I have appreciated the lessons from Anthony concerning the topic of transformation from Romans 12:1-2. It is the beginning of v1 that caused me to pause, “I beseech you, therefore…” (NKJV). The NIV reads, “Therefore, I urge you…” while the ETRV reads, “So I beg you…”. In his lesson, Anthony spoke about how this is an invitation from our loving God to rise above the worldliness surrounding us and become more like Him. God echoes this invitation in numerous places in the New Testament. For instance, Jesus exhorted His disciples, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Paul’s exhortation to “…put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man” (Ephesians 4:22-23) striving to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). He said something similar in Colossians 3:1-17. He also encouraged Timothy to “be diligent,” the ETRV reads “do your best” (2nd Timothy 2:15). Peter, of course, did likewise, encouraging his readers to give “all diligence, add to your faith” (2nd Peter 1:5). It is this beckoning call to change that often bothers me the most. Why? Because it is difficult! Frustrating! Sometimes I focus so much on the arduous task of change that I lose sight of the reason for the transformation. I forget the BECAUSE of it all.
“For the love of Christ compels us…”
(2nd Corinthians 5:14)
Although this verse is not speaking of change, it reveals a driving force that is crucial for change: the love of Christ. Paul brought out this idea in Romans 12:1 as Paul speaks of “the mercies of God.” Although we see God’s love throughout history, its ultimate expression is in the sacrifice of His Son and our Savior. A love that nothing in this world or the spiritual realm can separate us from (Romans 8:38-39), a love that has brought us out of the pits of slavery, making us more than conquerors (Romans 12:37). A love that would cause the Psalmist to write, “Your faithful love is better than life. My lips praise you” (Psalm 63:3, ETRV). And again, in Psalm 86:15, “My Lord, you are a kind and merciful God. You are patient, loyal, and full of love” (ETRV). A love that the apostle Paul yearned for his readers to come to know more about, writing, “For this reason, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant you…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19). I want to be filled with Him, with His love. In some ways, that is the greatest difficulty when it comes to faith; that is, to believe that He who created the universe truly loves me, this broken and at times sinful person. But he does!
What does this have to do with spiritual transformation and growth? Let me begin with this simple fact; God yearns for us to grow into the likeness of His Son. That is a biblical reality as reflected in the verses above. Still, any time our efforts lose sight of God’s love, what He has done for us through Christ, this Christian journey becomes a façade, an ever-increasing burden that saps us of strength and purpose. Maybe that is why the Holy Spirit guided Paul to spend some time reminding his listeners about how they have been “blessed…with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3) and how God “who is rich in mercy…loves us” (Ephesians 2:4). The Holy Spirit guided Paul to talk about how “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,” having obtained “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians1:13-14). You see, transformation is not so we can obtain, but rather BECAUSE we have received such incredible blessings in Christ!
I plan to begin a series of lessons walking through some of the letters to the early churches in the coming weeks. As I do, we will have opportunities to focus on the love that is ours in Christ while at the same time considering how we can grow in His likeness. Although some of the lessons may not speak directly about this love, I hope it will always be at the forefront of our minds. Why? BECAUSE it is the love of Christ that needs to compel us. Walk in His grace, and may His peace engulf you with the hope that is found in no other than Jesus Christ.