Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Process of Transformation Part 2

Transformation: change in form, appearance, nature, or character.
Transformation is always supernatural. No one can be transformed to be more and more like Jesus apart from a move by the Spirit of God in a persons life. The Scriptures teach us in Philippians 2:13 that God is always working in us giving us the desire to obey Him and the power to follow through. This teaches me that God is always willing to walk with a person or family or church down the road of transformation - He is always working in us. God also offers to us the desire to obey Him and also the ability to follow through. So why then, one may ask, is transformation seemingly difficult for many people? Mark 4 does give us some glimpses into the answer of transformation. In this section of Scripture, Jesus teaches His followers that their lives may be like one of four soils that He describes. The quality of the soil determines if there will be a healthy or unhealthy crop to be harvested. The type of crop depends upon the seed and that is where Jesus begins, by talking about the seed. Mark 4:13-14 teaches us that for there to be a healthy harvest, there must be the right seed put into soil. The seed, Jesus teaches us is the Word of God (Mark 4:14). There is no other seed sown into the soil of ones soul that will reproduce a healthy spiritual crop. So for there to be any real transformation, we must drink in the Word of God, which is the seed that will produce a harvest of holiness in our lives. The next important aspect of transformation is the soil itself. Mark 4:28 teach us that the soil produces crops all by itself. The right seed in good soil will produce a harvest. But soil must often be cultivated before it becomes nutritious soil capable of reproducing strong crops. When the soil is full of rocks, thorns, weeds or if it is shallow, it will not be able to sustain a hearty crop even with good seed planted in it. Part of God's 'always working in us' includes cultivating the soil of our souls to be the good soil and therefore reproductive. I think this is where many stray from the transformation process. They like the idea of transformation. They are glad to see others lives be transformed. But when God begins his cultivating of their lives to prepare the soil for the good seed (the Word of God), there often a backing up and away from the process. For cultivation to happen, violence must be done to the soil. It must be poked with a shovel deeply and then ripped out and turned over. It is often raked and has rocks unearthed and removed which disturbs the soil. All of this is quite uncomfortable. When God cultivates our lives it is painful and yet vital. We have to apply ourselves to cooperate with the Spirit of God as he prepares us to receive and reproduce. Transformation is always a work of God that does require the hard work of cooperation. Just this past week I was talking to a person who admitted they knew God was working in them and asking them to move forward in their faith which was not comfortable for this friend of mine. This person knew what God was asking but refused to cooperate. The result is that their soil remains weed infested and shallow. No amount of good seed sown upon this soil will produce lasting transformation. An effort must be put forward, but the effort is mostly, if not entirely, in the will of the individual. In Hebrews 12, we find a summary of the story of Esau. Esau sold his right to his fathers inheritance for a bowl of lentils to his brother Jacob. Of course Esau regretted his decision once his hunger pains left him, but it was too late. Listen to what Hebrews 12:17 tells us about Esau; "For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears." Esau regretted what he did and wanted to repent. He even cried over what he had lost but according to this verse, he never choose to repent. He never choose to admit that he only thought of himself and his comfort. He was not willing to do the hard work of repentance; of agreeing with God that he was wrong. Ultimately, transformation is a cooperation with God. This requires a choice of the will to submit and allow God to lead however He wants. Once we cooperate with God, then God does all the work. Most people may not be experiencing transformation because they need to freshly submit to God - to surrender to Him so that He can cultivate the soil of our souls to make them rich and reproductive soil. Will you allow God to transform you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Process of Transformation

