Re-scripting Your Life, Part 9
In the last few posts we focused on the process of forgiveness. With this understanding firmly planted in our head and heart, we can move on to the exciting and rewarding work of transformation!
Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand…
The three steps- be forgiven, be forgiving, and be reconciled (to God, ourselves, and others), creates a framework for understanding how we put on our new nature and enter into and operate in the Kingdom of God on the earth. This entry point can best be understood in the concept of biblical repentance. When Jesus was touring through His home land he would announce His ministry in the towns and villages with the call to repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (see Matt 4:17 & others). A solid understanding of the nature and importance of repentance is vital for every believer who wants to live in freedom and wholeness.
Repentance is so much more than an acknowledgement of our sin and having feelings of remorse and sorrow for the pain that it has caused to God and others. Repentance is the transforming power of the Kingdom of God released through forgiveness and reconciliation that works to transform our entire being. Repentance, taken to its fullest extent, brings us into the lofty reality that “as Jesus is, so are we in this world” (I John 4:17)! It is possible to hear the wonderful invitation of the gospel that we can receive forgiveness and reconciliation through the death and resurrection of Jesus- accept this invitation, get “saved,” get baptized, become members of a church, and witness to your family and friends about the love of God- and yet never come into a full understanding of what salvation makes available to us during our time on this planet. Without repentance operating in our entire being, many of the great and precious promises of the gospel will be relegated to our time in the Kingdom of Heaven after death. Jesus’s call of repentance was not so much a call to get us into the Kingdom of Heaven, but to get the Kingdom of Heaven into us. This is the purpose and power of repentance!
The biblical Greek word that is translated as repentance is “metanoeo” (meta= with, along with, besides, and noeo= thinking, understanding, and perceiving). The root understanding of this word implies that repentance is a process that deals with addressing the way we think and what we think about. It is possible to hear without understanding what it is that you are hearing. For example, if you were walking through a jungle with a tour guide and you heard the sound of an unfamiliar animal, you would ask the guide what that strange sound was. If your tour guide has never seen this animal but was only instructed by another tour guide that the sound that was just heard came from a particular kind of monkey, the description of what this monkey looks like may be completely inaccurate. It would be possible then, to come upon this monkey, and never associate the sound you heard with the origin of the sound. This was precisely the environment that Jesus entered into when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1). The religious tour guides of the day did not associate the God they worshipped in heaven with the man that was walking among them on Earth. The religion of the day could not identify Jesus as God and therefore, could not properly instruct the people to receive the truth about God that Jesus was teaching. The following scripture verse details one such encounter with Jesus and the tour guides:
You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet, you refuse to come to me to receive this life. (John 5:40 NLT)
In the above verse, Jesus points out the core of the problem with the guides. The issue was that the guides refused to come to Jesus because they would not allow this new way of looking at God to be the truth. Instead, they held onto their present belief system and would not change their mind (repent) to the possibility that they had been perceiving God inaccurately based on the limited revelation they had. So, Jesus in announcing that the entry point into the Kingdom of God was to repent, indicated that changing the way we think about God, His Kingdom, and ourselves must go through a complete transformation by challenging the way we think about it.
Repentance is a life-long process and journey of transformation. As we grow in our revelation and understanding of God and His Kingdom, we will be challenged to upgrade our belief systems and thinking processes. When a child is learning the basic foundations of mathematics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, the goal is to build on this foundation (not remove it) so that later on, when thinking capacities have matured, this child will be able to use these same basic principles to do advanced calculations using higher mathematical systems. The same holds true in our growth as children of God. Here is the way the Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian church on this matter:
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Cor. 13:11,12)
Paul is describing the process of transformation as revelation (seeing more clearly what is already there) and repentance (putting away childish things to be able to grasp mature things). There will be a day when we will see with perfect clarity. Until then, we must constantly undergo transformation as “we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Eph 4:15 NASB)
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2 NLT emphasis added)
One of the key words in this passage is the word transform. This is the word chosen to represent the concept of the Greek, metamorphoō, from which we get our English word metamorphosis. We are familiar with this process in relation to how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. There is a drastic change from one form to another form that takes place during this process. Without getting too technical, at just the right time in the caterpillar’s life cycle, it will construct a cocoon around itself which when completed, triggers the release of powerful enzymes that have been dormant until this point. These enzymes actually digest the tissue of the caterpillar and turn it into a soupy mix of cells that will reorganize into what will become a butterfly. Absolutely amazing! All the necessary cellular coding (DNA) is contained in this disintegrated caterpillar to turn it into its destined form as a butterfly. This is a powerful illustration of what takes place during our process of transformation. Consider the following verse of scripture:
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3 NASB)
If we take some liberties with this illustration and carry it a bit further into the process of becoming “born again,” here is how we can relate it to what happens to and in us. At some point in our existence as a caterpillar (living in a fallen state of sin unable to reflect the true glory of our creation), the word of God comes to us at “just the right time.” (When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. [Rom 5:6 NLT]). This word of salvation and reconciliation released in us powerful “spiritual enzymes” (truth) that began to disintegrate our old life the moment we believed in our heart the message of the Gospel. We ask God to forgive us and then go into the cocoon of baptism. In that identifying moment, we exchange the caterpillar existence for the butterfly life of Christ and become “hidden” or totally identified with Jesus; we become as He is! From this point, the butterfly takes on the nature of a butterfly and leaves behind the old nature of the lowly worm it once was!
These verses of scripture lay out the framework for becoming a “new person.” We are taught from scripture that if anyone belongs to Christ (is born again), they become a new person (2 Cor. 5:17). The old things have passed away and all new things have come. These “new” things are really the original things that God intended for humanity when we were created. In this transformation process, the new things have their origin in our spirits but must invade and reprogram our belief systems or thinking processes. The journey of transformation must start at the correct point of origin. And the starting point must be the place of true worship (see again Romans 12:1,2).
According to the Romans 12 verses, true worship is coming to God with a total surrender of our entire being and allowing Him to restore our shattered image back into His likeness and nature (as humanity was created before the Fall). He is the creator and only He can do the renovation in a way that will perfectly reflect His glory. Paul states that being “conformed” to any other pattern will, at best, only resemble a form of godliness. To be conformed to something implies that one must adjust the thinking process in a way that will cause the person to look like the pattern they are looking at. This can be seen in what happens to a lump of clay that is pressed into a container. The clay will take the shape or form of whatever the container looks like. The Scriptures use this analogy when illustrating that God, our Creator, is like the potter and we, His creation, are the clay (Isa. 64:8 & others).
The process of transformation then must include a thorough scouring of all the thoughts that we have about God, ourselves, and our relationship with Him and others. Any thought that is not conformed to God’s truth must be reformed or transformed by a process of “brain-washing” - “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Eph 5:26 NIV). The basic truth(s) that God uses to wash our brains have been inscribed in God’s written revelation to humanity, the Bible. Transformation, then, involves washing away every thought that has been conformed to the pattern of this world (thoughts based on man being the center of the universe) to the ultimate and absolute truth of God (thoughts based on God being the center of the universe). This, in essence, is what a life of worship looks like and is the kind of worship our Heavenly Father is looking for (see John 4:23,24).
In the next installment we are going to look at what brainwashing is all about. So, stay tuned, and tune in!
by Pastor Jim Anan