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sermon 2019-10-27 Peter Day

Transformed

Introduction

There are two verses of scripture which provide the foundation of our thinking this morning.  In Ezekiel 36: 26 the Lord promised to make a new covenant:      “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and you will keep My judgements and do them.”

And 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us of the fulfilment of that promised new covenant where we read ‘we who with unveiled faces, reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’

Now I’m going to tell you a story, it starts as all good stories do;

Once upon a time, there were two caterpillars crawling along a cabbage leaf when a butterfly flew over and they both looked up and saw it. Then one caterpillar turned to the other and said: “You’d never get me up in one of those things!”

Of course, what it didn’t realise at that time was that God had a plan for its life as a result of which it was going to become something and go places and do things it never thought possible- because it was going to be transformed.  And God has a plan for each of us and it involves us being transformed, not into a butterfly but into people who do things and go to places and become people we never in our wildest dreams thought possible because he has told us that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ and that when we see Him we shall be like Him.

This morning we’re going to look at three stages of our transformation.  Which are; we have been transformed (justified); we are being transformed (sanctified) and we will be transformed (glorified).

 

We have been transformed.

When a person becomes a Christian we often hear that they have been ‘saved.’ But what does that mean? Picture this; you’ve gone to the coast, the sea is warm, the day is sunny and you decide to go for a swim and then get caught in a rip.  You struggle to overcome but try as you may you haven’t the strength needed and you are being dragged further and further from the land.  You realise there is absolutely nothing you can do to save yourself.  In desperation, you raise your hand and call for help.  A surf lifeguard sees your call for help and comes to your rescue. The lifeguard is strong and the IRB is more than powerful enough to overcome the strong current and so you are saved.  In that act, your whole future is transformed.  You were facing certain death there was nothing you could do to save yourself other than to cry out to someone who was strong enough and well enough equipped to rescue you. As a result of their actions, you’re saved and have life stretching out before you.

Prior to Jesus coming to our rescue, we were in a hopeless situation where we could do nothing to help ourselves but Jesus is strong enough and well equipped to save us. That is one picture of salvation we are given in the New Testament.

It is a very valid illustration but it is not the whole story because it doesn’t describe the amazing transformation that takes place in the person who is saved.  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us ‘that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation.’ Ravi Zacharius tells us “the Gospel is not about making bad people good or even making good people better people.  It is about making dead people alive!” In Ephesians 2:1 we read, ‘And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins and in verses 4 & 5 continues ‘But God….even when we were dead in trespasses and sins made us alive together with Christ.’  So the transformation that took place when we were saved was amazing. We weren’t just saved from a desperate situation, we were dead spiritually because we are sinners, but when we were saved we were ‘born again of the Spirit’ – we became a new creation alive spiritually.  There’s a whole theology here that we don’t have time to go into but it is why for so many of us coming to Christ or rather Christ coming to us, was a very dramatic experience.

As a result of the transaction which took place on Calvary, we were transformed. We who were dead have become alive, spiritually alive and all manner of things changed.  We started to pray in a way we’ve never prayed before. Suddenly the Bible which until recently had been a closed book and foreign to our understanding became alive and full of meaning.  Our attitudes changed in all sorts of ways. With respect to our moral life, we probably ceased to do some of the things we’d previously done and we probably found that some of the things that used to entertain us were no longer pleasurable and had lost their meaning. We developed a strong desire to behave morally and do good for others. Also, we may have felt a peace within we’ve never known before and may have been filled with joy.

But God’s work of transformation doesn’t and shouldn’t stop there. If it does then it isn’t real, because it is an ongoing work. As our text from 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells ‘we are being transformed’- the present ongoing tense.

We are being transformed

Countless books have been written and sermons given on the topic of our ongoing transformation.  I only have time to share some very brief thoughts. Perhaps one of the lessons it’s best to learn early on is that it is impossible to live the Christian life!  We can’t do it.  Last week Ross spoke about us being joined to the vine. Now the only way a branch can grow and bear fruit is if the sap from the vine is flowing into it. So it is with us.  It is only by the Holy Spirit flowing into our hearts and minds that we will be changed and empowered to become more and more like Jesus.

One of the hallmarks of the Holy Spirit’s continuing work in our hearts is that He sets within us a desire to become like Jesus.  It is reflected in some of the songs we sing.  For example;

‘Make me like you, please make me like you,

You were a servant make me one too,

O Lord I am willing, do what you must do

To make me like you Lord, please make me like you.

 

What sort of person is it we are aspiring to be when we say we want to be like Jesus? What was Jesus like?

