Robert Jeffress - Discipleship Is Transforming
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Well, none of us is perfect, and perhaps there's a nagging flaw in your life that you wish you could change. Maybe you'd like to be less anxious or more peaceful or maybe you wish you could learn to be more content with your circumstances. What's the secret to making these dramatic changes in our lives? The answer is found in this one word, DISCIPLESHIP. My message is titled, "Discipleship is Transforming"! On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Today, my sermon is about spiritual transformation. Try to contain your excitement, would you? I can already see from up here some of your eyes are starting to glaze over. One guy out there just punched his wife, "Wake me when it's over, Gertrude. Let me know when it's over". Have you ever noticed why phrases like "Spiritual transformation, conformed to the image of Christ, becoming a disciple, a follower of Christ," why have those phrases become so boring to us? I think part of the reason is we use them so often without ever considering what they mean to us. You know, the idea of transformation apart from the Bible, the idea of transformation is very, very exciting, especially in other contexts.
I remember when I was four years old, every afternoon, I would dress up in my blue tights, I would put on my red cape, I would sit in front of our black and white television set and watch the "Adventures of superman". Remember superman? Mild-mannered reporter Clark kent would go into a telephone booth and he would transform into that man of steel who was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. "Look in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane. It's superman"! Dun duh duh, duh duh duh duh. Man, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Didn't you love superman?
Now, 50 years later, the special effects are a lot better, but the plot line still fascinates us. The idea of an ordinary person transforming into a supernatural person, well, it's the plot line of our favorite movies and our favorite television shows. I mean, let's face it. There is something about reaching down inside of ourselves and accessing a supernatural power that lifts us above our humdrum everyday existence. There's something about that that is intriguing. But the good news I have for you today is that idea is not only intriguing, it's possible. And it's what God has planned for you. Now, does that sound a little more exciting? That's what we're going to talk about, spiritual transformation.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Galatians 4. Galatians 4. Do you know that if you're a Christian today, there lies within you the potential to live exactly like Jesus lived. That means to think the thoughts that Jesus thought, to possess the inner peace that Jesus possessed, to enjoy the freedom from material concerns that Jesus experienced, to have that connection to God's power that Jesus had, to respond to mistreatment in your life exactly like Jesus responded, and to receive the praise from God that Jesus received. That's what we're talking about. And that's why we say the essence of discipleship is transformation, a changed life that comes from a transformed heart.
Now, because of that, throughout this series, I'm going to use the words discipleship and spiritual transformation interchangeably because that's what discipleship is. It is about a spiritual transformation. And the Bible says you have everything you need right now if you're a Christian to experience that transformation. Look at Galatians 4:19. Paul referred to the Christians at Galatia this way. He said, "My children, with whom I am again in labor," underline that word labor, "Until Christ is formed," underline that word, "In you". Now, this verse is pregnant with meaning, pardon the pun. Every woman here knows what labor is all about, don't you, if you're a mother. Labor is what precedes giving birth to new life. That word formed is the word morpho in Greek. Paul said, "I am laboring. I am struggling until Christ is completely formed in you". Until you morph, if you will, into Jesus Christ.
That word formed, morphed, is a word that literally is a biology term. It refers to that embryo, that fertilized egg inside of a mother. Think about it. That tiny minuscule egg has the ability to transform, to morph into a being that is millions of times the size of that tiny microscopic egg. And yet, that little fertilized egg has all of the energy necessary to morph into something much greater. It morphs into a human being. It forms a brain that has the capability of developing a nuclear weapon that destroys the entire world. All of that lies within that potential and that tiny embryo. Well in the same way, the Bible says when you become a Christian, you don't only receive the forgiveness of your sins, but the moment you trust in Christ, there is planted in you that fertilized spiritual egg that allows you to grow and change into the image of Christ.
Peter described it this way in 1 Peter 1:23, he said, "For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding Word of God". If you are a Christian, that egg, that potential is within you right now. The imperishable seed. The idea that God wants you to live a transformed life is all throughout the scripture. For example, Romans 8:29, Paul writes, "For whom God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that Jesus might be the firstborn among many brethren". Or Romans 12:2, "Don't be conformed to this world, but be," what? "Transformed by the renewing of your mind". Or 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul said, "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are being," what? "Transformed into the same image from glory to glory".
