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TRANSFORMED: An Invitation to Transformation   Romans 12     Pastor Larry Boatright              (1st Service)   {Manuscript–See Video for complete content}

I went to Florida last week.  I used to live in Florida and one of my favorite beaches is called Clearwater Beach. It’s consistently rated in the top beaches in the country.  I parked my car and immediately went to the beach, dropped my towel, and got into the water.  It felt so amazing!  I bobbed and floated a bit, and then I saw these two guys on a sandbar.  A sandbar is sand you can stand on out in the water; it’s almost like walking on water. It was about 100 yards out there and I’ve swum that a bazillion times.  I’m a pretty good swimmer so I took off.  I’m working and working to get out to the sandbar.  Normally it takes three or four minutes to get out there, but I don’t think I noticed how hard the waves were coming in that day.  The waves were relentless and pounding on me as I was going out.  I didn’t notice how hard I was working until I started feeling pretty tired; like my whole body tired, like my arms tired, and I’ve never really felt that way before.  It’s a little bit scary to be out in the ocean and feel that.  It had been about fifteen minutes.  The guys had swum off the sandbar, so I had lost my frame of reference of where I was going.  I was so tired but I thought I’d better check and see how close I was to the sandbar.  I popped my head above the waves and it was still a little ways out; I was discouraged because I wasn’t really getting anywhere.  I got nervous because my arms were tired and my heart was really pounding.  I was gasping for air and I was breathing in salt water.  My lungs were burning.  So I had to make a decision, do I continue working and trying to get to the sandbar or do I turn around and head for the shore?  I decided that I was trying so hard to get to the sandbar, but I just wasn’t making it, so I decided to go back.  I turned around and the shore was SO FAR AWAY.  My lungs were burning, my heart was pounding, my arms were exhausted.  I started to get a little bit scared because I realized I’m just a few moments away from running out of gas and I don’t know what to do.  The thought occurred to me, “It’s very possible I’m going to drown, because I don’t think I have what it takes to get back to shore.”  There’s no lifeguard; there’s nobody close to me.  I had to fight for every breath.  I kept swimming but I was slowing down rapidly.  Just when I thought I couldn’t go any farther,  I decided to check and see if I could touch the bottom. And thank God, I could stand on my tiptoes, so I used my last bit of energy to get out of the water, and I was completely and totally exhausted.  The funny thing is, at the same time I thought I might drown, I thought to myself, “If I don’t die from this, I could use this as a sermon illustration.”  I swear I thought that!  So here it is.

I’ve been chewing on 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  That’s really good news, right?  I follow Jesus.  It’s clear from this passage that it’s talking about anyone that joins the family of faith—in Christ—that we should experience a NEW creation. But, how many of us heard a gospel message, and we responded in some way? Maybe we responded to a sermon, or a youth camp with a speaker that was compelling, or whatever it might be, and we pray a prayer of surrender to Jesus, and we expect to be changed. And maybe after that we listened to sermon after sermon, and came to church every single time the doors were open, and read our bibles and pray, every single day, and yet, in spite of all of that, for most of us, if we’re honest, we look at some parts of our lives and they seem completely unchanged by the Gospel.  There’s a lot of OLD in there still and we’re still waiting on the NEW.  And if we’re really honest, there are parts of our lives that we’re not ready for Jesus to touch yet.  Like our money, or our stuff, or our relationships, or a pattern of thinking we’ve become addicted to.  I’ve been following Jesus since I was ten years old, which is almost thirty-two years ago, and yet I look at parts of my life that I think should be changed by the transformative power of the Gospel and realize that they just aren’t.  How about you?