Jesus loved the Father.  When we’re born again we immediately are given a love for God and the things of God.  We need to nurture that love in various ways.  By prayer, Bible reading, fellowshipping with other Christians, doing acts of service and doing good to all people especially those of the household of faith.  And, quite importantly at some point stepping out in faith by taking a risk-based on an inward conviction and outward confirmation and learning to be obedient. For example, Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on the water when Jesus told him to ‘come’.  (Matthew 14:29) or Abram willing to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22 or like Mark and Faye Griffiths who were here last week and have obeyed the call of God and gone to serve him in the inhospitable foreign land of Niger because they love Him.

Obedience to God is not like the obedience demanded by a Sergeant Major in the Army.  It’s an obedience based on love.  I had a friend whose little boy was named Ian.  On one occasion Ian had been behaving badly and my friend scolded him. A little later Ian turned to his dad and said: “Daddy I do love you.” And my friend replied, “Ian if you really loved me you would have done what I told you to do.”  In John 14:15 Jesus said the same thing, he said: “if you love me you will do what I command you.”

As we look to Jesus we see that he fulfilled the first commandment, he loved God. His greatest demonstration of which was in Gethsemane, where he said at a time of great crisis, “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” In Philippians 2: Paul writes ‘Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus’ and in verse 8 he tells us Jesus ‘became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.’  I don’t know about you but I wish I had that kind of loving obedience to God. It is undoubtedly something the Holy Spirit is wanting to create in us.  He never forces himself upon us. But he is transforming us.  However, sometimes the work of transformation can be painful. Jesus said ‘if we are to follow him we must take up our cross.’ i.e. die to self and learn obedience.

But Jesus not only loved God he also loved us his neighbours. And we’re encouraged to have that same love in our hearts for our neighbours, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 we have a description of Christ-like love;

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’

That’s a pretty good picture of Jesus and it is that love which the Holy Spirit wants to impart to us so that we are (as our text says) being transformed into His likeness. It is the hallmark of a truly Spirit-filled person.

Now what I’ve been saying describes an ideal.  But unfortunately, we don’t always live up to that ideal. I don’t think there is anyone who has ever lived the perfect Christian life. We maybe get jealous or angry or dishonest. We may become greedy or entertain lustful thoughts.  So what happens then to our relationship with God? Does it crash and burn. Satan will try to tell us it does, but it doesn’t because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I’ll illustrate what I mean.

I grew up in an area of England where coal mining was a common form of employment. Coal mining is and was a very dirty occupation.  A miner would go down the pit washed and clean but at the end of his shift, he’d come back up covered in black coal dust from head to foot.  Except for one part. That was his eyes. They would be as clean as the moment he went down. Why? Because every moment he was down there a tear was washing over his eyes keeping them clean.  And that is how it is with us when we walk faithfully with the Lord trusting in Him and obeying the leading of His Spirit.  We may not be perfect and we will fail and fall from time to time but we are being kept clean by the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin.  So when we do trip up and sin and Satan accuses us we can confidently quote 1 John 1:7 – ‘if we walk in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sin.” And 1 John 1:9    ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’

It is faith in Christ’s blood which cleanses us and it is that and that alone which will keep us clean and in a right relationship with God (not our good works). In this dark and dirty world, we will get dirty but it is by constantly maintaining our faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus which enables the Holy Spirit to do His ongoing work of transformation, gradually creating in us the likeness of Christ.

Sorry, that is all we’ve got time for about us being transformed except for this. Jude 24 says “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy!” Wow, now that will be a wonderful transformation.  Which takes us to the last part, which is;

We will be transformed

When we see the way the world is going at the present time, from a worldly perspective the future looks awfully black.  We’re told that climate change is going to make life on earth very difficult in the not too distant future.  To make matters worse we are seeing a terrible moral collapse which will inevitably lead to an economic collapse and so on and so forth.

But God has a plan and is going to judge the world, which will be a time of great tribulation.  Subsequently, He will establish His kingdom on the Earth and the world will be transformed.  There is a day coming when men will beat their spears into pruning hooks, when nation shall speak peace unto nation and the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

And finally, our bodies will be transformed.  1 John 3:2 says ‘Dear friends we are the 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.’  In other words, we will be transformed and have a body like the body Jesus had after the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:35-58 explains a great deal about what lies ahead for us when our corruptible bodies put on the incorruptible body but we haven’t time to go into that but it’s well worth reading at home. That passage ends like this;

‘But give thanks to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’  AMEN

So we have been transformed, we are being transformed and we will be transformed.