Friday, March 02, 2012

Under (Re)Construction

Dear Friends in Christ,

As I write this article my study door is closed. Walls are being knocked down. Hammers are pounding, drills are whirring, and the lobby outside (what's left of it) is a mess. A remodeling project creates a lot of inconveniences. I have had to leave my office at times in the last couple of weeks because I couldn't concentrate with all the noise. But I am convinced that when we see the finished project, we will be happy, and the temporary inconvenience will soon be forgotten.

The same can be said of repentance, which is the Christian's focus during Lent (and, as Martin Luther said in the first of his 95 Theses, of our whole lives). Repentance, by definition, is a change of heart. We could call it God's remodeling project. It is turning away from our sins and turning toward Jesus Christ in faith for forgiveness and new life.

Repentance can create a lot of inconvenience. Change is hard. It is hard to let go of our old ways of life and embrace the new people God wants us to be. The soul-searching that often comes with repentance drags up a lot of dust and dirt as the Holy Spirit convicts us through God's Law and knocks down walls of sin that may have stood for a long time. Part of our hearts may get broken, as the mirror outside my office was broken this morning as it came off the wall. There may be friends, places, ideas we have to give up permanently in order for God to conform us to His will.

But when you see the finished project, when you see what God has done with you, I think you will like it. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." (2 Cor. 5:17) God is transforming us into the image of His perfect Son, Jesus. The transformation began on Good Friday on Calvary, where that perfect Son, having been hammered and knocked down and torn by the hands of men, died bearing all your sins in His body on the tree. new construction began on Easter, when the Son of God rose from the dead, and in your Baptism, when you were raised to new life with Him. The transformation continues daily as you return to your baptism, in repentance and forgiveness, as Christ shapes and forms you through His Word, as He strengthens you with His body and blood in the Lord's Supper.

The intended result of the transformation is summarized in Romans 12:1-2. "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 worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will." Hearts that have been remodeled by God to not conform to the ways of the world, but are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit to live for Christ. Hearts that have been remodeled by God seek not themselves, but offer themselves as living sacrifices in service to others.

There's an old bumper sticker that says, "Please be patient- God isn't finished with me yet!" As we must be patient with the inconvenience of remodeling before the new addition is completed, so we must be patient with one another during God's ongoing remodeling of our hearts. The sinful nature remains, and we are still "works in progress." But the finished project will be great- all of us, holy and perfect, our robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, standing with the Savior in the mansions of our Father's house when that final Easter dawns in Heaven. Then God's new creation will be complete.

Peace to you in Christ,
Pastor Merrill

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