"God On Film"
In 1984, Hasbro launched a new line of toys hit the market featuring robots that could be reconfigured into different cars, trucks, planes, and other kinds of vehicles. In a masterpiece of multi-platform promotion, these toys were give names and a back-story, and then their own animated series on television and a series of Marvel comics. There have been many offshoots since, including three blockbuster motion pictures over the past five years.
Some of you are quite familiar with these robots, known as the Transformers. Some of you watched the cartoons while growing up. Some of you have seen all three feature films. Some of you collected the toys back in the 80s and you might still have them today. Here's one of the toys that Nate is having fun with these days...
[VISUAL – SHOW TRANSFORMER TOY]
Understand, Nate's the one that's having fun with it. Me... not so much. He brought me this one to change from the robot into the car, and it took me three days. So if you have a Transformer at home and you can't figure it out, don't bother bringing it to me. Take it to Glen... he knows what he's doing.
This morning, we're going to talk about ourselves as being transformers. As followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible talks about how we go through our own transformation. Except our transformation is much more intense and much more miraculous than the transformation of this robot into a car... our transformation enables us to become like Jesus Himself.
The Facts about My Transformation as a Christ-Follower:
1. My Transformation Is a Work In Progress.
It's not just an instantaneous event; it's an ongoing process. These toy transformers... if you're good at it, you can transform them from a robot into a car and back into a robot within a matter of seconds. Our transformation is a bit different than that. Our transformation plays out over several years... even decades... as God gradually works in our lives.
Plus, your transformation is meant to be one way. Once you're transformed, you're not meant to go back to the way you were before. When God transforms you, the person you were is gone. You've become someone new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
...Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Galatians 6:15-16 (NLT)
What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.
If you want to know the theological word for this, it's called "sanctification." The moment when you first decide to become a Christ-follower, in Wesleyan circles we call that "initial sanctification." That's the moment you come alive in Jesus... you're regenerated... you're given a brand new start in Him.
Colossians 2:13 (NLT)
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
That's initial sanctification, or salvation... the moment of decision. But that's not the end of the story. Following that initial sanctification, there's what we call a "progressive sanctification." Do you know what this sanctification is? It's progressive. (It's nice when the term defines itself, isn't it?) This means it's an ongoing process of transformation. Yes, you're quote/unquote "saved" at the moment you make the decision to follow Jesus and live for Him. But what follows is this ongoing process of transformation. And what are you transforming into?
Romans 8:29 (NLT)
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son…
There's one more term that's not so easy to define. It's called "entire sanctification", and it's the point where you give yourself completely to God. I've heard it described this way: Initial Sanctification is when you have all of the Holy Spirit; Entire Sanctification is when the Holy Spirit has all of you. It's when you are living a truly holy and righteous life.
Now, does this mean that you can never mess up? That you can never sin again? No, that's always a possibility. But when you are entirely sanctified, sinning is not your first impulse. It's not the desire of your heart. It's not that it's impossible for you to sin; it's that it is possible for you not to sin. You are so infused with the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life that He empowers you to overcome. Paul wrote about this...
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV)
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So that's a lot of theological talk to simply say that your transformation is a process that starts at the moment of salvation when you decide to give yourself to Jesus and continues throughout your life.
2. This Transformation is Accomplished Through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
This is important, because too many people think it's all up to them. They think that if they are going to be holy... if they are going to live right... if they are going to be transformed.... then it all depends on them.
But that's wrong. The truth is, we are powerless to transform ourselves. That's why Paul wrote in Romans 12...
Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person...
You can't transform yourself; it's the Holy Spirit of God who's the one that can transform you. After the Resurrection while Jesus was with His followers... in the final two sentences He said before ascending into Heaven before their very eyes… Jesus talked about this transforming power of the Holy Spirit...