Today I’m so excited because we’re starting a brand new series for the fall called “Transformed: A Journey Toward Biblical Wholeness.”  Several weeks ago, a few people on our team went away to pray and dream and to seek God’s heart for our church community.  We wanted to see what God might have us teach on through the end of the year.  One of the questions we asked ourselves was, “What do we hope people experience as a result of meeting Jesus consistently at South Fellowship?”  Yes, we do want us to experience great worship, and great teaching, and great kids and student environments, and being welcomed warmly and have our questions answered, and all of that, but what if we did all kinds of those things, had all kinds of programming, and more, but at the end of the day, all we could point to was we did stuff and we said stuff.  Our mission is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  That means that the mission isn’t great programming.  It isn’t great worship or even great teaching; it is inviting people into a process of TRANSFORMATION.  We firmly believe that an encounter with Jesus is an invitation to a journey of transformation, and that the Gospel—the Good News—should have an impact on ALL the parts of our lives, not just our standing before God.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why so many of us follow Jesus, and maybe even do some of the right things, and work really hard, but we don’t really experience freedom, and we don’t see transformation as a regular part of our journey.  I wonder if its partially because we don’t fully understand exactly what it is that Jesus wants to do in us.  For some of us, we’re stuck thinking the primary reason Jesus came to die on the cross was about a transaction; His death simply means I now can be right with God.  Well, you certainly now can be right with God, if you are in Christ, but it’s a huge mistake to think of the message of the Gospel as merely a transaction instead of transformation. If we merely focus on a transaction, we miss out on all that Jesus invites us to in this life.  Dallas Willard says, “It is the failure to understand Jesus and his words as reality and vital information about life that explains why, today, we do not routinely teach those who profess allegiance to him how to do what he said was best. We lead them to profess allegiance to him, or we expect them to, and leave them there, devoting our remaining efforts to ‘attracting’ them to this or that.”  But listen, church, I can tell you that the leadership of this church is NOT content just to tell you about Jesus so you can pray a prayer and spend eternity with Him.  It’s to do our part to help you live in His way, with His heart, right now.  And our prayer is that every single facet of your life would be impacted by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want to jump right into the Scriptures to begin to frame up what we’re going to be doing together for the next eight weeks or so, but before do that, I want to ask you to pause your heart and your mind for a moment, and let’s ask God’s Spirit to begin to move and shape us, even in this very moment, as we begin this series.  Jesus,  thank you for meeting us where we are. Thank you for modeling for us what it is to be fully human, and for inviting us into a process of formation to wholeness in the image of Christ. Our desire as a community is to be filled with people who are transformed from the inside out, that the Good News would touch every part of our lives.  And so, Jesus, my prayer right now is that you’d soften our hearts, you’d open our eyes to see and ears to hear Your voice calling us from brokenness to wholeness, for the sake of Your kingdom and Your glory.  In the strong and powerful name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

We’re going to be journeying a good bit through Romans chapter 12, so go ahead and turn there.  (You can also go to our APP and click on the SERMONS tab and click SERMON NOTES and take notes right in there if you’d like.)  Just a little bit of background on Romans—Paul, the author of this letter to the church in Rome, often followed a pattern of a greeting, then a lesson in theology, and then a transition to the practical—“here’s what you do” so we can apply the theology we learned. In Romans, he shows how essentially everyone is in need of a savior, that sin entangles all of us and robs us of fully living into who God designed us to be.

When you were a kid, maybe you heard people talk about “The Roman Road to Salvation.”  It always started with Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Glory is His essence, meaning although we were made in His image, sin marred that image and we don’t look like just Jesus. He also said in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death.  Sin leads to death.  But he also said—But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Paul, a man who was trained in the law, grew up in the law, talked a lot about the law and how we couldn’t measure up to it, showed us just how we couldn’t measure up or fully look like the image of God in us because of sin, makes a compelling case that we should receive the mercy and grace of God offered through Jesus, as our deliverer, as one who loves us and gave himself for us.  So in Romans 12:1 —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.  

