Monday, April 22, 2024

Being Transformed from Glory to Glory: 7 Transitions in the Christian Life

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” -2nd Cor 3:17-18

We as Christians are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, from glory to glory.

God has given us many things in nature to tell us about himself. Outer space tells us about his infinite power and how deep God truly is. The four seasons tell us about the cycle of fall, sin, rebirth and renewal. The laws of the universe, gravity, time, the golden ratio, tell us we live in a universe of fixed laws and structures. The word even tells us to "look to the ant" for wisdom. 

Similarly, I think God gave us the caterpillar and the butterfly to tell us about ourselves. To tell us that we need a transformation to become all we’re meant to be.

We start off life as a caterpillar. We move close to the ground, like the caterpillar, six legs, six eyes, close to the ground, focused on earthly things.

Many never make it past this point in their lives. They live and die as a caterpillar, having never experienced the amazing transformation that God can do in their lives.

But today I want to talk about the power of God’s transformations in our lives. So we’re going to talk about a series of transformations that take place in the life of the Christian.

The first transformation is the transformation of salvation.

The unsaved person, the caterpillar is faced with a crisis. It’s the chief crisis for every human being on planet Earth.

It’s the crisis around our own sinfulness, our own inability, our own failures, our own inadequacy.

The crisis is brutal when we realize that our sins are leading us to disaster. We get angry. We get sad. We argue with ourselves about it. We try self help books. We try meditation. We try drinking it away. We try acting out. We try therapy or medications. Nothing touches that empty feeling within.

1. The Transformation of Salvation - lost to born again
We go into a cocoon at this point. If we really embrace the struggle, instead of denying it, and hiding from it, and running from it, if we face the question head on, we go into a cocoon.

We wrestle with the God idea. We wrestle with the pain of sin. We wrestle with ourselves. And as we wrestle and wrestle over, weeks, months, years, eventually, in the sorrow and loneliness and pain, we begin to see a light on the horizon, a hope, in one name, the name of Jesus Christ, and at rock bottom in the deep darkness of the cocoon we cry out to the name of Jesus, and suddenly, we burst forth out of that cocoon as a new creation, a beautiful butterfly, made new, transformed, different than we used to be.

As it says in the word, “2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

That is the first transformation, the transformation of salvation. We go from lost, to saved, sinful to pure, broken to made whole. But that isn’t the end. It’s only just the beginning.

2. Transformation of Surrender - letting God control your life
The second transformation, is the transformation of surrender. This is the moment in every Christian’s life usually maybe a year or a few years after they get saved, that they realize, through a crisis, or conviction, or pain, or sin, that they can’t run their own lives anymore.

They’ve got to let God practically guide the course of their life. They can’t be in the drivers seat anymore, the Lord Jesus must be.

In a moment of surrender, the believer submits themselves to God. They turn their will (choices) over to God, and acknowledge God in all their ways. And God makes their paths right.

As it says in Luke 9:23-24 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

It also says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

We go into another cocoon, as we know something is wrong with our walk with God. We’re still trying to run our own lives. We’re still trying to be in control. We go into that cocoon, we wrestle with God, we wrestle with ourselves, and argue inside, but I want to run my own life, I want to have a say, I don’t want to go some place I don’t want to go, but in the end, we wrestle through, we get on our knees, realizing God is right and will lead us perfectly, and we surrender our will to God. God, run my life from now on, it’s yours.

We come out of the cocoon, an even more beautiful butterfly.

3. Transformation of Liberty – freedom from sins of the flesh
Next, we consider the transformation of liberty.

The word of God says, “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

I saw in my life as a Christian that I was living in active sins. I was living in gossip. I was living in masturbation. I was living in theft. In lust. I was living in different sins of the flesh.

I kept trying to convince myself that it was OK to sin every day. Christians sin all the time, come on it’s ok! But over and over in prayer it was clear, you must repent of these sins. You can have freedom, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

So I went into another cocoon. I wrestled within. It doesn’t matter if I sin I’m already saved. It doesn’t matter. God understands. I kept trying to justify it. But the Lord just kept speaking to me about freedom. Real freedom.

And in that dark cocoon I slowly began to believe that Christian can really be free from sin. They really can repent of sins and live pure as He is pure. Not by our own efforts, but by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Where the Spirit of the Lord, there is not slavery to sin, there is freedom.

Galatians 5:24, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Over the next few years began a process of victories over various sins in my life. The Lord would convict me of a sin, I would ask forgiveness, repent, and God would help me to find sustained freedom from it. One by one, he peeled the layers of the onion shell away.

I’m not saying I’m perfect today, there I days I have to go before God and repent, but today I fundamentally live in victory, in liberty from sin, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

So we come out the cocoon a new and beautiful butterfly.

4. Transformation of Humiliation – humbling experience that keeps us close to the ground
In all this transformation we can soon become prideful at our glory and beauty, as God transforms us from one degree of glory to the next.

So God will give us the gift of humiliation, to keep us humble. We experience painful events, we’re shown that we aren’t super human. We become sick, or deathly ill. We experience mental health problems. We have a friend turn against us. We expect to achieve so much at work, but instead our work is pretty average.

These experiences keep us humble. They strip away pride.

Proverbs 29:23 ESV “One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”

And Jesus said, “Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great.” -Matthew 23:12 GNT

So we go into another cocoon, we want to feel great, we don’t want to be humbled, we don’t want to think of others before ourselves. But God is humbling us. God is humiliating us, it seems like. We wrestle with it. We argue against it. We get mad at God because we feel humiliated. But in the end, by God’s grace, we allow God to humble us, and we learn to keep ourselves humble, by the Spirit’s leading.

