So yesterday evening’s preach didn’t exactly go according to plan as I just felt God calling me to go off piste. But this is what I would have said… (and did say most of at the 8am)…
If you’ve done Alpha, you might have heard the story of Shane Taylor. Shane was at one point in his life known as one of Britain’s youngest most dangerous people.
He started with burglary, moved onto selling drugs, became violent, stabbed people and worse… at the age of 12 his ambition was to kill a police office or prison officer – to be well respected by fellow criminals. Here’s a bit of his story…
That is the power of God at work transforming just one man’s life. And we see it in the bible too – Saul being transformed from a murderous zealot killing those who followed Jesus, to one whose sole purpose in life was to tell people about Jesus’
Or Zaccheus, the crooked tax collector, whose house Jesus came to eat at and then Z is transformed and agrees to give away half his possessions and pay back what he owed people (Luke 19).
Jesus came, it says in Luke 19:9-190 MSG, for the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.
Restoration is all about transformation. Being transformed into his likeness, into a relationship with the Father
Jesus is all about transforming us more and more into the likeness of God. And that is what our vision here is at TRINITY, to see lives transformed by the love of Christ, Just like Shane, just like Saul and Zaccheus.
And this new teaching series we are starting today is all about lives transformed.
Rick Warren says this:
the world’s promises leave us empty and searching for more. God’s will is the only answer that promises to TRANSFORM our lives from the inside out.
Over the next few weeks at the 630 we are going to delve deeper into what that means, what that really means.
On our website our vision says this:
Jesus Christ came to teach, to serve and to heal. Most importantly, he came to die for us, so that we might be offered a life lived in relationship with God. Jesus invites us to find in him the security, joy, friendship and adventure, which we have all been made to enjoy. We believe in the power of this Good News to change lives and communities, and Jesus sends us to be agents of that change across our town and beyond.
This vision is the heartbeat of TRINITY.
And so we are going to unpack that and delve deeper into it. Over the next few weeks we are going to look at what it means to be transformed:
You know that first step, that first encounter with Jesus can be mind blowingly transformative as it was for Shane, OR it might be less dramatic a transformation, it might be making a gentle choice, but that’s what it is, the first step.
And if you’ve always known Jesus, well wow that is so amazing and an absolute gift. Never be worried that you haven’t had a testimony story like some do. If God has given you a path where you’ve always known him, I think that is a really precious gift.
BUT! You are still on the same journey of transformation… we are all journeyimg towards that likeness of Jesus
You know when I became a Christian, one of the first things one of my friends noticed was that I had stopped swearing, literally overnight. But there was, and is, a lot more work to be done than that! And I tell you there are times when I still want to tell the whole world to F off… (if I’m completely honest) but I need to go on being transformed – We need to go on being transformed, seeking to be more like Christ. We need to be transformed in our whole being
In our passage from Ephesians we read that Christ gave the workers – the 5 fold gifts so that the body of Christ (ie the church) may be built up, and it says in : v13: UNTIL we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Until that day when we are united with God, we are all a work in progress and to be honest it’s our choice if we accept just that first step
OR we make the choice to keep on moving forwards towards that end goal, to seek the fullness of Christ.
Jesus said: ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.’ John 10:10
Do we stop at having life? At receiving that gift of salvation and think that’s it? Or do we want the second part too? Life to the full? Or life in abundance as the NRSV says…?
It’s our choice…
So today, particularly looking at spiritual transformation. ‘Spiritual’ is one of those words that can mean so many different things. People say ‘oh I’m not religious, I’m spiritual’,
It’s quite a modern thing, that is like we want to form our own spiritualities, to believe what we want, what we think. We make God in our image, not the other way around.
In fact spiritual transformation could be the title of the entire series, because our spiritual lives inform the rest of our lives. Our spiritual life encompasses anything that helps us to focus on God: worship, prayer, devotional time, reading God’s word for example.
lets go back to v 13 again: What does it mean that we might reach fullness of Christ?
Because Paul seems to suggest that is our goal.
The NLT puts it like this:
until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ
Our goal, our journey of transformation is to become, in every way, more like Christ.
And what does that mean? I mean let’s face it that is our goal but it’s a pretty tough goal, it’s not like we can pass a few exams and then we get ‘Jesus status’!
Paul says, we won’t be immature, we won’t be swayed by different teaching, we won’t be easily tricked by fake news. No we’ll know the truth, we’ll be full of love and growing more like Jesus. That is real spiritual transformation.
The MSG version describes it like this: in v16:
We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.
Exactly that – we take our lead from God. We get nourished by him, made healthy by him and strengthened in his love.
So HOW on earth do we do that? How do we continue to seek that spiritual transformation, to journey towards being more like Jesus?
We need to form some personal habits.
Here’s the thing – and some if us need to hear this – You cannot just come to church each Sunday (once a week) and expect to be spiritually transformed. We need more than that.
That’s like eating one healthy meal a week and eating whatever you like the rest of the time and expecting to get healthier. No! We need to punctuate our week with habits that bring us closer to God.
Habit definition: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
We mean making a COMMITMENT!!
We have to make the commitment to want to be more like Jesus. Ask yourselves honestly. Is this a journey you want to be on?
Then if the answer is yes – and why wouldn’t it be?
Then commit to it and make some habits to help us seek spiritual transformation: so here’s a few key habits, personal habits, I’m not looking so much here at corporate stuff, but that is equally as important – gathering with other Christians etc
But these are thing that we need to vomit to in our own personal walk… things we need to make a habit in our lives.
First up, God’s word. Where do we find out more about God than in his word? We read about his character, how much he loves us, that we are his beloved children.
