ON THE PATH TO TRANSFORMATION
So often in my life have I frustratingly thought to myself, “Phil, what were you thinking?”
So often have I wrestled with myself over my actions as the Apostle Paul did when he wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) Ever been there?
As believers in Christ, so often we battle ongoing temptations, and so often we face temptations that just pop up throughout our day. Temptations to act in discordance with who we are in Christ by His Spirit, and to act in accordance with who we used to be in our sin by our flesh. Temptation, for instance, to get bitter over this thing, or to look longingly at that thing, or to sharply say just one more thing, or to hold on for dear life to every thing, or to think so proudly of myself about how I don’t do any of those things! Friends, I am, and we are far from finished products. And yet, while this is true, allow me to warn us of perhaps an even greater temptation. One that can come our way when we think to ourselves, “well, I guess, that’s just the way I am.” or “What's the use? This is just how it’s gonna be.” Again I ask, ever been there? I have, and so, friends, I say this with all humility. And that is, we must resist this temptation. To surrender to this temptation is to surrender to despair. To surrender to this is to magnify the power of sin and to minimize the power of the cross and the power of the Spirit. Scripture tells us that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus and through our faith in Him, we are transformed. It is done, finished! And at the same time, in Christ, we are being transformed. We are on a path of transformation, and on the path, we must cling to the promise that the same Apostle Paul from earlier wrote of when he said that God is faithful, and God will Himself “sanctify you completely.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) What an incredible promise!
We are transformed, and we are being transformed
So, we press on. And while the work of transformation is of the Lord alone, we too have a role to play. This is where observing such things as Lent and the spiritual disciplines come in. And to be clear, engaging in the Lenten season and engaging in its practices (fasting, or prayer, or giving, or Scripture memorization, etc) is not what sanctifies me or makes me holy. Rather, these practices only position me in a humble posture so that the Lord can do His sanctifying work. They only serve to till up and break up the proud soil of my heart, so that it is ready to receive what the Lord has to sow in it, and so that it can produce the fruit He desires. Fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5). The work of tilling can be hard and is a process, but it’s one we are promised will bear fruit. It’s worth it! Transformation happens! As Jean wrote last week, when we stumble, we repent and embrace who we are in Christ. And then we continue pressing on along this path of transformation rejoicing in who we are becoming by the grace and power of God’s Spirit within us.
In closing, I just wanted to share a simple, practical thing that I do to enter into this. As I said earlier, I am still very much a work in progress and I need the Lord’s power everyday to sanctify me. And so there is a short prayer of Scripture that I pray through often, and it’s found in Hebrews 13:20-21. If you’re looking for a place to begin, maybe this can help. And if so, my prayer for you, as it is for me, is this:
"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."