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True Transformation

   

YTL Community News, October 9, 2011

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only person in history who was crucified, who died, was buried and on the third day, came back from the grave to appear to the living.

There is incontrovertible evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, as much as for the reality that He is alive today and actively involved in all our lives.

Living and experiencing the resurrection life of Jesus is authentic spiritual faith. Not least, the basis of all Christian transformation.

PART ONE:Resurrection

[1] Significance of the Resurrection of Jesus

Recently, David Pawson spoke on the significance of the resurrection of Jesus.

1. The greatest miscarriage of justice in human history was the cross. In raising Jesus from the dead, God the Father reversed a terrible verdict, and vindicated Jesus’ claim to be God.

2. The resurrection was also proof that God the Father had wanted Jesus to die for our sins, and has accepted that death as compensation for all our sins.

[2] Profound Implications for the Future

Then David spoke on the resurrection and its profound implications for the future. The Bible tells us that human existence is in three phases.

1. First, we live in the body and our spirit is embodied. Like now, my spirit is talking to your spirit because I am embodied.

2. In the second phase of our existence, we lose our body temporarily and become a disembodied spirit.

- We remain conscious, knowing who we are, where we are and who we are with. The dead are in touch with each other, but not with the living.

- The Bible tells us that Jesus talked to people between the day He died and the day He rose.

3. What happened in the resurrection of Jesus is that He received a new body. He came back to this world. He appeared to His disciples and communicated with the living. He ate, He cooked and had a body to be touched. That is what resurrection is really about!

a. Resurrection is not about surviving death! It is about coming back to the living and communicating with them. Apart from Jesus, no one else can do this. Only the Son of God can.

b. In three days, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus went through all three phases of human existence.

- The promise and assurance we have in Jesus is that like Him, we too will pass through those three phases of human existence.

- We are embodied spirits that will become disembodied in death.

- Only to be re-embodied again in future, which the Bible calls “the resurrection from amongst the dead”.

c. Jesus is the only person in history ever to enter into the third phase. Nobody else has yet.

[3] Future of the Whole World

Jesus’ resurrection speaks of our future. But it also tells us about the future of the whole world.

1. Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of the re-creation of the entire universe.

a. Why did Jesus rise in the first day of the week? Because it was the day when God began His work.
- First working day of creation.

b. This means God has gone back to work!

- Throughout the Old Testament, God rested from His work of creation. He finished His work.

- But on Easter Sunday, God went back to work. The early Christians called Easter Sunday the 8th day! They saw this as the first day of the second week of creation.

- And the first part of the old creation God made new was the body of His Son.

1. The difference between the two creations is that in the first creation, He made heavens and earth first, and men and women last.

- In the new creation, He is making new men and women first, and the new heavens and new earth last!

2. Why is the order the other way around? Because God wants all of us in His new creation.

- But He won’t take us to His new creation as we are. We will only spoil it very quickly for ourselves, for others and for Him.

- Instead, He will make us into new men and women. We will one day be perfect, who are able to be part of His new universe.

PART TWO: Transformation

Let me translate David Pawson’s exposition on the resurrection into our discussion this afternoon.

There is going to be a new heaven and a new earth, and Jesus is actively preparing us for it now. Therefore, our first and foremost priority must therefore be to share the good news and facilitate souls coming to Jesus.


[1] Salvation

1. We are really most pitiful, if all we ever have to live for is in this world.

a. For many of our friends and colleagues, that’s the case.

- King Solomon had everything one could ever need or want. Yet he concluded that everything is vanity!

b. Then there are also those who appear like they have all the clever answers of the world. They claim to be OK on this earth. Perhaps!

- But scientific advancement, Google search or clever philosophy only serves to highlight how fragile the world is. Nothing is ever permanent. And if so, life holds limited meaning.

- The Bible tells us we have eternity written in our hearts. That’s why the most committed atheists, Darwinists, new agers are usually the “most religious” – in that they turn what they believe into the ultimate religion. They have most religious fervour. Naturally, they have no choice if they only have this lifetime to make-good what they have.

- But regardless of whether you are a pluralist, materialist, ethical relativist, narcissist or even religious zealot, the end game is the same – “Everything ends up in a box!”

2. That’s why Jesus is the good news.

a. In Him, we have hope that this world is not the end. Far from it.

- Salvation is to be made perfect. It is to be restored to the image of God.

- It is not just to have our sins forgiven, it is being made a new person, ready to go into that new world without spoiling it, polluting it.

- That’s the good news! That’s what the Gospel is all about. New people for the new world!

b. His resurrection is the proof that we could do it.

