Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ever-Increasing Glory: A Life of Constant Change

New life in Christ should be a life of constant transformation. Because we follow an infinite Lord our possibilities are infinite as well. Can you imagine a life of being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory? You should: it’s a Biblical description of your potential in Christ.

I’ve discovered that becoming a follower of Jesus begins with at least three initial transformations: we must be born from above; we must acquire his character; and we must imitate his works. Most believers North America have some grasp on the first, a hope of the second, and almost no concept of the third.
The gospel accounts are filled with the miscalculations, the infighting and the petty pride exhibited by Jesus’ original followers. Yet as Jesus prepared to leave, he charged his disciples with the impossible. 
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14: 12-14)
In the years after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Book of Acts records that the seed of heaven broke through the soil of their humanity in amazing ways. The first disciples demonstrated they were up to the task because the life of Jesus had been planted in them as an imperishable seed. Consider these three transformations:
1). The first disciples found themselves transformed by the new birth. They really were a new creation. Heaven’s DNA had altered their very being. Timid, self-absorbed, working class men became world changers capable of threatening the Roman Empire just as their Master had done. We should ask ourselves, “If we have the family DNA, where is the family resemblance?” Perhaps the new birth is not accomplished by mere agreement with a few simple faith propositions. Many Christians are troubled by their past, troubled by their sin, and troubled by their futures.They’ve prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and been assured they are going to heaven, but they experience no change. If the power of God can assure our eternal destiny, shouldn’t it be able to impact our thoughts and actions here and now? That was the record of the early church.  
2). The first disciples found themselves transformed in character. As a result they demonstrated the character of Christ to a degree not possible by their own good intentions or human effort. In our day, we are tempted to think we should “act better” because we are Christians. It’s a trap: we will only “act better” as long as our will power holds up--just ask anyone who has every started a diet! Eventually it will fail us even as it failed the disciples the night Jesus was arrested. What we need is change from the inside out. Change flows from the new birth the way spring water flows from the source. Our job is not to try harder, but to get out of the way. The transformation of new birth finds its way into our character by the hunger and thirst for the stuff of heaven. A newborn infant without hunger or thirst is desperately ill: why should it be any different in our life with Christ?
3). The first disciples found themselves transformed by power for ministry. The Book of Acts records the first followers of Jesus were startlingly like Jesus, in thought, word and deed. The history of the early church is filled with descriptions of ordinary people who declared the message of the Kingdom of God (as Jesus had done) and demonstrated the coming of that Kingdom with powerful actions--just as Jesus had done. What they experienced in ministry at Jesus’ side turned out to be merely a learner’s permit. With the coming of the Holy Spirit the first believers discovered a transformation from the impossibilities of the flesh to the possibilities of heaven. What does it mean to do the works of Jesus? How we answer the question reveals our understanding of what it means to live “in Christ.” In his day, Jesus had a high view of his followers. He believed in them more than they believed in themselves. It’s still his day if we will let him have his way.
The first disciples were up to the task. In the intervening centuries the people of God have sometimes lived up to the charge left by our Lord, and sometimes have changed the task into something attainable by human effort.  I believe every generation must wrestle with the challenge Jesus left us. The first disciples were up to the task. The obvious question is whether we are up to the task as well.


  1. Thanks so much for articulting this so clearly, Ray. Gonna share it with some of the VC staff.

  2. My pleasure, Kelli. I have great respect for the crew up there, so I suspect they are already in pursuit pf these things, but we all needs reminders, don't we?

  3. It is a good crew. I teacha premarital class called "Creating a Climate of Change" where we talk about this. It's the dichotomy of Jesus being the only one who will ever be perfect but us still needing to always be "shooting for the mark". We also tell folks that they must not marry someone in the hopes that they will change, but that we must all never believe we don't need to...hopefully they are not too confused by the end of our six weeks of class! Thanks again, Ray