Tag Archives: transformation

Today’s Scripture – September 21, 2017

Luke 8:38-39 (NIV) The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

The most natural thing in the world would be for someone who had received such a great deliverance form Jesus to want to follow Him, to become His disciple. And some see Jesus as being a bit cruel for not allowing this man to do that.

But there were two issues that arose here. First, this man was a gentile, which would introduce some serious complications for Jesus’ ministry if he was brought into Jesus’ group of followers. It would actually close doors into the hearts of the Jewish people that were Jesus’ primary target group. Some may be dismayed or critical of that being the case, but it was the state of the hearts of the Jewish people, and Jesus was always extremely practical in how He worked to spread the good news among them.

The same kind of practicality is seen in Paul when he had Timothy circumcised before allowing him to accompany him in his missionary journeys (Acts 16:3). Paul, who had just fought strenuously in the Jerusalem Council to allow gentile believers to not undergo circumcision (Acts 15), insisted that Timothy be circumcised because he had a Jewish mother, and was therefore considered Jewish by birth, not a gentile. And, whether he liked it or not, for Timothy to be an uncircumcised Jew would get in the way of Paul’s whole group reaching the Jewish people with the gospel. The people of the kingdom must follow Jesus’ lead, and be eminently practical in how they reach out.

The second issue was that this man now had a story to tell, and telling that story would go far in planting seeds that would open the hearts of the gentiles in the area of the Gerasenes and the whole Decapolis to the gospel when it began to spread among the gentile population in just a few short years.

This man was given no teaching in evangelism. His only tool was to be his own story, his testimony of “all that God has done for you.” No theological argument can be more powerful than the personal testimony of a transformed life, and this man’s life had been transformed indeed, from the ground floor all the way to the top.

It is interesting that this man apparently made a connection that Jesus’ own disciples had not yet made, a connection that Luke takes great pains to emphasize. Jesus’ commission to the man was to “tell all that God has done for you.” The man’s actions in obedience to that commission was to tell “how much Jesus had done for him.” Somehow this man sensed that, at the very least, God was somehow present in Jesus in a way that identified Him with God.

Father, these two lessons, the need for practicality in how we spread the gospel, and the centrality of our personal testimony in how we share with others, are vital for all of us to remember. Lord, You have completely transformed my own life, and I never tire of sharing that story. Help me to be even more eager to share it freely among everyone I meet, so that the Holy Spirit can use it to prepare the hearts of the people who hear it to receive salvation. Amen.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – August 10, 2017

Luke 6:32-36 (NIV) “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

The key to all of these kingdom expectations is that the character of those who belong to the kingdom will no longer be the character of the world, but that it will be transformed into the character of God Himself.

The people of the world show love to others when there is an expectation that they will be loved in return. And if their love is not returned, they are quick to turn away, to cut their losses and move on. But God shows love all day long to people who not only don’t return it, but who often throw it back in His face. And He keeps on showing that love for years, sometimes generations. God’s people, the people of His kingdom, are expected to show that same kind of self-sacrificial, other-focused, long-lasting love to others.

The people of the world do good to others as long as there is an adequate return. That return may be material, or just feeling good about trying to make a difference. But God does good to others who never acknowledge it, and when there is no “payback.” He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45), even though the evil and the unrighteous never thank Him for this provision that makes food grow and makes life pleasant. God’s people, the people of the kingdom, are expected to continue to pour blessings into the lives of the people around them, even if that good is never acknowledged.

The people of the world lend to others expecting to make a profit on their investment. But God never “lends” to people at all. Everything that we receive from God is a gift of love. Some people do multiply what God gives them out of love and devotion to Him, but that is not a condition of His giving, and He freely gives a multitude of blessings to those who will not even acknowledge that those blessings come from Him, preferring to believe that they are the result of hard work, or “luck.” God’s people, the people of the kingdom, are not to lend to others with the expectation of gain, but are to lend freely, and even to give to those in need with no expectation of return.