Anytime we see the word ‘therefore,’ we should ask, “What is this there for?”  Here, Paul is shifting from theology to practice, and he’s essentially saying, “In light of everything I just told you….that you are dead in your sin, that you can’t measure up, but that God freely offers eternal life to you…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”  I think about my life, and my ankle, and my concussion, my hospitalizations, and I think, “I’m not sure he wants my body as a living sacrifice.”  Do you realize your body is the container that holds all of you?  Your body contains your soul, your spirit, your heart, your mind. It’s the vehicle that provides a housing for all of the parts of us.  One of the early church heresies insisted that the body was irrelevant, but Paul here is NOT saying that the body is irrelevant, is he? He’s saying to offer ALL of you—your body, this container, and all of its parts—as a living sacrifice.  He’s saying, “In light of all that God has done, give your WHOLE SELF for His good use.”

Then he continues in verse 2:  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.
Paul sort of tells us what not to do, what to do, and how to do it.  What not to do—Don’t be CONFORMED to the pattern of this world.  What to do—Be transformed by the how?….renewing of your mind.  Conformed essentially means to bend around, mold into the shape around something else.  We take aluminum foil and we put it over a beautiful cake and it’s in the shape of the cake, but at the end of the day it’s still aluminum foil.  He’s saying, “Don’t try to look like the pattern of this world.  Don’t give over to the unhealthiness, the brokenness, the breaking of shalom that the pattern of this world offers.”  Don’t do that thing!

Then he tells us to be transformed. The Greek word for transformed here is the word metamorphao.  What does that sound like? Metamorphosis. That’s a pretty common word. We use it to mean that something has drastically changed.  If you know someone who is struggling from some kind of addiction, and their lives, their relationships, their bodies are a wreck, and then you see them after a while and they’ve broken the strongholds of addiction and they’re partnering in community and God’s beginning to transform them from the inside out and they seem completely different, you might say, “Wow! What a metamorphosis!”

So what does transformation mean?  Transformation is to change into another form or image. It essentially means changing something from one state to another, from one substance or form or whatever it might be.  This isn’t just a spiritual or New Testament concept, we see this in our world, don’t we?  Probably the easiest example of this is a caterpillar to a butterfly.  That blows my mind!  Think about water—water exists in three states—solid, liquid and gas.  Think about food—if you take grain and under the right circumstances you heat it and you put yeast in it, you can turn it into beer or whiskey, amen!  Grapes can be paired with water and yeast to make wine, amen!  Trail mix—You have all these little elements of trail mix, but at the end of the day you can separate out these elements, can’t you?  I know this because I buy my kids these buckets of trail mix and they just pull out the things they like and leave all the other stuff behind, so when I go to eat it there’s only one kind of thing in there!  Those elements haven’t been transformed, they’ve just been mixed together.  But if you add lemonade powder to water, you get a brand new, delicious thing! It has moved from one form to another. You can’t just separate the power back out and have a pile of powder and a bucket of water, can you?   Are you getting the point?

What is being transformed?  Jesus tells us to be transformed.  Is it our spirit? Is it our mind? What? What was the message of Jesus? What did He say was best?  What did He preach about?  Did he preach well, turn or burn?  Listen, follow me and you’ll get out of hell?  That’s not what he preached.  He preached consistently that the kingdom of God was near. The kingdom, the kingdom, the kingdom…   He gave the rules of engagement for the kingdom, how we should live as subjects and participants of the Kingdom.  Think of the beatitudes and the sermon on the mount; this is how to operate as citizens of this new, amazing kingdom, right?  Jesus met people where they were, and He healed them and forgave them, and called them out of their brokenness.  And then He invited people to follow Him.  So His ministry was far more than a “get of hell card.”  He called people from their broken state into a transformed state.  He moved them towards WHOLENESS.  As a matter of fact, Jesus showed us the perfect example of what a whole human being looks like.

