Church: 9 Marks of a New Testament Church: Transformation

Livestream 8-16-2020

We are looking at 9 marks of a church as part of our series on “The Church”. These are our 9 measurables.

We are on the 4th of 9 marks of a NT church. 

Preaching / Biblical Theology / Gospel / Transformation / Evangelism / Membership / Discipline / Discipleship / Leadership

Transformation is vital. Some prefer the word “conversion”. Transformed is used two times (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Conversion is actually used one time in Acts 15:3. 

Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Acts 15:3 (ESV) So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.

Just because a word is not used at all or much in the bible does not mean that the idea is absent. We often have to put language to ideas presented in the biblical text. This is just good responsible teaching. 

The reason transformation is vital is that Jesus preaches a message that calls for repentance, a turning away from something and coming after something else. 

We have learned from Scripture that mankind is hardwired into sin and in need of something powerful to happen in order to bring them to be able to do what Jesus is demanding of them. 

Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Everywhere Jesus preaches the gospel of the kingdom, there are two responses: 

  1. People don’t repent, and they turn away from following Jesus.

OR

  1. There is a miraculous change in which people drop everything and follow Jesus. 
    1. They are so radically changed that they simply come after him or immediately go and begin making disciples.
      1. The woman at the well turned missionary. 
      2. The demoniac who wanted to follow Jesus but was sent back to the Decapolis to tell his family how much Jesus had done for him. 
        1. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Decapolis had a robust Christian presence in the first century and it is attributed to this cat who we don’t even know his name.
      3. Mary Magdalene, who Jesus casts out the demons and she is made new. 

These examples are why we can’t talk about the gospel without needing to talk about what the gospel does to save people.  

Transformation is why the gospel is never merely good works done by Christians. 

The gospel is the powerful message that transforms people into new creations.

Therefore, the gospel must be followed up with an invitation to repent/turn/believe. 

  1. That invitation reveals if someone has been transformed. 

We can’t talk about the gospel without talking about the transformation of the gospel. 

So, what is transformation?

Transformation is God’s good initiative of grace through faith he gives so that we can’t brag we believed on our own or earned our salvation. 

  • Grace in the bible is never presented as some weak pretending there has been no violation of holiness. 
  • Grace in the bible is presented as the good and powerful justifying initiative of God toward sinners. 

Ezekiel 11:19-20 (ESV) And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Psalm 19:7 (ESV) The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul;

Ezekiel 37:4 (ESV) Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

Ezekiel 37:7-10 (ESV) So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

John 6:44 (ESV) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

  1. Many were following because he turned water into wine in John 2.
    1. And Jesus did not entrust himself to them because he knew John 6 was coming. He knew their heart. 
  2. Many followed Jesus in John 6 when he fed the 5k with five loaves of bread and two fish. 
    1. And when Jesus then tells them they have to drink his blood and each his flesh (wine and bread), they leave him just like he knew they would. 
    2. That is why Jesus said John 6:44

Therefore, transformation is God’s good initiative of grace through faith in response to the awakening of the preached gospel.

  1. If we don’t believe transformation begins with the good initiative of grace, why pray for God to save sinners? We are asking him to do what they can’t / won’t do on their own. 

Transformation is God’s good initiative of grace through faith he gives so that we can’t brag we believed on our own or earned our salvation. 

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

  1. So, God initiates by waking us from death and giving us faith so we can then actively believe. 
    1. Acts 16:14 (ESV) One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
  2. And all this is God’s gift so we can’t ever boast we made it happen or earned it. 
    1. Good news alert: And if you can’t do it or earn it, you can’t lose it!

Transformation is receiving the promise of all of God’s saving so that our full transformation in Christ is as good as done, therefore, we don’t despair but hope. 

Romans 8:29-30 (ESV) For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Foreknew (Psalm 139)

Predestined (Marked me as his)

Called (awakened me through the gospel)

Justified (made me legally righteous)

Sanctified (made me holy)

Glorified (completed my transformation into a completely redeemed human bearing God’s image)

All of these are constantive aorists. That means they are stated as already accomplished even though they are still being given as promised. 

  1. This truth makes transformation a process of growth in Christ. So persevere. 
  2. This truth makes transformation a great hope to set our sights on so we don’t despair because they are counted as done.

Transformation is being made into a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Transformation is being drafted off of the losing team to the winning team. 

Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Transformation is being brought from not seeing and understanding to seeing and understanding and having the mind of Christ. 