Transformation: change in form, appearance, nature, or character.
Most people like the idea of transformation. We like to see our bodies morph from flabby to fit or our houses from clean to dirty or our lives from lazy to disciplined. What we don't like is the effort and work it takes to become transformed. When we think of spiritual transformation most people that I know would prefer for God to snap His fingers so the process is begun and completed in the same instance. While this does happen at times, the normal growth in spiritual transformation is a process that takes God's intervention along with our work and effort and this is where the challenge occurs for many. But let's back up for a minute. TRANSFORMATION IS A PROCESS Transformation is a process that often begins with a question. We can see this initial stage of transforming in people like Zaccheus (Luke 19:1ff). Zaccheus climbed up into a tree because he had a question. He wanted to know who Jesus was. Nicodemus was another person with a question, he wanted to know how one could be born again (John 3). The rich young rulers chance at transformation began when asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:16-25). Moses began to be transformed when he questioned how a bush could be burning with out being consumed by the fire (Exodus 3:1ff). Saul's life began to be transformed when he inquired who it was that caused him to be blinded (Acts 9:1ff). SEEDS OF TRUTH FOR TRANSFORMATION In each of the above examples, the question(s) is answered with a seed of truth. In the case of Zaccheus, he learned that Jesus was the giver of salvation. For Nicodemus he found that being born again is an act of God in the soul of a person. In the case of the rich young ruler he found out that eternal life is gained by dying to yourself and in his case that meant giving up his riches. For Moses the seed of truth was to obey the things God was calling him to do. For Saul the truth was to submit himself to Jesus, whom he was persecuting, and for him to receive the Holy Spirit. In every case of transformation, there must be a seed of truth planted in the life of a person. Mark 4:14 teaches us that the seed is the Word of God. There is no spiritual transformation apart from the truth of the God being planted in our lives. THE COST OF TRANSFORMATION In each of the above illustrations there was a cost for transformation to take place. This is where somethings can become sticky. The cost of transformation is often severe and there are a good number of people who are not willing to pay the price. They would prefer to take the 'blue pill' and 'wake up believing what ever they want' to quote Morpheus in The Matrix. For the rest, transformation occurs when we take the 'red pill' and see just how far the rabbit hole goes. That is a costly proposition that Jesus invites us to. For Zaccheus, it cost him most of his fortune, for Nicodemus, most of his reputation over time. For the rich young ruler, it simply cost too much and we never learn of him entering into the process of having a transformed life. For Moses it cost him his career (shepherd), and forty years of hardship in the wilderness. In the life of Saul/Paul, it cost him his prestige as a Pharisee a life that was often abused and misunderstood (2 Cor. 11:21-33). As we look back on the life of these people today, we certainly agree that their transformation was well worth whatever it cost them. As we look at the lives of our friends who have been through much and transformed much, we would also heartily agree that it is always worth the struggle. This brings me to a vital question; Why then do not many more who want to be transformed by Jesus see it happen in their lives? I'll give you my thoughts next time. What do you think?

Friday, October 09, 2009

An Early Breakfast in Atlanta

I got up early this morning to have breakfast with two friends. One friend I met a year ago, the other I was meeting for the first time. Both of these friends are believers and both love Jesus very much. You can feel their desire to know Jesus. You can also feel their struggle to follow Jesus with deep passion. They are both committed to church attendance and worship. They both want Jesus to transform them but they are also honest to state that life is just too busy and the responsibilities too large. One of my friends stated that "...going to church on Sunday caused them to feel absolved..." from the previous weeks busyness and infused them with just enough spiritual juice to keep them going for another week of getting their batteries drained.
I challenged them to begin a L.T.G., to read the Scriptures deeply (20 -30 chapters a week), to talk about life it's difficulties and sins they succumb to along with praying for individuals and families to come to Jesus. After 30 minutes of discussion, questions about what I was challenging them to do and some hesitation, we parted ways with hugs.
Both of these friends stated that they needed and wanted to be 'abiding in Christ'. They both wanted to let the life of Jesus flow through them and onto others. They both knew it was a struggle to make the time to pray, read, meditate and soak in the Word of God and in the presence of Jesus. They wanted it, but life screams for more of them and Jesus simply invites them to follow Him. Screaming demands for time often wins out over the loving invitation of the one who purchased us for Himself.
How can we gain a heart that is desperate for Jesus? How can the Word of God become alive to us when it feels like a text book? What does it take for our spiritual hunger to grow to the point of driving us to God for more? How can I help my friends cross the line between the screaming of life and the invitation of Jesus. When will Jesus be enough for me, and for them?
I want to say thank-you to the folks at VLC for allowing me and providing for me to be in Atlanta this weekend. Because of their support for me, we (I and VLC) are able to affect the friends above and a whole bunch of other saints here in the Atlanta area for the Kingdom expansion of God. I'll try and post more later on what takes place here in Atlanta this weekend.