Romans 12 forms the climax of the largest and most-loved epistle in the Bible, and shares the Christian identity: ”Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:1–2)
The themes of holiness, blamelessness, and righteousness appear over and over in Scripture. These are good descriptors of a healthy Christian life. But Jesus said the best way to describe real religion is loving God with all that is within us and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
How does a sinful sinner sinning become a blameless believer who loves God? How do we turn from a rebel against God into a friend of HIs? What is needed is more than just a little repair or a bit of scrubbing. What is needed is complete life transformation.
Early Nazarenes gathered around this very theme. It is central to the entire short history of our denomination. We lived, preached, taught, and served the God Who transforms believers. Against the “pessimism” of some Christian theology, we have always taught the optimism of grace. Jesus has called us to live as He did and “has given us everything we need to live a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3).
“This is how love is made complete among us…in this world, we are like Jesus.” (1 John 4:17) “He has saved usand called us to a holy life.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10) 1 John 5:18a says “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin;” “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).
Most of us hear these messages from scripture and step back thinking “that’s not me!” But in Christ, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24–25).
I can only speak to my experience. And based upon what I’ve seen in others and my own life, I’ll say yes, yes, yes! Jesus gives the wisdom, strength, and victory needed to live as His people! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) So Nazarenes speak of joy, freedom, victory, and holiness!
Vacation Bible School was a huge success this year, with over 100 children participating. (See the report in this newsletter) Their theme was “God’s Love Changes Everything.” It’s so true, but our forefathers and foremothers might suggest we look at our lives and see if we’ve really let God’s love change everything.
This is why we first gathered as a people, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
In fact, the early Nazarenes from 100 years ago believed this message so much, they went directly to the poor to preach it! But I’ll save that story for next time. I can’t wait to share the other two key words with you.
~ Pastor Eric