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Transformation

posted 17 Aug 2015, 02:31 by Bert Weenink

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

 

At Tyndale we are having a special season of seeking God in prayer. We are concerned for the lack of growth in the church and from July right through to the middle of September, Sunday services and prayer meetings are focussing on our need of God and the need to examine ourselves and our walk with Him.

 

One of the questions we are asking is: ‘Why does spiritual growth sometimes stagnate in believers and in churches? I came across an article on the sermon central web-site recently where Thom Rainer offers his view from a study of the Corinthian church. It seems appropriate to share this article with you in an abridged form.

 

Discovering Transformation

The eternal reality that we were saved from sin should have a daily effect on life in this world. But sometimes, it stalls. How can we help liberate our congregations from their spiritual lethargy?

 

The Corinthians and Us

The first letter to the Corinthians was probably tough for Paul to write and tough for the church to receive. They were in the midst of a city known for all of the wrong moral codes. Many of us live, work and worship in cities similar to Corinth. Sadly, the moral code of the city became the moral code for many of the Corinthian believers—and the same happens in our day.

The letter from Paul leaps from antiquity and into our laps today. When I read it, I don’t just hurt for my congregation—it hurts me. The Spirit convicts me through it. I am often forced to admit that a stalling effect has taken place in my own transformation. Read this short passage in the third chapter:

Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were not yet able to receive it. In fact, you are still not able, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like ordinary people? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

The members of the Corinthian church had placed their faith in Christ and moved from darkness to light. But their lives stalled. They had not lost their salvation, but they had lost the forward momentum in their daily lives for real-time transformation.

When we lead our people in the process of transformation, we need to orient them to the reality of the war within them. Romans 8:8-9 says, “Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Once a Christian, the Spirit lives within us. But the “old self” still wars against the transformation. It is a battle and process that will continue until we enter eternity.

I think 1 Corinthians 3 gives us a portrait of what our church members must guard against in order to experience the fullness of transformation God intends. Let me point out three ways transformation stalls and give some responses as well.

 

1. Transformation stalls without spiritual exercise.

Verse 1 says that the Corinthian believers were acting like “babies in Christ.” They had Christ but were neglecting to grow up. They should have been eating solid spiritual food but needed to stay on spiritual milk because they lacked maturity. The only answer is exercise.

We all know that the believer cannot be transformed without the truth. Time in God’s Word is a necessity for our spiritual exercise. Church members must not fall into the trap of thinking that group study is enough. I think everyone should be involved in a small group Bible study and be exposed to strong biblical preaching, but leaving out their personal time with the Scriptures is a quick path to stalling their spiritual transformation.

Exercise begins with prayer. In another letter, Paul wrote, ‘Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God’,  (Philippians 4:6).

Remaining active in sharing the Gospel is also important in staving off the stall that often occurs. I believe that losing the sense of what the gospel can do in the lives of others has a powerful effect in our lives. The work of evangelism has the side effect of reinforcing its own power in the life of the one who does the sharing.

I would also add that serving others keeps us on track as a spiritual exercise leading people toward transformation. Service lifts our eyes from personal needs to those who are needy right around us or in a different culture. God uses service to aid others and to conform us to the image of Christ.

As physical exercise is a discipline, so is spiritual exercise. Transformation is something that actively takes place in our lives. We are transformed by the gospel to consistently become more like Christ and lead others to do the same.

 

2. Transformation stalls amidst envy and strife.

In verse 3, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are “still fleshly.” (worldly) Continually giving in to the world hinders a person from yielding to the way of Christ. Obsession over the lives of others brought about by envy and strife distracts from a focus upon the life of Christ.

Envy and jealousy are extreme forms of selfishness. With envy, we want someone else’s life more than we want to be like Christ. With jealousy, we want what others have more than we want Christ himself. These forms of selfishness move us away from personal transformation and mission to personal promotion and ego.

These sinful characteristics deny a person the opportunity to serve others, and transformation is abandoned.

When we serve, envy and jealousy have no room to stall our transformation. Rather, the service becomes an outworking of Christ’s transforming character within us.

 

3. Transformation stalls when we live like the world.

The final issue I see in this short passage from Paul is his question in verse 3: “Are you not fleshly and living like ordinary people?” It is an indictment of believers who have stifled the transformation begun in them by the gospel.

One of the greatest condemnations that can come into the life of a Christian is that he/she has settled for an ordinary life. Transformation by its very nature means that something significantly different from the world is happening in our lives. In C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory, he wrote: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (Lewis, C.S., The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 26) Lewis is right; we should see the pleasures of this world as trinkets in comparison to the transformation offered by Christ. Life is too brief to live like the world and deny our new position in Christ.

 

Striving Rather Than Stalling

What if each morning, your church members prayed something like this: “Lord, I choose to be sold out to you today. Let me cross paths with those who need to see how your power transforms a life. Let me put others ahead of myself. Rejecting the feebleness of this world, help me to live like Christ.” Imagine the transformation possible if they chose to place God’s mission and the interests of others before their own. I fear that too many people simply hope to survive the day unnoticed and unscathed. I discovered that such a mentality is too much like the world and too little like Jesus.

But the Christian life does not have that intention. God creates a new life in us and wants to transform our everyday living into a portrait of the gospel’s power. If you find your congregation stalled, then it is time to help them make a decision. Christ’s plan for His people is that they might be more and more like Him. Decide today that stalling is no longer an option for them, and choose the hope borne from transformation.

 

I found this article very challenging, what about you?

Pastor Bert

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