Profound Transformation - 3 of 3

When I was discussing this issue with one of my friends, she said "The danger with 'radical acceptance' is that it carries the risk of compromise." What she meant by that is that once we accept people the way they are - joining the church and belonging with whatever problems/sins/lifestyle choices they bring with them, there is a risk that we then tacitly accept those issues.

But God expects us to change to become more like Jesus - that's where the 'profound transformation' part of the phrase comes in…

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3: 5-14 (NIV)

And

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12: 1-2 (NIV)

Lastly, back to a passage we mentioned in the previous post:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19: 8-9

We can see that Zaccheus, having been welcomed and accepted by Jesus, immediately begins to change - in at least one area of his life. One thing which used to worry me was whether God would change me, rapidly and painfully, into some other 'character type' - so that I wouldn't really be me any more. That hasn't happened. Despite His awesome power, God loves us, and is gentle with us, moulding our character into forms more like His Son, but yet retaining our essence - staying 'us'.

What isn't clear from passages like these and others, is that the transformation is a gradual process. I was born bad-tempered - one might say that I was made that way - in a sense it is, or was, simply the way I am. That doesn't make it right, or mean that others should have to spend their lives tiptoeing around my irritable nature, even if I was comfortable with it. God has, sometimes gradually, sometimes in fits and starts, begun to change that part of me, though not as fast as I would like. His priorities for my life are not the same as mine! I have gradually learnt thatHe does know best - and often works on areas of my life that I wasn't aware were a problem, or where I would rather he didn't - 'fix this firstinsteadLord' being my frequent cry.

There have been some things in my life which have had to be 'fixed' pretty rapidly, and others - often ones I thought urgently needing 'fixing' - which I still live with… Who knows, perhaps I always will, in this life. Perhaps some of those 'crosses we have to bear' are left with us to remind us of our sinful frailty - so we can't ever imagine that we are examples of sinless perfection.

Not all change is painless. Some of the things I have learnt about myself, and had to work to change, have had a cost. The power to change comes chiefly from without, by the power of the Holy Spirit, but there needs to be willingness from within, and a determination to try.

The transformation is profound, but takes a long, long, time. Sometimes progress towards the goal - that of becoming like Jesus - seems glacial, if not actually geological, but if I look back far enough into my past, and consider 'where I've come from', even I can see that huge changes have been wrought in my life - my attitudes, the way I think, act, speak. if God can do that for me, he can do it for anyone, however broken, lost, and irredeemable they may think they are or appear to be.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and blessed 2014.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022