Grace Looks Good On You!

To receive the image of God through Christ means to begin to share in his glory, knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. It means to become like him. John Piper
 
I love to hear conversion stories that reflect a 180 degree change in the life of a man or woman who has accepted Christ. You’ve probably heard such stories as well and are amazed at who can God reach and what He can do. A drug addict who finds Jesus and leaves his life of bondage. A gang member who, once filled with the Holy Spirit, goes back and tells his friends about the Messiah. A pop star who’s made her living selling records and filling auditoriums but finds the words of Scripture so compelling that she leaves it all behind. No heart is beyond reach and no life is too far gone to be affected by the Gospel.
 
I don’t know about you but I can hear those stories and think, “Wow, those are real testimonies. So many people can be influenced by these lives if they choose to share their faith.” Often I look at my own testimony and path of faith in comparison and can find it rather boring and honestly less useful in the Kingdom. I’ve grown up and spent my life going to church. As a kid I accepted Christ just about every time an altar call was given. I can’t think of a time that I really wasn’t following Christ. I don’t say that to make any boast about myself…I just honestly have been around this thing called Christianity my entire life.
 
Well for some of us, that sense of where we are at and what we’ve come out of might be slightly dulled. It might even make us think we weren’t really as bad as the next person or need quite as much saving. But in reality, we need to remind ourselves that in God’s eyes all sin is sin. Everyone has sinned and messed up. Redemption looks the same whether you are a meth-addict or a housewife. If we walk in grace and truth, we ALL begin to be changed and transformed. That process, called sanctification, really only begins the moment we accept Christ. It is life-long but if we submit daily to God’s grace, we become something new and beautiful. Grace truly looks good on you!
 
I want to spend a few moments today discussing this topic of transformation a little more deeply. I’ve touched on identity and finding our true calling in Christ quite a bit this year (for further reading see True Identity and Giants Will Fall). I think understanding the process of growing in Christ is something new believers as well as those lifelong in the faith need to hear. New believers need it because they need to know how to grow and sustain themselves long-term. And those who have been in Christ for several years need it as a reminder in order not to stagnate or regress in their walk.
 
1. Inward and outward appearances change as we are transformed
 
I’ve been around long enough now where I can often tell or even just sense when I’m talking to someone who is a Christian. Even if I haven’t had any prior contact with someone, there’s just something that often makes me think “Hmm, I’ll bet he or she is a Christian.” Often it’s little things like mannerisms and body language. Words that are spoken (or the ones that are not) is another key. And just their general outlook on life, i.e. a hope that seems bigger than any problem or circumstance….that’s always a huge clue. I’m convinced that as grace has it’s affect on us, we look, act, and sound different to this world.
 
Inwardly, there’s a lot going on as well. Our thought patterns and even just what we allow our minds to dwell upon changes. As we attend church, read the Bible, pray and grow in our walk, we allow the Holy Spirit to start making us into the image of Christ. John Piper’s quote at the beginning of this blog sums it up so well: we begin to share in His glory, knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Over time, it’s interesting to remark that the things we used to really care about and invest emotional energy into really aren’t all that concerning anymore. Maturation in Christ will do that and you’ll know it’s happening when “the things of Earth become strangely dim.” How tightly are you clinging to the things of this world?
 
2. Transformation can sometimes be painful, but it’s always worth it
 
Growing pains are a real thing. I can remember the physical bodily changes of my early teens so many years ago and the times when bones, joints, and muscles were sore for no apparent reason. The underlying reason was because growth was happening. No growth happens without some element of pain. A basic definition of sanctification for me is simply the word growth.
 
As we grow in Christ, there are parts of us that are cut out in order for more growth to occur. Jesus talked about this in John 15: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1,2 Fruitfulness, growth, transformation…it all happens as God allows it. We must be willing to surrender our lives to the process of pruning that He chooses.
 
The implications for this are wide-spread: Some relationships might not stay with you as you walk away from an old life. Taking bolder steps of faith might mean leaving things you’ve known and loved and there is pain in that. Transformation might also make you unpopular as you cling to truth that the rest of the world doesn’t recognize. In all of this, we have to see that something deeper is at work and Christ is molding and shaping us into the people He desires us to be. In that, He is making something beautiful and no matter what pain the process may bring, it is always worth it!
 
3. One day we will be fully transformed
 
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:1-5
 
I believe the transfiguration of Matthew 17 is a glimpse into the future for those of us who are in Christ. I love that the Gospels include this event because it reveals 2 realities for me: first, that Jesus is God’s Son and second, that being in His presence in Heaven will be something spectacular. Peter states outwardly what I think all of us desire inwardly…to be in the presence of Jesus, seeing Him in all of His glory. He doesn’t want leave that place and the older I get, that’s a place my soul longs for.
 
As we are being transformed inwardly and outwardly in this life, there is an ultimate transformation that will occur as we die and gain new spiritual bodies. The Bible tells us this: Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 We shall be like Christ and although none of us know exactly what that will look like, it will be something beyond anything we have seen or experienced in this life. We have pin-hole glimpses into what the scene around the throne of Heaven looks like. One day we will be there sharing in His glory and made complete in Him!

I don’t know if today’s blog fires you up as much as it does me but I LOVE talking about this stuff! Maybe it’s because the world we live in is a place marked by sin and suffering. If we allow it, we can immediately lose hope by what we choose to focus on. I titled this blog “Grace Looks Good On You” because I truly believe in a day and age where nothing seems right and evil seems to reign, there is hope. I am hopeful because of what Christ has done in my own life. I am hopeful when I look around and see my wife and kids and their love for Jesus. And I am hopeful when I see the bearers of grace through this blog and ministry that are shining beautifully for the Lord each and every day.

You truly bear an image that this world needs to see. We have such a testimony if we allow God to use it and no matter what your story is, you are a brand new, beautiful creation in Christ. Be willing to allow Him to transform you daily as you spend time with Him. There’s no substitute for that and His desire is for you to grow deeper in relationship with Him. I love you guys and am always here for you…praying for and cheering you on. God bless!
 
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