- But Jesus will only allow into His new world, those who would allow Him to make them fit for it. Those who had their sins forgiven. Those who are being made into the kind of people that can live in a perfect world.


And that is why we must faithfully lead others to Christ, and let the transforming power of the Lord’s good news do its work.

That is transformation!

[2] Porcupines

Let me come to the second point. Christians are so privileged. By the sheer grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and through no merit of our own, we are selected to participate in this 8th Day.

We are chosen to partner with our Lord Jesus to build this new heaven and new earth. It is absolutely mind-blowing!

1. But as we have learned, the process starts with us. The Lord is remaking men and women fit for His Kingdom.

a. Whatever transformation, it starts with us.

- It starts with daily internal regeneration of our soul through honest and real communion with our Lord.

- It involves the renovation of the heart and the renewing of the mind.

- It is a radical discipleship, with eyes firmly fixed on the cross. When we take up His cross, we will also suffer with Him.


b. Our Lord Jesus Christ is alive! Paul writes in Galatians 4: 9 that transformation is “Christ being formed in us”.

-  When we are continually tuned in to Christ, we will invariably become the reflection of God’s glory.

- The Holy Spirit will have His effective work in every aspect of our lives.

c. Of course, when we draw nearer to the Lord, we also become so much more aware of our sins, of our own unworthiness.

- Far from having that ‘gung-ho’ spirit of arrogance, we become humble, poor in spirit, breakable and ultimately, usable. That’s when the Lord’s best work of remaking us is done.

- Brennan Manning writes: “Because we never lay hold of our nothingness before God, and consequently, we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with Him.

But when we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us.”

If transformation could be measured, it is that a person reflects Christ in all that he or she says and does.

That is how it must be!


   

2. Let say something about the church. Jesus wants His body of believers to be His face to the world.

- Jesus is actively reconciling the world to Himself, using the church as the primary vehicle.

- Yes, us! Sulking, mud-slinging, moralising, hypocritical, disunited, “we know it all”, graceless, loveless bunch of people!

a. He wants transformation to come through us. How? With great difficulty!

- Imagine the coldest winter ever and many animals were dying. The porcupines decided to huddle together to keep warm, covering and protecting themselves. But their quills wounded each other. They were all prickly!

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves from one another. But they began to die, alone and frozen. And so they decided to huddle back together, accepting each other’s quills – the prickliness and all; and learning to live with the little wounds caused by close proximity and prickly companionship.

b. Truth be known, Christians are usually the prickliest of all! Why? I suspect it is because we think we can do a better job playing God.

- But to reflect Christ, huddling of the church together is not an option, it is a command. We have to learn to live with each other’s imperfections and grow together.

- Unity is hard! We feel vulnerable. We have to sacrifice our space and idiosyncrasies. We have to be selfless.

c. But we also have the best example of how to get along, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for His people.

- Jesus loves the church and has given Himself to unite the church.

- And He is not even prickly. Yet, each day, huddling with us, our sins, selfishness, pride and arrogance pierce His flesh much like the quills of the porcupines.

- But if we ever doubt Jesus is serious about ‘sticking to us’, He would say, “just look at My nail pierced hands”.

That is transformation – by Jesus Himself.

[3] Brownie Points

There is a lot of talk about what specific transformation is. That is why we are here.

Let me say again, transformation is Christ being formed in us. And that’s why I am not always happy with what I am seeing and hearing these days.

1. We talk about revivals, great anointing, legacies, discipling nations, new paradigms etc.

a. Let me ask, do they end up being new ‘theological battlegrounds’ that stir up biases and differences? Even causing more confusion and division in and out of the church?

b. So-called great apostles and prophets have claimed to know what transformation entails. They drum up support for new visions of radicalisation to revolution. They presuppose that if they did certain things right, change will be inevitable because God will bless their endeavours.

- But we also hear of ‘Christian’ leaders claiming to act on God’s behalf to bring change but ending up causing more mess and hurting people.

- Recently, the world saw a clip of a Christian heckling President Obama in a crowd, calling him the Anti-Christ, whilst proclaiming the Name of Jesus. That is supposed to reassure the world about Jesus?

- Some church leaders have even said it is OK if Obama was assassinated, because it is biblically justified on account of his liberal policies.

How is that Christlike? How is that standing for truth and justice?


c. I am fully committed to Christ-centred transformation!

- I want to see the love of Christ touching Malaysia and healing the world.

- I myself want to be transformed too, and become an agent of change. That is why YTL must always be a force for good, bringing positive change through all our products and services.

- I also agree with Dinesh D’Souza that Christians should do a better job at telling people what Christianity actually says about politics, economics and society, and making the implication of Christian beliefs relevant for today.

Christianity is relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. We must retell the story in a way that today’s confused world can understand.

