If somebody said to you, “Prove to me that God is real!” what would you say? What evidence would you be able to offer from your own life that God is real? In your own personal experience, what has happened to you which you can point to and say “God did that”?
Back in Tunbridge Wells whenever we had a time of prayer we had great saint who would always pray the same prayer. He would pray for revival. He would pray for an outpouring of “the transforming power of God – power which saves from the guttermost to the uttermost.” The transforming power of God!
The apostle Paul talks about this transforming power of God
2 Cor 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
If we want to prove to people that God is real, if we want to show evidence of what God has done in our lives, we need to point beyond what we ourselves have achieved by our own human effort. We need to point to the transforming power of God and say, “God did that!” So we will look this morning at the ways which the Bible says we should experience the transforming power of God – the things power of God will change in our lives and the ways in which that glorious power is released and experienced.
NEW BIRTH and NEW LIFE
When a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly it becomes a totally new creature. A metamorphosis takes place. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)
When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! (J.B.Phillips)
The transforming power of God – which is able to save from the guttermost to the uttermost! The power of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who can deal with everything in our past, all our sin and failure and ignorance and rebellion. Jesus Christ the Son of God who has the power to transform the present and shape the future. The power of Christ which turns water into wine and heals the sick and opens the eyes of the blind and sets the captives free and even brings the dead to life. That power of Christ released into our lives here – today – now!
The power of Jesus Christ, who transformed the lives of all kinds of people. From ordinary fishermen like Peter and Andrew and James and John into the leaders of the Early Church. Transforming Saul who persecuted the church to Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. All kinds of people from respectable Pharisees like Nicodemus to prostitutes like Mary Magdalene and professional thieves (sorry, tax collectors) like Matthew and Zaccheus. Prodigals who were throwing their lives away, returning home and being transformed into children of God! “My Son was lost but now is found – was dead but now is alive again! Sinners transformed into saints.
His touch has still its ancient power. There are Christians you meet and seeing them now it is almost impossible to believe that they were once criminals and prisoners, or drug addicts or alcoholics, or prostitutes or abusers. We can see this transforming power of Christ in a number of ways.
Repentance – changed character
Romans 12:1 ¶ Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his
good, pleasing and perfect will.
Rom 12:2 GOOD NEWS BIBLE Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.
A. W. Tozer The essence of repentance is to move across from one sort of person to another is: the liar becomes truthful; the thief, honest; the lewd, pure; the proud, humble.
Character – Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The character of Christ, reproduced in us. C.S.Lewis once used a strange phrase when he said that it was God’s purpose “to people the world with a lot of little Christs”. To transform every Christian to make them like Christ.
Thinking about the Fruit of the Spirit, some of these Christ-like qualities very definitely demand human effort – patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control. However we usually find that particularly the first three, love, joy and peace are experiences which God the Holy Spirit brings into our lives rather than anything we can work at producing.
Love like the amazing supernatural forgiveness which Christians who are imprisoned for their faith are able to show for their captors and torturers. I am inspired by a story told by Corrie ten Boom:-
“Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with hand outstretched and said, “Will you forgive me?” She writes: “I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother,’ I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!” To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”
Perhaps God has given you the grace to forgive somebody who has hurt you, or disappointed you. Perhaps you have had an experience where God has you a supernatural love for somebody else, where humanly speaking you found it very hard if not impossible to show love. Or a time where God has given you a supernatural joy, in a situation where humanly speaking you had nothing to be joyful about. Or may be a situation where God has given you a supernatural peace, where humanly speaking there was no reason to feel peace. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit – the transforming power of God!
Gospel of Jesus Christ turns the world upside down. Or rather it turns this messed up sin-spoilt upside-down world the right way up again.
Think about that dishonest traitor the tax collector ZACCHAEUS
That day when Jesus invited himself for a meal at Zacchaeus’s house
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house.
What outstanding generosity! Like St Francis of Assissi who grew up very wealthy but gave away all his possessions, took vows of poverty and devoted his life to serving the poor and needy. Through the 20th Century there is no greater example than Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Transformed values.
There’s a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would have to leave without her.
She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over even the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds.
In one of his books on revival, Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”
True holiness is rare! Integrity and purity which stands out in this dark world. Holiness is the end-product of the transforming power of God.
Dwight L. Moody had it right when he said, “The Bible wasn’t given for our information but for our transformation.”