5. The Transformation of Battle - spiritual warfare
Fifthly, we consider the transformation of battle.

1st Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

The enemy, demons, Satan, the evil one attacks us. This happens to Christians from time to time. We come under attack. The enemy uses a situation to attack you. The enemy whispers lies to you. The enemy attacks you in your dreams. The enemy messes with your family or friends.

This experience brings us all running to God the Father. It keeps us close to God. We pray through it. We dive into the word of God. We overcome and defeat the enemy by resisting the enemy. We don’t fear the enemy. The enemy learns to fear us. Because we cast him out.

But again, this brings us into a cocoon. Why is God allowing this? Why does the enemy have access to me? He must have God’s permission, just like with Satan with Job. He couldn’t do anything to Job without God’s permission.

But eventually in that cocoon we realize God is allowing these spiritual battles because he loves us and wants to train us to fight and win these battles. And we come out again, having found victory over the enemy, stronger, braver, bolder, and mightier in spiritual combat.

You come out of the battle scarred, wearied, but you can feel your spiritual muscles have grown stronger. I’ve felt it many times.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1st Peter 5:10-11

6. Transformation of Transfiguration – an experience with God that changes us (brings us higher up)
You can really never be the same after the transformation of transfiguration. This is one of those experiences that Christians call a mountain top experience, like Elijah at mount Horeb when God showed him his glory. Or when Moses saw the glory of God and his face was shining as he came down from mount Sinai. Or when Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor.

This kind of experience will bring a new awe for God. We become more amazed at God’s power and infinite nature. We learn a new level of God’s love.

This experience also very often is accompanied by the fear of the Lord. Moses was afraid. Elijah was terrified and covered his face in his cloak. God’s presence brings the fear of God.

And this often brings us into cocoon. We’re so overcome by the fear of the Lord, it changes us. We become much more devoted to God. We become much more amazed at God. But we’re also keenly aware of just how small we are and just how big God is. It can be very unsettling. When you see into the spiritual realm even for a moment it can shock you. There are things at play in the universe, in humanity, in the fall, that simply make you want to sob uncontrollably.

So we wrestle in that cocoon. But as we allow ourselves to embrace this new, higher view of God, this new reverence, this new love, this new fear of the Lord, it changes us.

Of all these experiences I think the change found in transfiguration, the mountain experience is the most intense.

It almost feels as if you’ve been sandblasted, as if God were so close you feel seared on the edges, a bit burnt on the sides by the experience. It’s amazing. And a bit scary.

From Matthew 17, “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”

7. The Transformation of Death (to self) - death to self, and final physical death, which is glorification
Lastly, we consider the transformation of death, or glorification.

The transformation of (Death) Glory is when we die to self in some way. This happens all the time. You could call it the journey of sanctification. Over your life you’re slowly conformed into the same image of Jesus Christ, from one degree of glory to the next, step by step, death to self, death to self, death to self, and these changes, which are sometimes quite difficult, make you more and more like Jesus.

God is constantly chipping away at your character and will and emotions and soul, changing you and building you up in Christ.

This is accomplished through the Holy Spirit at work within you, though I assume the whole Trinity is at work on you in different ways, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all working on you.

All of this comes to a point of what we Wesleyans call entire sanctification. We come to a state of spiritual maturity. We no longer live in constant sin and selfishness. We still face temptations. We still make mistakes. But we find ourselves mature in Christ. We are no longer swept along by every random thought and idea, we are firm, grounded in Christ, with a heart of love, and able to serve in many blessed ways.

This occurs throughout all the stages of transformation we’ve talked about today, but I saved it for last because the goal is to reach a place of general maturity.

As it says in Hebrews 5:12-14 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

The Greek word there is teleios which implies completeness, maturity, wholeness, perfect, finished.

Colossians 1:28 says, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”

Additionally, death to self, through this process, finds it’s final completion in physical death itself. This is the final death to self. It’s the final transformation, on this journey of glorious transformations from one degree of glory to the next, the final transformation is physical death itself.

You come to the end of yourself. You come to the end of your ability to live. If you’re lucky and blessed you get to die for Jesus. But, in any case, we all die.

And we go into the final cocoon. This cocoon we wrestle in. I don’t want to die. I’m not ready to die. Yet you can feel death coming. You know it’s here. And I think in the end, we accept our fate, we accept that we will die, and then we simply allow it to happen, at the right moment, by God’s leading.

And the final test of our faith in the cocoon, which we’ve used time and again, in oall our transformations, is to believe and know, that this final cocoon is not fatal, because we will wake up in a new place. And we will be transformed at last, completely, glorification.

We will receive a new body, our sin nature will be gone, and we will be perfect as Christ is perfect. And the ultimate victory is won.

Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Let’s Review our Main Points:
1. Initially we were all the caterpillar (unsaved)

2. God brought us to a cocoon that brought change (crisis)

3. We emerged as a butterfly (salvation)

4. The first transformation is the moment of salvation (born again experience)

5. Transformation of surrender (Letting God run our lives practically)

6. Transformation of liberty (God delivers us from sins of the flesh)

7. Transformation of humiliation (God brings victory over pride)

8. Transformation of battle (Spiritual warfare makes us stronger)

9. Transformation of transfiguration (Mt top experiences reveal who God is to us)

10. Transformation of death to self (sanctification brings us to spiritual maturity)

11. The ultimate death to self is physical death (the final cocoon)

12. The final crisis of death brings us to glorification (where we receive new bodies from Christ fitted for heaven)