The Transformed Life Starts *HERE*

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you." Ezekiel 36:26

Opening prayer: Father, despite my best efforts, my life comes short of even my own standards. Please open my eyes to see what You will do to and through me if I permit You.

You are *HERE*

If you can read this, you are still alive on planet earth. You are trapped inside a body that grows older and less trustworthy by the day. You wake up to a day of challenges and frustrations, and go to sleep with unmet needs. You live in the world of Ordinary Life.

Ordinary life is not the only option. God wants you to live the Transformed Life.

The Transformed Life is superficially similar to Ordinary Life, because it's lived on the same planet in the same body (sorry!). But the experience and the results are radically different, both for you and the people around you.

You won't achieve the Transformed Life by any of the world's fix-me-up methods:

Let me save you some time: Nothing on that list can help you where it matters -- in your heart. You can convince most other people that you're happy, but you KNOW you don't have it all together.

Wait a minute, Teacher! Won't religion help me?

I don't think so. My Lord was crucified by religious people. They crucified Him because He came to abolish religion and teach the right way to be transformed.

What IS the right way?

The right way is to take your life to the Master Craftsman Himself and let Him change you. The good news of the Gospel is that God Himself cares about you and is willing to give you a new life starting today.

Our Lord Himself expressed this principle in John 3 verses 3 through 6:

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

This is an important principle. Ordinary flesh life can be very attractive at times, but it won't get you (or anybody else) into heaven. The Gospel (literally "Good News") message is that God wants to give you an implant of His Own Holy Spirit, a new nature that can be nurtured and developed.

Your new nature, if you choose to receive and nurture it, will inevitably transform your life. God's own Spirit will give you a new heart, a renewed mind, and the power to make a difference in the lives of other people.

But I'm already a Christian... I think.

Good starting point, but let's take nothing for granted. To really understand God's transforming power, we need to reinforce and clarify some principles that you already think you know.

As we study, be on the alert for four elements that make the Gospel very different from worldly philosophy:

The gospel of Jesus is absolutely upside-down and backwards from the teaching of psychology, which would have you become self-absorbed with the conscious and subconscious rumblings of your primitive, self-seeking sin nature. The gospel of Jesus is very different from all the man-made religions I used to follow. In fact, it is even quite different from the baby food taught in many of the pulpits of this country.

Hey, teacher! Are you being judgmental about other denominations?

Actually, I'm being judgmental of all the self-centered intellectual foolishness that I held so dearly and studied so fervently in my younger days -- before I read the Bible for myself. Now I just write lessons about what the Bible says. If your favorite religion prefers intellectual foolishness and warm fuzziness to the Bible, well, suit yourself. To the best of my ability, I try to present what the Bible says; you can decide for yourself whether you agree with it.

Let's begin our study in Paul's letter to the Romans in Chapter 1, first sentence:

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared [to be] the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called [to be] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Right away we see one thing that's backwards about this letter -- the author signed the letter at the very beginning instead of at the end, like we do today.

Then it gets worse. He says he is called an apostle -- no argument so far. But he calls his readers -- ordinary Church folk living in Rome -- SAINTS in verse 7. By that measure, you and I can be called saints.

That can't be right. My church says you must be dead five years and have documented miracles performed by people praying to you in order to qualify for sainthood.

Your church is welcome to create its own heirarchy of departed saints. If you like that stuff, fine. But Paul was writing to people who were very much alive. He called them "hagios" -- a Greek word meaning somebody or something dedicated (called out, set apart) to a specific purpose. You and I are called out and separated to follow Jesus -- a very different experience from being dead.

Notice something else unusual in verse 4: how is Jesus declared to be the Son of God?

Hmmmm. It says He was declared "with power" through His resurrection. Any religious leader can make claims and throw out ideas for debate. God has a simpler approach: He states His plans centuries in advance and makes them come true by His power. He sent His Son (as He promised back in Genesis Chapter 3), allowed Him to become a sacrifice for the salvation and healing of the entire world (Isaiah Chapters 52 and 53), and raised Him from the dead on the third day as Jesus had predicted.

Here's another example of God's seemingly indirect approach: We gain eternal life through the death of His son. God dealt with the problem of MY sin by letting HIS Son suffer and die for it. Then God declared His approval of this atoning transaction by raising Jesus from the dead, by His POWER, as He had foretold. This makes the resurrection a very special event, an absolutely essential component of Christian faith. More on this subject later.

