Thursday, May 17, 2012

Be Changed!

In The Brady Bunch Movie, Marcia auditions to be a model. The agent looks her over and then says he might be able to do something with her if she will cut her hair, cap her teeth, lose about 30 pounds and consider breast implants. Marcia slaps him and says, with indignation, “cut my hair?!?” as she storms out.

Despite the humor involved in Marcia’s situation, we can all relate. No one wants to be told that she needs to change in order to be considered worthy enough [for a job, a relationship, or any other role]. Instead, we like to believe that we’re perfectly ok just the way we are. So I imagine, when the early disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in his kingdom, they fully believed at least one of them qualified for such a title.

But when Jesus responds to them - before he names the greatest in the kingdom - he says that they must be changed if they even want to enter the kingdom in the first place!  “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Hearing this must have felt something like a college student who asks his teacher, “who’s the smartest person in our class?”, only to have the teacher reply, “I’ll tell you the truth, unless you are transformed and become like a preschooler, you won’t even be considered a member of this class.”

Now that’s a slap in the face! Not only should we understand that we’re not the greatest in the kingdom, but we’re also being told that we can’t even get into God’s kingdom unless we are radically changed. Who wants to sign up for that?!? Change is hard, long, challenging work. It’s unnatural. It is often unpleasant and downright frustrating.  

Notice, however, that Jesus doesn’t say “change yourself.” His message of transformation is not about us trying to be different or making ourselves into something new. Instead, he says “be changed.” This implies that something or someone else will act upon us to transform us from our current state into kingdom-people.

Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had a private conversation with one of the religious rulers, where he explained this incredible secret.  

Jesus told him, “I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.”
“How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again, right?”
“I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Human parents can only give physical life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God.”

This should encourage us!

First of all, as I mentioned in my last post, Jesus
wants us to understand greatness in his kingdom. He doesn’t chastise us for wanting to be important; instead, he tells us how to achieve this.

But the first step, he explains, is that we need to be sure we are
in the kingdom of God. We can’t overlook this truth because things are upside down in God’s kingdom. God looks for sick, sinful, weak people to welcome to his banquet. He wants foolish, messed up, despised and rejected people to be his children. And those people - those people who recognize how ridiculously inadequate they are - enter the kingdom of God, not because they can get all cleaned up and look impressive, not because they have any ability to improve themselves, but because they look to God to change them. These people want to be transformed from the inside out, and only the Spirit of God can give birth to spiritual life.

So, once you recover from the shocking statement that you can’t get into the kingdom of God on your own, and you can’t receive the place of highest honor in that kingdom based on your own merits, and, in fact, you need to become (or, recognize that you already are) as helpless as a small child - then you get to enjoy the incredible grace of receiving the Spirit of God and being converted into a new person. Just as you cannot physically re-enter your mother’s womb to be born a second time, so, too, can you not enter the kingdom of God without being born by his Spirit.

In my next post, we’ll take a deeper look at what that “new person” is like. But for now, I’m interested in knowing: when did you realize you couldn’t make it on your own and needed to turn to God? If you haven’t looked to God for help, how would you challenge what I said in this post?   

1 comment:

  1. I am not a self-reflective person and am often defensive. I have known that I am not worthy to be called a child of God and that I'm not a sinner. But not until I was a parent of two small children did I daily realize, I cannot do this thing called life and that I really truly need Jesus.