Tim Hawkins is a Christian comedian who often uses church sports stories for his routines. Within his routine he shared about what he life was like, where he had been, what he had seen, struggles and setbacks and finally he told the audience, “I’m coming off a few years of backsliding. Every night it was drunkenness and fighting and foul-language. Finally I said, ‘Ya know what? I’m quitting church softball!'”
If this isn’t your first time dealing with church people or Christians, you probably aren’t surprised the phenomenon which I call Christians behaving badly. Pastors fall from grace, congregations divide, or you accidentally sat in someone’s family pew (they let you know it).
An older guy found out the hard way when approaching a street light. He was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection. The tailgating woman hit the roof, and the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger-printed, and photographed, and then placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.
He said, “I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car!” (Unknown authorship)
Over the last few days we have been looking at the Big Picture of discipleship. We found that Christ’s mandate is commonly quoted– “Go and make disciples of all the nations” but unfortunately, rarely implemented. 70% of people raised in the church are falling away (LIFE WAY RESEARCH). Last week we looked at the first building block is what we BELIEVE—Not just what we belief, but how we believe—belief as an identity rather than just an idea. We looked at how our faith is grounded in fact rather than just a rosy fiction, and how belief allows us to live distinctly. Yet belief alone isn’t sufficient. James wrote about belief alone—“Even the demons believe and tremble.” In other words it isn’t only about what we believe, but where our beliefs take us. We are going to focus on the second building block—BECOME—seeking to be transformed.
Belief Leads to Action—In Acts 2:37-38- After the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples as promised, Peter rose up among the crowd and preached the first church sermon confirming Christ identity and allowing their belief to become the bedrock for something more: 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He uses their belief “they were cut to the heart”—and prods them to start becoming something more. He tells them the process– “Repent and be baptized”—An internal and external step towards holiness—repentance is an internal turning from sin towards the Savior, and baptism an external sign of obedience and trust. It is turning from sin that allows us to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, what is cool is the imagery here reveals that we aren’t just starting a process of becoming better versions of ourselves, but actually becoming more and more like Christ—following in the death, burial, and resurrection through the darkness, depths of the water and replacing it with the divine new light.
Repentance becomes the preparation for God’s transformation to start working. One Christian business man, saw this idea play out when he least expected. He was actually on a tour of a large manufacturing plant noticed a man using a fiery torch of high intensity to work on huge slabs of steel. Operating from a blueprint on a nearby table, a pointer traced the pattern and then by a clever system of levers enlarged the design as it was burned into the metal. There were times, however, when the flame would not make any impression. When this happened, a chemical substance was applied to the resisting patch, and immediately the cutting could be resumed. The worker explained that although the torch was able to go through clean steel 8 inches thick, if it encountered the slightest film of rust on the surface, the flame would not penetrate it. (http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/sin-hinders-the-work-of-the-holy-spirit)
Transformation most of the time isn’t a matter of God’s power, but a question of our resistance or receptivity. Don’t be shocked when you aren’t changing when you are giving change lip service, but not lee-way in your life. Don’t be surprised when you don’t feel close to God and haven’t made time for God. From time to time it is necessary that we look at our lives and seek out areas that are out of line with our heavenly Father.