Changed By Grace
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
I took our youngest son, David, on a surprise trip to the Grand Canyon when he was 11 years old. Perfect day with blue skies, cool temperatures, and virtually unlimited visibility. It was so rewarding to watch his reaction when we drove right up to the rim and he stepped out to see this natural wonder for the first time in his life.
“Wow! Wow! Whoa!!!” he said over and over! Then we went on a hike into the canyon and made it to some amazing viewpoints.
Picture us negotiating narrow paths with sheer drops of several hundred feet; sunbathing on rocky promontories with world-class vistas in every direction; seeing the canyon colors change every few minutes from orange to red to purple to grey. It was stunning. David walked with me for a couple miles taking it all in, ooh-ing and aah-ing the whole way.
Now you have to understand that this is not the most outdoorsy, athletic child. This is someone who’d probably ask for a ride to his room if we could fit a car into the house. Yet he not only bounded along the trail with enthusiasm, he formulated a long-range plan. “Dad,” he told me, “I have a new life goal. I want to go on a week-long Colorado River rafting trip and explore this place!” He’s brought it up to me several times since then, too.
Know how many times I had to force him to hike a step further that day? Zip. He was propelled by awe. Did I ever have to tell him, “Think long-term and come up with a life goal that incorporates your experience today”? Nope. It was the wonder of the canyon that motivated him to exercise, to dream, to plan.
Sure, there was discipline involved; it was no picnic climbing back out of the canyon! But he truly did it with delight. His eyes were open to the spectacle he was experiencing. He couldn’t believe it when I showed him on a map how far we’d gone. And when we called home he had such fun describing his day to the rest of the family.
Now compare that to running on a treadmill. How much hope do you think I have of getting David to hike on an exercise machine as far as he did that day at the canyon? It’ll never happen!
Well, the same effect applies to the disciplines of your spiritual life. If you live “in view of God’s mercy,” if your eyes are open to grace, you’ll want to give your life to exploring its depths with enthusiasm — and you’ll feel enthused about inviting others to experience this supernatural wonder of the world.
But if you feel you’re on a religious treadmill? Sheer numb boredom. Dry drudgery. Even resentment. It’s in beholding Jesus and the wonder of His grace that we change, as Paul says:
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory… 2 Corinthians 3:8a
Are your eyes open to the wonder?
As Jerry Bridges says, “That is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”
This is what it means in today’s verses when Paul says to be transformed (the verb be transformed is in the passive voice — Paul is urging us not to do something, but to have something done to us) by the renewing of your mind.
It’s sort of like positive brainwashing: Instead of the false messages from your culture (“You must be thin!” “You must become rich!” “You must prove your worth!”), you begin to hear and believe the messages from God’s Word about the wonder of grace (“You are blessed with every spiritual blessing” “You are a co-heir with Christ” “The same power that resurrected Christ is in you!”).
How are you trying to grow spiritually — by grace or by law?
An old poem attributed to John Bunyan puts it well:
Run, John, run! the law commands
But gives me neither feet nor hands
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings.
How can the same exact things — Bible reading, prayer, evangelism — bring you joy or seem like drudgery? What makes the difference?
Have you been able to experience the spiritual disciplines, such as Bible reading, prayer, quiet time, etc., as times you actually look forward to? Why?
The Grand Canyon’s a wonder of the world, but spend time today thinking of the world’s biggest wonder, God’s grace toward you! Thank Him specifically for some aspect of His grace!