Posts Tagged With: change

Titus 2: Be the Pattern

Preach the gospel always; use words if necessary.

These are the famous words of St. Francis of Assisi, and good ones at that.  Though not a Christian, Mahatma Gandhi said this:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Long before both of these men, Paul said something similar to Titus:

Make sure you present yourself as a pattern of good works.  Your teaching must be consistent and serious, in healthy speech that is beyond reproach.  That way, our opponents will be ashamed, since they won’t have anything bad to say about us. (2:7-8)

The world needs fewer sermons and more people who live the sermons they have already heard.  If Titus was ever going to be successful in fulfilling Paul’s charge to create strong churches on the sinful island of Crete, the revolution had to start in his own heart.  He could ask for nothing from those Christians and offer nothing to Crete he wasn’t able to be a pattern of.  He was to be the walking sermon.

So too with us.  We can rage on about the moral decay of our world, but until we are the change we are advocating, things will never get better.  Strong churches are composed of Christians with strong character who offer to the world by their very lifestyle an attractive alternative to sin.  

What did you see in this chapter about being a strong leader?

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2 Corinthians 7: Godly Sadness

If I did make you sad by my letter, I don’t regret it; and, if I did regret it, it was because I saw that I made you sad for a while by what I had written.  Anyway, I’m celebrating now, not because you were saddened, but because your sadness brought you to repentance.  It was sadness from God, you see, and it did you no harm at all on our account; because God’s way of sadness is designed to produce a repentance which leads to salvation, and there is nothing to regret there!  But the world’s way of sadness produces death. (7:8-10)

We don’t like sadness in our culture.  Life is supposed to be happy all of the time.  Nothing but butterflies and rainbows.

Of course, you can’t have rainbows without rain clouds and butterflies emerge from a strenuous battle with a cocoon.

I am afraid that this “happy-all-the-time” mentality has seeped into American Christianity too.  We expect God to smooth every road before us.  Life with Jesus is supposed to be a charmed life.  Surely, hard times are punishment.  And those who bring hard words of correction are not welcomed people at all.

At some point prior to 2 Corinthians, Paul has written a “sad letter” to this church.  This description doesn’t really fit the tone of 1 Corinthians, so many scholars think Paul is referring to another, lost letter to the Corinthians.  Clearly, Paul had hard things to say.  Things the church did not want to hear.  Things that made them ashamed of themselves.  Those are uncomfortable letters to write and conversations to have, and Paul confesses he regretted having to write such a letter.  Yet, the sadness the letter produced was exactly what the Corinthians needed.  It woke them up and they acknowledged in repentance that Paul was right.  A momentary spate of sadness created a wholesale change of direction.  Truly, “there is nothing to regret there!”

This sort of godly sadness is absolutely necessary, and it reminds us that not all we greet as bad is necessarily so.  Godly sadness created changes and results in salvation and redemption of that which is lost, broken and dying in our lives.  Godly sadness is what makes rainbows and butterflies possible.  There is always hope underlying the sadness.

There is a worldly sadness that is rightly undesirable.  Worldly sadness is nothing but rain and there are no silver linings.  Worldly sadness sweeps the cocoon away in a torrent and butterflies never emerge.  Worldly sadness offers nothing but death.  Hope is nowhere to be found.

When was a rebuke the most appropriate word you have ever received?  

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Colossians 3: Changing Clothes

I grew up going to church camp in the summer. It was one of my favorite weeks (or two, if I could convince my parents to let me stay for another) of the year. When I was too old to be a camper, I became a counselor and did that until I went off to college.

Now, twenty years later, I am writing this post (a day ahead of time) from church camp again.  This is our church’s week to have camp for all kids in fourth grade and up, all 250 of them!  This is the kind of camp I could have only dreamed to attend when I was a kid.  I have a harder time keeping up with the kids each year and I am not sure why they aren’t ready for lights out at 9:30 like I am!  Still, what a great week!

Later today we will all head home, and one of the first things I will do is strip off my camp clothes, take a nice hot shower, and put on some clean clothes.  It’s not that we didn’t shower or change here at camp, I just never feel totally clean until I am at home in my shower and then in clean clothes.

Paul talked about this earthly life the same way. We are here in a set of dirty clothes (3:5-9), but it’s time to get showered and start putting on the new clothes we were really meant to wear (3:10-15).  Of course, by this metaphor he means there is a whole new set of thoughts and behaviors associated with the “new humanity” we are becoming (3:11).  By the power of the Spirit, we are getting dressed to go home.

Each of these points needs a book of it’s own, but in this chapter Paul gives us some guidance on how to change our spiritual clothes:

  • Set our minds on the spiritual not fleshly (3:1-2)
  • Strip off the old clothes instead of just trying to keep them on underneath our new clothes (3:5-9)
  • Put God’s word into our hearts and minds (3:16a)
  • Help each other become new people (3:16b)

What did you notice in this chapter?

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Matthew 17: The Transforming Word

This chapter is maybe best known for the Transfiguration.  N. T. Wright does something nice here in his translation by avoiding the archaic word “transfigure” in 17:2 and he uses the more common word for the Greek word metamorpho here, “transformed.”  Jesus was “transformed.”  This is the same word in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18, two popular verses.

Interestingly, the experience of the Transfiguration did not transform the apostles understanding about John the Baptist.  Jesus used the prophetic image of “Elijah” coming again in the last days (17:11-12), but maybe because Peter, James and John has just seen the real, historical Elijah they were stuck on that one.  It was not their incredible experience that changed their understanding, it was the words of Jesus that helped them realize he was really talking about John the Baptist as a “new Elijah.”

But let me tell you this. . . . Then the disciples realized that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (17:12-13)

They were changed by words, not just an experience.

We saw this back one chapter ago, too.  Jesus had told the disciples to be careful of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:5) and they thought he was talking about bread.  They had had a lot of experience with bread around that time with the two miraculous feedings, but they didn’t realize what Jesus was really talking about until he spoke an explanation to them.

Then they understood that he wasn’t telling them to beware of the leaven you get in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (16:12)

I am enough of a postmodernist to really appreciate experiences.  I am a Bible student by training, but I want more than just words.  I was right there in the late 1990s putting down J. I. Packer’s Knowing God and picking up Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God because I wanted more than just knowledge of God.  I experience God in special ways in praise and worship, in service to the poor, and in the laughter and intimacy of true fellowship with believers.

Still there are many times that full understanding only really comes for me from the words of Jesus.  My heart is made tender by experience, but the words are what create true transformation.  For us today, that means an open Bible.  I am so appreciative that you have decided to be a part of this reading community.  I learn from you as you share, and simply the knowledge that you read (most importantly) your Bibles and (secondarily) this blog keeps me accountable and on track.  Then, God does with His words what only He can do: He transforms you and me by the “renewing our our minds.”

What struck you in this chapter?   

Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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