Now, again, maybe this idea of spiritual transformation hasn't yet captured your imagination. You're not excited about it. And I think the reason is you really haven't considered what such a transformation could mean for your life. What if you could go through your life with the absolute assurance that God was pleased with you? Doesn't that sound pretty appealing? That's exactly the kind of life that Jesus has called us to experience. That's what spiritual transformation is about.
Now, I think we need to be very clear in identifying what spiritual transformation is not. John Ortberg notes, "There are a lot of cheap substitutes out there for spiritual transformation, especially in the Christian world". What are those substitutes? Well, one is theological information. A lot of people substitute theological information for true transformation. They think, "Well, if I can just learn enough facts about the Bible, if I can study theology enough, somehow that will make me like Jesus Christ". Look, if cramming your head full of theology and Bible facts makes you like Jesus, why is it that some of the people who know most about the Bible are some of the meanest people on God's green earth? Have you ever wondered that? Why is it some people who are such great teachers of the Word of God fall into addictions and sexual immorality?
Now, I'm not belittling the important of knowing the Bible. We've got to know God's word and hide it in our heart. You can never apply more of the scripture than you know of the scripture, but unfortunately you can know more about the Bible than you apply from the Bible. And so don't ever confuse spiritual transformation with theological information. A second substitute is what I call religious conformation. John Ortberg, again, notes that many religious groups identify, they make up their own boundary markers that distinguish them from other groups or other denominations. And a lot of people confuse spiritual transformation with the conformation to some manmade system of beliefs and behavior. And I'm not talking about biblical standards of beliefs and behavior, but I'm talking about manmade.
Denominations, feel like, "Well, we've got to do something to be unique. So we'll establish this list of things you have to conform to to be a part of our club". Spiritual transformation is not about religious conformation. It's not about theological information. It's about a supernatural change in our life. Why is it we don't experience that transformation? "Pastor, if we've already received the imperishable seed, if we have all of the potential to morph into the person of Jesus Christ, what keeps us from doing so"? Well, there are four barriers I've identified that I wanted to talk about in these final minutes. Four barriers to experiencing the spiritual transformation God wants you to experience. First of all, the belief that spiritual transformation is not necessary. Perhaps that's the most pervasive reason. We don't morph into the person that God wants us to be. We don't think it's really necessary.
As long as we have our ticket to heaven, that's all that matters, right? We think of this transformation as kind of like a spiritual upgrade from economy to first class for those who want to pay the extra price of living that kind of Christian life. Does it really matter? We're all going to the same place, heaven. We're all in the same plane. Does it really matter where you sit, in economy or first class? That's where people think about this idea of spiritual transformation. "Oh, that's too hard. That's too complicated. I'll meet you in heaven". But as you read the Bible, does God really give us an option on this? Does he tell us it's possible to be forgiven by Christ without ever following Christ? Listen to what Jesus said himself.
John 3:36, "He who believes in the son has eternal life: but he who does not obey the son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him". I want you to notice something very interesting in this verse. How do you have eternal life? By believing in the son. That means more than just saying yes to a bunch of intellectual facts about the Son of God. How do I know that? Because notice the next phrase, "He who does not obey". It doesn't say "He who does not believe". It says "He who does not obey shall not see life". In other words, Jesus uses the word believe and obey as synonymous terms. If you really believe, you're going to obey. If you are not obeying Jesus, it's because you really don't believe Jesus. That's an astounding word that we all need to take to heart. John 12:26, "If anyone serves me, let him follow me". Or skip down to John 14:24, "He who does not love me does not keep my words".
Now listen to this, if you don't hear another word, isn't it illogical to think that we would spend all eternity bowing down and worshiping God, but right here in these few years we have on earth, we would never want to submit to God? Or put another way, why is it we think that if we are day in and day out resisting God's commands in our lives, refusing to submit to God's will, that somehow we're going to in heaven automatically start submitting to God and be happy there? If we're not happy here doing that, why would we be happy up there doing that?
Listen to the words of Dallas Willard. He says, "One should seriously inquire if to live in a world permeated with God and the knowledge of God is something they themselves really desire. If not, they can be assured that God will excuse them from his presence. They will find their place in the outer darkness of which Jesus spoke. But the fundamental fact about them will not be that they are there, but that they have become people so locked into their own self-worship and denial of God that they cannot want God". That's why people end up in hell. They don't want to submit to God here. Why would they want to submit to God up there? What I'm saying to you is this idea of spiritual transformation not being necessary is not found anywhere in scripture.
