Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
August 5, 2007
Before and After
Have you noticed the examples of transformation around you? We’ve heard the politicians who reinterpret past votes as a strategy for election. Some of you remember that old magazine ad of the guy at the beach getting sand kicked in his face and the before-and-after photos. A popular transformation television program is the home makeover shows.
But the greatest before-and after-transformation is described by Paul, and it is in three acts: “you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … then you will also appear with [Christ] in glory” (vv. 3-4). Yet much remains between the beginning and the conclusion of our life in Christ.
Accept the wonder and struggle of a changed life (vv. 5-11).
The new life in Christ begins with the Holy Spirit’s conviction and our conversion. Paul used the image of resurrection to describe it-“you have been raised with Christ.” Yet from conversion to heaven is the struggle of change. We dare not ignore the call to personal discipline: “set your hearts … set your minds … put to death … rid yourselves … put on the new self.”
Romans 7:21-25 describes the “war” that rages-“evil is right there with me … waging war against the law of my mind …. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
A baby learns to walk with some struggle. A child learns to ride a bike usually with some falls and scrapes. The Christian grows toward Christlikeness through a struggle with the old nature.
Adopt the disciplines to maintain a changed life (vv. 12-17).
Baseball teams enter the game after the discipline of practice. The player needs to be in good physical shape and have the right equipment. An undisciplined, unhealthy and poorly equipped team is well on the way toward defeat. What do we, “God’s chosen people,” need to experience victory after our salvation?
Stay dressed with Christian virtues (vv. 12-14). “Clothe yourselves” is an imperative verb. We are commanded to clothe ourselves with Christian virtues, tying them all together with love. These virtues are the opposite of the old life described in verses 5-7.
Check your heart regularly (v. 15). A news account told the story of a young basketball player who collapsed on the court with a heart attack. At conversion we were given Christ’s peace; from conversion on we must “let the peace of Christ rule.” When people or problems perturb us, His peace blows the whistle.
Exercise the mind and life (vv. 13-16). Physical exercise invigorates the mind and body; spiritual exercise invigorates our relationship with Christ and impacts our world. Centered on “the word of Christ” exercise the mind and life with forgiveness, thanksgiving, ministry and worship.
After having plastic surgery on her face, a woman was advised by her doctor, “I have done an extraordinary job on your face, as you can see in the mirror. I have charged you a great deal of money, and you were happy to pay for it. But I want to give you some free advice. Find a group of people who love God and who will love you enough to help you deal with all the negatives inside you. If you don’t, you’ll be back in my office in a very short time with your face in far worse shape than before.”
Maintain the motivation (v. 17). The transformed life is for the glory of Christ. Whatever we do must be motivated by Him and result in thanks to Him. The end is worth the struggle and discipline.
In the 1994 Winter Olympics held in Norway, 23-year-old skier Tommy Moe of the United States captured the gold on the men’s downhill-a tremendous comeback.
Sports Illustrated indicates he had shown potential for years but became involved in smoking pot and drinking. At age 15, eight years before his Olympic gold, he received an invitation to join the U.S. ski team, but he was kicked of the team when coaches discovered he sneaked out of camp to smoke pot.
Tommy’s father, an Alaskan construction worker, ordered his son to Alaska and put him to work. He started work at 4 a.m. and worked 12 to 16 hours a day. At the end of the summer, his father said. “I asked him if he’d rather be doing this or if he’d rather be skiing with the team in Argentina. That straightened him out.” Tommy acknowledged, “It humbled me up pretty fast.” (Bill Whittaker)