The Transformation of Christ
Posted on 10/26/2014 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
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I LOVE TO BE IN YOUR PRESENCE
I love to be in Your presence
With Your people singing praises
I love to stand and rejoice
Lift my hands and raise my voice
You set my feet to dancing
You fill my heart with song
You give me reason to rejoice
I WILL BLESS THE LORD AT ALL TIMES
I will bless the Lord at all times
I will bless the Lord at all times
His praise shall continually
be in my mouth
I LOVE YOU LORD
I love you, Lord
and I lift my voice
To worship You
O my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King
in what You hear
Let it be a sweet,
sweet sound in Your ear
*** listen to the audio to hear the introduction ***
God is good. God is goodness. God is comfort. God is joy. God is the goodness and the perfectness behind every good and perfect gift.
Today's message might be a bit shorter than usual. But I hope we're not busy comparing right now with something besides right now. The truth of the matter is, right now I haven't even begun today's message, so the end of it doesn't even exist. Just these words you are hearing right now. And by time you hear them, they're already gone, only a memory.
It's a good thing I'm not God, eh? His words last forever. Of course they're not like our words. His ways are not like our ways, and His thoughts are not like our thoughts. And when we think we have Him finally defined in this way, as unimaginably big and infinitely powerful, we can know that even THAT falls short of describing Him.
I mean, for a description of God to grasp God, it would have to BE God, for there is nothing else like Him; all our descriptions can do, at best, is to POINT us to Him. And as we gaze upon Him Presence to Presence, we know Him; experientially, not analytically, from glory to glory.
Now, today's message title, in my unimpressive opinion, is weird. "The Transformation of Christ." It almost sounds as though Jesus is being transformed. But YOU probably know exactly what I'm going to say, and the truth to which I'm going to try to point, so let's go ahead and close today's service with a time of prayer and ministry.
If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you.... then you can wait until the service is REALLY over.
Seriously though, people from all walks of life are looking for some kind of change. And many of us have, at one time or another, wanted to some how change the world.
We all would like to put an end to world hunger. To famines. To plagues. Well, unless those things are afflicting people we think are our enemies. And you might truly love your enemies, so perhaps that doesn't apply to you.
But the world desires change, and mostly change for the better. In a more personal sense, we desire changes that don't really matter: more money, a better car, a bigger house, an easier and better-paying job, or even better yet, a few million dollars from the lottery would do the trick.
Unlike the Apostle Paul, we are all to often DIScontent with our circumstances. Most of us suffer from perpetual discontent. It's an illness, but we don't recognize it as such because everyone is ill.
But the point is that we all desire some sort of change, and in a more positive context, we desire positive transformation.
Why do people spend billions of dollars buying books, videos, and CDs, going to seminars, and paying for life coaching? It is because they want to transform what they consider to be their life, or they want to transform what they consider to be them.
But what does it mean to be transformed by Christ?
Well, let's look at a few verses of Scripture, ponder to what they could be pointing, and then we'll continue to still ourselves as we listen for the voice of the Lord.
Romans 12:1-5 (NKJV)
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,
5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
We've all heard these verses, and maybe you've always heard them together and talked about as though they are part of the same thought. But until I was looking up Scriptures on transformation and read this passage, I never considered the whole thing put together.
In verses one and two, we are instructed to present our bodies a living sacrifice, as we are transformed, this transformation coming about by the renewing of our mind, so we can know God's perfect will as one knows a lover. And in that context, we are led to not think too highly of ourselves, because we are all just parts of the same One Body.
Of course I changed the wording a bit, but if I hadn't, I would have just read the verses over again. And I might do just that before we're done here. But let's consider the continuaty of the text here, so we can see the one thing to which it's pointing. And that one thing is, in a word, Transformation.
I could start naming names of people I personally know who were sexual deviants, drunkards, hateful, unloving, antisocial, and all around nasty people you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, or even in a well-lit public place.
And then God revealed Jesus to them. And they tried really hard to change themselves, and succeeded for awhile, but then, after a few months or years, they fell back into the way they used to be, because people really don't change.
Oh wait, I got their stories mixed up with the stories of those who try to change themselves. No, the people to whom I'm referring simply came to Jesus and gave their lives to Him. And HE started that transformation, and He continues it to this day.
