Metamorphosis

Icebreakers

Use one of the following questions to open up discussion.  (If you have first-time guests, be sure to have people give their names as they answer the icebreaker question.)

  1. What did you think of the service on Sunday? 
  2. What does worship mean to you?

Our Study:  Metamorphosis

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 

 – John 4:23-24

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples”

 – John 15:8

Objectives

Small group members and guests will:

  1. Worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23)
  2. Behold Jesus and be ever transformed into His likeness (2 Cor 3:18)
  3. Not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom 12:2)

Study Romans 12:1-2

What does the ‘therefore’ connect with?  Paul has just described in Chapters 1 – 11 of Romans the gospel that has the power to transfer Christians from sin and death to righteousness and life.  God is working to transform us into the image of his Son (Rom 8:29) and this new way of living is not a consequence of the gospel but part of that gospel whose purpose is to bring about the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5).

What does it mean to urge or exhort? Paul is asking for something that lies between encouragement and a command – the word used here was used for exhorting troops who were about to go into battle.

By what means does Paul exhort? By God’s mercies: the preposition “by” informs the reader that the divine mercies are the power by which this exhortation should take possession of one’s will. The summons to transform does not come in a vacuum – only in view of God’s mercy does this appeal becomes relevant and does our obedience become possible.

What does it mean to present? The word used for present is a technical term that means for presenting a sacrifice. The literal meaning is to place beside or set aside for any purpose. Earlier Paul exhorted us, in light of God’s grace, which is the power of the resurrection, to present our bodies to God who demands that we yield our members to obedience (Rom 6:13, 19).

What are we to present? The grammar of sentence shows that “bodies” and “sacrifices” are in apposition – that is, our bodies are the sacrifices.  The living sacrifice stands in contrast to those which were killed and refers to a constant dedication.

What is the result of our presentation? Our sacrifice is made holy (“sanctified“) and pleasing to God.  This is act is defined as our reasonable or spiritual (depending on translation) act of worship .  There are four possible meanings for this word – 1) it may be spiritual in the sense of “inner” or “real”, 2) it may be rational in the sense of appropriate for human beings as rational and spiritual creatures of God, 3) it may be rational in the sense of acceptable to human reason, 4) it may be logical in the sense of fitting the circumstances.

What is worship?  The first thing we should notice about worship in the Bible is that it is to be given to God only (Ex 20:3, Dt 5:8, 6:13, Mt 4:10, Lk 4:8, Ac 10:26, 14:15, Col 2:18, Rev 19:10, 22:8) even though he does not need it (Ac 17:24-25).  Of the 108 times the Bible uses a word that is translated ‘worship’, only three of those imply music, specifically singing (Psalm 66:4; Rev 4:10, 15:4).  The majority are asking us to revere God through sacrifice or obedience. The word-group translated as worship usually means “to bow down” or “to serve“.  Romans 12:1 implies that our entire Christian lives are acts of worship and not just what is done on Sunday in a church building that ‘ascribes worth‘ to God but what God and the world see in us every day and every moment of the weekRomans 12:2 expands on this thought.

What does it mean to conform to the pattern of this world?  The larger framework of thoughts and beliefs are often refereed to as a “world view“.  As Christians we are to be living in the world but not of it (Jn 17:15-16) which probably speaks to our attitudes and beliefs.

What does it mean to be transformed?  The word used here (Rom 12:2) is “metamorphosis” and refers to a change of starting from an inward reality.  Metamorphosis is used only four times in the Bible.  On the mount of transfiguration the disciples have a vision of the glorified Christ (Matt 17:2; Mark 9:2).  This is the end goal of all discipleship: to seek and see the glory of God.  The word also refers to how we are “transformed in one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18) by beholding God through the Spirit.  The power to change does not naturally well up from within us but is the gift and the work of God’s Spirit

How are we transformed? By the renewing of our minds (v. 2). The preposition “by” is instrumentative – it is by means of the renewing of our minds that we are transformed from conformity to the world and all of this is our spiritual act of worship which is a holy and pleasing living sacrifice to God.

What is the result of our transformation? The word “then” links our ability to test and approve what God’s will is as a consequence to transformation. Paul reminds the  Ephesians that they “were taught, with regard to [their] former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:22-24).  Our ability to discern God’s will is directly tied to the extent of our transformation.

Application

First and last word is God’s mercy.  God’s free, gratuitous mercy is the essence of the Gospel.  Supremely shown by the Father in sending the incarnate Son, shown by Son in humility and obedience to death, and show by the Spirit in His daily comfort and guidance – this is salvation planned, secured, and applied.  In light of the gifts He has given us and the debt He has paid, it is right to respond with joyful worship.

Worship is not primarily music. Worship may contain music, but music does not exhaust the meaning of worship; to say that worship is music is to say that all cars are Toyotas.  Revelation 14:9-11 tells us that those who worship the beast will receive everlasting judgment – is that only because they sang songs to the beast?  No, real worship calls for “patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (Rev 14:12). We are to glorify God by being transformed into His Son’s likeness

Be transformed! In contrast to being externally conformed to the “mould” of the world we are to be internally renovated by the power of the Spirit. The change happens incrementally. We are changed slowly, periodically, from one degree to the next. Walking on the path of discipleship is not a sprint but a marathon. As we work out the implications of our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), we at the same time acknowledge that the ability and in fact the very desire to change comes from the Spirit.

Want to know what to do? Our ability to test and affirm God’s will is not tied to spiritual visions or words from God, no matter how profitable or wonderful they may be.  They are tied to our transformation of our minds and attitudes – our character and relationship with God determines our ability to discern God’s will for our lives.

Let us worship by the Book.

Prayer  (Selections from St. Augustine ‘Soliloquies’)

O God, Framer of the universe, grant me first rightly to invoke Thee; then to show myself worthy to be heard by Thee; lastly, deign to set me free. God, who out of nothing hast created this world, which the eyes of all perceive to be most beautiful. God, the Father of truth, the Father of wisdom, the Father of the true and crowning life, the Father of blessedness, the Father of that which is good and fair, the Father of our awakening and illumination.

God, from whom to be turned away, is to fall: to whom to be turned back, is to rise again: in whom to abide, is to stand firm. God, by whom we distinguish good from ill. God, by whom we flee evil, and follow good. God, who causest it to be opened to them that knock. God, who givest us the bread of life. God, who cleansest us, and preparest us for Divine rewards, come graciously to me.

Thou the only God, come unto my help. Hear me, hear me, graciously hear me, my God, my Lord, my King, my Father, my Cause, my Hope, my Wealth, my Honor, my House, my Country, my Health, my Light, my Life. Hear, hear, hear me graciously, in that way, all Thine own, which though known to few is to those few known so well.

Henceforth Thee alone do I love, Thee alone I follow, Thee alone I seek, Thee alone am I prepared to serve, for Thou alone art rightly Lord, and of Thy lordship I desire to be. Direct, I pray, and command whatever Thou wilt, but heal and open my ears, that I may hear Thine utterances. Heal and open my eyes, that I may behold the signs of thy command. Drive delusion from me, that I may recognize Thee. O Lord, most merciful Father receive, I pray, Thy fugitive; enough already, surely, have I been punished, long enough have I served Thine enemies, whom Thou hast under Thy feet, long enough has error had its way with me. To Thee I feel I must return: I knock; may Thy door be opened to me; teach me the way to Thee.

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