One of my favorite past times involves watching the array of home renovation shows on television and you tube. There is simply something magical about the transformation of a tired old room or tired old house into a cozy place of rest. From dated, decrepit and broken to new, refreshed and restored. From hideous and unsightly to beautiful and welcoming. From useless to hopeful and useful.
Having participated through several renovation projects following the days of Hurricane Katrina, I can assure you there is nothing magical about the process itself! Our Volunteer in Mission team I spent two years renovating old homes. It was dirty, tedious and tiresome. Many days were spent tearing down the old walls, pulling out nails, getting dirty, tired, and sometimes, frustrated. But the results were homes that were beautiful, refreshing, functional, and welcoming.
Why is it that our human nature receives so much satisfaction in viewing the process of transformation? We delight in watching this progression over and over again as is evidenced by the popularity of renovating shows on HGTV and similar channels. We simply can’t get enough of seeing what was once old and ugly being changed and renewed into something our minds had not conceived.
Perhaps we are drawn into this reclamation process because it reflects the very work, we wish we could do on ourselves if we should be granted the chance to do it over again and differently. Perhaps it is the recognition what God longs to do in each of our hearts, souls and lives. When we receive Christ as our Savior, scripture claims we “exchange our old life for a new one.” We exchange sin for forgiveness, pride for humility, legalism for grace, fear for love, weakness for strength, immorality for morality, self-defeat for victory in God, anger for joy.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21 Easy-to-Read Version
Helping People Become God’s Friends
11 We know what it means to fear the Lord, so we try to help people accept the truth. God knows what we really are, and I hope that in your hearts you know us too. 12 We are not trying to prove ourselves to you again. But we are telling you about ourselves. We are giving you reasons to be proud of us. Then you will have an answer for those who are proud about what can be seen. They do not care about what is in a person’s heart. 13 If we are crazy, it is for God. If we have our right mind, it is for you. 14 The love of Christ controls us, because we know that one person died for everyone. So, all have died. 15 He died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for him.
16 From this time on we do not think of anyone as the world thinks of people. It is true that in the past we thought of Christ as the world thinks. But we don’t think that way now. 17 When anyone is in Christ, it is a whole new world. [a] The old things are gone; suddenly, everything is new! 18 All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between himself and us. And God gave us the work of bringing people into peace with him. 19 I mean that God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold people guilty for their sins. And he gave us this message of peace to tell people. 20 So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is like God is calling to people through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God. 21 Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin[b] so that in Christ we could be right with God.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation is come; the old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
There are those among us who are deeply pondering the questions: “can who I am now, can where I am now, can my future be brighter and more hopeful and hope-filled than it is right now?” What chance is there that the outlook on my life would be, could be, should be, will be changed if I had a chance to do it over again?” “What can I do to remove myself from my past choices, and decisions?” “There is no more of me which I can surrender, I have done all I know how to do!” “But I am still stuck, in my here and my now and I am going nowhere fast.
Who is it who is not asking themselves this series of questions in these times? We do not dare to surrender ourselves to the ravages of pandemic, we want to live, we want to be wholly alive healthy and wholly more prosperous than we were yesterday and the day before that. Someone once said we were promised a future filled with hope and prosperity, but who said it and where is it right now?
Jeremiah 29:10-14Easy-to-Read Version
10 This is what the Lord says: “Babylon will be powerful for 70 years. After that time, I will come to you people who are living in Babylon. I will keep my good promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. 11 I say this because I know the plans that I have for you.” This message is from the Lord. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future. 12 Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will search for me, and when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will let you find me.” This message is from the Lord. “And I will bring you back from your captivity. I forced you to leave this place. But I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have sent you,” says the Lord, “and I will bring you back to this place.”
Where we are now and where we have been and where our current outlook on our future is right now will definitely continue to have a powerful influence on who we are in this moment. We cannot escape our past, but we can refresh it. We can change our perspectives; we can re-interpret them and reframe them. We can choose to reassign, re-consign them into the waters of forgetfulness. We can give them their beach towels, their beach umbrellas and just walk away.
We take a chance; we exercise our God-given right to risk everything on the sure belief that there is an absolutely better future waiting for us to discover it and experience it. We take a chance; we risk it all in faith that God does in fact have the greater and greatest plan for our future than we did. Once we surrender our lives unto, into, God, He sends his Holy Spirit to dwell within us and begin a process of transformation. But into what exactly are we all being transformed?
