November 12, 2017
Norwalk First United Methodist Church
Transformed by Grace, Faith and Love
23rd Sunday after Pentecost
Transformed by Faith
[Slide 1 “Message”] Today is our second week of our stewardship emphasis “Transformed by Grace, Faith, and Love.” Listen once again to our scripture passage for today from Hebrews 10:14.
[Slide 2 “Hebrews 10:14”] “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
[Slide 3 “Metamorphoumetha”] On the slide, you can see what we are focusing on today. “Meh-ta-mor-FOO-meh-tha.” You see the root of an important and fairly radical word in the English language, and in our message today, as well. Okay, here’s the English:
[Slide 4 “Be Transformed”] Transformation…not a little thing, a big thing.
[Slide 5 “Butterfly”] What you saw was the Greek word for transformed – metamorphosis – completely different in every way. This is the way we typically illustrate metamorphosis – caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Something that crawls changes into something that flies! It is amazing! This word is only used three times in the New Testament, and I think it’s interesting to see where.
[Slide 6 “Matthew 17:2”] The first is in Matthew 17:2. “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Just so you get a sense of how big a change the Greek word for “transformed” really is. It is used to denote the change Jesus underwent as he was transfigured. The disciples were able to see him as he truly was. In that moment, he changed from earthly to heavenly.
[Slide 7 “Romans 12:2”] The next time metamorphosis is used is in Romans 12:2. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In Romans 12, “meh-ta-mor-FOO-meh-tha” talks about a similar change, but it’s about us. By faith, we are change from creatures of the world, to citizens of Heaven, to followers of Jesus.
[Slide 8 “2 Corinthians 3:18”] And the last time it is used is in Second Corinthians 3:18. “And we all…are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Second Corinthians ties these two together. It is the change God works in us through the Holy Spirit, whom we receive by faith. He makes us more and more like Jesus.
I think it is interesting to see how God uses the word “transformed” in his Word. It illustrates a complete change, just like caterpillar to butterfly. From darkness to light; from death to life; from sinner to saint; from guilty to innocent; from slavery to freedom. From earthly to heavenly.
[Slide 9 “Transformed by Faith”] Remember our text from verse fourteen? It says, “perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” That’s true metamorphosis. We have moved from earthly creatures to saints, and have been given this joyful task and challenge of working together to support and strengthen God’s church so we can disciple the faithful, and reach the lost, with the love of Christ. We are stewards transformed by faith.
Are you feeling transformed? Do you feel different? I have to admit, some days I feel a lot less like a butterfly, and a lot more like a caterpillar, dragging myself around in the dirt. Or maybe a cocoon, kind of stuck in place, just waiting. Yes, we’re saints of light because of Jesus, but we’re also still bound to this sinful world. For now.
[Slide 10 “Hebrews 10:17”] But that’s the beauty of God’s transformation of us. We don’t have to feel it to know it’s there. The fact that we sometimes don’t feel it, or even feel the opposite, doesn’t make the metamorphosis any less real. Hebrews 10:17 from our epistle says, “then the Holy Spirit adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’”
It’s not about what we do; what we think; what we feel. It’s about what Jesus has done for us. Because of Jesus, we ARE transformed from that caterpillar. We ARE free from our cocoon. We truly can fly, by his power, by the love of the Spirit, by the grace given to us through Jesus.
“Fly?” You’re asking. “Me? Fly? I’m just lucky to crawl out of bed each morning. When we think of truly flying through life, we usually think of someone else. But you know what?
[Slide 11 “Everyone fights battle”] We all fight a hard battle in this world. “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Pastor Ian Maclaren said that in 1897, and it’s always been true. But often it’s within the battles that God allows the transformative power of faith to truly show.
[Slide 12 “Suzie Smith”] Suzie Smith is fairly young, in her mid-40’s. She has physical problems. Name any major body system: skeletal, heart, digestive, and she has a major problem within it. The problems, the illnesses, diseases, conditions she has seem to keep getting worse.
Susie is either lying flat on her back from painkillers, or with tremendous pain, she sits up and walks around. She struggles just to function every day. That is her life. And there’s no hope in sight for any resolution. Many people in her situation would say bad things about God.
What does Susie do instead? She prays. She says, “My prayers have gone up by a factor of 100 since my illnesses have gotten worse.” Her family knows she prays. She speaks openly about her faith to believers and non-believers, anyone with whom she comes into contact by visit, phone, or at doctor’s offices. Even though she feels like the most wounded caterpillar, barely able to crawl, God uses her to fly.
People see her faithfulness. They see her glorifying her heavenly Father for the faith she has. Who knows what miraculous things are being worked in the hearts of nonbelievers when they see someone so stricken, who is also so faithful and joyful in the faith she has? That’s how Susie is demonstrating her transformation in faith.
The point of Suzie’s story is that God can use very difficult circumstances to transform us into closer followers of him, more useful in demonstrating what true faith and trust looks like to a fallen world, a world hungry for hope, for peace, for calm in the storm.
[Slide 13 “Rachel and Patrick”] Then there is Rachel and Patrick. They were in their mid-20’s, married and deeply in love. They tried to have a child, but Rachel had inherited a condition that caused her Mom to deliver Rachel’s older brother Daniel prematurely; he passed away shortly after birth. Rachel’s Mom also was in danger of losing Rachel’s twin siblings, and spent many weeks on bed rest prior to a scheduled delivery.
