January 13, 2008
Pastor Brian Shimer
"The BIG Picture of transformation"
Romans 12: 1,2
- What is the big picture of transformation? It is just this: that God has had in mind how He has wanted to transform and change and grow your life and others through you since before you were born. There are passages throughout the Bible which point to this fact - that God has planned to include you and me in His family since before the "creation of the world". God's big picture is one which includes thousands of years of work in and among the Jewish people preparing the way and the times, awaiting the fullness of times so that Jesus could come - so God could be a man, incarnate among us, in order that we could be welcomed back into fellowship, back into covenant with the Holy Trinity.
Last week we noted that all God has been planning and doing is based upon the greatness of His mercy, this covenantal, faithful love that God has for us.
For although as Paul has written in the first chapter of the book of Romans, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…" and that there is nothing in us by which we can be made right with God, even so, while we were dead in our sins, while we were enemies of His, Jesus died to make a way. Jesus made a new beginning for humanity, to include us in the love of God.
In view of all this mercy, all this provision for us, this unearned, but granted right standing with God, Paul says once we have been made right to then offer our bodies to God as living, not dead, sacrifices. And then God will work through us as we offer ourselves to him.
We noted that this statement to offer our bodies does not mean to show up on Sunday morning, to pray at meals, to act like a Christian when in public. We noted that this offering is to take our whole sleeping, eating, living, going to work, walking around life and place it before God as an offering - a holy and acceptable offering. "this," Paul then writes, "is your spiritual worship" or "your reasonable service".
Both translations convey the meaning. The word translated as service or worship, began as a word meaning to be hired for pay. It then began to mean "to serve" but began to be used only in the service of pagan temples so meant to "serve gods". In the Bible it is used exclusively of the worship or service of God. It was used of worship as defined by the actions of sacrifice in the temple.
Paul uses it here to say the only ritual for the Christian is to offer ourselves, our very bodies to God - this is real worship to offer our everyday lives to God. So as much as we can say, "I am going to worship God today at church," we can also say, "I am going to the factory, to the bank, to the office, to the school, to the garage, to the sheep farm, to the garden to worship God."
To the Christian we are not to be God's servants just on Sunday mornings - but daily we are to make these bodies of ours available for the Holy Spirit to use for His purposes.
- To thus present ourselves to God is not a boring affair. For following God is not a bore but a rollicking adventure, as Christian writer Beth Moore reflects in an experience she had at an airport a few years ago.
Waiting to board her plane in the Knoxville airport, Bible Study leader Beth Moore was sitting there in the waiting area reading her Bible, when she noticed a man who was such a strange sight that she could hardly keep from staring.
He was humped over in his wheelchair, he was skin and bones, dressed in clothes that obviously fit when he was at least twenty pounds heavier. His knees protruded from his trousers, and his shoulders looked like the coat hanger was still in his shirt. His hands looked like tangled masses of veins and bones. The strangest part of him was his hair and nails. Stringy, gray hair hung well over his shoulders and down part of his back. His fingernails were long, clean but strangely out of place on an old man.
She looked down at her Bible, uncomfortable, trying to imagine what his story might have been and found herself wondering who he might be. But as she sat there her heart began to sense a compassion for him. She was awash with aching emotion for this bizarre-looking man.
She knew that when she begins to feel what God feels, something so contrary to her natural feelings, something dramatic is bound to happen. And it may be embarrassing.
She immediately began to resist because she could feel God working on her spirit and she started arguing with God in her mind: "Oh, no, God, please no." She looked up at the ceiling as if she could stare straight through it into heaven and said, "don't make me witness to this man. Not right here and now. Please I'll do anything. Put me on the same plane, but don't make me get up here and witness to him in front of this gawking audience. Please Lord!"
She sat there in the blue vinyl chair begging His Highness along this vein when she heard it, "I don't want you to witness to him. I want you to brush his hair."
The words were so clear, her heart leapt into her throat and her thoughts spun like a top. Do I witness to the man or brush his hair?
She looked back to the ceiling, "God as I live and breathe, I want you to know I am ready to witness to this man. I'm on this Lord. I'm your girl! You've never seen a woman witness to a man faster in your life. What difference does it make if his hair is a mess if he is not redeemed. I'm going to witness to this man."
But, again, as clearly as she had ever heard an audible word, God seemed to write this statement across the wall of her mind, "that's not what I said, Beth. I don't want you to witness to him; I want you to go brush his hair."
She looked up at God and quipped, "I don't have a hairbrush. It's in my suitcase on the plane. How am I supposed to brush his hair without a hairbrush?" God was so insistent that she almost involuntarily began to walk toward him as these thoughts came to her from God's word: "I will thoroughly furnish you unto all good works." (2 Tim 3:17).