Robert Mulholland, the brilliant pastor and seminary professor, wrote:  “The Christian journey, therefore, is an intentional and continual commitment to a lifelong process of growth toward wholeness in Christ.”   Think about that—growth toward WHOLENESS in Christ.  That means that Jesus is interested in MORE than just a transaction that makes us right with God.  It means that being formed into the image and likeness of Jesus isn’t just spiritual.   Remember the words of John 1: The Word became Flesh and dwelled among us.  He was 100% God, but he was also 100% human.  And that means that to be formed into the image of Christ is to be fully formed into being a whole human being, because Jesus was a whole human being.  You with me?

So, formation in the life of the follower of Jesus is Jesus transforming our lives from a state of brokenness to a state of wholeness, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus invites us to move out of our brokenness into something new.   Now, you might be asking yourself, “But what is wholeness?”  I’m so glad you asked that question.  I’m going to walk you through seven areas of our lives that give us an idea of what wholeness looks like.  We have a SPIRIT self.  We have a part of us that is our MIND.  We have a BODY.  We have EMOTION.  We have RELATIONSHIPS.  We have VOCATION; that’s God’s purpose through us for the sake of others.  We have RESOURCES.  Take a look at those areas.  Do any of them jump out to you as areas it sure seems like haven’t been transformed by the power of the Gospel?  Anyone brave enough to say, “Yeah, I’m still waiting on this?”  Me too!

Who we are is so much more than our spirit, isn’t it?  The Gospel can transform not just our standing before God, but every part of our lives.  We’re all being formed. This doesn’t apply to just Christians, by the way.  Here’s the thing, everyone is in the process of spiritual formation, whether you follow Jesus or not.  Listen to these powerful words from Robert Mulholland:  “We are being shaped into either the wholeness of the image of Christ or a horribly destructive caricature of that image—destructive not only to ourselves but also to others, for we inflict our brokenness upon them.”  We’re being shaped into something.  God is shaping us, he’s moving us, but we’re allowing ourselves, too, to be shaped in this process.  We can either be shaped into the image of Christ or into brokenness.  Brokenness parades around and hurts other people.

I know we live in a world that desperately needs transformation, don’t we?  We live in a world where people NEED to be moved toward wholeness in Christ.  We did a church survey recently and asked, “What was your status prior to coming to South?”   About 97% of our church community followed Jesus before attending South. The second question we asked was, “How long have you been following Jesus?”  An overwhelming majority answered, “A really long time.”  What does that tell you?  That the majority of this church is filled with people who have known Jesus for a long time.  Obviously then a minority (3%) of people didn’t know Jesus prior to coming to South.   That means that we don’t have that many people coming who don’t know Jesus, who haven’t experienced the power of the Gospel in their lives.  And yet I think South Fellowship is such a warm, loving, caring community, who does believe in the power of the Gospel, would you agree? And I believe God is calling us not to be content in settling for less than transformed lives.   And so we’re asking Jesus to send us LOTS of people who don’t know Him.  We’re asking Him to transform their lives from the inside out, that they would experience freedom and transformation they didn’t even know was possible, and that their lives would be formed into the wholeness of Jesus.  And we’re praying that the next time we do a survey, the amount of people who didn’t know Jesus prior to coming here, but met Him and had their lives turned upside down by the Gospel, would increase dramatically.  That happens from you and I inviting people to come be a part of this.

But we’re also not assuming that just because so many of us knew Jesus before coming to South, that we don’t need to experience transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives either.   And so we’re going to journey together for the next 8 weeks or so and chew on what transformation really means; and more specifically, what being formed fully in the image of Christ means, and look at some practical areas of our lives we believe Jesus wants to transform.

Now, imagine if Jesus did a transformative work in you.  Think about where you are and the chart that we looked at.  Think honestly.  Imagine if Jesus began to really move and change things in you.  What if you began connecting with God on a regular basis?  Imagine if your thinking were different, if those old patterns of thinking let go and new life came to your thoughts.  What if your body, even if it was broken in some way, became a partner to you in your formation?  What if you had a grasp on your emotions and they were healthy?  What if those broken relationships were made new?  What if your understanding of vocation became healthy and you partnered fully with Jesus in bringing His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?  Imagine if your relationship to your money, your time, your talents, and other resources God has blessed you with was healthy and you were living fully on mission with God.  Wouldn’t that be great?  That’s exactly what we’re dreaming of in this series.

