Christian as Construction Sites
One of the aspects of the gospel is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, as we respond to Jesus and what he has done for us through his sacrifice. As I prepared to write this piece, this was what occupied my mind. Later, I thought that I would write about prayer, as we share in the “Thy Kingdom Come” initiative of ten days of prayer (see below). However, I feel drawn back once more to the subject of transforming grace, so I hope these reflections will be a blessing to you.
Recently, I listened to a sermon which contained an emphasis on accepting Jesus as a personal Saviour then need to turn our lives around. While I appreciated the intension of the speaker, it did seem that he was suggesting that such a turn-around could be accomplished simply through self-effort. My experience has been that I found that impossible. I first responded to the gospel as a child, indicating my desire to follow Jesus by signing a copy of John’s gospel. Later, I chose to walk in ways that were ungodly, until I realised my life was out of control and heading for disaster. But my own efforts to change my life were ineffective.
Through the faithful service of a good Christian, I discovered that Jesus said that whoever came to him, he would never turn away (John 6:37). So, I asked Jesus to accept me as I was. Looking back, I can see that some change began to take place but it was slow and little. Then, one Easter, as I listened to an evangelist speaking about the crucifixion, the love of God took hold of me and I surrendered myself to God. Changes in my life soon became more obvious, but still I struggled with sin. It seemed to require more effort to change than I possessed, and I did so want to be more like Jesus.
Then, one day as I sat and prayed on the promenade at St. Leonards-on Sea, I felt God was asking me to look at the waves breaking on the shore. There are several stone breakwaters along the shore, at right-angles to the sea. I noticed that as each wave came in, at first the water would wash completely over the breakwater. But as it progressed up the beach the water was separated on either side. What I believed then, and still believe, is that God was showing me that the secret of sanctification is that as we seek to come ever closer to Jesus, so things in our lives that ought not to be there will lose their power. It is the progress of ever wanting to be close to our Saviour that enables the change to take place.
Over 50 years later, while much in my life has changed for the better, there is still an ongoing work to be done. I am a construction site. God has not finished with me yet! I heard of a man who was commissioned to produce a large statue of a horse. People watched him at work. One spectator, amazed at the sculptor’s skill with the chisel, asked what was the secret as the shape of the horse emerged from the block of stone. He replied, “I just keep removing anything that doesn’t look like a horse”
One of my favourite songs was written by Marilyn Baker. It reflects how God does the transforming work in our lives by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. You can listen to her singing this song at www.youtube.com/watch?v=64OBMT2mrKU.
The Greek word, Metamorphoo, appears four times in the New Testament. Two of these refer to the occasion when Jesus and three of his disciples went up a mountain. The disciples witnessed what we call the transfiguration. As they watched, the face of Jesus radiated light like the sun and his clothes became intensely white. John, one of the three wrote of Jesus, “We beheld his glory…”. Peter, another of the three wrote, “We were eye-witnesses of his majesty…”.
The Greek word that describes what happened, leads to the English word, metamorphosis. This means an essential change in form or substance, such as a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. The amazing this is that that Greek word used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus, is also used to describe that change God brings about in our lives.
Writing to the Christians at Corinth, Paul reminds them of the transformation Moses experienced when he saw the glory of the Lord. (See Exodus 34:29-35) After his encounter with God Moses face radiated brightness or glory and he had to cover his face with a veil. Paul goes on to write, “Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. the Lord’s glory, are being transformed (Greek: metamorphoo) into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)
Paul is explaining that when we genuinely spend time in the presence of the Lord and his word, we are being transformed into his likeness.
The third occasion where the word metamorphoo is used is in Romans 12:2 where Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed [metamorphoo] by the renewing of your mind.” The message is simple: if the focus of our lives is on the ungodly aspects of the world we will find ourselves being pressed into its mould (as JB Philips puts it), but if our minds are set on the things that are of God, we will experience the continuing transforming grace that only God can bring.
While it is reasonable to say, “Be patient; God has not finished with me yet”, those closest to us should be able to discern something of the nature of God being formed in us – in what we are, how we speak, and all that characterises our lives. You can’t mistake a construction site when you come across it! While some may believe themselves called to live a life of asceticism, most of us live out our Christianity in the context of a world that often has values that are not godly. I’m not sure which is the more challenging. But in the world, I pray that people will be able to see Jesus in us. In his earthly ministry, many sinners found themselves attracted to him because of his distinctiveness. May we be so filled with the Holy Spirit, that our lives attract and draw others to know Jesus.
Thy Kingdom Come
This is a wave of prayer globally originally initiated by the Church of England but now supported across all the main denominations. The purpose of the ten days of prayer is to pray for others that we know to come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Friend. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to sign up to share in this season of prayer. You can do this and find out more at www.thykingdomcome.global. You will also find some prayer suggestions on the Facebook page for Rural Mission Solutions at www.facebook.com/Rural-Mission-Solutions.
From the Diary
I would value your prayers on some personal matters please. Doreen has two hospital appointments this coming Monday and Tuesday. The first is a CT scan because she has shown signs of cognitive impairment. The second, is the annual follow up after her breast cancer operation last year. I have a hospital appointment on Friday to explore what might have been causing my voice to become husky. At times, it makes it very difficult to speak and sing.
Apart from hospital appointments this is a relatively quiet week, which will enable me to do more writing and to attend to administrative tasks that are piling up. In the following week there are more engagements, but more about that another time.
Thank you for your fellowship.