She stumbled over to the wheelchair thinking she could use one herself, her pulse quickening, butterflies flipping in her stomach. She knelt down in front of this man and asked as demurely as possible, "Sir, may I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?"
He looked back at her and said, "What did you say?"
"May I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?" she repeated.
To which he responded in volume 10, "Little lady, if you expect me to hear you, you're going to have to talk louder than that."
So she blurted out: "MAY I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF BRUSHING YOUR HAIR?"
At which point every eye in the place darted right at her. She was the only thing in the room looking more peculiar than old Mr Longlocks. Face crimson and forehead breaking out in a sweat. She watched him look up at her with absolute shock on his face and heard him say, "If you really want to."
At which she thought, "Of course I don't want to! But God didn't seem interested in her personal preference right about then. He pressed on her heart until she could utter the words, "YES, SIR, I WOULD BE PLEASED. BUT I HAVE ONE LITTLE PROBLEM. I DON'T HAVE A HAIRBRUSH.'
"I have one in my bag," he responded.
She went around to the back of that wheelchair and got on her hands and knees and unzipped the stranger's old carry-on, hardly believing what she was doing. She stood up and started brushing the old man's hair. It was perfectly clean, but it was tangled and matted. She wrote that although she cannot do many things well, after mothering two little girls she had notable experience with untangling knotted hair. So she brushed from the very bottom of the strands, remembering to take her time and not pull.
A miraculous thing happened to her as she started brushing that old man's hair. Everybody else in the room disappeared. There was no one alive for those moments except that old man and her. She brushed and brushed and brushed until every tangle was out of that hair. She wrote that she has never felt such love for another soul in her life. She wrote: "I believe with all my heart, that for a few minutes I felt a portion of the very love of God. That He had overtaken my heart for a little while like someone renting a room and making Himself at home for a short while. The emotions were so strong and so pure that she knew they had to be God's."
Finally the old man's hair was as soft and smooth as an infant's.
She slipped the brush back in the bag and went around the chair to face him. She got back down on her knees put her hands on his knees and said, "Sir, Do you know my Jesus?"
He replied, "Yes, I do."
Then he explained. "I have known him since I married my bride. She wouldn't marry me until I got to know the Savior. You see, the problem is, I haven't seen my bride in months. I've had open heart surgery and she's been too ill to come see me. I was sitting here thinking to myself, what a mess I must be for my bride. Thank you."
Only God knows how often He allows us to be part of a divine moment when we're completely unaware of the significance. This on the other hand was one of those rare encounters when she knew God had intervened in details only He could have known. It was a God moment, and she would never forget it. The time came to board the plane and they were not on the same plane. She was deeply ashamed at how she had acted earlier and would have been so proud to have accompanied him onto his aircraft.
She had a few minutes and gathered her things to board when an airline stewardess returned from the corridor, tears streaming down her cheeks. She said to Beth, "That old man's sitting on the plane, sobbing. Why did you do that? What made you do that?"
To which Beth responded: "Do you know Jesus? He can be the bossiest thing!" And they got to share.
"Life shouldn't be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly shouting, "Wow! What a ride! Thank You Lord!" (received in an emailed story - no reference, Beth Moore)
- As I thought about that story I thought how much I want to be more available to the Lord. What is the purpose of this life if it is not to totally release my own hold on my life and give it over to God. IT will not mean that you and I will be asked to brush someone's hair, but it will mean that we will be the vessels of God's Holy Spirit, His transformed people who carry the light and love of His grace to others.
On Sunday the 30th we prayed a prayer that is in your hymnal called the Covenant Prayer of the Wesleyan Tradition. It is a prayer written by John Wesley, who was an evangelist and preacher who lived in England during the 1700s. He used it in the December 31st worship times he led. It is a prayer of consecration.
As we spoke it that Sunday I wondered how many were familiar with it, or how many of you remember praying it in previous years. For me it has become very familiar beginning in 2005 I began to pray it on a daily basis and continued to do so for more than a year and a half. I found it a great way to get myself out of the way, to offer myself, the whole of this life, this body of mine to the Lord and found it a way to get my own flesh, my need to perform, to be perfect out of the way.
It also has that phrase in it that sends such shivers down one of my friend's spines that he chooses not to pray this prayer. It is that line near the end that says, "I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal."
I have no problem praying that for I believe that I would much rather have all of my family, belongings etc in God's hands rather than in any other hands even mine. I find too that when I release that to which I cling, God is generous and fills me to the overflow.
I invite you to take a few minutes with me to pray this prayer again - to offer yourselves to God, to present this body in which you live to the God who alone can make life a rollicking adventure, for to do so is your "spiritual worship" and to do so aligns you with the God whose plan from eternity has been the transformation of your life.
If you will turn in your hymnals to page 607 we will close this time with this prayer.