Acts 1:8 (NLT)
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…”
And when that happened just ten days later on the Day of Pentecost, that cowardly group of Christ-followers were transformed and empowered to boldly and convincingly proclaim the Good News about Jesus. But it wasn't something that they mustered up from within themselves; it was the work of the Holy Spirit.
John 3:6 (NLT)
"Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life."
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV)
...God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
So again, you see it's the work of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies you, that transforms you, that makes you holy.
3. The Transformation Involves My Entire Person.
Let's take another look at that verse in Romans 12, this time from the New International Version.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed...
You're not just conformed; you're transformed. If you're conformed, that's just a superficial change. But if you're transformed, that means you're changed to the core of your being.
I want you to pay attention to that one word, "transformed." In the original Greek text that this was translated from, the word used was "metamorphoo." [PowerPoint] Does that look familiar at all? Of course it does. It's the same word we get "metamorphosis" from. It's not just talking about a slight change, like a getting nose job or using botox. It's not even just having 10 cosmetic procedures like Heidi Montag had done. No, it's a complete change.
When a caterpillar undergoes a metamorphosis, it changes on the inside as well as on the outside. When a tadpole undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes a frog, it's a drastic change that includes it's structural frame as well as its appearance. And when a person undergoes a metamorphosis or a transformation because of the work of the Holy Spirit, it's not just a slight change in your appearance or in the way you talk; it's a drastic change that moves from the inside out. It's a complete and utter transformation of the complete person.
Take a look at this passage...
John 3:1-4 (NLT)
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Now, you may have heard that phrase all your life. Being "born again" is a common phrase used among churches to refer to Christian believers who take their faith seriously. Sometimes it's even used derisively to refer to overly exuberant and perhaps obnoxious or judgmental churchgoers.
But for Nicodemus, this was a brand new concept. And you can understand his confusion. What was Jesus talking about, "born again?" Well, when you think about it in connection with a metamorphosis, it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? A caterpillar is reborn as a butterfly. A tadpole is reborn as a frog. And a person who is dead in their sins and heading for a godless eternity is reborn through the power of the Holy Spirit into a person who is alive and living with the hope of an eternal home in Heaven. It's a complete and utter transformation, from the inside out.
No, if your forehead's too big it's still going to be too big. That's not going to change. It you're losing your hair, your best hope is still going to be Rogaine or whatever else is on the market. I'm not saying that's beyond the range of possibilities with God; I'm just saying it's not His standard operating procedure. But even though your physical features may remain the same, make no mistake about it: you are a new person. A transformation... a metamorphosis... has begun in your life, and it's going to continue for the rest of your life.
4. This Transformation Will Be Ongoing Throughout My Life.
This is the "progressive sanctification" thing we talked about earlier. When you submit yourself to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, each new year should find you with deeper levels of compassion, greater joy in life, more love than you could ever imagine, a sense of peace that surpasses your wildest expectations... basically, you should see what we call the "fruit of the Spirit" developing more and more in your life.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
A fruit on a tree does not appear instantaneously; it grows over time. It can take an entire season for it to grow. And it's the same way with the fruit of the Spirit in your life. It grows over time. It can take the entire season of your life for it to grow to maturity. That means that as the Holy Spirit works this miracle of transformation in your life, you will become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom... And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
Notice that's in a present, active tense. It's something that's going on right now, today. The Lord makes us more and more like Him. It's an ongoing process. "As we are changed into His glorious image." It's not a one time event; it's a process.
You know, I think a lot of people get mixed up when it comes to understanding the will of God for their lives. They think the will of God is primarily about where they go and what they do and what they say. It's not. Those may become important secondarily, but the primary will of God is not about where you go, what you do, or what you say; it's about who you are. It's about your character. It's about this inner transformation we're talking about this morning.
If you want to know what the will of God is for your life, it's about becoming more like Jesus. It's about reflecting His character in your character. It's about honoring Him with who you are. And then where you go, what you do, and what you say can flow out of that.