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
GOD SLOWLY TRANSFORMS US
Transformed into the image of God. Though we are created by God in His image, sin taints how we view God and, therefore, how we see ourselves. An incorrect view of God leads us into a warped view of ourselves. But once His Spirit lives within us, God begins to peel back the layers of deceit and doubt that cloud our vision of Him, and which prevent us from reflecting His image in our lives.
Just as any home renovation takes time, our transformation is slow and steady. Day by day, God strips us off the old habits and old thoughts that keep us blind and replaces it with truth. Though the echoes of our old life will come calling, we do not have to assign them any priority or relevance or any power over us. Sometimes, we fear that we haven’t changed at all, but rest assured, if you are walking obediently in God’s Word, you are not the same person you used to be!
Exercising this personal risk of choosing God and choosing transformation does and will not come easily. Though God does the internal work, we are called to surrender every inside and outside area of our life and live in obedience to His will. If it seems like hand-to-hand combat with an enemy you cannot see, it is because it is supposed to be internal hand to hand combat! We will Overcome!
Liken your experience to watching a jumbo jet soaring gracefully in the skies. From the ground, the flight seems smooth and graceful. We would never know, unless you are on the plane, the amount of turbulence the passengers could be or actually are experiencing. In the same way, we feel every bump and bruise in our journey with Christ, and sometimes we get discouraged because it gets so very difficult. But that’s not what others see. They see your victories, your joy, your faithfulness, your hopefulness. They see the light of Christ in your life.
Along with the old passing away, “the new has come!” Old, dead things are replaced with new dynamic, vibrant living things, full of an empowered life and the indescribable glory of God. The newborn soul delights in the things of God, abhors the past things of the world and the flesh. Our purposes, feelings, our desires, understandings are fresh and different. We see the world differently.
The Bible seems to be a new book, and though we may have read it before, there is a beauty about it which we never saw before, and which we wonder at not having perceived. The whole face of nature seems to us to be changed, and we seem to discover ourselves in a new world. The heavens and the earth are filled with new wonders, and all things seem now to speak forth the praise of God.
There are new feelings toward all people—a new kind of love toward family and a refreshed kind of love for neighbors, a new compassion never before felt for enemies, and a new love for all mankind. The things we once loved, we now detest. The sin we once held onto, we now desire to put away forever. We “put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9), and put on the “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
What about the Christian who continues to sin?
There is a substantial difference between continuing to sin and continuing to live in sin. No one reaches sinless perfection in this life, but the redeemed Christian is being sanctified (made holy) day by day, sinning less and hating it more each time he fails. Yes, we still sin, but unwillingly and less and less frequently as we mature. Our new self-hates the sin that still has a hold on us.
The difference is that the new creation is no longer a slave to sin, as we formerly were. We are now freed from sin, and it no longer has any measure or degree of power over us (Romans 6:6-7). Now we are Holy Spirit empowered by and for righteousness. We now have the choice to “let sin reign” or to count ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11-12).
Best of all, now we have “holy boldness,” and the power to choose the latter.
The new creation is a wondrous thing, formed in the mind of God and created by His power and for His glory. When we reflect on the ways in which we have grown and matured, we can see how slowly, ever so slowly, God has been chipping away at places in our lives that needed restoring. Be encouraged by the promise found in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us now pray,
Psalm 40 The Message
40 1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God.
4-5 Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”
ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile
of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
compares to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
account for you.
6 Doing something for you, bringing something to you—
that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious—
that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears
so I can listen.
7-8 So I answered, “I’m coming.
I read in your letter what you wrote about me,
And I’m coming to the party
you’re throwing for me.”
That’s when God’s Word entered my life,
became part of my very being.
9-10 I’ve preached you to the whole congregation,
I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn’t keep the news of your ways
a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth
For myself alone. I told it all,
let the congregation know the whole story.
11-12 Now God, don’t hold out on me,
don’t hold back your passion.
Your love and truth
are all that keeps me together.
When troubles ganged up on me,
a mob of sins past counting,
I was so swamped by guilt
I couldn’t see my way clear.
More guilt in my heart than hair on my head,
so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.
13-15 Soften up, God, and intervene;
hurry and get me some help,
So those who are trying to kidnap my soul
will be embarrassed and lose face,
So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable
will be heckled and disgraced,
So those who pray for my ruin
will be booed and jeered without mercy.
16-17 But all who are hunting for you—
oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about
tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:
make something of me.
You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—
but God, don’t put it off.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.