Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are We Saved By Conforming Or By Being Transformed? Is There A Difference?

Good morning my friends. I trust the Lord sang sweet songs over you as you slept last night and now you have woken rested and ready for the battle. It is good to serve such a gracious and loving God. We are continuing with Ephesians 5.

Sometimes I regret trying to present the Word in such a confined forum like this blog. There is not a great deal of time or space to deal with some of the great and moving passages in the Word. This morning's passage is one of those passages, filled with so much food it will take a while to digest it. First, a reminder of yesterday's portion:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. vs. 1-2

To live a life of love comes at a cost to self, a cost of time, pride, self-interest and so on. This love is impossible for us so it must be an overflow of Jesus' love for us. It cannot be mechanical or forced. It happens when our fellowship with our God is rich, vibrant and full. This is why it says "as dearly loved children and life a love of love". We must realize the first before we are able to do the second. I was tested on this yesterday and I failed because I did not allow my actions to be guided by his love for me.

This verse then leads into a list of things that are changed by this life of love, but we need to be careful. When we experience the love of Jesus nothing remains the same, not because we change ourselves but because this love changes us. This is how we need to read this portion of Scripture, as what is changed in us, not as what we need to change. Consider this portion as a measuring rod that we are to measure ourselves against to see if we are gaining the character of Jesus or if we are failing to allow ourselves to be changed by his love.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. vs. 3

Spiritual maturity can take time but some things are changed in us quickly as the Holy Spirit brings conviction. Conviction comes as the Father's holy love for us reveals the darkness in us. We no longer want to be part of these dark things that have abided in us. Some of the first things to change are the outward sins that are obvious to everyone. However, this change is only happening because our hearts are being transformed by the experience of the Father's love. 

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. v. 4 

These are all good changes but unfortunately we who think we are wise deal with them in a way that our Father does not. We take this list of behaviour and we force it on people so that they are conformed instead of transformed. It is no good for a person to try to live a good life if their heart has not been touched by the Father's love. It is only with a transformed heart that we are able to live a life of love, of thanksgiving. We cannot experience God by living this list of does and don'ts. If we could have lived the law we would not have needed the death of Jesus. A new law has not be given. The old law is simply written on our hearts and empowered by the love of Jesus.

For me this is one of the greatest sins of the Church. We have turned the transformation into conformation. We have churches filled with people who think they are saved because they have not been properly taught what is meant when we read:

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. v. 5 

This does not mean that if you manage to hide these things and conform to the acceptable behaviour of the Church you will be saved. This is saying that if you find these things in your heart you have not encountered the love of Jesus. It is only the acceptance of Jesus that saves and that transforms our hearts so that these things no longer have a part with us. We do not conform to find God; we are transformed after we encounter Jesus. Instead of chastising people for their behaviour we should be asking them if they would like to have a real encounter with the Lord and Saviour of this world.

Yesterday I responded poorly to someone. Their behaviour was not an excuse for my reaction. No one needed to tell me that I was wrong because the experience of Jesus' love for me told me I was wrong. No list of behaviour brought conviction. The Holy Spirit in his gentleness reminded me how much I am loved so that I too am able to love. Such knowledge convinced me that my reaction was not born out of love but out of my flesh. You see, it is Jesus' love that is changing me, nothing else. The lists of behaviours we find in different passages of Scripture simply act as a measuring rod so that we know when our actions are no longer flowing from the love Jesus has for us. It is his love that changes everything. "Oh how he loves us." 

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