Answered prayer especially in Healing/deliverance
Last week at our Draw Near to God prayer meeting we thought about the signs and wonders which Jesus promised would accompany the preaching of the gospel – the miracles of healing and deliverance we find in Jesus’s ministry throughout the Gospels and which continued in the Early Church in the Book of Acts. In my years as a Christian I have seen healing miracles from back injuries, kidney problems, even terminal cancer. The blind receiving their sight and the lame walking. I myself experienced physical healing from a sports injury. And then I have also seen so many examples of healing of the mind and the emotions. We have seen the power of Christ is deliverance from evil. Julie – a drug addict and dealer whose life had been taken over and wrecked by demonic powers. Set free through deliverance in the Name of Jesus Christ. A number of other people delivered from demons. Prove to me that God exists? Look at those signs and wonders which have transformed people’s lives! God did that!
Manifestations of Spirit
Spiritual gifts, especially prophecy and praying with the gift of tongues – play their part in transforming Christians and Churches into the likeness of Christ.
And many Christians have had other kinds of spectacular encounters with the Holy Spirit bringing peace, joy, a sense of God’s presence and holiness to their lives. These things spread beyond Pentecostal Christianity into mainstream churches through the Charismatic Movement during the 1970s, John Wimber and the Signs and Wonders movement in the 1980s and through the Toronto Blessing in the 1990s. Where the Holy Spirit is invited in, God often does so in very interesting ways. Many Christians have had experiences of being completely overwhelmed by the presence of God, or by his love for them, or by an awareness of His holiness. They can have experiences of inexpressible joy or healing of deep hurts. The Transforming Power of God.
New birth; repentance and changed character; the Fruit of the Spirit; transformed values; holiness; answered prayer; Healing and deliverance; spiritual gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. God does all these things in the lives of people who are open to Him. And we all need this kind of outpouring of the transforming power of God! To change us into the people God wants us to be and that we want to be. To purify and refine us. To transform us into the likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to another.
We need an outpouring of the transforming power of God for our own sakes! We also need that outpouring for the sakes of our family and neighbours and friends who don’t know Christ. We need that outpouring for the sakes of all the not-yet Christians in North Springfield and Chelmsford who are heading for a lost eternity without Christ. Because it is the transforming power of Christ which is the proof they all need to see that God exists. They don’t just need to hear the gospel. They need to see irrefutable evidence in our lives – here’s the proof – God did that!
In the fourth century there was a preacher so great that they called him John “Golden Tongue”. John Chrysostom once said.
“If only ten among us be righteous, the ten will become twenty, the twenty fifty, the fifty a hundred, the hundred a thousand, and the thousand will become the entire city. As when ten lamps are kindled, a whole house may easily be filled with light; so it is with the progress of spiritual things. If but ten among us lead a holy life, we shall kindle a fire which shall light up the entire city.”
Our principal witness to the world is simply our transformed lives. “Evangelism is the overflow of our joyful faith.” Our Christian witness is simply our victorious Christian living! Our lives showing the life of Christ shining through us into the darkness. The difference Jesus makes to the things we do and the way we talk and the ways we think about things. That IS our Christian witness. That is our outreach.
Sometimes we think of “witnessing” as some desperately challenging and difficult task. But if we are living our lives according to the Scriptures, if we are living for God instead of for ourselves, if we let God work His transforming miracles in OUR lives, then people around us WILL see the difference and WILL want to know about Jesus for themselves. Witnessing is nothing more than letting our light so shine before men that they give praise to our Father in heaven.
The difference Jesus makes IS our witness – we just need to have the answers ready when people start asking the questions. This is the way it was throughout the book of Acts. God worked in powerful ways – and people around asked questions! “What’s happening? What’s all this praising God? How was this man healed? How did that arch-enemy of the Christians Saul become the apostle to the Gentiles Paul? How CAN Jesus be alive again? What’s going on? Prayers answered. Enemies forgiven. Courageous preaching in the face of cruel persecution. How is all this possible?!!!
There are just a few things which we need so that our lives will be open to God’s power.
We need DESIRE – we need to WANT to be changed.
We need EXPECTATION – we need to expect God to keep His promises and change us!
We need PRAYER – we need to ASK! You do not have because you do not ask! God is LONGING to pour out His Holy Spirit on His Church to change us into the image of Christ. God is just waiting for us to be ready enough to ask!
New birth. Repentance – changed character. Fruit of the Spirit. Transformed values. Holiness. Answered prayer. Healing and deliverance. Spiritual gifts and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit. WE need an outpouring of the transforming power of God!