you. It becomes out of control in a good way.
A fire for Christ begins to burn in you that won’t go out. It will just get hotter and brighter as the days and weeks go on. The Apostle Paul became obsessed with the life of Jesus, the ministry of Jesus, the Words of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus. He had gone from promoting himself and his religious accomplishments to promoting Jesus alone. It didn’t even matter what happened to him whether shipwrecked or imprisoned, whether starving or suffering a beating, he wouldn’t shut up about Jesus and His resurrection, Jesus and His love, and Jesus and His transforming power.
God wants to transform us. He begins by doing a work for us. He saves us. He continues His transforming work by doing a work in us through His Spirit’s power. He continues our transformation by working through us to reach others. It’s a step by stop and ongoing process.
Where are you in the transformation process? Are you feeling stuck or stale? How much are you willing to surrender? How open are you to being stretched? How easy are you for God to work in and through? It isn’t about trying harder, but about surrendering more. Does becoming like Jesus and having His power at work in you to help others get connected with God sound like something worth giving your life for?
There is more. God has more than you have yet seen, experienced and shared with others. Do you want it? Are you open to it? Do you believe there is more? Listen to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:16-21:16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The only thing that stands in the way of our transformation is we, ourselves. God can change any willing heart and life. Let’s present ourselves to God as Romans 12 instructs us so that the immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine can be accomplished for us, in us, and through us for the glory of God.
What God starts, He finishes. What He inhabits and fills grows. What He fills and grows, He uses. You were made for more than life for self. You were made to know God intimately and to change the world. Will you join me this morning in fully giving yourself to God so He can continue the good work He has begun in you?
Here are some of the reasons that change is difficult for people:
a. Because people are stubborn
b. Because people are comfortable
c. Because we are afraid
d. Because change hurts