I've seen people who completely lost their desire for highly-addictive drugs, as well as the sinful lifestyles in which they were living. And it's not just one or two people I saw on T.V. somewhere. It's people I've met, people I've known, people who I have seen live day to day for years, and instead of falling back into their old ways of living, they keep on becoming more and more like Jesus.
I could let my mind spin a story explaining away the sunrise, but the daylight is here regardless of how thoroughly I cover my eyes.
But back to the passage we just read.
Our bodies are a living sacrifice. What does this mean? Well, some have seen this as a support of penance, or even of self-harm as a spiritual practice. But I doubt God is happy about it when someone starts doing damage to His temple.
A living sacrifice. Well, let's start with the first part: Living.
Life. Your body is full of Life. You breathe because you're full of Life. Your heart beats because it is full of Life. You don't have Life because your body performs all of its vital functions; rather, your body performs all of its vital functions because it is full of Life. We tend to get the cause and effect backwards.
Our heart beat does not give us Life; rather, Life gives us our heart beat. In Genesis, we read that God formed man out of the dust of the earth. There was a perfectly formed heart, lungs, brain, cardiovascular system, perfectly healthy blood and immune system. No sickness. No defect. No flaw.
But if we could snatch that perfectly healthy body from the past and attach it to a life support system, and it would still be dead.
It is not the movement of physical objects that brings Life. Instead, it is Life that brings the movement, that brings the beating of the heart.
Your body has flaws; they might be minor, or they might be severe. But YOU are called to present your body to God as Living. Full of Life. Doing the good things it does because it is full of Life.
And we get things backwards when it comes to righteousness, too. We think we'll be righteous if we do righteous deeds. But that's backwards. It is not the righteous deeds that produce Righteousness; rather, it is the Righteousness that produces the righteous deeds.
Just as it is the Life that causes the heart to beat and the lungs to breathe, and the brain to function, and all the vital systems of the body to do what God designed them to do.
So we present our body to God as Living. He is in that body. It is His. It is His temple. It is His home, just as much as it is YOUR home. And it is brimming full of glorious Life.
And we present that Living body to God as a sacrifice. A sacrifice that is no longer living was made as an atonement for sin; but Jesus became the final and perfect sacrifice. No other atonement is needed. So this isn't talking about inflicting some sort of pain on your body in an effort to make yourself holy. If you could do that, you wouldn't need Jesus.
What does this mean then? A living sacrifice? Well, just as the beating heart does not produce Life, but is produced BY Life, and just as righteous acts do not make one Righteous, but are caused BY Righteousness, so the living sacrifice of our body does not bring destruction for creating atonement and holiness, but is instead the result of that atonement and holiness that come from Christ. It is a constant celebration right here, right now, in your body that is full of Life, as you rejoice in the holiness that your body has become because of the atonement of the blood of Christ.
In itself, your body is not defiled. It has desires, but none of its desires are unholy. Consider the truth of this for a moment.
You might think your body desires lustful thoughts. But that is not the case. Your body does not desire any thoughts of any kind. It is your MIND that wants to be somewhere it isn't with someone it shouldn't be with doing something they should not be doing. It's not your body's fault. It is your flesh man, and you do what that flesh man wants when you become identified with it. You think that YOU want to lust. But you don't. Your FLESH wants to lust. You can watch it, acknowledge it, and Live in the Living Sacrifice of your body, and the desires will lose their hold on you. Or, you can do what almost everyone on Earth does, and you can continue to identify with your mind; and when it wants to lust or complain or hate or feel sorry for itself, you will think those desires are your own, and you'll be controlled by them.
Present your body. Present your body full of Life. Present your body full of Life, and in it, celebrate the holiness that is there just as God is there.
And then in verse two, we read this: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Do not be conformed to this world. Does this mean you're not supposed to get fat and thereby look like a planet? Of course I'm making this point with jesting, but this isn't referring to the physical world. Instead, it's referring to the carnal, earthly things. And not even just the earthly, material things and forms themselves, because they are not inherently evil; rather, it is the attachment to those things.
The word translated here as "world" can also be translated as "age." It is a period of time. And, of course, time is in the realm of form, while eternity, far from being just a bunch of time, is the ever-present Now, and is in the realm of spirit.
