Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Personal Transformation & the Gospel

Yesterday Sean Cordell, Pastor of Treasuring Christ Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, brought a devotional before the TCT church planters (see yesterday's post for context; Pastor Sean is on the far right in today's photo). He spoke with us about how personal transformation can happen when we reflect on our attitudes and actions in light of the gospel.

Often, he said, when we sin and feel regret for that sin our impulse is just to try harder, to encourage ourselves to do better next time. However, that will never bring change. Instead we must push past the surface and ask ourselves, Why did I do what I did? What was I craving at that moment? What did I believe about God and myself at that moment? Then, in light of our answers to these questions, the next step is to ask, What does the Bible say about my answers?

For instance, Sean shared the story of a time when he was irritated by someone because he had invaded "Sean's space." Sean's self-assessment was that his craving at that time was for his own comfort and pleasure and his belief at that time was that he was the most important person in the situation rather than God. So what does the Bible say about this? Matthew 20:26-28 came to mind, "It shall not be so among you [the followers of Jesus]. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Now, with the wisdom of the Word of God in hand, Sean was in a place to see transformation happen in his heart and actions. He was in a place where, by the power of Jesus Christ applied to his life by grace through faith, he could think and act differently and, more importantly, for different reasons, namely, the glory of God and the blessing of the other. Far from being some self-help scheme, Christianity is about the power of Christ pouring into our hearts through the Word of God and transforming us from one glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). Christianity is about the application of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. It's not at all about what we can do for him, it's about what he's already done for us, what he's doing for us, and what he will do for us.

Sean spoke for over an hour so I'm not doing justice to his devotional here, but I must say that I was so helped by this train of thought. I was moved by the idea that I must learn to preach the gospel to myself and to apply the things of Christ to my own heart in an intentional way. Or perhaps better put, I must learn to reflect on my attitudes and actions in light of the gospel and open myself to the transforming power of Christ. I was overjoyed to think of the twin facts that I do not have the will or power to change myself but that Christ has both.

Ephesians 2:4-10 says this: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Amen. May the power of God in Christ pulse through our hearts and minds until we are formed perfectly into the image of Christ.

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