Early in Jesus’ ministry, a leper approached him and asked him to “make him clean” (Mark 1:40-45). Moved to compassion, Jesus touched the leper (which was an amazing move of grace – as it also made Jesus ceremonially “unclean”) and healed him of leprosy. But Jesus wasn’t done yet. He gave the man specific instructions that would make him socially healed and create new opportunities for him. However, the man disregarded Jesus. Instead he bragged about what Jesus did for him, thinking that it would help Jesus’ cause. But it didn’t. As the gospel writer observes, Jesus was hindered to enter into towns without being mobbed. This man’s selfish disobedience not only short-circuited his transformation, it also hindered the work of the Kingdom.
The lesson to this story is about “deliverance” and “transformation.” The leper just wanted deliverance; he wanted to be healed of his physical disease. But Jesus’ goal was transformation, to put the man onto the path of healthiness, fruitfulness and purpose in the Kingdom of God.
Last week, I was asked to share my testimony to our church’s recovery ministry (called “Lifeline”). Part of my testimony had to do with God delivering me from a powerful addictive behavior. God demonstrated His power and grace in helping me overcome the “fire” of this addiction. I could not have done it in my own power – believe me, I tried.
The “deliverance” was awesome, as God personally manifested for me a power that I knew did not come from me. It serves as a marker (what the Bible calls an “Ebenezer,” 1 Sam 7:12) that God revealed Himself in a new way for me. God is truly the Deliverer; He answers when we call His name (Ps 3:4).
But deliverance was just half the battle. I shared that I still needed to live out my life from that point and it was extremely tempting to go back to the addiction. Fortunately for me, God wanted more for me than a one-time deliverance. He desired transformation. So utilizing the same principles that helped me to be delivered from the power of sin, God began to transform me. They include: being totally honest with God, developing a lifestyle of surrendering myself to Him, and finding supportive and accountable community.
This did two things for me. First, I walked in on-going victory over the power of that besetting sin. Second, I walked in a quality of life that brought fruitfulness, purpose, and freedom in other areas of life. Many of the principles of Whole Life Worship were what I lived out, and continue to live out, in that process of transformation.
Stories of deliverance are immediate, amazing and miraculous. Stories of transformation are long, tedious and hard. But for me, transformation is no less amazing nor less miraculous.
Too often, people just want deliverance without the pain of transformation. As a result, they sell both themselves and God short. And at first glance, it seems appealing. Like the leper, we want the miracle and to live the way we want to live. We get some holy “zapping” and then we go off on our merry way. That is human nature. Think of the thousands of people who personally experienced the power of Christ (healings, exorcisms, raised from the dead, multiplying fishes and loaves) and how many were with Jesus after the crucifixion and resurrection (only 120!) The same is true for Christians in today’s culture. So many have a testimony of God’s miracles, but so few living that miracle in a way that transforms them and the world around them.
But transformation is the greatest wonder of all! It opens us up to a new way of living. It is true freedom. It is experiencing true love and loving others truly. It is living a “righteous” life (both in the Biblical … and the 70’s sense of the word) that is fueled by grace and motivated by love. Yes, it requires sacrifice, discipline, and a constant dying to my ways of doing things. Yes, it means learning to look at life from a different perspective and that shift is often humbling – even humiliating. But it also means walking with Jesus; and that, my friends, is worth the price of admission (which He paid, by the way).
My hope and prayer, both for those in Lifeline and those in Whole Life Worship, is that we would see “deliverance” as a stepping stone to transformation; not an end-point to our spiritual journey. It is great to be lifted out of the miry pit (Psalm 40:1), but it is awesome to walk down His path of transformation to glory (2 Cor 3:18).