I really want you to understand that this morning. God's will is about who you are, not what you do. When you are who God wants you to be, then you will do what God wants you to do. It flows from the inside out, not from the outside in.
Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
It's what happens on the inside that determines what is done on the outside.
5. The Transformation Will Be Completed When Jesus Comes Again.
We've already talked a lot about how this transformation can and will take a lifetime. So when does it end? When is it finally complete? When Jesus comes again.
Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
What does this mean for you and me? It means that God always has more for us. There are deeper reserves of His grace, there's greater joy that can be experienced, there's more love that can be given. You'll never reach a point during your lifetime where you've arrived and there's nothing more for you, because God will always have more for you.
You know how God works? Just look at this room around us. This building has been going through renovations over the past couple of months, and this morning we see a building in transition. The construction's ongoing.
When the construction first started, the workers had a lot to do really quickly. They dug down deep and laid a foundation for a new entryway, they tore out the old staircase, and they got to work building the frame for the addition. They did all that, then they worried about tearing out walls and fixing the floor. Then they insulated and they put on new shingles. This week, they put up the Gyprock, then focused on crack-filling and sanding. And they still more to do over the next couple of weeks as they finish up with the floor and clear out the clutter and paint the walls. When the elevator that's on order gets here next month, they'll install that. That'll finish up this phase of the renovations. Then at some point they'll move on to the next phase, including putting classrooms in downstairs and fixing up the bathrooms.
God works kind of like that in our lives. When we first decide that we're going to live for Him, His Holy Spirit might have some things to take care of quickly in our lives. He might have to do some immediate structural work. And then He'll move onto something else. He might have a wall to tear down here or there, He might have some clutter to clear out, He might have some repairs to make, He might have some sanding and some refinements to make. Maybe He'll focus on one area--one room--of our lives for a while fixing that up, and then He'll move on to another. And maybe at some point He'll have to go back and finish something up in that first room.
But you get the idea... it's an ongoing work that will continue throughout your life and won't be finished until Jesus comes again and you're standing before Him face to face.
1 John 3:2 (NLT)
Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.
Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV)
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Okay, so the transformation that takes place in our lives as Christ-followers is not of our own doing, it's the work of the Holy Spirit. And it's an ongoing transformation that involves every area of our lives. And the Holy Spirit is going to keep working in our lives, transforming us and making us more like Jesus, until the day Jesus comes again. That's the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That's the power of His presence in your life.
But you know what? Just because it's the work of the Holy Spirit doesn't let me off the hook.
6. It's Up to Me to Allow the Transformation.
Now, I've been emphasizing all along this morning that this transformation in your life is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. It's not up to your ability to transform yourself, because you don't have that ability. All you can do is conform, but you can't transform. You can say and do the right things, but you can't change the essence of who you are. You can't make yourself holy and pleasing in the sight of God. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. That's true right at the beginning when you first decide to follow Jesus and it's true throughout the transformation process. It's the Holy Spirit who does the heavy lifting.
But you do play a role, as well. I remember watching an interview with Anne Graham-Lott several years ago with Larry King. Anne is the daughter of Billy Graham, and according to other members of the family, she's the best preacher of the lot. Anyway, during this interview, I remember how clearly she described how God is a gentleman; He doesn't force Himself in where He's not invited.
Well, God's a gentleman. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He's not going to force Himself into your life and He's not going to transform your life if you don't let Him. If you don't invite Him.
In fact, Jesus painted this kind of picture for us through His words in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 3:19-20 (NLT)
I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends."
He's standing at the door, and He wants to come in. But He's not going to kick the door down, He's going to wait for you to open it. It's up to you to open the door and invite Him in. It's up to you to give Him permission to begin this work of transformation and then to cooperate with Him as He does His work.
Galatians 5:4-5 (NLT)
For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us.
If you’re ready this morning to make the choice to place your faith in Jesus and allow Him to begin this work of transformation in your life, I’d like to lead you in a prayer…
Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson