How many of you remember the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers? For those of you who don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, it was a low-budget Japanese animated classic the dubbed badly into English during the Eighties and Nineties. The storyline revolved around ordinary teenagers who in the time of crisis could “morph” into extraordinary beings. “Morph” has actually worked its way into our vocabulary and is used in computer graphics. Most of you have seen commercials where there is a face and it smoothly changes into another face. This is known as digital morphing. The way these teenagers changed into extraordinary people was by the cry, “It’s morphing time.” What is morphing? Most of you know the word metamorphosis. Most of us know the process that moves a caterpillar to a butterfly. The process is known as metamorphosis. It is a transformation. As we look at this morning’s passage we see that we are called to be transformed.
One of the questions that is being asked of us pastors this year by The Wesleyan Church is this: “Are you living the transformed life right now?” The second is related to it. “Are you leading a transforming church? These are some great questions that we need to be asking, especially in light of last week’s message. This is part of the getting back to basics approach that James would have told us to do. Are you living the transformed life right now is not only a good question for pastors, but for each of us. It’s a question that the Wesleyan Church is beginning to look at and there are changes happening that are encouraging. Remember to be in prayer for our General Superintendents (especially considering that the General Board will be electing a new GS in September to replace Dr. Holdren). Also be in prayer for Dr. Jim Dunn. I see some encouraging signs in the Department of Spiritual Formation.
It’s a beginning that the Wesleyan Church is beginning to make. There are two important things we are going to look at in our scripture this morning. The purpose in our lives as Christians and our purpose as a church lie within II Corinthians 5:11-6:2
11It is because we know this solemn fear of the Lord that we work so hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12Are we trying to pat ourselves on the back again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart before God. 13If it seems that we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. 15He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them.
16So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! 17What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
18All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. 20We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, “Be reconciled to God!” 21For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
6:1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to reject this marvelous message of God’s great kindness. 2For God says,
“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”
Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.
As we look at this morning’s passage we see that we are called to be transformed. Look at verse 17: 17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
We are not the same anymore. We are changed. “Are you living the transformed life right now? Most of you will remember Popeye, the Sailor Man. This spinach-eating, Olive Oyl loving hunk of a man says, “I yam what I yam and that’s all I yam.” For Popeye there was no hope of transformation. Do we as Christians make this our rallying cry? I yam what I yam and that’s all I yam.” You mean there’s no hope of transformation? Then the scriptures must be lying to us.
You remember that I said there are two things I would like to point out. Yes, we need to live a transformed life, but how do we get there? Look at verse 18, 18All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.
We are to be Christ’s Ambassadors. We are to be representatives of the King. God sent Jesus Christ into the world to reconcile us to God. The greatest transformation in our lives should take place when we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts. We use the word saved and I realize that we are saved from sin, but we are also converted, we are transformed. You don’t hear many instant transformation stories any more. But we know God is able to transform us in an instant. That is why I believe that we don’t gradually become a Christian. There is a definitive time when we received Jesus as Savior and he starts the transformation process from what we were to Christ-likeness. What are the two important things I was getting at? They are reconciliation or redemption and transformation. Are you living the transformed life right now? What are the fruits of you living the transformed life? If you’re living the transformed life, you life should look like the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. Are these fruits visible in your life? Let me tell you a story about Hank. Hank was a cranky guy. He did not smile easily, and when he did, the smile often had a cruel edge to it, coming at someone’s expense. He had a knack for discovering islands of bad news in oceans of happiness. He would always find a cloud where others saw a silver lining.
Hank rarely affirmed anyone. He operated on the assumption that if you compliment someone, it might lead to a swelled head, so he worked to make sure everyone stayed humble. His was a ministry of cranial downsizing.
His native tongue was complaint. He carried judgment and disapproval the way a prisoner carries a ball and chain. Although he went to church his whole life, he was never unshackled.
A deacon in the church asked him one day, “Hank, are you happy?”
Hank paused to reflect, then replied without smiling, “Yeah.”
“Well, tell your face,” the deacon said. But so far as anybody knows, Hank’s face never did find out about it.
Occasionally, Hank’s joylessness produced unintended joy for others.
There was a period of time, John Ortberg relates, when his primary complaints centered on the music in the church. “It’s too loud!” Hank protested-to the staff, the deacons, the ushers, and eventually the innocent visitors of the church.
We finally had to take Hank aside and explain that complaining to complete strangers was not appropriate and he would have to restrict his laments to a circle of intimate friends. And that was the end of it. So we thought.
A few weeks later, a secretary buzzed me on the intercom to say that an agent from OSHA was here to see me. “I’m here to check out a complaint, “he said. As I tried to figure out who on the staff would have called OSHA over a church problem, he began to talk about decibel levels at airports and rock concerts.
“Excuse me,” I said, “are you sure this was someone on the church staff that called?”
“No,” he explained, “If anyone calls—whether or not they work here—we are obligated to investigate.”
Suddenly the light dawned: Hank has called OSHA and said, “The music at my church is too loud.” And they sent a federal agent to check it out.
By this time the rest of the staff had gathered in my office to see the man from OSHA.
“We don’t mean to make light of this,” I told him, “but nothing like this has ever happened around here before.”
“Don’t apologize, “he said, “Do you have any idea how much ridicule I’ve faced around my office since everyone discovered I was going out to bust a church?”
Sometimes Hank’s joylessness ended in comedy, but more often it produced sadness. His children did not know him. His son had a wonderful story about how he met his wife at a dance, but he never told his father because Hank did not approve of dancing.
Hank could not effectively love his wife or his children or people outside his family. Whatever capacity he once might have had for joy or wonder or gratitude atrophied. He critiqued and judged and complained, and his soul got a little smaller each year.
I tell you that story from John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” because John goes on to say. Hank was not changing. He was once a cranky young guy and he grew up to be a cranky old man. But even more troubling than his lack of change was the fact that nobody was surprised by it. It was as if everyone simply expected that his soul would remain withered and sour year after year, decade after decade. No one was bothered by the condition. In the words of James, Brothers, this ought not be. As believers we have expectations. We expect that a man like Hank would affirm certain religious beliefs. We expect that he would attend services, read the Bible, support the church financially, pray regularly, and avoid certain sins. But we don’t expect that he will progressively become the way Jesus would be if he were in Hank’s place.
As we prepare communion, I want to ask the question again, “Are you living the transformed life right now?” Transformation is expected. Someone once asked John Wesley, “How often should you serve communion?” Wesley replied, “As often as you can.” I know the arguments say we can make it a meaningless ritual, but we are supposed to pray and read the Bible continually. Does that make those processes a meaningless ritual? By no means. For Wesley, Holy Communion was the means of grace through which we are remembered to the real presence of Jesus. The reality of Jesus’ divine, grace giving presence in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, must not be minimized. While Wesley did not accept the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation, he nevertheless affirmed that Jesus was REALLY present to the believer when the believer ate and drank of the elements with faith. This means of grace Wesley identified closely with sanctifying grace … Communion provides the believer with the access to the grace which they need to literally walk the Christian walk and improve their Christianity toward the goal that God has for them in Christ Jesus. Let me ask the question that we started with, “Are you living the transformed life right now? Let’s take a moment and examine ourselves before God.