So, do not hold onto and identify with the forms, such as money and houses and relationships and stories and ideas. All these things are fleeting.
Instead, be transformed.
Here is the transformation. And it doesn't even say, "transform yourself." But, "BE transformed." Transformation is something that happens. It's not something you congure up and strive into existence. It's not something you achieve. Rather, it's something that is a part of your Being. And the transformation that has eternal value is the Transformation of Christ.
"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
I'm sure you already know that the human mind is dreadfully ill. It needs to be renewed. And we could think of renewal as a restoration to the state before corruption. Re-New-al. Or, made New once again.
So, "dwell in transformation, by the making of your mind as it was originally designed to be."
And that is as a tool. Not a god who gets most of our attention, a god who defines reality for us, a god who lives through us. That is what the sick human mind has become. Instead, it is something that we were meant to be able to use when needed, without having it hijack our existence by thinking it is us, and by pulling us into feeling as though this is so.
So as we let go of this age, the past and future, the stories and posessions, and we inhabit the Life that is in our holy bodies where God is, then we can dwell in the finished work of transformation, as our minds are slowly healed, and as we recognize the truth of what we really are.
And as you see God through the reading of the Scriptures, and you move in the way you see Him move, and act in the way you see Him act, then even the compulsive thinking, as long as it persists, will slowly start to change. And as you are Present in the Life that is animating your body, the holy dwelling place of God, and you release the things of this earth and cease to place your identity in them, then all these other things will start to take their proper place, and you will prove, or know in the way you know a sunset or you know an intimate friend, you will know in this way the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
And while we could talk quite a bit about these three pointers -- good, acceptable, and perfect -- let's leave that for another time.
Next, and finally, we read that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we should, but instead to think soberly.
Now, I looked up the word translated "soberly." And it means, "unto the end," and signifies a continual action or a state of perpetual being. So it doesn't just mean that we shouldn't think like a drunk person.
And he continues this thought by pointing out that while we are each individuals of sorts, we are really all One. All One Body. We tend to think in terms of duality. "I" should be in that position, not that "other" person.
"They" (the people in such-and-such a denomination) don't understand the Bible as well as "we" do.
The left ear can't see the smell of garlic as well as "I," the right big toe, can.
We are all One Body. Many parts, but none any more or less than any of the others, because we are still all One.
The carnal mind god can't grasp this beyond some self-glorifying mental concept, along with a sense of pride that it, or supposedly "you," have grasped it. But the mind, by its earthly nature, separates me from you, and us from them. It is the spirit that experientially knows that we are really One.
The mind of the fingernail sees it as something that could very well walk away from the rest of the body, because, after all, THEY are not ME. And even if the fingernail's mind knows this it isn't really separate, and knows it is nothing without the body, it still FEELS as though it is its own separate thing.
But the Life IN the finger, the Life that causes it to heal from cuts, to grow new skin, and to move around with its fingernail, that Life knows by direct experience that it is one with the Life everywhere else in the Body, for that Life is all One and the Same.
And so it is with us. Our mind creates a separation between us and them. But the Life that animates our body, and that enables our mind to think its often skewed thoughts, that Life is the same Life that animates every other body, and that enables their minds to think that it is them against us.
But really, we are all One Body. And when you stop being identified with the mind, and instead you are always presenting your body, or being Present with the Life in your and God's body of holiness, and you are always letting go of identification with and holding onto the temporary things and times, then you can dwell in the transformation of Christ, as your mind is slowly brought back to the way it was when the human mind was brand new.
Jesus does it all. You need only fully surrender.
In the words of the hymnist, "I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
Let's close today's service with a time of prayer, ministry, and stillness, as we allow God to reveal Himself to us through His Word.
If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message one of us. Or if you're listening outside of Second Life, you can go to almcyberchurch.org, click the Pastors' Offices link, and contact us there.
Whenever you need to leave, you're dismissed, and if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way up the steps into the room to your left when you're done here, and we'll meet there in a few minutes for some fellowship.
But for now, you're invited to get out of your seat and gather at the front if you so desire, and regardless of that, you're invited to keep your eyes upon Jesus, upon His Life that gives you breath, and to wait upon Him, as we fully surrender to and rejoice in the Transformation of Christ.
*** listen to the audio to hear the closing prayer ***