Paul gives us the mechanism to get there—Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  We’re going to unpack that through this series.  And I want to say, this series is going to be a great one for all of us to invite our friends and family and neighbors who need to experience the transforming power of the Gospel.  My prayer is that both those who don’t know Jesus, and those who’ve known Jesus for a long time, will experience freedom like they’ve never experienced, and transformation they didn’t even know was possible.

Now, to frame up transformation as we prepare to get into this series, I want to quickly give you four observations about transformation, and then I want us to close with a few moments of chewing on what we’ve learned through prayer and practice.

First thing, transformation is a promise.  Transformation isn’t just possible, it’s a promise.  It’s not something we have to beg God to want to do.  It’s something Jesus desires for all of us.  If you go all the way back to Abrahamic Covenant, God promised Abraham he would build a great nation from his descendants.  But it wasn’t about real estate and massive numbers of people.  It was a promise that down the line, Jesus would enter the picture and that the brokenness that was in all creation and in all of humanity would be transformed and pulled back into shalom.

I want to look at 2 Corinthians 3:17-18—Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  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.   It doesn’t say if you pray hard enough or do all the right things, you’ll be transformed.  It says we ARE being transformed into His image. The Scriptures are clear that if we are IN Christ, if we know Jesus, we WILL be transformed.  It’s a promise that has its roots in all eternity.

The second thing about transformation we need to keep in mind is that transformation is a process.  We don’t live in a culture that really likes process. We live in a culture where we want to order a Big Mac and have it delivered to our door!  That’s where we’re at as a society.   The reason I went to Florida was to work with a psychologist who specializes in working with Christian leaders.  There was no crisis or emergency (until I almost drowned); I simply went to get a tune up and to make sure I’m the healthiest leader I can be in this season.  I went with some things in my life that I was realizing were triggering me, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. While that was happening, I made a fleeting comment about something that happened in my childhood.  It was some stuff I thought I had already dealt with.  My therapist said, “Let’s go back to that and talk through it.”  Of course, I was like, “No thanks!”   But we did, and I’m so thankful.  But I also was a little bit surprised to realize that this thing had a hold of me and I didn’t know it.  I had some woundedness, some patterns of thinking, I had held on to for 30+ years, and they were holding me back.  I went back to my hotel to process, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t made more progress in this area than I had.  But I also realized that it was a process, that you don’t typically just wave a magic wand and everything is all better.  I have been nursing a sore Achilles for months.  Believe me, I wish there was a pill I could take and it heal instantly.  I know God could heal it instantly, but He didn’t choose that path for some reason.  And for most of us, that’s how the process of formation looks.

One thing we’ve been talking about at South is that as followers of Jesus we’re seeking to live in His way with His heart.  That means we’re growing in being with Jesus, that we’re spending more time being with Jesus.  That we’re becoming like Jesus, that is wholeness.  Becoming whole human beings fully formed in the wholeness of Christ.  And that we’re doing as Jesus did, meaning that we are living out the Gospel, we’re doing his action, we’re bringing renewal to all the parts of the earth.  The thing is, have you ever thought of this, the disciples of Christ had proximity.  They literally could touch him, talk to him, they were with him, they were close.  Even they struggled in the process of formation.  Peter chopped a guy’s ear off!  I’d say he still had some work to do.

