Transformation

butterfly

“I met Jesus 20 years ago and I haven’t changed a thing that I believe since then!” Do you know anyone like this?  Is this you?   Did you became a Christian, “get saved”, and no matter how long it’s been, six months, two years, five, seven, ten, twenty, thirty years, you’ve gone through life and not changed anything else about your beliefs or the way you view the world around you? Have you checked that salvation box, changed your destination to heaven from hell and just gone on about your life, calling yourself a Christian based on what you believe is your final destination?
This describes more of us than we might like to admit. Because this really is the goal of many who “come to Christ” isn’t it, to be saved? Problem is, when you come to Christ, He doesn’t want to simply change your destination.  To Him, that’s not what salvation, or “The Kingdom of God”, is all about.

heaven

That’s mostly what we’re all about, we want to come to Christ and change our final resting place, make sure we don’t wind up in that lake of fire, but we don’t want to change anything else. But when you come to Jesus, when you follow Christ, what He really wants to change is YOU. I’m going to use Peter as an example, because Peter is just out there in the New Testament, isn’t he?

making-you
“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you…”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The call if Jesus to His first disciples. We want to skip to the end, make sure His Fathers house has many rooms and if He wasn’t preparing a room for us he wouldn’t tell us these things, right? But the call of Jesus here is Follow me, and I will make you…He doesn’t say he’s going to take us anywhere, but that He’s going to make us into something new, something better than we are.
So, let’s look again, about three years after the call is put on Peter’s life.“Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.” Luke‬ ‭22:54‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We are always so hard on Peter here, aren’t we? After all, should he have been following closer? Shouldn’t he have been fighting for his Lord, the one he correctly identified as the Christ, the Messiah of Israel? Of course he should have. But here’s the thing about Peter – he may not have always followed perfectly, but at least he’s still following. All the rest of the disciples (except for John) had fled and scattered. They were long gone. But Peter is still following. It’s not about following perfectly, but sometimes it’s just about staying on the path when things are getting tough and everyone else is running away.

do-you-love-me-more-than-these.jpg
A few weeks later – “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”” ‭‭ John‬ ‭21:15-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬. That breakfast with Jesus after Peter had decided to go fishing (after all this whole apostle thing just wasn’t going to work out, was it? Three times denying Jesus, then He goes and gets crucified, right?). Then Jesus shows up on the shore and leads them to the fish.

It’s the first time Peter has seen the resurrected Christ, and it’s probably uncomfortable isn’t it? Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Not do you love me more than you love all the rest of your friends here, but do you love me more than they do? Because that’s the claim Peter made before Jesus was arrested and crucified. “”Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:31-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So Jesus told Peter he would fail, and of course Peter response, “I don’t know about these jokers, but I’m with you to the end!!” And if course we know, cock a doodle do. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Follow me. The call is given again, reconfirmed. But notice what he’s calling him to. Never forget we must take up our cross and follow Him. He tells Peter that he will die a death by crucifixion, a death so tortuous and painful they had to create a word – excruciating – just to describe it, and says “Follow me.” And here’s the thing – Peter hears this, knows exactly what he’s telling him, yet Peter follows anyway.

giordano_luca-crucifixion_of_st_peter
Ten years later – Peter is still following. “The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.” Through all of his trials and tribulations, ups and downs, one thing Peter never failed at was keeping kosher. So on this sheet Peter sees all this food that he was not allowed to eat by the Mosaic law, food Peter had never eaten. Pork, shrimp, scallops, crabs, maybe a little rabbit, BACON!! Of course, Peter says “NO WAY!! I’m not eating that stuff. I’ve kept kosher my whole life, you’re not fooling me!” To which he is told “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 

clean-food
Next there is a knock on Peter’s door. A centurion had been called by God to send for Peter, and they had come to see him. “And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”” Acts‬ ‭10:19-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Quite the day Peter is having. You see, another part of staying kosher was that Peter had NEVER set foot in a gentile house.  He had never shared a meal with a non-Jew.   So now, he’s had his vision from God showing him it was ok to have a bacon shrimp barbecue crab feast, and now some Gentiles were at the door inviting him over for dinner. So what’s he going to do?
Peter went with the men, and the gospel got preached that day to the Gentiles. “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:34-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Peter had to open his mind to some big changes. God had showed him it was ok to eat that gentile food, and then also to go take His Good News directly to those Gentiles.