The entire bible is a story of relationship, God’s relationship in the trinity, and his relationship with us, his beloved people.
God’s word is living and active – Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
God’s word is alive. It’s not just a stale old text where we read about what’s gone on in times gone by, thousands of years ago. No it’s alive for us today. So when we read about God we are not just reading what has already happened, but what can happen for us too.
Have you ever read a passage and just thought, wow, that is so right for me right now, or felt God had given you that verse for a particular situation you are facing, or felt it was for someone you know – a comfort or a word of affirmation?
God’s word has the power to do that – reaching right into our inner being – dividing soul and spirit as it says.
When I read the bible I always try to remember to pray first, Lord speak to me through your word to seek his presence within it.
Ps 119:105 – your word is a lamp for my feet and a light to my path…
I often find God guides me through his word…
God speaks to us in different ways but the bible is a good test. If something we are feeling doesn’t weigh up with what God’s word says then it probably isn’t right.
And we need to go on doing that, seeking him in his word and working towards that ongoing spiritual transformation.
You know I read my bible almost every day and have done since I became a Christian and I have read it all many times. But still, I find so often I read something I’ve read many times before and it just stands out like ‘wow’ I have never thought of that before or it seems completely new (&I don’t think that’s just because I have a bad memory!).
That is the power of God speaking through his word.
Prayer is a conversation. Two way!
There are so many different ways we pray but for here I am focusing on just that conversation we have with God. That will look different for each of us and in different seasons be different.
Here’s some biblical hints on praying:
Romans 12:12 – pray constantly
1 Thess 5:17 pray without ceasing
Eph 6:18 and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…
Talk to God, share with him your innermost thoughts and fears, I mean he already knows it anyway so there is nothing you can’t share with him. Pray about everything and at all times!
I am sure you’ve heard this before, many times, but if you are friends with someone, how do you develop or grow that friendship? You spend time together, you do things together, you talk together. It’s the same in our relationship with God, we have to spend time with him. Bit like making someone a fiend on Facebook but never engaging with their posts. I’m sure we all have people like that on our social media – do we actually want to be friends with them?!!
True friendship is 2 way, talking, sharing, being together.
And sometimes that’s in talking, sometimes it’s in listening too!
So for example sometimes when I go out running I just pray at the start that God would go with me and if there’s anything he wants to share with me I’ll listen and then off I go. Sometimes it’s nice to just have some head space and other times I feel like he reveals things to me, or highlights things to me that he wants me to think about or pray about.
When we pray we draw closer to God, like we are opening ourselves us to be drawn closer to the very heart of God. As we put our lives into God’s hands and invite him into every area of our lives, we invite in his presence. We allow our hearts and minds to be transformed more and more into the heart and mind of God.
For spiritual transformation, the HS is kind of essential!
So here’s the thing, there is a spiritual world, THIS is a spiritual world. I know that sometimes people find that sort of statement a bit tricky to get our heads around but really we shouldn’t have any difficulty believing that.
If we look at the very beginning, Genesis 1. What do we see:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Right at the very start, the SPIRIT of God was hovering over the waters at creation itself.
And we know that God is three persons – Father, Son and HOLY SPIRIT.
We have seen in our recent series on the HS, the Holy spirit at work both in Jesus’ time and now.
Eph 6:12 says:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
And so it shouldn’t be hard for us to recognise that our world IS spiritual, it is the HS at work throughout creation, throughout this world, on earth and in heaven.
We don’t know what that looks like, but we can sure see the work of the spirit, the evidence of a spiritual world
it is the HS that keeps us in tune with what God is doing, when we pray and we sense a word from God, or we think of something we should do. Perhaps we are prompted to pray for someone – they just come into our heads for no reason, or we think of something we really have to do today or go somewhere and we’re not sure why – that is the HS within us. Guiding us into God’s plans and purposes.
In seeking to be led by the HS we are allowing ourselves to see more into that spiritual element of the world, I don’t know if I’m explaining this very well. Or it’s just sounding a bit ‘super spiritual’!
The thing is, God is a spiritual being, 1/3 of him, of the trinity is the spirit at work the same spirit that was there at work at the start of creation. We are created in his image, we have his spirit within us. We should want that part of us to be nurtured and developed and allowed to flourish as much as any other part.
If we want to be spiritually mature, spiritually transformed then being aware of and being led by the HS is vital!
Love / serve
We need to Love and to put that love into action…
1 John 4
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We believe in a God of Love – that God is love. And I love this passage.
We need to love and serve others because of that amazing love that God has poured out for us. But so much more than that – that last verse:
12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
The implication here is that though no one has seen God, they can see him through us – because his love will be made complete in us. That’s pretty mind blowing right? Is that the ultimate in spiritual transformation? IF we love one another, God will live in us and be seen through us.
As we show God’s love to those around us, it reveals God himself! The NLT says …his love is brought to full expression in us.
If we love one another, we are the very expression of God’s love…
And we can’t just do that by sending loving vibes to each other or thinking positive thoughts, no we put that love into action. That’s how people see God’s love, through the way we interact with each other. Serving one another, doing kind things for others, reaching out to those in need…
You know, RW suggests that our Spiritual health is measured by love.
That makes total sense doesn’t it?! If God is love, and we want to be transformed more and more into his likeness, and he wants to reveal his love through us then the more we seek to be life him the more that love will show…
There’s just 4 habits to help us towards spiritual transformation, I am sure there are many more but these seem key to me.
: Get into God’s word
: pray constantly about all things
: be led by the HS,
: and love as much as you can
Perhaps some of you are doing all of those already, perhaps you do one or two, but I want to challenge you to commit to them all!