Earlier I talked about water.  It’s a great example of the process of transformation.  Water freezes at 0°C and it becomes a solid at that point.  I didn’t know this, but there are thirteen different kinds of solid for water!  The most common is ice.  Here’s what’s crazy though, to go from just shy of freezing (liquid, not quite frozen) to one degree shy of boiling takes something like 418 joules.  But to go that last ONE degree, to change matter from one substance to another, takes five times as much energy!!  Why?  Because it’s not just being conformed in to a new bucket, but because it’s changing state.  It’s going from one type of thing to another type of thing.   So no wonder it often feels like transformation is taking forever.  We can make some little shifts here and there, but to truly go from one state to another in some part of our lives takes a LOT of energy.

You’ll look up some days and go, “Oh man, I’m not doing very well at being with Jesus,” or “I don’t look very much like Jesus,” or “I’m not doing as Jesus did and partnering with him.”   I wish I could just wave the magic wand and instantly do great at being with Jesus, becoming like Jesus, and doing as Jesus did, but God takes us through a process, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and that’s okay.

The third thing about transformation is that transformation takes practice.  If we’re becoming more like Jesus, does it just happen without us doing anything?  No!  We want people to move towards wholeness, to be with Jesus, like Jesus, and to do as Jesus did, but not only is it a process, it takes practice—one foot in front of the other.  You don’t wake up and go run a marathon without practice.  Well, you can try, but you won’t succeed!  Why?  Because it takes practice and you have to build up your muscles.  One thing we’re very committed to as we pursue spiritual formation at South is to pair the target—being with, becoming like, and doing as, in the wholeness of Jesus—with practices that help us move there.  That’s why they’re called “practices.”  When we give you a list of practices, it’s not just to sound spiritual, it literally is to help you practice your faith, to grow toward wholeness in Christ.  We’re looking at some practices that help us move into the presence of Jesus, some practices that move us towards wholeness, and some practices that move us into renewal, as we do as Jesus did.   I love the Message paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 9:24 — You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.  All good athletes train hard, so we have to engage in practices that train us in the way of righteousness.  Sometimes that feels like a slog, but it leads to being transformed into the image of Jesus.

The last thing about transformation is that transformation requires partnership.  Before you think this all happens in some kind of a vacuum, transformation doesn’t happen solo.  It requires a partnership of some kind to make it happen.  In our case, it’s first a partnership with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one doing the heavy lifting here. Sure, we can engage in practices that grow us, but the spark, the fuel, the power is the transformative power of the Spirit of God, which is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  All too often, we can thwart the work of the Holy Spirit and not allow the Spirit to transform us from the inside out.  So we HAVE to partner with the spirit, we HAVE to invite Jesus to do this work, and we HAVE to trust that the power comes from Him.

Finally, growth happens best in community. We have to partner with one another.  We have to wrestle with the Scriptures, with how we’re wired, with our baggage, all in community.  I have to process the stuff I talk about with my therapist and I can just keep talking to her, but I need to do it in community.  You guys see me, you know me, you see things I can’t possibly see about myself, so by immersing myself, willingly, into community, God uses that to form and shape me into the image and the likeness of Jesus.  And He does that for you too.  You need to be deeply rooted into community.  You can do it individually, but you can also do it one-on-one with spiritual directors and mentors, in small groups with others, in mid-size gatherings, and in our weekend gatherings.  We’re working to find ways to help us all stay rooted in community.  The truth is you need to take a step into community, if you’re not.   So lean in to your partnership with the Holy Spirit, and lean in to the natural partnership God gives you by embracing community.  You’ll never become the person God created you to be, if you don’t lean into the community He designed you to be in, for the sake of being formed into the image and likeness of Jesus.

