"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." Romans 12:2
Opening prayer: Father, I know that Your ways are higher and better than my ways. Please help us understand more of Your ways, and empower us to walk in them.
Admit it: The people in the Bible look both strange and familiar to us in this generation. It isn't just the funny robes.
Sadly, it's the weaknesses of the common people and sinners that look familiar. We can easily relate to them. The sinners sound very much like you and me.
The heroes of the Bible are the ones who look strange to us. Each of them had SOME type of experience with God that radically changed his or her life. Each was enabled, by the power of God, to accomplish something remarkable.
We know, in our heads, that God can do the same with our lives.
We know, in our hearts, that God wants to do the same with our lives.
But we never see the burning bush. We never hear the voice from the cloud. The fire doesn't fall from heaven when we pray.
Don't answer that yet! Instead, keep reading and let the Holy Spirit answer that question for you.
But what's the point?
The point is that God wants to do a remarkable work in and through YOUR life. Perhaps He has already done remarkable works through you. But in these last days of human history, God wants to do greater miracles in and through you. In order to do that, He needs your permission to transform your life.
Hey, teacher! Don't hassle me. I've already got my religion thing worked out.
Good! Then you can give God some pointers someday. In the meantime, let's look at a few episodes in the Bible that give us insight into God, His character, and His plan for our lives.
Let's start with Isaiah (one of my heroes) chapter 6, verses 1-7:In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts." 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged."
Isaiah's response to seeing God was to cry, "Woe is me... because I am a man of unclean lips..." Remember: this is Isaiah talking. Mister Isaiah. God worked miracles through him. God prophesied both the exaltation and the suffering of Messiah through him. Jesus, Himself, read from the scroll of Isaiah and pronounced that He was fulfilling the passage He'd just read.
So how did Mister Isaiah respond to actually seeing God?
Mister Isaiah was suddenly very conscious of God's power and holiness. Mister Isaiah was very conscious of how his very best came VERY short of God's standards. In fact, Isaiah needed a touch of the coal from God's altar before he felt cleansed enough to stand before God.
Bottom line: each of us needs the touch of a coal from God's altar. More on this subject later.
Now let's see how the Lord appeared in the first chapter of Ezekiel:Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 26 And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
Ezekiel was another one of God's heroes, entrusted to deliver a series of very unpopular messages to God's people. Ezekiel was a God-fearing man of great integrity and faithfulness. But when he saw God, he fell on his face. He was very conscious of how his best efforts were quite unimpressive compared to the Living God.
Well, if our best efforts come so short, why bother? Why don't we just go out and party instead?
Because God has something better for you. As the next Scripture passages show, God cares for you and has a remarkable plan for your life.
We see God's tender nature in Ezekiel 34, verses 11-12:'For thus says the Lord God: "Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 "As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day."
We get a glimpse of God's plan in Ezekiel 36, verses 24-27:"For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."
Please note how God expresses His plan. All the hard parts are His, as He says:
- I will take you from among the nations...
- ...I will sprinkle clean water on you...
- ...I will cleanse you from all your filthiness...
- ...I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you...
- ...I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes...
At the very end of this list, God lists what He expects you and I to do: "...and you will keep My judgments and do them."
Isn't that kind of a "legalistic" thing to say? It's HARD to keep God's commandments.
It's not legalistic at all. Because God wants to give you a NEW heart and His own Holy Spirit to live within you.
God's Holy Spirit can transform you. He can change you from the inside out -- IF you give Him permission to do so.
Our next lessons in this series will help you understand where you are in the process and what to do next.
Closing Prayer: Lord, I know that my very best is very short of Your standards. Let me be changed and renewed by Your Holy Spirit as I follow You, I pray, Amen.