But not everyone thought it was a good thing. Not everyone thought salvation was for all people.  “Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order:” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭11:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬. There were some unhappy church people who had heard what Peter was up to. We know these people, don’t we? Imagine what they’re saying – “That Peter – he thinks just anybody can come into our church doesn’t he? Doesn’t even believe they should convert to Judaism before receiving Christ. EVERYBODY knows salvation is only for the Jews!! He’s compromising. What is he, some kind of liberal??!!”

holy-spirit

But Peter began and explained it to them in order: So Peter had to lay it down to these good church people – “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭11:15-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Well, would you look at that?? The Holy Spirit came on those Gentiles just like it came onto the disciples and all the converts they had won over before. And just who was Peter to stand in the way? Or the rest of these good church members? If God is going to move in that way, who are they to stand in the way?  Who are we??
So Peter stayed on the journey. He continued to follow Jesus, even when he was being led places he NEVER thought he’d go. He came to accept what he was shown by God. He accepted the Gentiles as Gentiles into the church, because that is what Jesus, his Lord, led him to do.
We want salvation to be yes or no, in or out. All we really care about is the destination. But salvation is much more than saying a prayer and checking a box. The apostle Paul tells us to “….work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Your salvation is a process, a journey. We want it to just be about the destination, but if we are following Jesus then it’s much more than a destination. If you are following Jesus then what is being saved is YOU.
Following Jesus is much less about your final destination and much more about who it is that you are walking with. Would it have been better for Peter to have said “I’ve been following Jesus for thirteen years and haven’t changed a thing since”? Of course not. Good thing for all of us, Peter followed Jesus and carried his word to those Gentiles. Because we’re all Gentiles.

no-colored-allowed-black-americana-cast-iron-sign-10x4_220665307171
We have our own groups that we don’t like. For our grandparents, maybe it was the Japs, the Germans, the Jews. Or maybe they didn’t like blacks.

muslim

For us, maybe we don’t like Muslims. Or gays. Or whatever group it is we’ve grown up thinking of as “those people”.
As Christians, the only thing that is un-changeable is our faith in Jesus. But – “Faith in Jesus makes everything else changeable” – Pastor Brian Zahnd.

gay-pride-flag-facebook
We need to be willing to change as we follow Christ. Lucky for us, Peter did. What beliefs and feelings have changed in you since you met Christ?  In what ways are you different because of your walk with Jesus?
Maybe you haven’t changed a thing.  Maybe you met Jesus, got saved, and now you don’t have to change anything else.  Maybe you’re just “good with God!”

But really, if you’ve been following Christ and nothing else has changed in your life and heart, are you sure it’s Christ you’ve been following?

‭‭

“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.1.17.esv
“Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:54‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.22.54.esv
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.””

‭‭John‬ ‭21:15-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.21.15-19.esv
“The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:9-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.10.9-16.esv
“So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:34-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.10.34-35.esv
“Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order:”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭11:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.11.1-4.esv
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.””

‭‭Acts‬ ‭11:15-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.11.15-18.esv

John Lewis

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7 thoughts on “Transformation

  1. Change. It takes great care to change. And by-n-large, I hate change. The older I get, the less I am for it. I think new technology stinx! The only two inventions on the phone that I think were worthwhile were moving to pushbuttons from the old dial up, and cutting the cord. Beyond that, I have no use! But, changes come down the pike every week….

    Change is dangerous too. And I would caution against changing deep stuff too easily. Especially growth in faith and matters of religion. Don’t be tossed around by every wind and wave of doctrine etc… (I think I read that somewhere….) And not all change is good. But staying the same willy-nilly is not either. We need to make changes, and make them carefully.

    I have made a number of important changes in my walk over the years. And I wrestle with challenges every day. I recall going through serious transformation and leaving a life of addiction over 25 years ago as I came to a faith of my own (as opposed to just accepting what my parents had raised me with). I recall how that led me to go to Bible school where I could study under seasoned professors and be trained in study and ministry. And even in the midst of that, I recall specifically one day exiting a particularly challenging lecture/discussion in my Philosophy of Religion class, making my way to my Writings of St. Paul class and upon arrival audibly uttering “I finally understand what Gnosticism is and the belief that makes one gnostic… Oh Sh*t! … I am one!”

    I was just discovering the work of N.T. Wright that semester, and was wresting with his book What St. Paul Really Said, and was arguing against it in my heart paragraph after paragraph. I only read it to pass the test, and fully intended to burn it after the course. But once the test was done, it would not let me go, so I read it again. And then one more time. And I began to sense he was making sense of the Bible for the first time for me, and I was most the way done with my undergrad work by that time!

    I have never looked back. I keep finding Jesus more real and more relevant every day. In more recent times I have begun to embrace humility and humiliation – even to seek it. That is a change! I am a work in progress, no doubt.

    Thanx for the post.

    X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s telling that it took thirteen years for Peter to get to this point. We all hate change, but it’s simply unavoidable. I think many of us take certain verses in the bible telling us that God never changes to mean we never change. Problem is…we are not God. But He is doing a work in us.

      I think this is where the church has gotten lost. We’ve decided we have our own systems to decide who’s in and who’s out, but we simply don’t recognize the invitation is there for all. The gates are never shut. So we don’t get to exclude, we don’t build walls. We don’t try to defend God. We try to tell certain people all the things they need to change, when neither we nor they have the power to change it. I say we need to bring them to the cross, to Jesus, and let Him begin a good work in them. He will complete His work once He gets it started.

      And if His Holy Spirit is poured out, who am I to stop it?

      Like

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