Transforming Grace
November 10, 2017

Transforming Grace
Romans 12:2

Paganini was a gifted composer and violinist. One evening he was playing before a packed house with full orchestra behind him. During one of the songs one of the strings snapped and dangled down the side. But instead of stopping, Paganini continued to play on. Soon another string snapped followed by another until there was only one string left. But Paganini continued to play without missing a beat.

When he finished the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Paganini then held his violin up high and said, “Paganini and one string,” and played a full encore performance on one string.

Sometime we focus far too much on the strings that dangle in our lives. These strings represent the inevitables of life, like sicknesses, layoffs, economic downturns, and accidents to name a few.

Inevitables are those things we have no control over, nor do we choose them, but they still happen. It’s the stuff that happens in life and there’s nothing we can do to stop them.

Instead, we have to play the one string we have left. And the only way we can do this is through God’s transforming grace.

The Bible talks about transformation, like when the Apostle Paul said,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

Paul is talking about a change that takes place in everyone’s life.

First he tells us not to be conformed, that is, a change that happens from the outside in, like how the landscape changes due to weather. Here Paul is telling us not to let the outside world change us into its image.

Instead Paul says that we are to be transformed, which is an inside out change. To get the true sense of what this means we need to go back to our grade school biology experiment when the teacher took a caterpillar and placed it inside a glass case with branches and leaves.

In a few days the caterpillar spun its cocoon and in a couple of weeks it out would come out a beautiful butterfly. It’s the process known as metamorphosis.

That’s what transformation is, it’s a metamorphosis, a change from the inside out; it’s like stepping into God’s cocoon of grace and being changed in a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Like a caterpillar’s metamorphosis, our transformation takes some time, and there are certain steps that need to take place for the transformation to take.

1. Readjust Our Attitudes

Notice in our verse it says that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind; To the Philippian church Paul says that this transformed mind needs to be the same mind; the same thought process with the same attitude that Jesus possessed.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5 NJKV)

And then he talked about what this overall mind set or attitude looks like saying, “Who (Jesus) being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7 NKJV)

Jesus is God, but His attitude was one of humility and coming as a slave, or bondservant.

So Paul tells us to have the same mindset, or to be like-minded, that is, not allowing things like ambition or conceit to rob us of God’s joy. And he says that this was the mindset and attitude that Jesus possessed.

Our attitude has a lot to do with how we view and live this life. To change into the image of Jesus Christ, we need to have a transformation, and this transformation begins with our attitude, and what we choose to put into our minds.

Two construction workers sat down to lunch. One opened his lunch box and angrily said, “I can’t believe it! Baloney again! That’s the fourth time this week, and I hate baloney sandwiches.”

His friend replied, “Take it easy, just tell your wife to fix something else.”

“Wife,” said the first, “I fix my own lunches.”

Attitudes have a lot to do with what we put into our lives, and most of the baloney we put in ourselves. Our attitudes are outward expressions of what we’re inwardly feeling. In fact, we don’t have to say a thing; our attitude will say it for us.

I remember telling my daughter Danielle on many occasions, “Wipe that attitude off your face young lady.”

Many of us, therefore, are in desperate need of an attitude adjustment. What can we do to improve our attitude?

a. Be Careful of Our Thoughts

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NKJV)

Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.” (Matthew 15:19-20a NKJV)

My first car was a 1963 Buick Rivera, and it was bad to the bone. When I revved the engine, trees and houses shook. I rarely lost a race.

Back in those days we didn’t have unleaded gasoline, instead it was only regular and premium. When I put regular gas, the cheaper of the two, in my gas tank, the car wouldn’t run as well and would sometimes ping. But when I put in premium, the car would purr.

God created us to be high performers. But we often want to shortcut God’s way and put into our minds cheap gas, that is, the junk of the world, and then we wonder why we’re pinging instead of purring.

Let’s say I filled a glass to the very top with Root Beer, and then bump it. Would orange juice or milk spill out? No, only Root Beer! So what happens when we get bumped with the inevitables of life? What spills out of our lives? It’s whatever we’ve been filling our minds and hearts with.

So are we putting in the baloney of the world, or the filet mignon of God’s word? Remember, what goes in is what comes out.

b. Be Careful of Our Friends

“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV)

Here in Mesquite we often see flocks of geese fly by, and they do so in a “V” formation. The reason is that when they flap their wings, they create a 71 percent greater lift for the bird directly behind. So the flock can fly 71 percent further when they stick together than when they fly solo.

So it is with the company we keep. Are we getting a 71 percent greater lift from the people we associate with, or are we being dragged down and walking with a bunch of turkeys?

c. Look at Problems a New Way

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” (James 1:2 NKJV)

Problems are everywhere. They are the inevitables of life. Problems, however, are God’s way of promoting within us spiritual maturity. It’s how we respond that determines our successes or failures.

Instead of seeing our problems as negatives, let’s start looking at them as opportunities to grow. Our problem is that we don’t want to transform God’s way, so He allows problems in our lives so we can rethink what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And with the problems, God gives us the grace to go through them and change.

d. Be Filled With the Holy Spirit

Jesus said to His disciples,

“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NKJV)

Here were men and women who were afraid and uncertain of their futures. Yes, Jesus did rise from the dead, and they saw and experienced His resurrection, leaving them with this promise. But He’s gone and they are all alone.

