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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not Conformed But Transformed

Transformed is a striking term.  It is translated from the Greek metamorphoo (met-am-or-fo’-o) from whence we get our English word "metamorphose".  The Greek word is used three other places in the New Testament and is translated "transfigured" and "changed".  Two of the places are in reference to the same circumstances.  So there are three occassions in which the word is used.

Matthew 17:2 - And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

Mark 9:2 - And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.

Romans 12:2 - And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

2 Corinthians 3:18 - But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The first two occurances are in relation to the same event, the transfiguration of Christ.  In both places the word is translated "transfigured".  The event in question sets forth the degree of transformation we can ultimately expect.

To understand the nature of what is happening here it is important to consider what Jesus said just before the account is related.

Matthew 16:27-17:2a - For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them. . . .

Mark 8:38-9:2 - Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.  And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.

This may be two examples of chapter breaks that are more harmful than helpful.  The natural continuity of the passage suggests that the Lord would come in glory and that there were some standing there that would not see death until they had seen the Son of man coming in his kingdom.  I have heard a good number of ideas about what is meant here.  It seems to me that Peter, James, and John were given a preview of Christ coming in his glory.  They saw him in his glorified state, how he would appear when he comes in the glory of his Father with all the holy angles.  It was in this transfiguration that his face did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light, shining, exceeding white as snow.
Peter, James, and John were given a glimpse of what we shall be like, the ultimate glory into which we shall be transformed.
" . . . and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
" . . . but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
This is the direction we are moving.  Moving away from worldliness unto glorification (christlikeness).
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 where the word is translated "changed" we have related to us the present process by which the transformation takes place.
"Beholdling as in a glass the glory of the Lord"  Transformation begins and ends with what we are beholding.  This is why when we see him we shall be like him.  The more we see him in this life the more we will be like him in this life.  As we turn our attention more and more away from the world and to Christ we will be transformed into that image.  We will be changed.  ". . . are changed into the same image . . . "  We are changed into the image we are beholding!
" . . . from glory to glory. . . "  It is the glory of the Lord we are to behold.  As we see more of him we are made more like him.  We love what he loves.  We hate what he hates.  It reminds me of what Lester Rolof said, "Stay close to Jesus and he will keep you sweet." And it will keep you holy, and compassionate, and merciful, and obedient, and uncompromising, and godly, and faithful, etc . . . .
". . . even as by the Spirit of the Lord."  The transformation could not happen any more than the regeneration could happen apart from the Spirit of the Lord.  Ultimately any good in us is because of his grace and mercy, it is a reflection of his work and power.  May his name be praised for the transformation!  Let us commit to beholdling and trusting.  Beholding his glory and trusting his power to change and transform.
Romans 12:2 establishes the personal responsibility.  God promises to change us in 2 Corinthians.  God reveals the degree of our ultimate transformation in Matthew and Mark.  God requires that we "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed . . . ." in Romans.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Be Not Conformed

Romans 12:1,2 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Non-conformity/conformity. These are not concepts that we can opt out of. Everyone is conformed to something. Often times we are conformed by default. That is we don't necessarily choose to be conformed to a certain set of ideas but having made choices about our environment, recreation, acquaintances, and so forth we are pressed into a certain mold, we are conformed.

The Bible raises the issue of conformity with the statement, "be not conformed". "Be not conformed to this world" is the standard of Scripture. This imperative gives rise to several considerations.

1. The world has a way of doing things (attitude, spirit, behaviour, speech, appearance, etc . . .)

2.  The world's way is not the way of God.

3. I can be conformed to this world. And more to the point I am naturally conformed to this world.

4. Being conformed to the world is a bad thing.

5.  I have a spiritual responsibility to identify the way of the world and not be conformed to it.

The Scripture sets forth a very clear picture of the world as the few following verses indicate:

John 7:7 - The works of the world are evil.
Ephesians 2:2 - The course of this world is established by the prince of the power of the air and embraced by the children of disobedience.
1 John 2:16 - The way of the world is charaterized by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
1 John 5:19 - The whole world lieth in wickedness.
1 John 2:17 - The world passeth away and the lust thereof.

This can be a most difficult directive to follow.  Our natural tendency is to accept what the world does not find objectionable.  If it is not condemned socially then it becomes acceptable spiritually.  This is not a good rule of thumb.  The standard is not determined by any society at home or abroad.  It is not determined by any generation past or present.  The standard is the word of God.

Therefore I have a responsiblity to study and meditate in relation to the Scripture so that I might be equipped to identify worldliness and keep myself (by God's power and through his grace) from being conformed to it.  Again, this is not easy.  The desire to be accepted and "normal" is a powerful force that requires great spiritual strength to overcome.