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

My story of transformation 

Superwow 1992, Jekyll Island, Georgia.

I was a chaperone on a youth trip and up to no good. One evening at a worship service, the preacher was preaching on the justifying work of the cross, and in the middle of the sermon, I was literally warmed on my insides as the message of the gospel was doing something in my soul. 

I heard like I had never heard before. I was convinced that it was right. 

Uninvited, God was changing my desires. And I was miraculously transformed before the sermon even ended. 

I sat there literally dumbfounded. I was emotional. I was new. I had a whole new set of desires. 

I sought out a trusted person to tell them what had happened, and I’ve never been the same since. 

I was now a Christian, and my transformation was just beginning. It’s a process, and I didn’t know it just yet, but God was not through with me. There was lots to clean up, and there still is. 

About the time Jesus saved me, I was tired of the state I was in physically from an accident that tore my ACL, MCL, PCL, broke some of the bones in my knee, and caused some significant tissue damage. I wanted to compete. I loved to compete. So, I started taking up triathlons. The Ironman intrigued me because I remembered watching Julie Moss drag herself across the finish line in 1982 at the Ironman in Hawaii. Man, that’s an incredible athlete, and I thought, since I’m not playing the holy trinity of sports anymore, I should get after this grown man/woman sport.  

As I progressed, I discovered that my knee was a serious limitation, and diet and work capacity were new challenges hampered by my knee that had prevented me from becoming a Marine like I wanted. 

In the sports world, there is a dark side that most will never hear about. If you look for it, you can find it. I found it with a few questions. I found a person who knew a person who could hook me up with some “supplements” to help in my training. I was not a professional athlete, so I thought, why not. It was not “drugs” like I knew drugs, just some natural “supplements”. 

I began using those and my training took off. I was a monster in the water, running and biking. 

I was beginning “ministry”, had a sense of desire to lead in the local church, and studying my bible. I was interning at my church, and met a young lady named Jennifer.

We started dating, and things were going really good. Winter turned into spring and training was also going good and a couple of providential events were lined up by God to continue my transformation/sanctification in Christ. 

I was mountain biking up Lavender Mountain after completing a long swim and run earlier in the day. It was getting dark, and I happened upon this guy trying to get his girlfriend out of the tower in the middle of the Berry reservoir. 

She had nearly drowned earlier, and managed to get to that tower somehow, and would not leave it. It was near dark, and she had been there since about 3 PM. 

Long story short, I begin rescue swimming this girl to the bank and she rolls over on me and grabs my legs and starts taking both of us down. I was able to get control of the situation and get her and me to the bank. 

That event did a number on my pshyche when it came to water…can’t see the bottom..deep water..swimming in that kind of water became almost impossible Therefore, it did a number on my mental ability to compete in open natural bodies of water. 

I kept taking my “supplements” and running and biking and swimming in a pool, but I needed to be in water like I’d be racing in, and kept working to try and get over that mental block.

Pretty much from the time I started using the “supplements” the Holy Spirit was all over me. I’d ignore him, and push on into my regimine. But the Holy Spirit never stopped goading me. It’s almost like the Lord’s words to Saul “why do you kick against the goads” was my reality. I tried to kick him off, but he is not kickable offable. 

After this near drowning, I knew God was getting my attention to force me to a place to stop. He brought that near drowning about to draw my attention to his voice I’d been ignoring for so long.

One day on a run out on Snow Loop at Berry, I began to feel like I was having what felt like a stroke. I felt my right side begin to draw, pull down. It started to be like I was being pulled down to the ground. I laid down in the middle of that trail thinking I was going to die right there. In that moment of desperation, I called to the Lord Jesus and vowed that if he would get me off that mountain, I’d stop using those “supplements”.

He did it, and I’ve never gone back to any of that. I’ve kept my vow to the Lord, and the crazy thing is there is no temptation to want to break it.

God refused to let me go the way of wrong, and he brought me to holiness. 

My personal transformation has been a lifelong journey of God intervening by grace. 

These two big supernatural ways are kind of cool, but there are hundreds of small supernatural and micro providential ways that mark my transformation by the gospel into a follower of Jesus and growth in holiness.

Why? Because God takes the gospel and transforms us into new creations and then keeps working on us to fully transform us into fully restored humans who will one day perfectly put God’s image on display. 

He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. 

It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.

How loving and patient he must be, he’s still working on me. 

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