Let's continue on, verses 8-12:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers, 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I may be prospered by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 that is, that I with you may be comforted in you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine.

Several interesting points here:

Now verse 13:

And I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (and was hindered hitherto), that I might have some fruit in you also, even as in the rest of the Gentiles.

Don't you just LOVE the way Paul starts verse 13? "And I would not have you be ignorant..." Good sentiment. No sense being ignorant, is there? By the way, the word translated "ignorant" is "agnoein" -- the root from which we get the English word "agnostic." So it's better to study the Bible (even if we sometimes draw faulty conclusions) than to remain willfully ignorant. Enough said.

Continuing with verses 15-17:

So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is revealed the righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, "But the righteous shall live by faith."

Paul hits several key points in quick succession here:

How is that faith different from what other religions believe?

In our culture, "faith" is defined as any type of intellectual belief system. The English language permits "faith" to be a mental exercise, sterile and lifeless as a museum exhibit.

The languages of the Bible, both Hebrew and Greek, do not permit such slothfulness. Both languages use these words as action verbs, not just nouns.

Another oddity: All other religions require the devotee to perform a continuous stream of good works in order to merit eternal rewards. Until age 30, your teacher always assumed that good works directly equal good spiritual outcome; enough good works, therefore, directly equals ETERNAL good outcome. Or so my reasoning went.

By contrast, the Bible tells us that we can't possibly be good enough to merit heaven. In the Old Testament, God required animal sacrifices for atonement for sin; in the New Testament, Jesus gave Himself once and for all as the atoning sacrifice.

Well, if Jesus already paid the price, what action could God possibly want from me?

This concept of saving faith will become clearer as we continue reading. We will go into some detail in a later lesson covering the third chapter of Romans.

Now let's see verse 18:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Now that's a radical change. For the first 17 verses, Paul talks about positive, uplifting subjects and the benefits of saving faith. Suddenly he addresses God's wrath toward folks who choose to ignore the Gospel message. In fact, Paul maintains that the Gospel message is much more widespread and freely available than just what's in our printed Bibles. Paul says anybody who looks can see the message from heaven.

Teacher, there's nothing but stars up there. How could there be a message?

Have you heard of the constellations -- the names given to specific star groupings? The Bible says in the book of Genesis that Adam named the animals. But the Bible also says (Psalm 147) that God named the stars and placed them where He wished. Scientists are baffled at how the constellations have nearly the same pictorial meaning in nearly every culture, going back to the beginning of recorded history. Almost as if the human race dispersed from a central point with a well-developed body of astronomical knowledge -- coincidentally what the Bible says happened after the Flood.

But aren't you talking about the astrological signs?

No. Astrology is a corrupted version of a much-older body of knowledge. In the past 150 years, archeologists have discovered ancient records that enable us to reconstruct the original constellation names and symbolisms. The original Zodiac images graphically describe the Gospel of Jesus, the Messiah.

How could the Zodiac describe the Gospel? Isn't it full of wierd animal images like Centaurs?

For the full story, I suggest reading "Witness of the Stars" by E.W. Bullinger, a very conservative Bible scholar. For present purposes, let me give you just a few glimpses of what the book says:

Is that all?

No. That's just a tiny glimpse of the subject, and the message in the stars is unimportant to those of us who have printed Bibles. It's much easier to just open the Bible and read the gospel message than to squint upward and try to remember which constellation is which.

Remember Paul's central point: that God's message is freely available to everybody on earth.

Let's repeat verse 18 and include verses 19 and 20:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown [it] unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

Verses 19 and 20 are very powerful. You can tell a lot about human beings by looking at any automobile. You can guess at the range of human sizes (the seats adjust between certain limits), what they breathe (ventilation system brings in outside atmosphere, unpressurized) and that our visual apparatus is in the upper part of the body (the windows are in the top half of the car). If we found an abandoned alien space vessel on the moon, we could learn about the aliens that used it by studying the ergonomics of the pilot and crew sections.

What does all that tell us about God?

We can learn a lot about God by studying His creation. Since time is a property of created matter, we can infer that God is somewhere OUTSIDE of time, and He can see everything at once. Since you and I have personality, intelligence (sometimes) and an innate sense of right and wrong (even though we often ignore it), God cannot have less. See the lessons on Genesis 1-3 for a more complete explanation.

