Summary: How do we begin the process of personal change?
If you take one of the bulletins and turn over the flap, you’ll see a list of eight "core values". These core values identify what we’re about as a church. They describe our basic identity, our DNA. And like DNA, which is found in every cell of the body, our intent is that we would see these principles operating in all the ministries of the church; that they would guide our planning and decision-making; that they would influence the way we do worship, and small groups, and children’s programs, and outreach. So, for instance, when you read that we value "community," you should be able to see evidence of people coming together; building supportive and caring relationships. Some of these things we do better than others, and that’s OK. We’re not claiming to have "arrived". It’s a process. But by God’s grace, this is what we’re aiming for, this is what we’re striving toward.
Today, I’d like to address one of these core values: transformation. Transformation. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? But what does it mean? It means that when it comes to our relationship with God, we’re not satisfied with just maintaining the status quo. We’re not content to continue year after year, with the same ideas, and attitudes, and habits that we’ve always had. On the contrary, we believe God wants to change us, that he has the power to change us, and that he is changing us. Yes, it’s true that God accepts us completely, just as we are. But it’s also true that he isn’t willing to leave us just as we are. He wants to change us, through and through, top to bottom. He wants to shape and strengthen our character; he wants to clean the muck out of our souls; he wants to rework our values and priorities; he wants to give us wisdom and insight and understanding. What he wants to do is make us more like Jesus Christ. Listen to these verses from the hand of Paul the apostle:
"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." - 2 Corinthians 3:18
We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ! I like the way the New Living Translation renders this verse: "… as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory more and more." That’s the goal. Not that we will lose our unique personalities, or become little cookie-cutter Christians. That’s not what God wants. If you’re concerned about that, just consider the incredible variety of creation: the thousands of different species of insects, and plants, and animals; everything from ants to panda bears to hammerhead sharks. We serve a God who loves diversity, not a God who wants everything to be the same.
But he does want to change us, for the better. That process began on the day when we first trusted in Christ, and it will continue throughout our lives.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy . . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." – Philippians 1:6
And so transformation is not just a core value for this church. It’s a core value for the Christian life. This is what God intends for every believer. Being a follower of Christ means that you keep learning, and keep growing, and keep changing your whole life long. It’s a journey that will be complete only when Christ returns. Until that time, we are all works in progress. As Paul wrote even of himself:
"I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven." – Philippians 3:12-14, NLT
I hope this sounds like good news to you. I hope you hear this promise of change as something wonderful; something to be anticipated with joy and hope. Because it is wonderful. It means that we can be better than we are. That this is not as good as it gets. Wherever you are spiritually – whether you’re a newcomer to the faith or a mature saint – you can go farther, and deeper, with God; you can see Him do greater things in your life than you have seen thus far. Whatever your experience in the Christian life has been, God is saying to you today, "I’m just getting started. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet."