Meditations on “God of Transformation: 15: Is this too impossible?
John 3:4 How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
There is a form of religious life that is content with a religion that reveals itself through ritual “in church” and in “being nice”. These people, when asked, say they are Christians for, after all, they go to church regularly don’t they and they ARE by many standards, nice people. The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, about such people – “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:5) These are people who take on a form niceness or religiosity but who have not been impacted by the power of God.
We have now seen two week’s worth of these studies (assuming you read one a day) and so what we have seen again and again is God changing people or situations by His power. Again the apostle Paul wrote, “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Cor 4:20) Mere words do not take a person into God’s kingdom, the place where God’s presence is, where God’s reign is expressed. It is power – God’s power. This is the truth that many do not like, that we can only enter God’s kingdom, we can only be truly changed on the inside, by HIS power working in us and transforming us.
And this brings us to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and the use by Jesus of the phrase being ‘born again’. Oh, say some defensively, this is just those people who try and be super-spiritual, trying to make it all sound something more complex that it is. Well actually you cannot be more simple that to accept Jesus’ very simple analogy: “Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (Jn 3:3) Make that more simple and you might say, “No one can enter into a living relationship with God unless he or she receives a completely new life.”
Now note the words “new life”. This is not “a new set of rules to follow” which is what we put on and try to work on, but it is an absolute change of life, which starts on the inside and works outwards. It means the things you start saying or doing come about because of the change that is taking place on the inside. There is a transformation here that goes beyond mere superficial behaviour; this is heart change, attitude change, belief change, life transformation.
Oh this is too complicated, says the nice religious person, you don’t need to make it that complicated! No, precisely, it is not complicated it is ultra simple. I don’t normally try and distil things down to ‘three point sermons’ but let’s try and do that for simplicity sake here.
First there is a change in belief. In fact there are two beliefs that change and they may come in different orders with different people. The first change in belief is about me. I come to realise that I am lost, I am not the good person I kidded myself I was, as much as I put on a good front. I try to be nice but every now and then I get a flash of insight and realise that I am actually not nice and this comes when I say or do things less than are worthy of a nice person. Most of the time I used to cover it up and pretend that’s not how things were but it didn’t matter how much I tried, when I was being honest with myself, I knew I was still just a self-centred individual and God seems miles away. I could go to church but it was mere ritual and the thought of God being close or even speaking to me was completely foreign.
It was my recognition that I needed help that turned me in God’s direction and I found that I was confronted by a God of love who wanted to come and bring change to me. This God was revealed through the person of Jesus Christ, God’s unique Son, who came and expressed the love of God in a most wonderful way but then, allowed himself to be crucified, put to death in the most horrendous way possible. Why? I was told it was to take the punishment that was due to me for all the sins of my life. So how does that affect me, I asked. It means the way is open for you to come close to God and receive His love and forgiveness. How can that happen?
Thus we come to the second thing which is a simple action by me. I bow before Him and surrender my life to Him and ask Him to forgive me. It IS that simple.
Then the third thing is what God does for me. First there is His declarations – I am forgiven, I am cleansed and I am adopted as His child. Second, there is His action, which is to put His own Holy Spirit within my life, within me, inside me – yes, that’s it. His Spirit is His power and so He doesn’t just call us children, He gives us power or the ability to live as His children. We have this new power source on the inside and it is that which transforms us. His very presence within me, picks up the change of attitude that I offered to Him – for Him to take and lead and transform my life – and He does just that. He communicates with my by His Spirit within, as well as by His word, the Bible, and He guides me, teaches me and leads me on. I am a new person, from the inside out, but it is not just me, it is Him in me. Again the apostle Paul put it, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17)
I could not do this because it is not merely a wish to change – I had had that before but couldn’t do it when I strived to. No, this only happens when I invite Him in and He comes in the power that is His Spirit, and He changes me from the inside out and empowers me to walk or live it out every day until I die and go to be with Him in heaven. Yes, it IS impossible humanly speaking, but this isn’t humanly speaking, this is the God of transformation being invited in and He comes and transforms.
To take out of context a beautiful little word from Jesus, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) How that encapsulates what happens. He comes knocking on our lives. We probably don’t realise that it is Him but when we start questioning who we are, that is Him knocking. He brings us to a point of surrender where we open the door of our lives – our will – and we invite Him in. Then look at the promise – He will come in and sit and share most intimately with us, that is what eating together is all about. That is the most beautiful picture possible perhaps that distinguishes the new life from that old self-centred and (in truth) godless life that we had previously. What an incredible transformation! Hallelujah!