The point: Just by looking left, right and up, we can tell that somebody very powerful, very intelligent and very personal created the universe and keeps it going. So there's no excuse for not deducing the existence of God and wondering what God wants from us. The gospel message is freely available to anybody in this country who wants to hear or read it.

Now Paul digs in and explains what happen to folks to deliberately choose to ignore or deny the gospel, verses 21-23:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

The gospel message is easy to understand and readily available. But the message is not what our selfish hearts want to hear. To be honest, there are times when I don't WANT to submit to God, even though I know that submission would result in eternal blessings. Sometimes it takes me awhile to come to my senses and seek God's will in a situation. What? You too?

Notice how verses 21-23 show a progression of rebellion:

  1. "...when they knew God..."
    (Hey, Lord, that's a great plan and I know You suffered plenty to buy salvation for me, but I think I'll wait until my girlfriend moves out into her own place. But thanks for asking!)
  2. "...they did not glorify Him..."
    (Yes, I'm grateful to have the option but I need more time to think about it.)
  3. "...neither were they thankful..."
    (I'm not interested.)
  4. "...they became vain in their imaginings..."
    (You Christians are too narrow minded. My church teaches the best parts of all religions.)
  5. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools..."
    (This is an opening to all-that-is and up to infinity, by self-work and out of Self-Source-Of-Authority, in the quest of truth and reality.)
  6. "And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man..."
    (We are all one, and seek to come in contact with the Christ principle within each of us. After all, Jesus said, 'The kingdom of heaven is within you.')
  7. "...and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."
    (At the heart of pantheism is reverence of the universe as divine, and for the natural earth as sacred.)

The quotes in items 5 and 7 above are not fictional: they are quotes from current web sites. The quote in item 6 is what I used to tell people many decades ago, when following a New Age guru. Paul says that people get very creative in their quest to avoid submitting to God. Maybe "creative" is too kind a word. Paul actually uses words like "vain," "imaginations," "foolish" and "darkened" to describe the alternative religions people will subscribe to.

Your teacher used to be very creative, trying to synthesize my own personal religion from several different New Age sources. Great exercise. Completely futile. After several years, I realized that the only power involved was that being offered by certain demonic beings in exchange for my freedom. No thanks, guys. Even back then I knew about demons and didn't trust them. Neither should you.

At this point, let me interject some biblical perspective. Sin is sin. Every type of sin is a deviation from God's standards. The Greek word "hamartia" means to come short or to miss the mark, like archers failing to hit the target. Each of us has our own treasured set of strengths and "imperfections." Some folks struggle with lying. Some struggle with stealing. Some struggle with drinking or drugs. Some struggle with lust. Some struggle with anger and violence. Some have eating disorders. If you tell me you don't struggle with anything, then I know your problem is lying.

All sin is harmful to the sinner and to the community. Some sin (murder, adultery, homosexuality, idolatry) is so damaging to the moral fabric of the community that God prescribed the death penalty.

Are you saying people who practice those things should be executed?

Goodness no, or I'd have been stoned a very long time ago. Just remember that the kingdom of God works by displacement. Instead of wasting time criticizing sinful behavior, I'm trying to explain the Good News of the new nature, which can displace the weak, sinful nature we're born with.

Whether YOUR particular weakness is violence, substance abuse or lust, it's a cop-out to whine: "God MADE me this way." God's original design (with Adam and Eve) was perfection in paradise. Sin changed all that, and the consequences of sin have wreaked havoc on humanity's gene pool. Now God offers a life-changing heart transplant (being born again), accompanied by life-changing power. If you were born warped (hint: we all were), then you need to be born again. All of us can freely partake of that life-changing experience -- IF WE CHOOSE to. All of us can experience Transformed Life -- if we choose to.

The problem is not that God's plan is too difficult to understand or too hard to accomplish. The problem is that we're willing to try almost anything to avoid submitting to God and His plan.

In our next lesson, we will learn more about God's plan.

If you would like to ask further questions or discuss this in more detail, please feel free to send me an e-mail by clicking the "mail-to" link below. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the first rapture event hasn't already happened).

Closing Prayer: Lord, I truly WANT the Transformed Life. Please show me what You would have me do next.

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