So, in this series we’re talking about not being conformed, but being transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus, that means every part of our life.  I’m excited to see how God will use the Scriptures combined with the power of the Holy Spirit to touch our lives and transform us from the inside out during this series.  I’ll leave you one final Mulholland quote:  “Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”  The last thing I want to leave you with is….for the sake of others.  It’s not just so we look good.  It’s not that we look a lot like Jesus and we’re having our little fellowship with Jesus.  It’s for the sake of others and that’s what Jesus came for—I did not come to be served but to serve.  That is the posture of Jesus.  The reason it’s important you get to know how you’re wired, you work through your baggage, you look at all the areas of your life, and you invite the Holy Spirit to transform you, is not just so you look good, it’s so you can look outward and impact other people for the sake of the Gospel.  The kingdom of God is here and we get to be participants in that.  We have to take steps to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out.   So that’s what we’re going to be unpacking.  Every week we’re going to be talking about a different area of our lives.  I want to ask you to invite your friends, your family.

I want to end today a little bit different—with a prayer and a practice.  I want you to focus now on what we’ve talked about.  I want to end with a time of just looking at ourselves honestly.  This takes vulnerability, by the way, to say, “I am going to bare my soul to the Spirit of Christ and let Him be honest with me.”   There is a great opportunity, if we do that, for the Spirit of God to move and shape us.

The first thing I want to give you is a prayer and ask you to read this with me together.  This is from Psalm 139:23-24.  It’s in your service guide so you can take it home and pray this prayer and use this as a time to ask the Lord, “Wash over me.  Speak to me.”   Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.  Take a moment and think of the words to that prayer, just between you and the Spirit of Jesus.  I encourage you to pray this prayer over and over this week, and allow the Spirit to show you the parts of your life that maybe you’re holding fiercely onto, not letting the Holy Spirit transform.  What happens when we meet the Spirit?  Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom….   That’s what we’re hoping for everyone in our community.

The practice for this week is on the back of your service guide.  There’s a wholeness wheel.  I’d encourage you to take this and read these areas and maybe just say, “Hey, Spirit, I’m really connecting with Jesus so I’m going to shade this one all the way in.  But my mind, maybe I’m struggling and it won’t be as filled in.”  Be honest.  This is not a time to lie to yourself or look better than you are, but it’s a time to be honest at where you’re at.  Take that and fill it out and ask:  What areas of my life still need to be transformed?  Fill out this tool and you’ll see that there may be some areas that need work.  If you do it and all areas are a perfect ten, I’d encourage you to take it to your spouse and they’ll help you whittle it down more accurately.  Or show it to a friend and they’ll be honest and help you whittle it down. I’m not going to give you a formula and a little pill and it’ll all be transformed; I’m going to make you live in that tension for the next several weeks, but we’re going to start talking about those areas and letting the Holy Spirit work in us.  Next week Dr. Wenig is going to share on Transformed Relationships, which is one of the most significant parts of our lives.

But I don’t want to leave us with the misery of going, “Oh man, I need a lot of work in this area, in this area, in this area,” so I also want you to pair it with gratitude by asking this question:   Where have I experienced transformation in my life?  You’ll see some things on that wheel that look like you may have a long way to go, but hopefully you’ll see areas of that wheel that the Spirit of Christ has redeemed, has moved, has transformed, has changed in you.  Be honest with God and say, “I’m so grateful that in at least this area you’ve done some significant.”

The last thing I’ll say and then I’ll pray is if you’ve never decided to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, I just want to encourage you to do that.  It doesn’t have to be a big process, it can be simply submitting and saying, “Jesus, I want to live in your way with your heart.  I want to be transformed from the inside out.”  There are a lot of people who go to church their whole life and they don’t actually commit to following Jesus.  I’m going to ask you to consider doing that.  If you do that, I’d love for you to come talk to me or one of our elders after this gathering.  We’re trusting that God’s going to transform hearts and lives in such significant ways.  On the very last day of this series, we’re going to do baptisms together and we’re going to celebrate the transformation God has done in people.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to serve you.  Thank you that your Spirit is at work, that you, Jesus, invite us into transformation, into biblical wholeness, making us into the person you created us to be.  Thank you for your work on the cross.  Thank you for the journey you’re inviting us into.  We pray for your blessing, your mercy, and your favor to be upon us.  Together this church said, in the strong and powerful name of Jesus…..Amen.