I used an illustration in a sermon recently where I took a rubber ball and a soda can up on stage. I used the items to demonstrate the difference between a temporary “change” and the more permanent idea of “transformation”. I showed the audience that when I squeezed the rubber ball and then released the pressure I applied with my hand the ball returned to its normal shape. But when I applied pressure to the soda can and crushed it, it didn’t return to it’s original form.
Rubber Ball or Soda Can?
For many of us, our attempts to bring our lives under control in the new year will amount to “applying pressure” to certain areas of our lives. In time, however, we’ll come to realize that we are much like the rubber ball, and quickly return to our old routines, and patterns of acting out. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly a place for our effort and restraint. In general though unless our efforts are directed in the right place, we’ll have a temporary change, and miss out on the transformation God has in mind for us.
George Barna wrote in his book Maximum Faith about the difference between change, and transformation:
“Change is a refinement that is typically short-term, impermanent, incremental, superficial, and of limited ultimate consequence. In contrast, transformation is generally long-term, permanent, systematic, deep, and monumental in its impact and consequences. Change merely alters a known reality; transformation radically redefines that reality.”
There’s no question Jesus sought real transformation for his followers. In a heated interaction with the Pharisees, and experts in the law he described how important it was for the “inside” to be transformed:
“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. 40 Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?'”
So here’s my take on how we get to what we really want, which is, transformation! It begins with having a different end in mind. That is, we begin with the understanding that the goal isn’t simply ABSTINENCE. That’s where most of us tend focus our attention. We just want to stop doing the thing that is “bad,” and causing such chaos in our lives. That is understandable for sure, especially if stopping will save a relationship, marriage, or even a job. But we were never meant to be these nice “restrained” people, who go about life strictly monitoring our behavior, but never experiencing such depth of inner change that we desire to DO the thing that is good, pure, and holy. That is really the end that we should have in mind.
Practically speaking it means that instead of simply avoiding porn, you actually pursue something that legitimately feeds your soul. It may be a great Christian book, some worship music, or regularly listening to scripture during your commute instead of talk radio. Rather than isolating yourself, hunkered down in front of your computer with your pants down, it means you actively pursue opportunities to connect in a community. You can do this through a small group Bible study, or join a sports league with a group of guys committed to the same level of sexual integrity. When it comes to the internet it means definitely keeping your accountability software up to date. But it may also mean, that you fast from the Internet regularly as a way to pursue God more intentionally. What I’m trying to get at, is we won’t really experience transformation by only avoiding sin, and achieving some level of abstinence. Deep and permanent transformation comes when we actively pursue a holy life. Paul said as much to his young apprentice Timothy:
“But you, man of God, flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” I Timothy 6:11
Pray this week for God’s wisdom and the courage to not only “flee” but “pursue”! Courage.