A second barrier to spiritual transformation is the belief that spiritual transformation is not desirable. Have you ever found that it's the unpleasant things in life that we determine are optional on our calendar or in our lifestyle? Dieting, exercise, controlling our spending. These are not practiced behaviors because they're not desired behaviors. We end up ultimately doing what we want to do. The things that are important to us, we usually find a way to do those things. We've allowed Satan to deceive us into thinking spiritual transformation is undesirable, following Jesus is undesirable.
Let's face it, many of us deep down have that feeling that, "Well, if I obey God in my life, if I follow God in my life, if I submit to his rule over my sexual desires, well, I'll end up being frustrated the rest of my life". Or, "If I end up surrendering my vocation, my vocational dreams to God, I'll end up in a hut as a missionary in some third world country". "If I turn my money over to the Lord and allow him to have the final say in how I spend it, oh, I'm going to end up a pauper". "If I have a desire to be a really significant person in this world and I turn that desire over to God, I'll end up in obscurity". We have that deep down feeling that following God is going to cause us to have a miserable existence. But no, the Bible says the most important thing we can do is to be like Jesus. And it's a good thing. It's not a bad thing for us to do.
You know what becoming like Jesus is? It means to live within the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is talked about throughout the entire Bible. For example, in Matthew 4:23, Jesus said, "And Jesus was going about in all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom". Matthew 10:7, "As you go, preach, saying, 'the kingdom of heaven is at hand'". In Luke 4:43, "He said to them, 'i must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose'".
All throughout the Bible, you read Jesus talking about the Kingdom of God. You see, the Kingdom of God doesn't have to be just relegated to the future. It can be experienced right now. In fact, in Matthew 13:44, Jesus said "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid and, from joy over it, he goes and he sells all that he has and he buys that field". You know what he's saying? He's saying to submit to God's rule in your life right now is priceless. It has dividends you can't even begin to imagine. The value of living in the Kingdom of God. Again, we've deluded ourselves into thinking that living under God's rule in our life is miserable. No, it's the only key to real satisfaction. I just jotted down some of the benefits of living under the rule of God in your life right now. You may want to jot these down.
Think about it. Freedom from worry, contentment with your finances, harmony in your relationships, power over destructive addictions, inward peace in spite of outward circumstances, and the assurance about God's approval for your life. A lot of people believe spiritual transformation is not necessary or desirable. A third barrier to spiritual transformation, believing that spiritual transformation is not possible. Maybe these last few minutes, as I've been describing the kind of life you could be experiencing, your spirits have started to soar just a little bit in thinking about what that kind of life would be. But you've fallen back to earth again as you remember the person you are right now. No, it's not natural, but God says we don't have to live a natural life. We can live a supernatural life.
That's what that prefix, super, super, it means above that which is natural. And you know why you can live that kind of life? Why it's possible? It's because of that power God has placed in you. It's found in Romans 8:2 and 4. I love the way the living Bible says it, "For the power of the life-giving spirit," that's the Holy Spirit, "And this power is mine through Christ Jesus, has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death. So now we can obey God's laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us".
Do you realize, the moment you become a Christian, and in just a moment, some of you are going to have a chance to do that, the moment you become a Christian, God not only gives you the forgiveness of your sins, but he infuses you with the Holy Spirit of God who empowers you to live exactly the same kind of life, the supernatural life, that Jesus lived. Spiritual transformation is possible. Finally, a barrier to experiencing this kind of life is because spiritual transformation is not planned for. It's not planned for. Spiritual transformations, the renovation of our lives, don't happen automatically. They require a plan.
Think about it for a moment. What plan do you have right now to keep yourself free from concerns about money? What plan do you have to conquer the addictions that may be destroying your life? What plan do you have for refusing to allow resentment to be your response to offenses? What plan do you have for making obedience to God's commands your normal response? Listen, you can believe that the transformation of your life is essential, that it's necessary, that it's desirable, that it's possible, but it won't happen until you execute a plan. Is renovation, whether it's of your house or your life, is it costly? You bet. Is it difficult? No doubt about it. But in the end, it's always worth the effort. And in the weeks ahead, we're going to discover what developing a plan for your spiritual transformation actually looks like as we continue this series, "Seven Marks of a Disciple".