How does growth happen in the Christian life? How are we being transformed to conform more and more to the image of Jesus? How does real change happen?
I have had many dear brothers and sisters in the Lord come to me with struggles and issues in their lives, and what they wanted most was for me to FIX them. Well, as I told them, I had really good news for them. I told them that God’s plan was not to fix them, but to transform them. Typically, when we say we just want to be “fixed,” what we mean is that we do not want to struggle anymore, but we want the problem gone! It is like the old Calgon commercial, which had the tag line, “Calgon, take me away,” as we bathe in the luxurious bath water with this glorious substance in the water. Unfortunately, this is a very superficial way to think about our struggles, problems, and sin.
In 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul makes a profound statement, when he said that as we BEHOLD Jesus, we are are BEING TRANSFORMED. Now, this work transform in the Greek is in the passive tense. This means that we are being acted upon. We are not doing the transforming. No, the very Spirit of Christ within us is doing the transforming. But, are we doing anything? Yes, we are beholding Christ in the gospel. We are contemplating Christ as we consider His life, His work, and the sealed, finished work, which he did on our behalf. In Christ, we are changed and being changed. In Christ, we are born again and are new creations. In Christ, we are sealed in the Holy Spirit as a down payment of greater glory to come. So, we must take hold of that for which we have been laid hold of, and to grow up into our glorious new identity.
As a young lad I would sometimes put on one of my Dad’s dress shirts. Now, it was so large that it would engulf me. It did not fit. But, over time, I grew up into it. Truth be told I more than outgrew it as I became a hefty young man!! But, the analogy holds. We are being enabled to grow up into the very righteousness that we have already obtained in Jesus. In other words, we are being transformed to live lives of active righteousness through the righteousness of Jesus that is already accredited to our accounts. It is as if we are growing up into the righteous robes of Jesus with which we are already clothed.
So, is this through sheer hard work? Well it is hard work. But, there is a difference between “believing effort,” and unbelieving effort. In I Corinthians 15, Paul stated that because of the grace of God at work in him, he worked even HARDER in his calling of being an apostle. How does grace lead us to work harder? Well, I think Paul was working out of his understanding that he was working for One who already fully accepted him and he was working out of this acceptance, steadfast love, as well as working out of a sense of rest and peace. Paul was highly motivated by the perfect love of his Father that ushered forth in his being fully forgiven through the one who gave his life for him, even Jesus. So, as Paul stated, it was the love of Christ that controlled him. That is grace at work.
Consider Paul’s rhetorical questions in Galatians: Did we receive the Holy Spirit through works of the law or by hearing with faith? Does God work miracles through us through the works of the law of by hearing with faith? Having begun by the Spirit, are we now being perfected by the flesh? Faith drinks deeply from the wells of grace and puts one in contact with powerful resources and tools that change and transform us over time. Faith beholds and works through the means of love. Love, of course, is the summary of all of God’s Law. Grace, hope, faith, and love are like inextricable links of a marvelous chain.
God’s grace does not change the call to obedience. But, it certainly changes our motivation for obedience. Our active righteousness must be preceded by and fed by the “passive” righteousness of Jesus, which we receive by grace through faith.
So, the ministry of KAINOS, will seek to equip others to walk hand in hand with Jesus rather than with themselves and their own efforts. We will seek to lead others to see that they must put no confidence in their own flesh and efforts. Their heart-based confidence must rest in Jesus and that for which He has grabbed hold of us.