Reclaimed: Transformation

This morning, we’re continuing through our message series, “Reclaimed” which is all about becoming who you were created to be.  This series begins our focus on the work of the Holy Spirit and His ministry, the third core value of New Hope.

1 Timothy 1:15

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance:

To this world Christ Jesus came,

sinful people to reclaim.

Who here this morning is thankful that Jesus is still reclaiming sinful people today?

Yup, you and I wouldn’t be who we are today if He didn’t!

Job and David had the revelation that we were created by God by Him knitting us together within our mother’s womb.  The word of God taught this revelation centuries before we ever looked at a strand of DNA under a microscope.  For certain, we are knit together by God.

God knew us before we ever had a single thought.  He had a plan and purpose for us. 

You are not an accident, you were intentionally crafted and created by God!  This is what I love about prophecy, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that brings revelation of God’s planned purpose for our lives. 

It reveals to us our potential and encourages us to walk into it.  Prophecy gives us the vision of who we were created to be and helps us through this process of being reclaimed.

After all, life’s journey is difficult. As Jesus said, in this world, you will have trouble. Along the way, we have likely veered off course from God’s plans for us. We likely have some rusty parts, a few dents, and maybe even not firing on all cylinders anymore.

Maybe we are so broken and hurt and wounded that our purpose has been lost altogether. We find ourselves alone in the middle of a field, unable to move, while the rest of the world lives on forgetting us.

God’s heart and desire for us is not to point out all of our issues to shame us, but to reveal to us how to get back on track and the renewing work that he wants to do in our lives to make us whole and complete. No one is ever too far gone for God to reclaim!

So far, we’ve learned about the first two foundational steps in the process of being reclaimed; redemption and conviction.  Now that we’ve given our lives to Jesus and are listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit, it’s time to let the work begin!

I encourage you to read the beginning of Paul’s journey in Acts.  For time’s sake, here is a quick overview of his personal process of being reclaimed:

Acts 8:1-3 (NLT)

1 Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.

A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) 3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.

Acts 9:1-8;17-20 (NLT)

1 … Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.[a] So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus.

17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.

Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”

If Jesus is not only able, but completely willing to reclaim someone like Saul, surely He can do a good work in your life, right?  Saul, renamed to Paul, later wrote to a church that he planted:

1 Corinthians 15:9-10

I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

I’m so glad that Paul expressed the work of God’s grace in His life in this way because it was the only way that I could think of explaining this phenomenon as well.  The work of being reclaimed, becoming who we were created to be, reaching our full potential, is a cooperation; two working together as one. 

It’s the ultimate, unstoppable team for whom nothing is impossible for.  God’s very Presence dwelling within you.  It is transformation at it’s greatest pinnacle.

Reclamation is a work accomplished all by the Holy Spirit as we simply allow Him to do it.  We are what we are by the amazing grace of God.

Sometimes we get so frustrated and discouraged because we’re trying so hard to change.  All the while, God is just waiting for us to stop trying and start living.  Sure, there are benefits to spiritual disciplines that can shape and form our character and we should make habits to put them into practice. 

However, they in and of themselves are good works that do not lead to transformation.  Only doing them out of love for God and with a motive of having a healthy relationship with Him make them effective.  It is not our works, but the Spirit’s work through them that leads to change.

What happens when we try to improve our lives?  Well, Paul explained his own pursuit this way:

Romans 7:15-20;25

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

On our own we struggle to do what is right and to put our evil ways behind us.  Through Jesus Christ, however, we find deliverance and empowering grace to carry out what is right.  What we need to be reclaimed is less of us and more of Jesus at work in our lives.

Sometimes we just need to stop trying so hard and start trusting even harder.  We need to relax a little and let God a lot.  We need to do what that new catch phrase says, “Let go and let God.”

The Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out.  The work that we do is an attempt at changing us from the outside in.  Logically thinking, it makes perfect sense why this leads to so many issues and so many struggles.  When we try to change our behaviors before the Spirit transforms and renews our minds, we’ll find ourselves fighting against Him.

When the Holy Spirit transforms us, He doesn’t just fill in our dents with putty and slap on a new shiny new coat of paint.  From the inside out, we become a new creation.  The old is gone and the new is here.

It’s much like the transformation that takes place with a butterfly.  Yes, it does take time, it is uncomfortable at times, it can even take us through dark times and there will be a lot of unknowns and unexpected twists and turns.    It is a process.

In time, however, that same gross caterpillar that most people run away from and are creeped out by becomes a butterfly that people run after and even preserve and display forever. 

Ecclesiastes 3:11a

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

If God can do that for a tiny, short-lived caterpillar, then imagine what He can do in our lives!

In the end, when we trust God and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, we are far more than we even realize that we are.

We have to be willing to trust Him through that process, though.  It’s easy for us to see a cocoon and eagerly expect the beautiful butterfly to emerge.  However, put yourself in the position of that caterpillar.  Closed in, trapped in darkness, uncomfortable, and alone for what must feel like forever.  It would be easy to lose hope from the caterpillar’s perspective.  That’s why, in those challenging times, we must cry out like David:

Psalm 61:2

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

We must trust in God’s perspective, in His timing, and in His process.  His thoughts and ways are higher than ours.  He sees from eternity; knowing not only our past and present, but most importantly, our future.  We see from the valley, He resides on the rock higher than I.  His perspective is perfect and He is good and faithful.  He is doing a good work, we simply must trust Him through it.

We want the anointing of God, but consider what it takes for this anointing oil to be produced.  Olives hanging out in the hot sun, rainy days, cold nights, just to be plucked and crushed under immense pressure.  Only then does it produce the anointing that we so greatly appreciate either in our anointing oil or in our Italian food.  The anointing of the Holy Spirit often comes through similar circumstances.

Some of the most amazing and anointed songs of praise and worship that have stood the test of time came as a result through the most tragic of circumstances.  Some of the most powerful, transforming teachings came through the testimony of pain and brokenness.

As God is stripping things away from us and sanding down our rough edges and pulling out our rotted hoses and chewed up wiring, we have to trust that it is for our good.

If He is taking something away, it is to replace it with something better.  If He is stripping us down, it is to build us up stronger and better.  Don’t be ashamed of your issues and weaknesses, they are the evidences of the Spirit at work in you!  In fact, Paul taught us to boast in them!

2 Corinthians 11:23-30 (NLT)

23 …I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.

Consider the caterpillar again.  In the end and after all of that change, a butterfly still can’t really see the beauty of the transformation that it went through.  It can now fly and see things from a whole different perspective, but it cannot fully see its own change.  It cannot see the beauty of its new wings, just sense a change.

Likewise, we can’t know ourselves by ourselves.  The life transformation that takes place inside of us is more obvious and visible to others than to us.  God created us with the need for relationships so that from the interactions with others, what is within us can be revealed.

Transformation is a key work of the Holy Spirit.  God wants that work to begin in your life and to continue until He finishes that good work that He started.  Wherever you find yourself on the journey of that project, I feel that God wants to encourage you today to let go and let Him. 

Let today be the day when your striving and struggles cease and are replaced with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit.  Let today be the day when who you are is a result of the grace of God and not anything of yourself.  Jesus is ready, willing, and able to reclaim your life and transform it into something amazing; our role is simply to allow Him to do it.