Through in-vitro fertilization, Rachel became pregnant with triplets. Joy! However, the babies were born at 16 weeks. They lived just a few minutes outside the womb, long enough for Patrick to baptize each one of them. And it was hard. Very, very hard. Imagine preparing for life with triplets, and instead, preparing for a funeral instead.
Faith transformed them into people who openly baptized their children and prayed in front of the doctors and nurses. Despite the heartache, Rachel and Patrick constantly proclaimed their faith and thanksgiving to God while they were in the hospital. Their words and their prayers had a profound effect on the staff as they saw not just sadness, but also simple trust and faith in God to deliver their three sons to Heaven.
Rachel made a Facebook post that was all about God: “Our Gracious God took our three beautiful boys into his loving arms and carried them to Heaven this past Sunday and Monday. We were blessed with irreplaceable time with them during which they received the amazing gift of life and forgiveness through Baptism!”
The point of the story is that Rachel and Patrick were transformed by faith to be focused not just on the sadness of the moment, but also on eternity, and the eternal promises of God through Jesus Christ. In doing so, God used them to begin a transformation process in some of the staff, and continued that same process in others.
[Slide 14 “David Berkowitz”] Do you want to see the transforming power of faith? Look at this man. The one called the “Son of Sam” killer was arrested, tried, and convicted in 1977. This is a man who struggled his entire life. Seizures as a boy. His mother passed away when he was 14. Later in life, he met some people who encouraged him to openly worship the devil, and at one point as he describes it, “gave himself over to Satan.” David Berkowitz received six life sentences. It would seem there could be no greater darkness than what David Berkowitz experienced.
Yet today his fellow inmates call him “Son of Hope.” He has been given the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. He is a model prisoner, a constant evangelist for Christ. He said this: “One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Romans 10:13. It says, ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Here it is clear that God has no favorites. He rejects no one, but welcomes all who will call upon him.”
God doesn’t just paint the walls and change the carpeting. Through faith, he tears it all down and builds up something new. David Berkowitz took lives, and now God is using him to bring eternal life to those around him. He thanks God every day for the ministry he is able to accomplish within the prison in New York where he will spend the rest of his life.
[Slide 15 “Cassie Bernal”] Cassie Bernal’s story, in a book titled “She Said Yes” is about the Columbine shooting on April 20, 1999. Cassie was 17. Many people don’t know that just two years prior to the shooting, Cassie was practicing witchcraft and was constantly thinking about suicide. Her parents dragged her into the Youth Minister’s office at their church, and when she left, he said to himself, “she is a lost cause.”
But God transformed her. Six months later, she came back into the Youth Minister’s office and told him, “You’ll never guess what I did today. I gave my life to Christ!” The Youth Minister’s jaw hit the floor. Cassie became an evangelist in her high school, and many others came to know Jesus through her.
When she had a gun pointed at her and was asked if she believed in God, she replied, “yes, I believe in Jesus.” It cost her this life on earth, but you know what? At her funeral, they played a video of Cassie giving her testimony, and 75 young people came forward to give their lives to Jesus for the first time. How many eternal lives were saved through that horrific act at Columbine High School? Transformed by faith. For eternity.
[Slide 16 “You and Me”] Well we’ve talked about some other folks. Let’s talk about US. Yes, these stories are encouraging. Strengthening. Yes, they show the transforming power of faith. But what about OUR lives? Our own struggles? What about this caterpillar within?
[Slide 17 “Hebrews 10:23”] Our Epistle lesson has something to say about that. And I love that verse 23 is a confirmation verse. “Let us hold steadfast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Don’t feel like you’re flying today? It’s okay, you’re still radically transformed through faith in Jesus. God is faithful. No matter what you’re struggling with, no matter how far away from him you feel, he’s right here. He has chosen you. He has given you the gift of faith. He will never leave you nor forsake you. That’s the truth of Jesus Christ. And it’s happening in your life right now.
[Slide 18 & 19 “Hebrews 10:24-25”] And so, verses 24 and 25 tell us what to do with all of this: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Good Stewards), not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Folks, we live transformed lives through faith, in part, when we stir up one another to love and good works. That’s simply another way of saying “be good stewards.” It means we use what we’ve been given, no matter how small or how large, to turn to Jesus at all times, just like Patrick and Rachel. We encourage one another in the faith, as Susie Smith does, even in her suffering. We talk about Jesus and what he means to us, just like David Berkowitz and Cassie Bernal.
[Slide 20 “Lord, use me.”] We simply take the things God has given us and turn right back around with a simple prayer, “Lord, use me.” Let’s do that now. Pray with me.
[Slide 21 “metamorphoumetha”]
Lord God, full of mercy and grace, thank you for transforming us when we come to believe in your Son, Jesus Christ. It is not a little thing, but a big thing you do in our lives when we are born again into the hope of an eternity with you.
Empowering God, we ask you this day, use me. Use each of us to be good stewards of the love and good works that you have stirred up in each of us through the Holy Spirit. Let us be encouraging to one another as we see the day of your Son’s return drawing near.
We pray that you let our lives be transformed by grace, faith, and love. All this we lay before you in the name of the one who came to save, Jesus the Christ. Amen.