Of course it takes more than a mere profession of faith to change the mindset and character of a person from the mindset of the world to a kingdom mindset. It takes transformation, a complete remaking of the mind that only comes to those who are willing to give themselves wholly to God, to make themselves a living sacrifice, holding nothing back (Romans 12:1-2). But to those willing to give themselves fully to God, He will give a new heart of flesh to take the place of their stony, worldly heart, and will move them with His Holy Spirit to be just like Him, and to do what He would do (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Father, to have such a kingdom mind and heart seems so far a stretch for many of us that it is hard for us to believe that we could ever think and behave in those ways. A big part of that is that we try to figure out how we can change our own minds and behaviors to be more like You, instead of simply devoting ourselves entirely to You and allowing You to do the more significant work of true inner transformation, remaking us into Your own image. Help me, Lord, to give up the “self-help” paradigm so common among Your people, and simply give myself to You to be completely transformed. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – June 29, 2017

Luke 3:10-14 (NIV) “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”

John’s words of warning hit home with many of the people. They were baptized, but they also wanted to know what the fruit of repentance looked like, the changes that they would need to make in their lives to show that their repentance was real. John did not pooh-pooh this idea, believing that baptism was all that was necessary. Instead, he gave them concrete things that they needed to do, none of which was too lofty or difficult to be accomplished.

To the average person, John pointed them to generous hearts, anticipating Jesus’ teaching that we don’t have to be grasping continually to amass more, but can be generous and giving, trusting God to provide what we truly need each day (Matthew 6:25-34). But to live that way requires repentance and a real change of heart, so that the one who has been selfish and focused on his or her own needs can see and respond to a brother or sister with a need that they can meet out of their surplus, trusting God to provide for them in return.

The tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people, partly because they were seen as shills for Rome, but mostly because they mercilessly squeezed the people for the taxes imposed by Rome, and grew rich on the surpluses that they collected. And since there were not itemized receipts, the people were never sure how much of what they paid was taxes, and how much was going straight into the tax collector’s pocket. John’s requirement for these men to demonstrate their changed hearts was to collect what was required, and to stop fattening their own purses with the blood and sweat of their fellow Jews. Again, this would require a renewed level of faith in God, that He would be able and willing to supply what they needed each day.

Even soldiers were there to be baptized. Many soldiers of Rome had become God-fearers, worshipers of the true God who had not yet taken the steps of conversion and circumcision. When these men asked John what was necessary to show fruits of true repentance, John did not point them to circumcision. That was a cosmetic thing that could be done without any heart change at all. Nor did he demand that they quit the military and stop serving Rome. Instead, he required that they deal justly with their fellow people, not exerting their authority to manipulate people and extort money from them through threats of false accusations, but being content with the pay that they received through the legitimate performance of their jobs.

For all three of these groups, John was pointing them away from their pursuit of security through more and more material wealth, which is a powerful temptation for people, even today. Instead, he directed them toward lives of contentment, faith, and generosity as visible fruit that would clearly demonstrate their changed orientation toward God and His kingdom.

Father, it is very easy for us to mouth prayers and give the right answers to questions about our repentance. It is much different to demonstrate our repentance through transformed mindsets and drastically modified actions and attitudes. But the transformation is essential to real repentance. Help my mind to always show a true kingdom orientation, and my actions clearly reflect a genuine kingdom lifestyle. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – August 19, 2016

Matthew 5:6 (NIV) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

There are many in the world today, both in and out of the Church, who are perfectly satisfied with their level of righteousness.  Some of these are relatively righteous, that is they are more righteous than their peers, and that gives them assurance that when they stand before God they will be fine.

But some who are comfortable with their own level of righteousness are far less righteous.  They convince themselves that they are as good as anyone, better than some, and that they have only done what they had to do in those moments when their actions were far less than righteous.

But God never judges people on the basis of comparing them with others.  He does not grade on a curve, or use a sliding scale to determine whether someone falls into the category of righteous.  He judges according to Himself, the absolute standard of righteousness.  As the apostle John wrote:  “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7 NIV)  Those who do not do the right thing according to God’s directions are sinful, not righteous.

That blunt statement doesn’t mean that God writes off those who are not righteous.  But it does mean that if they grow satisfied with their own level of righteousness like the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus’ day, they will not turn to God for more.  Those who realize that they are not righteous before God, no matter what their reputation among other people may be, and who let that knowledge drive them to seek God, the only source of true righteousness, will receive far more than forgiveness for their past sins.  They will receive transformation, and will be filled with God’s genuine righteousness, so that right actions will flow naturally from their transformed lives.

Put simply, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled with what they hunger and thirst for:  genuine righteousness.

