Summary: Our learning must lead to Christ-like living.
Living a Transformed Life
Sermon Series: “PBC @ the Core”
Rev. Brian Bill
I want to begin with a brief excerpt from a book by Mark Buchanan called, “Your Church is Too Safe.” This appeared in the March 2012 issue of Christianity Today.
Historian Daniel Boorstin documents a momentous shift that occurred in North America in the nineteenth century: we stopped calling people who went on trips travelers and started calling them tourists.
Traveler literally means “one who travails.” He labors, suffers, endures…To get there, he immerses himself in a culture, learns the language and customs, lives with the locals, imitates the dress, eats what’s set before him. He takes risks, some enormous, and makes sacrifices, some extravagant. He has tight scrapes and narrow escapes. He is gone a long time. If ever he returns, he returns forever altered ….
A tourist, not so. Tourist means, literally, “one who goes in circles.” He’s just taking an exotic detour home. He’s only passing through, sampling wares, acquiring souvenirs… He retreats each night to what’s safe and familiar. He picks up a word here, a phrase there, but the language, and the world it’s embedded in, remains opaque and cryptic, and vaguely menacing. He spectates and consumes. He returns to where he’s come from with an album of photos, a few mementos, a cheap hat. He’s happy to be back. He declares there’s no place like home.
We’ve made a similar shift in the church. At some point we stopped calling Christians disciples and started calling them believers. A disciple is one who follows and imitates Jesus. She loses her life in order to find it. She steeps in the language and culture of Christ until His Word and His world reshape hers, redefine her, change inside out how she sees and thinks and dreams and, finally, lives ….
A believer, not so. She holds certain beliefs, but how deep down these go depends on the weather or her mood. She can get defensive, sometimes bristlingly so, about her beliefs, but in her honest moments she wonders why they’ve made such scant difference ….
You can’t be a disciple without being a believer. But—here’s the rub—you can be a believer and not a disciple. You can say all the right things, think all the right things, believe all the right things, do all the right things, and still not follow and imitate Jesus.
The kingdom of God is made up of travailers, but our churches are largely populated with tourists. The kingdom is full of disciples, but our churches are filled with believers.
After watching all these people get baptized this morning, I’d say that PBC has a lot of people serious about traveling with Jesus instead of just being tourists. Today we’re celebrating another value that we have as a church: “We value life transformation, not just information -- our learning must lead to Christ-like living.”
The word “transformation” means to change into something different and implies a major reformation in form, nature or function. It also suggests something abrupt or startling. We get the word “metamorphosis” from this Greek word, like when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. There are two different ways the word is used in the New Testament.
• Be transformed. This is in the active voice, meaning I am responsible to make it happen.
• Are being transformed. This is in the passive voice, meaning that transformation is being done within me.
We’re responsible to change on the one hand but without the Spirit changing us, we’ll never be transformed. Spiritual transformation is both intentional on our part and the result of the work of the Spirit.
Let’s flesh this out…
1. We must take responsibility for our transformation. This is the command to “be transformed.” It’s an active expectation. This is similar to 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Turn to Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.” This verse calls for a decisive commitment. Too many of us are spiritual sluggards when God is calling us to full surrender. Life change happens not by spiritual inactivity but by spiritual activity.
The first part of verse 2 tells us how we can maintain that commitment: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” The tense of this verse indicates that we must stop conforming, implying that this is something that we’re prone to do. The word “conformed” is the word that we get our English word “scheme” from. It’s sometimes translated “fashioned.” Paul is urging us to stop being pushed into the fashion of the world. J.B. Philips offers this paraphrase: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”