Peninsula Community Church
Spiritual Transformation of the Heart
February 18, 2018
Romans 7:15-21 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
How many can relate to Paul here in this passage? How many struggle in the battle between wanting to do what is right but having the tendency to fail to do or to live up to what is right or good? The truth is for too many there is a real battle that rages within us. It might be the amount of food we eat, the amount of alcohol we drink, the way we treat others, or what we think or feel about ourselves. No matter the issue, the battle rages, but there is a way of hope and it is called spiritual formation or transformation. That is what we will focus on today.
Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, there has been a need to deal with the heart and man’s reactions to life itself. This has been the inescapable human problem since the fall. Unfortunately, this problem has no human solution although many have tried to do so by way of human means. Some have tried psychiatry, drugs, and many other things to bring change. I do not discredit these resources because there is a need in many cases to have such things available. Unfortunately, too often, these things become the only source investigated, but in the end they do not always bring permanent change or transformation. The fact is, we need a work of God in us to make this happen in a more permanent and effective way. For example, this week we have witnessed another mass killing. The immediate response by many has been to call for more gun control, but this is not a gun control issue. It is a heart issue. The shooter’s heart and mind had been formed by disappointment, rejection, and low self-worth, and he had come to a place where he would have used whatever means possible to create mayhem and murder.
While the need for transformation is an inescapable human problem, I am afraid that as a whole Christianity has been ineffective in imparting answers to the vital questions of human existence. Now before you misunderstand what I am saying, let me explain. Too often, the Gospel has been liberalized or the message of the Gospel has been softened to the point that it does not bring real change. While the Bible has been and continues to be the source of hope for change, too many do not effectively preach the whole counsel of God in a way that meets the need of man. As Christians, we do not hold the Word as being precious and relevant to our needs. Therefore, many Christians have rejected the Gospel as a source of help, hope, and change. The end result is that we present an ineffective and powerless Gospel by the way we live.
The answer to inner transformation must also be more than the church I attend or the denomination I serve. When we are asked about our relationship with Christ, too often our patented answer is to relate to the church we go to or what denomination we have joined. We often say we are Methodist or Presbyterian or I attend PCC. The answer to our spirituality and Christianity must go deeper than religious associations. We attend an awesome church, but this church in itself is not a solution to permanent change. The real answer must come from a heart aligned with God’s will and His purposes.
A second problem is that we can be so focused on the outward expression of change that we miss the deeper issues of the heart. Too many hold to an inaccurate view that by simply changing the outward man, the inward man will follow. While there is some validity to this, too often this kind of change falls short of its intended purpose. The problem is that while we might change the outward man, the inner man is not necessarily changed which leaves us without the proper motivation for additional change. That is why Paul’s spiritual honesty in Romans 7 is so important for us to consider. There is an ongoing battle in doing what is right, We do what we do not want to do and we do not do what we should be doing.
So what is spiritual formation? For the Christian, spiritual formation refers to the Spirit driven process of transforming our inner being in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ Himself. The result is that what is within us is manifested outwardly. Remember that “out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:18-19, Mark 7:21, and Luke 6:45). We speak and act from what is contained and stored in the heart. While the fruit of a changed heart is an outward manifestation of inward change, we must not just focus on the outward manifestation of change. We must align our inward man and our outward expressions of faith to God’s word. With that said, the outward expression of change must never be accomplished at the expense of the spiritual renewal of the heart. When the external becomes the supreme measure of one’s success or spiritual growth we risk not having real or effective change inwardly.
In Mark 8:36 the Scripture tells us For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? In other words, what good is it to gain notoriety, riches, and outward perfection and lose our souls in the process. I also love 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. In the Old Testament man could come into the presence of God without having their faces covered. In the New Testament that changed and now we are invited into His presence without a veil. In His presence change comes and it is from there that we reflect the glory of God in our life. Paul refers to this to as being changed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to the next. This happens one step and one victory at a time.
A number of years ago in the Bronx, there was a problem with people vandalizing abandoned apartment complexes. The city, under Mayor Koch’s leadership, decided to handle this problem by applying decals to the windows which gave the appearance that the apartments were occupied. The goal was to deter vandalism and diminish the number of homeless living in the apartments. As you might guess, this action, a costly solution, did little to change the problem. While having the best of intentions, they were in essence trying to change the outward but the inner problem was not addressed or changed.
This is where we must emphasize that growing into Christlikeness is not based on human attainment. It has been and continues to be a gift of grace. The liberty that is ours in the Spirit motivates us and moves us toward acts of righteousness. Action alone is not enough without the Spirit at work in us. Let me explain this in this way. We can make a decision to be more loving and then try to act more patient and kind, but in the end we fail to be as loving as we desire which can be frustrating and painful. Merely trying to act more loving will lead to despair and defeat, if there is no corresponding transformation of the heart. The same is true of faith. We can try to live an outward faith, but we can fall short without an inward positioning of our heart toward God and His goodness, regardless of what is happening around us.
Since this is a work of grace, this transformation should not be a burden. Grace should be the answer to the weariness of trying to do better and live right. How many have been frustrated at trying to do good but fail over and over? That is Paul’s argument in Roman’s 7 and that is why Paul begins Romans 8 some much needed encouragement. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).
Notice the law was weakened by the flesh. The law was powerless to bring permanent change. The law can be correlated to the outward expression of action. For that reason outward action on its own is powerless but the Spirit of Life can and will set you free. Why is this? It is because the Savior, the Son of God, took on the flesh and sin and He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. He gave us the Spirit that can now leads us to transformation.
Here is the beauty of all of this, God the Father, gave us grace through the death of His Son, who abolished sin by the cross and the power of sin over our life in the resurrection. He also sent His Holy Spirit to reside in us so that we could be guided to truth and reality. He speaks into our heart and He brings change to the inward man so that we manifest that change on the outward.
So how are you doing this morning? How is your heart? Are you being changed inwardly or are you only working on the outward expression? Is God more important you than your church or your issue? Let us pray!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom