Faithlife Sermons

2. Radical Transformation

Beyond Belief  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Me:

Welcome both in person and online as we continue with part two of our series Beyond Belief. In this series we are looking at four core verses from the New Testament letters of Romans and 1 Corinthians. As always, if you miss out on a Sunday because of vacation, you can always watch us online…anytime or catch the podcast. Just go to iowacitychurch.org to find all the information.
Everyone has something about their life that they want to change. It’s true. Right now, every single person here in this room or watching has something that they want to change about your life. So what is holding your back?
A while back a company called Mission.org did a study of 1000 people who invested in personal development seminars/courses, set goals, and worked on those goals for 90 days. The data from those polls was pretty shocking — 96% of their personal development efforts completely failed. So even for people who are motivated to change, and who invest time and money into life transformation…even with all of that, it’s still hard to change!
Life change, life transformation is hard. There a joke that goes like this: “A guy said that in January he’s going to open a gym called Resolutions. It will have exercise equipment in it for the first month, then in February he’s going to turn it into a bar for the rest of the year.” The only reason it’s funny is because we know it’s true and for many, it’s kind of our story isn’t it?
However, this applies just as much to Christians. Jesus followers struggle with life change don’t they? There’s still losing weight and breaking bad habits and addictive behaviors, yet it’s even more than that. There are steps of growth. Increasing our faith and growing as a disciple of Jesus. What’s so interesting is that the whole message of the gospel is radical transformation and new life. All of the work of Jesus, from his life, teachings, atoning death on the cross to his resurrection for done specifically for us to live a new people in his kingdom. Radical transformation is what happens as we follow Jesus.
How many of you feel like you are in a season of transformation? Keep in mind I’m not talking about the aging process or weight gain. Are you transforming as a Christian? If not, how are we supposed to do that?
Thankfully we are not the first people to try and figure out that question. In fact, the apostle Paul as he wraps up his letter to the Roman church, provides two key verses that help us get on the road to radical life transformation.

God:

