“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Paul in Romans 12)
Fear is an interesting teacher, isn’t it? A good dose of healthy fear gives us respect for forces greater than ourselves and most especially that which could bring harm to us. It’s good. It’s instructive. And yet if fear, even good fear, gets the best of us, then we can get paralyzed, and we can get so interested in protecting our own life that we forget to live our life.
When I hear the Scriptures affirm, over and over again, “Do not be afraid,” I don’t hear God saying, “Cast all caution to the wind because fear itself is a sin.” I DO hear God saying, “What are you afraid of - and do you know that the LORD is bigger than the things that scare you?”
This Sunday in the message, we are going to talk about how even the smallest amount of faith can move mountains. Mountains of poverty, injustice, unfaithfulness, and cowardice go running when God’s truth is proclaimed and lived by God’s people.
I am informed today by what our brother in faith, Paul, says to us. We don’t have a record of him living in times of a pandemic. But we do know that he was a law teacher of the Jewish faith, persecutor of Jesus, and friend of the emperor when his name was Saul. When Jesus grabbed hold of his heart, everything changed. The fear that had driven his mission of persecuting Christians to preserve his Jewish faith became fuel for proclaiming a risen Christ to a hurting world. He did it from pulpits and prisons and potholes. He did it because he didn’t try to shield his fear from God - but offered it up to the ONLY ONE who could redeem fear and turn it into fuel for faith.
Do not be conformed by the world, but be transformed by the Spirit of God, Paul says. Conformed is what happens when we let the outside in. Transformation is what happens when we work from the inside out. Conforming means we are blowing in the wind, just chasing the next fad or movement, waiting for something or someone else to tell us who we are and what will make us happy. Transformation means God is supplying us power that changes the world around us. Conforming means we absorb the temperature around us, but transformation means we regulate the temperature around us with that of the Holy Spirit inside of us.
It’s hard not to conform. Everybody wants to be included, and nobody wants to be excluded. What Paul (and Jesus, for that matter) gives us, is a clear understanding of who their Master is. Nobody had to wonder who they were following. And of course, it cost them their lives. But their legacy is glory.
Some thoughtful questions (based on the examining shared in Sunday’s sermon):
Are you aware of God’s presence and how God wants to bless you at this moment and give you whatever you need?
Are you grateful for the way God is moving and working in your midst?
Are there ways, today, that you have seen the transformation of God - God’s love working through you and touching the world around you?
Are there ways you conformed today and were more worried about what others thought than what God thinks? Share your heart with God and be open to God’s forgiveness and presence.
Are you committed to living inside out rather than outside in?
I am not a morning person. I don’t like early mornings. I don’t enjoy taking hours in the morning to set up my day. Just not my thing. This started when I was young. Not uncommon when I was little, that I would hop out of bed, rush to put on clothes, brush my hair and teeth, grab my book bag, and be out the door. It wasn’t uncommon that somewhere in the morning, a teacher would pull me aside and say, “Chris, your shirt is on inside out. You might want to go to the restroom and turn it around.” People notice when things are inside out.
Grace and Peace,
Chris Rev. Chris Westmoreland