But by keeping His word, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended and changed them. Once they were frightened, but now they were boldly being witnesses of the truth. Now they were walking in a new and different attitude.

And so the first step is to readjust our attitudes by being careful of our thought life, by taking every thought captive to the obedience to Jesus Christ. Also we need to be careful of the company we keep, the way we view our problems, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

2. Change Our Focus

We need to get our focus off ourselves and get it onto God.

This is going to take getting refocused.

Jesus said,

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)

These things that will be added are those things we need to live, those things that are the basics for life. Yet, still we cry, “What about me? When is it my turn?” But what I’ve learned over the years is that when our focus is on the Lord first and foremost, then God will meet these needs. In other words, God doesn’t need us wrangling to get our own way.

When asked by the religious authority what was the greatest commandment, Jesus gave the standard Jewish proclamation of faith, Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:29b-30 NKJV)

But Jesus then added a second that was connected to the first.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31 NKJV)

Why was the second needed? Why did Jesus expand the greatest commandment to love God with the whole of our being with loving our neighbor as ourselves?

It’s because loving God is abstract and hard to know when we’ve fulfilled it, seeing that we cannot us our normal senses to confirm it.

Instead there has to be a demonstration, an act in which such love can be seen and understood. To profess love without a demonstration to back it up is an empty love.

The story of Miss Thompson best fits this scenario.

Miss Thompson was a 5th grade school teacher. She told the students that she treated everyone the same. But this year it would all change.

This year a boy named Teddy was in her class. His hair was unkempt. His clothes had a musty smell, and he wasn’t attractive nor did his fellow students like him. Soon Miss Thompson fell into the same trap. She took great delight in putting big red “X’s” by wrong answers and marking his paper with a large “F.”

After a while she received Teddy’s records that quickly changed her attitude.
• His first grade teacher said Teddy was slow but showed great promise and had a great attitude, but had a poor home life
• His second graced teacher said Teddy could do better and that his mother was seriously ill and he received little help from home.
• His third grade teacher said that while Teddy was good, he was too serious and a slow learner. Also that Teddy’s mother died that year.
• His fourth grade teacher said that while Teddy was slow he behaved well, but his father showed no interest.

Christmas came and all the children brought their presents for Miss Thompson. They piled them high on her desk, and among them was Teddy’s gift, and you could tell which one was his. It was in an old paper bag. In it was an old gaudy rhinestone bracelet with half the stones missing and a half bottle of cheap perfume.

The other children began to snicker, but immediately Miss Thompson put on the bracelet and put some of the perfume on her wrist and held it up for all the class to see and smell, saying how lovely it looked and how beautiful it smelled.

At the end of the day Teddy came up to her and said, “Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother and her bracelet looks real pretty on you. I’m glad you like my present.”

When he left Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her. The next day the children came and met a new Miss Thompson. She was no longer just a schoolteacher, now she was transformed into an agent of the Lord. She was now committed to love the children and do those things for them that would live on in their lives.

All the students improved that year, but none more than Teddy. He caught up with most and was ahead of a few.

Miss Thompson hadn’t heard from Teddy until she received a note that read, “Dear Miss Thompson, I wanted you to be the first to know that I am graduating High School second in my class, Love Teddy.”

Four years later she received another note that said, “Dear Miss Thompson, they just told me that I’ll be graduating first in my class. The university has not been easy, but I wanted you to be the first to know, Love Teddy.”

Four years later she received another note saying, “Dear Miss Thompson, as of today I am Theodore Stollard, M.D. I wanted you to be the fist to know. I’m getting married next month, and I want you to come and sit where my mother would have sat if she were alive. Dad died last year. You’re the only family I have now, Love Teddy.”

She attended the wedding and sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat. You might say because of God’s transforming grace, it was Miss Thompson and one string.

Our problem is that we tend to focus on all the strings we have dangling instead of the string God has given to us. We need to focus on God, and to love Him by truly loving others.

The third step in this transformation process is

3. Persevere Though the Inevitables

It’s far easier to quit something than to continue. It’s easier to walk out of a room than to stay and resolve a conflict. It’s easier to do what we want than what God wants.

“One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)

The Apostle James tells us that we are to rejoice over the inevitables because they are producing within us patience, and patience is developing within us strength of character, James 1:3-4. The inevitables of life promote endurance and helps in the transformation process.

If there is anyone that knows what it feels for the inevitables to happen it would be John Scott. He found himself in a 480-foot mine elevator in England. Right before it reached the top it stopped and then plummeted to the bottom, only to have the brakes kick in right before it hit the bottom.

Now if this wasn’t bad enough the same thing happened over and over again for two straight hours. It’s hard to imagine what was going through John’s mind for those two hours. What he didn’t know, however, is that the engineers were testing the emergency braking system. They didn’t know he was inside.

So when the inevitables happen and it feels like the bottom has dropped out, know that God has His hand on the brake and will never allow you to fall 481 feet.

So don’t give up; rather press through. At the end we’re promised a crown of righteousness, 2 Timothy 4:8.

Conclusion

What we need to do to survive the inevitables and come out on the other side without the smell of smoke is to get into God’s word and let God’s word get into us.

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)

When we read God’s word and spend time meditating upon it, then it will become firmly planted within, and when the inevitables happen, the Holy Spirit will bring God’s word back into our memory so we can act upon it, making godly life changing decisions.

And when we get bumped by the inevitables, then what will spill over is godly wisdom along with God’s transforming grace.









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