Our effectiveness in relation to not being conformed to the world can, according to the Scritpure, be determined by the world's response to us.

2 Timothy 3:12 - Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

John 15:19 - If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

John 17:14 - I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Non-conformity is a clear teaching of Scripture beginning with the Jewish people in the Old Testament with its principles being carried over to God's people in the New Testament.  In fact the grace of God that bringeth salvation teaches us these things.

Titus 2:11-15 - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recieve A Whole Christ With A Whole Heart!

The following is from Thomas Sherman, "Aids to the Divine Life--A Series of Practical Christian Contemplations" 1680.

John 1:12 - But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

"A whole Christ must be received--with the whole heart.

Some in their understanding, assent to the way of salvation--yet do not consent to it with their will. In judgment they are for Christ--but in affection they are for other things. There is only a part of their soul that is for Christ. Others would have the benefits that are from Christ--but have no love for the person of Christ.

Some would have Christ only as a Savior--but not as a Lord. They desire Him only as a Priest to offer a sacrifice for their sins--but not as a Prophet to instruct them, nor as a King to rule over them. So that it is but part of Christ, that they would receive.

But both of these courses are equally dangerous; for, if we would be saved, we must cleave to Christ with all the faculties of the soul--with will, judgment, affection, etc. And so, again, we must cleave to the whole of Christ--Christ in His natures, person, offices, etc. If, therefore, you would rightly receive Christ, see that your whole soul receives a whole Christ."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Made Him To Be Sin For Us!

"made him to be sin for us" is a phrase extracted out of 2 Corinthians 5:21.  The entire verse reads, For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

The "him" is Jesus.  Jesus was made sin for us.  I marvel at the declaration.  In my estimation, no where in Scripture is the relationship between Jesus and our sin so forcefully expressed.

"who is own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree"
"he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities"
"the LORD hath laid on him the inquity of us all"
"he shall bear their iniquities"
"the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"
"he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself"
"Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many"
"he was manifested to take away our sins"

While all of these relate precious truths about Christ's relationship to our sin, for me, none rise to the level of "he hath made him to be sin for us".  It is this phrase that magnifies the whole concept of a sin-bearer.  He bore our sin not in the same manner in which he bore the cross part way to Golgotha.  Sin was not merely placed on him, it was attributed to him, it was reckoned to him.

It does not say he was made a sinner.  In fact it specifically says of Christ, "who knew no sin".  He did not become a sinner, but he was made sin.  The only perfectly righteous man who ever lived, was made sin.  He was so by having our sin reckoned to him.  And who was it that had the authority to arrange such a transaction?  "For he (God) hath made him to be sin for us."

An act of divine grace made Christ sin for me that divine vengance against my sin could be meted out in full and provide an opportunity for me to become the recipient of divine mercy!

"My sin - oh, the bliss of this glorious tho't;
My sin not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"
Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Classroom Of Affliction

Psalms 119:71 - It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

I suppose that none of us have a real affinity for affliction.  There are sundry afflictions to which we are exposed in life.  They vary in intensity and duration.  Some afflictions cause a momentary discomfort.  Some afflictions rock our world.  Some afflictions pass from our memory while others leave scars etched upon the brow of our consciousness.

Some afflictions, probably most, are self-induced.  Others are inflicted upon us.  All of them are allowed by God.  We have all heard the news, seen the tragedy, felt the pain that causes us to slip into despair even if but for a moment.

Having known the sting of affliction we shudder at the words "It is good for me that I have been afflicted".  We don't like to be afflicted, broken, humbled, laid low....  These are the words of one who has learned.  One who has matured.  One who sees life differently than others.  They are lessons that could only be learned in one classroom, the classroom of affliction.  Unless we experience affliction we can never know the lessons it can teach us.  These are not the words of one who has seen little affliction but one who has seen much.  In fact they have seen enough affliction to realize that it is good for them.

Why is it good?  We do not have to go far to learn why.  "that I might learn thy statutes".  There are some lessons we can only learn in the classroom of affliction.  There are some lessons we learn in theory that can only become real in the fires of affliction.  The theories are tempered into convictions.

We learn lessons about God in affliction.  God is faithful!  God is a very present help in trouble!  God never leaves or forsakes!  God is true to His word!  God answers prayer!  God's grace is sufficent!

We learn lessons about ourselves in affliction.  I am frail!  I am weak!  I am needy!  I am vulnerable!  I am faithless!  I am proud!  I am helpless and hopeless!

In short, we learn lessons concerning our utter dependency and God's unwavering dependability!

When afflictions break into our lives let us sit humbly as students instead of raging as captives.  Instead of liberty from the difficulty let us learn our lessons in the affliction.  Then we might be able to proclaim with the Psalmist, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn they statutes."