Summary: God's plan for our transformation begins and ends with love. First we taste God's love. Then we crave God's Word. Then and only then do we love God's people.
Kung Fu Panda is the story of a flabby, out-of-shape panda bear named Po who longs to learn the ancient art of kung fu. Amazingly, Po is selected by the village leaders to become the Dragon Warrior – the greatest kung fu master of all time. But in spite of his new status, Po is still a big, fat klutz. Master Shifu, who has been charged with transforming this flabby, out-of-shape bear into the Dragon Warrior, is frustrated with Po. Then Shifu and Po learn that Tai Lung – the most fearsome villain in all of China – has escaped his prison and is coming to destroy the new Dragon Warrior. Take a look at what happens when Po tries to sneak away after hearing this disturbing news (show Kung Fu Panda, scene 14, 00:48:08 – 00:50:14):
Master Shifu pops out of nowhere to block Po's way. “You cannot leave! A real warrior never quits!”
“Watch me!” says Po, trying to run past his master. Shifu blocks him again.
“Come on,” Po whines. “How am I supposed to beat Tai Lung? I can't even beat you to the stairs!”
“You will beat him because you are the Dragon Warrior,” Shifu answers.
“You don't believe that,” Po counters. “You never believed that! From the first moment I got here, you've been trying to get rid of me.”
“Yes, I was,” Shifu admits. “But now I ask you to trust in your master, as I have come to trust in mine.”
“You're not my master. And I am not the Dragon Warrior.”
“Then why didn't you quit?” Shifu asks. “You knew I was trying to get rid of you, yet you stayed.”
“I stayed because every time you threw a brick at my head or said I smelled, it hurt,” Po says. “But it could never hurt more than it did every day of my life just being me. I stayed because I thought if anyone could change me – if anyone could make me not me – it was you, the greatest kung fu teacher in all of China.”
“But I can change you!” Shifu protests. “I can turn you into the Dragon Warrior, and I will!”
“Come on,” Po says. “Tai Lung is on his way here right now. And even if it takes him a hundred years to get here, how are you going to change this” – Po picks up his belly and lets it fall back down with a bounce – “into the Dragon Warrior?”
Shifu is silent.
“Huh?” Po asks. “How?”
“I don't know!” Shifu blurts out. Then, more quietly, “I don't know.”
“That's what I thought,” Po says. Then he walks away. (Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks Animation, 2008, directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, scene 14, 00:48:08 – 00:50:14; www.PreachingToday.com)
Don’t you feel like Po sometimes? As believers in Christ, we have been given a status we don’t deserve. We are children of a holy God with an indestructible inheritance in heaven, and we are called to be holy in everything we do even as our Heavenly Father is holy.
God Himself purchased our freedom from a wasted life with the precious blood of His own Son! He gave us a status we don’t deserve but, we still struggle with our own flabby spiritual condition at times, don’t we? And we wonder, “How could God ever transform me into something useful?”
1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (NIV)
Our spiritual transformation begins and ends with love. First of all, it begins when we…
TASTE GOD’S LOVE.
It begins when we experience the goodness of God, literally, when we taste that God is kind or pleasant.
I’m going to work my way backwards in this text, because the author assumes that his readers have already tasted God’s kindness. It’s where we begin our spiritual journey. We must first taste God’s love.