the art of… transformation (part 3)

In only a few weeks from now, we will once again be sitting around the Christmas tree opening up our presents, singing Christmas carols, eating roast dinners and enjoying everything there is to enjoy about Christmas. It’s a scary thought isn’t it?

As I reflect on Christmas, one of my favourite past times was heading over to my grandparents’ house to enjoy Christmas lunch with the wider family. Not only was the family time significant, but so was the food. I will always remember arriving at my grandparents place, opening the door, and being greeted by the beautiful aroma of Christmas lunch cooking in the oven. It was such a distinct smell, and an aroma that would simply draw you in.

I’m sure you would have experienced this before, not just at Christmas time, but walking past a restaurant, or catching the tantalising aroma of your neighbour’s cooking; there is something about the smell of a pleasing aroma that draws us in, as opposed to an unpleasant one that ultimately repels us.

Which begs the question, what is the aroma that is resonating from the lives of Christ’s Church? Is it one that is drawing people in? Or are they being repelled by the way in which we go about our lives?

The Apostle Paul saw it as his personal mission to ensure that the church’s aroma across the world was a pleasant and attractive one. This is no more evident than in 2 Corinthians 2: 14-17 (NIV) where he says:

4 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

As followers and disciples of Jesus, the aroma that should be resonating from our lives ought to be a pleasing one. An inviting aroma that draws others to the Church, ultimately that they may accept Christ into their lives. What we see from the Apostle’s words in 2 Corinthians 2 is that we can only really become that “pleasing aroma of Christ” if we are becoming more like Christ, in thought, word and deed. Our witness and aroma is going to be so much more effective if we are continually transforming into His very image.

So, with that in mind, what does that look like and how do we go about it? Scripture provides significant guidance and direction in this way. One passage in particular is Romans 12:2 which says:

‘Do not conform 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.’

In the most basic way, we ought to be so very careful and wise as to what we are filling our minds with. Are we continually filling our minds and hearts with the filth of the world, or are we mediating and dwelling on the holy ways of God?

The ancient Greek translation of the word “transform” in this context is ‘metamorphoo’, which is a word used to emphasise a total and complete change from the inside out. This is a kind of change and transformation that cannot be brought on by human effort alone, but it is only possible in and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we seek to renew our minds by coming under the authority of God’s Word, by coming to God in prayer, and through the means of Christian fellowship, our heart and soul will be continually changed and transformed as will our lifestyle too. This ultimately leads to that tantilising and pleasing aroma resonating from our lives.

Theologian John Stott has this great quote about how integral the Spirit’s role is within the church. He says:

“As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead”.

If we as Christ’s Church, are dead in the Spirit, then our witness is going to be dead as well. The aroma that will therefore resonate from our lives won’t be a pleasing one that draws people in, but rather a putrid one that pushes people away.

My prayer for the Church is that we, both individually and collectively, continue to open up our hearts and minds to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in order that our witness is as effective as possible and so that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: 15-16 become a living reality:

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

By Dan Walz, Pastor at San Souci Baptist Church, NSW

This is the third blog in ” the art of…” series by Dan.

Part 1: The Art of… Listening

Part 2: The Art of…Hanging in there