PS - Change is a messy process that will continue the rest of your life. But for the Christian, it will end well.
Sorry. Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there are no quick fixes. We tried to acknowledge as much when we began this sermon series dealing with gospel change. It must be said because something deep within us wants a well ordered, sanitary process. If at all possible, we’d prefer to imbibe Biblical truth with a minimum amount of intrusion and the maximum amount of impact. Sorry. Gospel change doesn’t work that way.
IT’S A BATTLE
Many of us, in the midst of struggle, find ourselves overwhelmed and tempted to shut down. It’s a defense mechanism. Afraid that our internal engine will overheat, we shut it down rather than risk further damage. The problem is, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking its supposed to be easy. Gospel transformation, is anything but easy. It is, in fact, a battle.
In Galatians 5:16-17, the Apostle Paul speaks to this battle raging between the desires of the Spirit and the desires of the flesh: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Sprit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
He is telling us to be aware of what is happening within us. The Christian is no longer defined by the flesh, but by the Spirit. Yet the fleshly desires are deeply ingrained in us, and the battle goes on (See Romans 7). So don’t be surprised by the struggle. Don’t give the enemy the benefit of surprise. But also don’t think that the presence of this battle is evidence that gospel change is not taking place in your life. The battle is very real, but the battle does not get the last word.
GOD IS AT WORK
For the writer, at times the post script is merely an after thought. At other times it is the punchline. This post script is no mere after thought. It is meant to awaken you to the ongoing battle, and to give you hope in the fight. That you are reading about, and thus desiring gospel change is a positive sign of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. This work is ultimately accomplished through our growing dependence upon Him. It is in this dependence where we find strength. And there is nothing quite like a battle that will grow within us a sense of dependence upon God. In this battle, you can be confident of two things: 1) Change has already begun; 2) Change will be completed.
Hebrews 10:14 speaks to the “already begun” portion of change. “For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” My unauthorized translation of this verse is this: “We have been, and are being, transformed by the grace of God.” The author of Hebrews tells us that by a single offering (Jesus Christ’s sacrificial and atoning death on the cross) God’s children have been perfected…that is, made holy. But at the same time, those who have already been perfected are also being sanctified, or being made holy.
It’s both. But how can it be both? How can we have already been perfected (past tense) but still be in the process of being perfected (present tense)? It is both because God is at work, and He has already affected a change in our lives. It is THE change, bringing us from death to life, making provision for our sin, and granting us the complete righteousness of Jesus Christ, all received by faith alone. (PRAISE THE LORD!)
Yet in this life, He is also bringing about this perfect change by growing us into what He has already declared us to be. And in this process of growing us, we find ourselves in the midst of a battle, which means gospel change is hard. But it is hopeful. God’s Word tells us what is already true, and what will be true. In Christ, we belong to the Father. And through Christ, we will one day join Him in glory. So for those of us in the midst of the sometimes painful, always messy process of gospel change, do not lose heart. God’s Word tells us the end of the story.
PSS - “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians1:6)