When my boys were young they loved to watch The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. I’d watch it with them because I loved it…I mean…I wanted to be a good dad and spend quality time with them.
We watched each episode with anticipation because we knew the script. At some point these ordinary teenagers would be faced with an enemy. They would speak the words, “It’s morphin’ time!” and immediately transform into martial arts super heroes. We’d say the words along with them. But, other than in our imaginations, we did not change.
Wouldn’t it be nice if transformation were that easy? But you know as well as I from experience it seldom is. And yet, transformation is the crucial issue in your spiritual life today. We are to take it seriously because the New Testament writers took it seriously.
Paul uses the word “morphoo” in his writing. For example, Paul urges “…be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Paul tells the churches of Galatia that he is in the pains of childbirth until “Christ is formed in you.” He tells the Corinthian church that we are being “transformed” from one degree of glory to the next. The word there is metamorphoo, from which we get our word metamorphosis.
When a person is following in the way of Jesus, transformation is expected to happen. John Ortberg has written in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted that when we follow Jesus but don’t change, two bad things can happen. One thing that can happen is that we just give up on change. A person settles for the idea that they have done the minimal requirement necessary for “getting into heaven” but has given up on the hope of “heaven getting into them.”
The second thing that can happen is a person settles for pseudo-transformation. This occurs when a person or group focuses on external markers to give them some assurance they are different than those who are not following Jesus. James Dunn talks about these boundary markers in his commentary on Romans where he says that the rabbinical writings of the day talked a lot about circumcision, the Sabbath, and dietary laws. He says that if you were to ask a rabbi in the first century what the core of the Law was, they would quickly recite the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Why then did they focus in their writings on circumcision, the Sabbath, and dietary laws? The answer is these were external boundary markers for who was in and who was out. It still happens today. Christians are often known for what they “don’t” do. Those are boundary markers. Even churches have them: “Spirit-filled, non-denominational, contemporary music vs. traditional music, a real discipling church, a real Bible-based church.” It happens whether we realize it or not. Those are boundary markers. All groups have them.
But Jesus came along and had a different way of identifying. “Love God. Love people,” he said. Paul said the same thing: “I might have a lot of boundary markers. But if I don’t have love, I’m nothing.” John agreed. “Whoever loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God.”
If you go back and look at the conflicts Jesus had with the religious leaders, they mostly had to do with circumcision, dietary laws, or the Sabbath. The Pharisees were concerned about the boundary markers. But for Jesus the key question was their orientation. Were they moving in the direction of loving God and loving people? That’s why he scandalized people by saying the tax collectors and prostitutes were in the kingdom ahead of the religious leaders. His boundary marker was the heart, and it was a transformed heart.
Want real transformation this year? Then Paul says we need to go into training like athletes (1 Corinthians 9:24) because there is a huge difference between “trying” and “training.” If I “tried” to run a marathon tomorrow, I might make a few miles before having to stop. But if I “trained” for a marathon, there’s a good chance I would see the finish line.
Start training today. Find a spiritual gym, a church, who can help you train both spiritually and emotionally towards maturity. And see if by the end of the year you have moved further in the direction of loving God and people.
Go ahead and say it. I know you want to. “It’s morphin’ time!”
Question: What training do you need to begin to be the person you want to be?