If you have a Bible or device, go to Romans chapter 12. If you are using the YouVersion Bible app, find Events. Then look for Iowa City Church. All the sermon notes and Scriptures will be right there on your device.
As you open up the NT, you have four books about how Jesus became the King through his death and resurrection. The invitation is then given to all people to be a part of God’s Kingdom and his work in this world. The book of Acts talks about how the Kingdom of God spreads from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria to the ends of the earth. The rest of the NT is all about helping all of this different Jesus followers live out this new life in their culture.
Take this letter the apostle Paul is writing to the church in Rome. Rome is a very diverse city, and this church is full of Christians who have a Jewish background, as well as people who were Gentile and had many different customs and cultural as well as religious backgrounds. So Paul spend the opening chapters of the letter describing the gospel and how grace works. Then he teaches on freedom; freedom from death, sin and the law. So his readers understand grace and being positioned in Christ. But where do they go from there? How can they change?
Chapter 12 is all about transformation. How to change behaviors, how to live in Jesus and how to live as family. Here is what Paul writes. Verse 2 is our core verse for the week, however, one and two really work together well…as you will see.
Romans 12:1–2 NIV
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. 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.
According to Paul, what is the basis or the motivation for transformation? “Mercy” Throughout this letter Paul has put before the readers that what motivates Christians to do what they do is God’s mercy. What do we deserve for our rebellion against God and his way to live life? Punishment, condemnation, death. Instead, through Jesus we have been shown mercy, we get another chance. What motivates us is mercy. I used to be a Christian who was motivated by fear, and duty. I know others who have been driven by guilt or obligation or even legalism. All of those motivations will fail us when it comes to not only following Jesus but to also experiencing life change. Mercy.
We are motivate by mercy, but what is the goal? Not to conform to the pattern of this world or the culture. In other words, don’t conform your life to the culture, instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The word “transformed” comes from the Greek word “metamorphosis”. Think of the caterpillar that goes into a cocoon and under goes a metamorphosis and exits the cocoon as a butterfly. So how can we be transformed people, people who look more like Jesus then our culture. People who model for our culture what it looks like to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Isn’t this really where we all feel the tension? I have to ask myself this question: “What do I want more? Conform to the culture or conform to Jesus?” One of the statements I make often about us as a church is this: We believe that following Jesus is the best way to live life. Do I believe that? Do I believe that loving God is important? Do I believe that loving my neighbor, no matter who they are is important? Or do I want to be a part of a culture that is drenched in selfishness, materialism, sexual immorality, jealousy and envy? This has always been my concern with my own life but with the lives of all of us: have we settled for a transactional gospel where we do just enough to not go to hell, but really don’t look much different from the culture. Or are we willing to be so devoted to Jesus that we really don’t want to look anything like the rest of culture. Until we are willing to acknowledge that this culture has nothing to offer us and that following Jesus is true life, transformation is going to be hard to find. The motivation is mercy, the goal is transformation.
I've recently come back from India where I heard of a little Hindu girl brought up in a strict Hindu family, who had come across Christians. Somebody asked her one day what she thought a Christian was. She thought for a few moments and replied, "Well as far as I can see, a Christian is somebody who is different from everybody else." Would that it was true.” ~ John Stott, Christians: Salt & Light
How is this going to happen? Well, we need a plan. I think all of us here are aware of the two big areas of life change categories that are the most common in our world. If you go to a book store or your favorite online bookstore, you are going to find two main categories when it comes to life change: Self-Help & Health & Wellness. In other words, Mind & Body.
The apostle Paul goes right after those two areas of our lives to bring about transformation.
The Mind - Paul says that we are transformed by the renewing of your mind. The word “renew” means to cause something to be new or different. Simply put, to transform we need to change the way we think…and this is much more difficult then what it sounds. Your mind is a product of it’s environment as well as the things you allow your mind to think about.
One’s mind will be renewed when a person makes a conscience effort to change their environment and change what they think about. When Suzi and I first started to date, she would go with me to hear me preach. One day she told me that I pronounce the word “wash” worsh. I denied it. But I began to realize that she was right. I even remember her saying to me, “You know, it’s not Worshington D.C.!” Where did I learn that? My environment. That is how my mom said it. There were two things I had to do, remove myself from that environment…and then make a conscience decision to pronounce it wash! I still, to this day think about it when I pronounce wash.
Our minds are powerful and we need to always check our environment and what kind of media, music, or people are influencing us…and we have to make the effort to change how we think. This is a huge teaching point for Paul in all of his letters in regard to transformation.
2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Transformation means we need to not let our thoughts run wild and free through our brains. We take every thought captive and either get rid of them or hold on to them.
Author Dallas Willard says this:
One of the greatest powers we have is to choose what we think about.” ~ Dallas Willard
Every affair, started with a lustful thought that wasn’t taken captive. The gossip that came out of your mouth started with a thought of envy that wasn’t taken captive. The lies we believe about ourselves started as thoughts that were not taken captive.
Here are some ways you can think differently:
Scripture Memory/Reading Scripture
Worship Music
Sermon/ Sermon Podcasts
Removing Music, Media, People that are unhealthy influences in your life.
Transformation starts with mind.
However, Paul also addresses our bodies.
The Body - “offer your body as a living sacrifice”
Just so we are clear on what Paul is teaching, a sacrifice is when an animal, usually the best of the heard, was slaughtered and put on the altar and sacrificed to God. It’s giving ones very best to God.
Paul flips that around and says that we who want to live these transformed lives, we must offer our bodies as, living sacrifices. We don’t kill ourselves. Instead, we make a decision, each day to put our bodies on the altar for God, in worship. Another word for this is obedience.
We typically think of the word obedience or sacrifice, when it has to do with something that we don’t want to do. We don’t naturally want to conform…so we obey…we do the hard things that Jesus asks us to do. The apostle Paul gives a helpful list of a few items to remove from our lives and then a few to put on.
Colossians 3:5 NIV
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
These things need to be removed if we are going to be transformed.
Colossians 3:12–13 NIV
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Here are some ways that you can be transformed by being obedient:
Go to Church (Fellowship)
Find A Regular Ministry to Serve Others
Be Generous
Practice forgiveness.
Pursue an Mentoring/Discipling Relationship
Your life doesn’t have to be this way. You can change. Align your mind and body with Jesus to experience life transformation.
Let me wrap up with a simple illustration of what this looks like. Pastor and author Timothy Keller tells this story.
Some years ago, I had a relative who never would wear a seat belt. Every time I talked to him, he would get in the car, but wouldn't wear his seat belt. We all nagged him to no avail. Then one day he got in the car and put his seat belt on right away. We said, "What happened to you?" He said, "A couple weeks ago, I went to see a friend of mine in the hospital. He was in a car crash, and he went through the windshield. He had like 200 stitches in his face. For some strange reason, ever since then, I've been having no problem buckling up."
Seeing another person, with 200 stitches changed the way he thought. It changed his mind. This triggered him to be obedient. I’m going to take an extra couple of seconds to reach back and attach the seat belt. Now, he’s totally different…transformed.
Your life doesn’t have to be this way. You can change. Align your mind and body with Jesus to experience life transformation.
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