Father, I think we sometimes have a hard time believing that even You could ever make us truly righteous.  So we tamper with Your clear words, reinterpreting them, and bringing Your promise down to something that we can accept as true.  But neither You nor Jesus ever lied, eve stretched the truth, or ever promised anything that You were not able to fully deliver.  Help us to really believe that real righteousness is possible through You, so that we can measure ourselves against Your true standard, see clearly where we fall short, and allow ourselves to develop a genuine hunger and thirst for real and complete righteousness that will drive us to You for the transformation and filling that only You can give.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – July 18, 2016

Matthew 1:1-16 (NIV)

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

It is vital for God’s people to remember that Jesus was a real live human being.  Yes, He was God in the flesh, but His flesh was real; His humanity was real.  He was not an avatar, or some kind of divine manifestation.  He was born in the same way that all human beings are born.  He had a genealogy and a lineage that could be clearly identified, which Matthew traces all the way back to Abraham, the all-too-human father of the Jewish nation.

Even Jesus’ genealogy was not without controversial and even unsavory members.  There were scoundrels, and idolaters included, as well memories of scandal and sin.

Take, for example, Judah and Tamar, the parents of Perez.  Tamar was a Canaanite, and was actually Judah’s daughter-in-law.  After she was widowed from two of Judah’s sons, she posed as a prostitute to get Judah to sleep with her, and became pregnant.  (See Genesis 38.)

Rahab was a Canaanite, and by some accounts a prostitute, who hid the spies that had come to check out the city to overthrow it.  And Ruth, though a woman of fine character, was from Moab, a nation that God had made off limits for His people.

Solomon was born to “the wife of Uriah,” who married David after they committed adultery, and plotted to have her husband murdered because he wouldn’t sleep with her while on leave from the army and provide cover for their illicit pregnancy.

Even though Jesus had a whole line of kings in His genealogy, very few of them were good and God-fearing, and some of them were downright evil!  From idolatrous Solomon, to stupid Rehoboam, to wicked Manasseh, to Joram, who was such a terrible king that when he died the writer of Israel’s history recorded his epitaph as, “He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chronicles 21:20 NIV)

Jesus was not disqualified by His “iffy” background or his unsavory ancestry.  Instead, He was God’s Son from the moment of His conception in His very human mother.  And, as such, He served God wholeheartedly His entire life.  He never dwelt on where He had come from.  He lived as who He was, and focused His whole life on what the Father wanted Him to do.

In the same way, many of us have not only some unsavory ancestors, but also some unsavory history in our BC days.  And we carry that shadow of our past around with us, and find that it can often get in our way.  The self-image of many Christians is that of a worthless sinner, even after we have been born again of God.

But from the very moment that we came to Jesus, we are born anew.  God makes us into a new creation, a transformed person, who is being continually reshaped into the image of Jesus.  Our past provides our testimony, but, because of our transformation, it doesn’t define our future.  Like the apostle Paul, who in his BC days soiled his hands with the blood of many saints, we are reborn as legitimate children of God.  We are transformed into salt and light, made into powerful emissaries of the kingdom of God, ministers of reconciliation, who have gospel seed to sow everywhere we go.  We are reborn, recreated to be like our Savior, wholeheartedly serving our Father, and doing His will every day of our lives.

Father, it is amazing how thoroughly You can change a life.  I know that You transformed me in a moment, reworking my heart, and changing the entire direction of my life.  You changed me and made me Your own dearly loved child, and you enabled me to be part of Your plan to help other people find that same transformation.  Help me, Lord, to live as Your child for as many days as You give me.  Help me to wholeheartedly serve You, and to devote myself to helping others to find the same transformation in their own lives as I have experienced in mine.  Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – October 9, 2014

Mark 9:42-48 (NIV): “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Everyone will be salted with fire.”

Look at how far Jesus went to try to communicate how bad sin is! If anyone leads a little one (not just a child, but any believer who is still learning the basics of the faith) into sin, it would be better for them to have a hundred pound weight tied around their neck and then be dropped into the deepest part of the ocean than to have to stand before God on the day of judgment with that kind of guilt on their soul. If your hand, or your foot, or even you eye causes you to sin, it would be better to cut it off or gouge it out than to end up suffering in hell for all eternity.