But there is also loads of rubbish and confusion out there.

Let me ask these questions:

1. Is Jesus actually the One effecting change? Or is it just us shaping our own agenda for change?

2. Are we writing books and programmes to improve on what Jesus is doing, because we ‘subconsciously’ think He needs help? What is Jesus doing?

3. Do we focus more on God’s gifts rather than God the Giver? And we actually build on these gifts to determine our own end-game whilst turning God into a cosmic vending machine?

4. Are we influenced by personal or corporate ego of wanting some ‘name’ for ourselves? Perhaps acquire modern versions of human monuments like larger churches, stadium filled events etc?

5. Do we take credit for what God is doing in this world?

God is a Jealous God

We can see the hand of God in many of our efforts. God in His divine foreknowledge knows what He is doing. The Kingdom of God is in our midst and His extensive grace reaches to non-Christians, including Christians who are misguided.

1. But our God is a Jealous God. Whose glory He will not share with another. More so, the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ, with Whom He is well pleased. And in whom, resides the hope of all mankind.

a. Therefore, it is absolutely vital for those of us in privileged position of leadership, responsibility and influence, to do everything entirely unto the Lord and not for ourselves. Our conscience must be clear.

- God is a debtor to no man

b. The award winning writer, Donald Miller confessed that he started writing Christian books many years ago because he wanted to be liked.

- It is a warning to all of us that we are not doing anything because we want to be significant, relevant and important or just to be heard.

- Do we secretly crave for power, wealth, prominence, fame? Or do we hold them lightly?

We would be very pitiful if we really wanted power, wealth, prominence, fame.

Because that means, we are living not for eternity, but for this temporal, corrupting world.

And we hurt the feelings of the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us.

2. Friends, we are never called to play God!

a. The Christ centred spiritual transformation we desire and champion must be God breathed, fashioned through divine revelation and utter submission to Him, and refined through suffering.

- It is very simple. Movements that reflect Jesus could only be by revelation, when He chooses to reveal Himself.

b. Christ-centred transformation also has very different definitions of success and failure.

- Because of God’s foreknowledge, everything is within His overall grasp.
- As such, God’s Kingdom is not measured or judged by the values of the rat-race. Or human KPIs.
- Even if a revival movement may have appeared to fail, it has not! The Kingdom of God is always advancing. We can see all this in history.
- Even should something appear hopeless, in Christ, there is hope!

- Ultimately, our Lord Jesus Christ is refashioning the world to Himself. But are we going to set KPIs for Jesus?

Conclusion:

The real debate here is very straightforward.

- Do we believe our Lord Jesus is alive and present through His Holy Spirit;

- Radically reshaping the new men and women according to His likeness and good pleasure; and

- Actively influencing the landscape of our world today?

If we doubt that He is, that is almost certain the start of our temptation to play God!

- And no doubt, we are very good at playing God with our own self-made gospels and fancies.

- We even have the cheek to ask God to bless our endeavours!

But if we place our lives in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ and appreciate that all things were created by Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together, and that the same Jesus who co-founded this world with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit died to redeem it, what more He would see it through to completion.

- He is indeed the Author and Finisher of our faith.

- Paul writes in Philippians, “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Is that good enough for us to trust and fully depend on Him?

And if so, we plod on – steadfastly running the race and doing all things as unto the Lord.

We ask for no rewards, no brownie points, no glories, but the utmost privilege of humbly sharing in our Lord’s joys and sufferings, His passion and His vision for all that He has planned.

But do not be surprised that when we do so, we may achieve even far greater things than we have ever asked or imagined. But the fruits of which we may never enjoy in our lifetime, but will be seen by our next generation or generations.

1. Think of Brother Lawrence. A humble monk’s pursuit of God’s presence through the most mundane daily life in a monastery, has taught Christians more about capturing the presence of God than most other writings.

2. Think of GK Chesterton and CS Lewis. They wrote profusely because of their sense of God’s greatness, as well as annoyance for those who sought to confuse the Gospel message. Yet, today, we are still benefitting from how they have managed to capture something of God’s mind and wisdom in their writings.

3. Think of William Wilberforce. He first sought fame and power through a career in politics, but subsequently gave his entire political life to end the slave trade and free the oppressed. He captured for us God’s profound heartbeat for a world so cruel and so in need of His love and restoring. But more so, that God could use him, a simple Member of Parliament to end the world’s largest network of evil commercial trade.

This is true transformation! Jesus’ way!


Speech by Tan Sri Dr Francis Yeoh
at Alpha Workplace Conference,
Sutera Harbour Resort, Kota Kinabalu.
On Saturday, 8 October 2011

 




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