Of course Jesus understood very well that it is not a person’s hand that causes them to take sinful action.       It is not their feet that cause them to walk into sinful situations. It is not their eye that causes them to look against their will at sinful things. He knew and taught that sin originates in the heart of a person (see Mark 7:14-23).       But here He is pointing out, as clearly as human language can say it, that sin is such a drastic and heinous thing, and its consequences are so horrendous (condemnation at the judgment seat of God and eternal suffering in hell) that it must never be ignored, never be excused, and never be tolerated in our lives. Like cancer in a person’s body, the presence of sin in our lives must be dealt with strongly and gotten rid of before it causes our death.

Since the real source of sin in our lives is our hearts (the spiritual dimension of our lives), the solution is a spiritual heart transplant – removing our heart of stone that has been warped and twisted by sin, and replacing it with a heart of flesh, soft and responsive to God’s leading. Instead of responding to the urgings of our own spirit, we must receive God’s Holy Spirit to guide and direct us into the right paths. (For both of these, see Ezekiel 36:26-27.) We must allow our hearts and minds to be completely transformed through the renewal of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Romans 12:1-2) We must be made into a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

All of these seem very radical to many people. It actually feels like death to who we know ourselves to be. This kind of “replacing” and transformation feels as drastic as – well, as drastic as cutting off a hand or foot, or gouging out an eye! But, as two thousand years of Christian experience have proved, this kind of death to self, this kind of radical transformation, this complete excision of the true source of sin in our lives, is the ONLY effective method of making it possible for us, as God’s people, to live genuinely holy lives.

Father, You are absolutely right! We so want to live holy lives, and we try to do it in our own strength. But we ultimately discover that we just can’t pull it off. The disease runs so much deeper than just our surface actions.       But we shy away from the drastic surgery that is necessary to remove the true source of our sin. Instead, we try again; we develop rationalizations for our sinfulness; we even convince ourselves that it’s not a big deal to You.       But then Jesus’ words come to us, and show us that sin is a VERY big deal – something that must be dealt with drastically, or it will have drastic consequences. Thank You for not only showing us how serious this situation is, but for also providing all that is necessary for us to receive a completely new heart, for us to be completely transformed into a new creation, for us to be able to live a life completely pleasing to You, in YOUR strength, and by YOUR grace.       Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – December 18, 2013

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NIV):  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

It is always God’s goal to completely transform those who come to Him for salvation.  If a person comes to Him in their filthy rags of sin and depravity and then, after being forgiven, they turn away in the same sad state, what has been accomplished?  Absolutely nothing!

When someone believes in Jesus for salvation, when they repent, turning away from their sinful actions and attitudes and back toward God with all of their hearts, He does more than just issue a pardon for sins committed.  He actually changes that person into a completely new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a completely different heart, and a completely different center of gravity in their lives.  This transformation makes them see all things differently, to actually want different things.  It completely transforms actions and attitudes.

But as amazing and profound as that initial change is, it is still only the beginning.  From that moment forward, God’s will for that person, His chosen destiny for them, is that they will be transformed into the very image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).  This transformation happens through that person abiding consistently in God, allowing His Holy Spirit to shine in and through them, so that they begin to reflect the very image of God, the image of Jesus, back to the world in which they live.

This transformation is not just for an elite group of Christians, but for every single follower of Jesus.  And it is not designed to be a process that takes a lifetime before any appreciable progress is seen.  The initial transformation is profound and instantaneous, with immediate results that are able to be seen clearly by those who know that person, and by the person themselves.  The additional polishing of the image, though it does last a lifetime, should be continual and noticeable as well.

God’s people all need to keep in mind the destiny to which He has called us:  to reflect His glory, and to be transformed into the very likeness of Jesus with ever-increasing glory.  (And they must never doubt His power and ability to do that in their own lives.  Believing that they are a “special case” that can’t actually be remade into the image of Jesus is doubting God’s power, as well as His word.)  Keeping that ultimate goal in mind will keep us from being distracted by the cares of this world, and will keep us focused on God and on His agenda.

Father, I know that the initial transformation in my own life was nothing short of moving from death to life, from darkness into the full light of Your presence.  (And I have seen the same instant transformation in the lives of many others as well.)  And You have been working continually in my life every since then, polishing and adjusting every area of my life to be more and more like Jesus.  Thank You for this destiny You have called all of us to, and for the power You have to accomplish it.  Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations