NOOMANAUTICS — CONVERTING
by Pastor Mike Fortune
September 19, 2009
Introduction Video: Dove Evolution [Muddy River edit]
Conversion means changing...
- The way we look at changing [John 16:17-22; Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Peter 1:23]
- The way we look at prayer [John 16:23-28; John 14:16; Hebrews 7:25]
- The way we look at signs of the time [John 16:29-33; Colossians 2:15]
Aren’t you glad God looks at the heart? Because as that video clip revealed, outward beauty is very misleading. Even the fashion models who grace the cover of all the magazines you see in the check out aisle of the supermarket aren’t really pretty enough to be on the cover. There’s no such thing as a super model. Even the prettiest people have to be digitally remastered. That’s why we have to change the way we look at changing. Because it cannot be manufactured. God has to do that too. That’s one of the first points I heard God saying through his word this week.
Those of you who were here the last couple weeks know we started our fall sermon series called Noomanautics. If you want to know why, go to our website www.toledofirstadventist.org and then click on “sermons” on the left side column. You can read, listen, or watch parts or the entire service there. Long story short: John 16 and 17 seem to have a lot to say about Holy Spirit and its role in helping us navigate our lives. And what we’ve learned so far is the Holy Spirit convict us of stuff. Specifically that grief and even some guilt can be good because God is good.
This past summer, as some of us spent some time praying and fasting, we have also been convicted that burnout is bad and that inreach affects outreach. Which is why we started Soup for You on Wednesdays @ 6pm. It’s also why we’re opening and staffing the sanctuary with prayer activities on Wednesdays starting at 10am so if you can’t come in the evening, you can swing by at any time during the day to pray. Just come to the courtyard double doors not the canopy on the side or we won’t be able to let you in. We have to keep the doors locked while the children are in school. When you arrive, Pastor Rachel will have 6 prayer activities set up for you throughout the sanctuary that you can complete on your own or with someone else. You don’t have to be an accomplished prayer to participate. You don’t have to pray out loud. You don’t even need to know what to pray for because Romans 8:26 reminds us “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Just follow the directions at each table and take some time to listen to what God is saying back to you.
We need to stay connected to the Holy Spirit because inreach affects outreach. And because the good news is that often our first love for God has only been left behind — not lost. It’s still there. And even if it’s not, we serve a God who can resurrect the dead. If you don’t believe me, you need to change the way you look at changing. This is point number one. Let’s see if that makes sense to you too. Please turn in your Bibles to John 16:17-33.
“17Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" 18They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." 19Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? 20I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. 25"Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." 29Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God." 31"You believe at last!" Jesus answered. 32"But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Remember in John 16:5, Jesus basically reprimanded the disciples for becoming so absorbed in their selfish thoughts and pity that they did not think of the joy carrying salvation one step closer would bring to Jesus or to them. There he chided them saying, “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” But now in John 16:18, it says the disciples “kept asking” what does he mean by ‘a little while’ you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?
Verse 18 says they did not understand what Jesus was saying, but unlike the earlier exchange, this time frustration with their ignorance didn’t stop them from continuing to ask! And maybe that’s how prayer should be by the way. Maybe prayer is not about the absence of questions but the embracing of them. Maybe prayer is about challenging Jesus about the things we don’t understand while simultaneously waiting and actually expecting him to answer. Even if the answer is, “No”, “Not now”, or “You won’t understand yet.”
We’ll talk more about that in a minute. But for now please remember point number one: Conversion means changing the way we look at changing. Morris Vendon in his great little book Your Friend, the Holy Spirit says there are two misunderstandings that often lead to frustration and discouragement about the lack of change in our lives [pp.30-31]. One source of frustration and discouragement is the idea that there should be an immediate, dramatic, and total change of life after being convicted and converted by the Holy Spirit. When I read our passage today, I heard frustration and discouragement in the disciples questions didn’t you?
When a person has this idea and discovers that week after week she still has unanswered questions and many of the same temptations and tendencies and problems after conversion as there were before, it is often easy to assume she wasn’t ‘really converted’ after all. So like the disciples in John 16:5, they give up and stop asking and pursuing and prayer becomes a monologue instead of a dialogue.
The other misunderstanding is to have the idea that conversion is a one-time decision and that once you’ve made that commitment, that’s all you need for the rest of your life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship famously argues against such cheap grace. He said on page 51 “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.” Not just once. Or twice. But every day. “Happy are those who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship” [p.56]. Today and every day. We are all being daily convicted and converted. That’s what I hear Jesus saying through the illustration of the woman in labor. None of us are born enjoying God. And newsflash, none of us are even born again enjoying God. Why? Because the fruits of the spirit Galations 5:22 talk about come in time. Just like a baby being conceived and carried to term and eventually born. But even after it is born, it continues to grow. In grace and discipleship. In truth and love. Right?
I was reminded of that recently when Lydia was getting ready for school. She put on some new school uniform pants. But she didn’t like the seams inside. So was refusing to wear the pants. I told her she was growing and her old clothes didn’t fit her anymore and that we can’t afford to buy her more new ones with different seams so she’ll have to wear these in the meantime. She didn’t like that, the diva tears made that obvious, but even after we’re born again, we continue to grow. Ephsians 4:22-25 says it this way: “22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Did you catch that? Ephesians says conversion is a process of the mind. It’s primarily a change of attitude and direction not necessarily behavior. Behaving will come. Because everyone loved like crazy will eventually want to live like crazy. That’s what Martin Luther meant when he said convicted and converted Christians should, “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still.” [Cost of Discipleship p, 51]. Because it won’t happen in the upper room all at once. But it will happen. Day by day. Month by month. Until the pain of obedience becomes a joy.
How? Through the power of the Holy Spirit. And through God’s word. 1 Peter 1:23 says, “23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” It is true that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. But it’s also true that not every one who lives in this world will be saved, in spite of the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for all. The sacrifice of Jesus is no good for the sinner until he is convicted by the Holy Spirit and accepts it. When he does, day after day, he is converted. So conversion is the 2nd role of the Holy Spirit. It follows the 1st role we already talked about: Conviction. And conversion means changing the way we look at change. This is point number one.
Moving on, verse 23 talks about changing the way we look at prayer. “23In that day you will no longer ask [erotao] me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask [aiteo] in my name.” Why? Verse 27 says it’s because “The Father himself loves you.” Like crazy. No I added that. But that’s what it means!
The word “ask” is used twice in this verse. But in Greek they’re different words. The first one is used for asking questions. The second one is used for asking for things. In this case, Jesus is saying in the era of the Holy Spirit, there will be no need for asking Him questions because the Spirit would according to John 14:26 teach them all things. The disciples had all kinds of questions and frustrations. But Jesus was saying, the Spirit would be the one to help.
But I think Jesus is also saying the Father would help them too. Because the same word John uses for “ask” in verse 23 [erotao] can also be translated as pray such as the King James of John 14:16. There it says “16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” [KJV]. So after Jesus left, the disciples could still ask the Holy Spirit questions and pray to the Father in heaven and be confident that their questions and concerns would be heard just as if Jesus was sitting with them in the flesh. Questions don’t disappear after we’re convicted and while we’re being converted. Often they multiply. So when they do, isn’t it encouraging to know that our prayer options are also multiplying?
Jesus is saying ask the Holy Spirit. Pray to the Father. They love you too! And the coolest thing is asking them anything in Jesus’ name is just like asking Jesus face to face. That’s what Jesus meant. There are at least six ways you can do this on any day but especially here in the sanctuary on Wednesdays if you want. Wanna write these down? Drum roll please. Here are more prayer options:
- Forgiveness: Write something you want to bring to God on a piece of paper with a felt pen and put it in a bowl of water. Watch it wash away.
- Scripture Prayer: Meditate on a Biblical passage and pray it into your life [written guidance is at the prayer activity table].
- Adoration: Contemplate how God has revealed himself through various provided props and staged objects. Adore his revelation.
- Write a Prayer: Find and recopy a written prayer from the handful provided that expresses your heart [or write your own]. Carry it with you throughout the day, put it on you dashboard, mirror, etc.
- God Speaks to You: Ask God if there's anything he wants to say to you. Begin, on paper, with your name, [i.e. Dear Mike, ...] and then write whatever comes to your mind, as if God were writing to you. Henri Nouwn published a book of these types of prayers, too, emphasizing that prayer is a dialogue and not just a monologue.
- Bring it to Jesus: Write or draw something that represents a personal concern, burden, or intercession. Place it in the heart-shaped bowl, representing the heart of Jesus.
Let’s recap: Point number one. Conversion changes the way we look at changing. There are no super models and there are no super Christians. Only sincere sinners happy that grace means obedient discipleship. Conversion also changes the way we look at prayer. Point number two. But the changes don’t come from narrowing who or how we pray. They come from experimenting with and expanding our options. To include the Holy Spirit who counsels and comforts us. And it includes our Father in heaven who loves us just as much as Jesus! Hebrews 7:25 says it this way: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” This is point number two.
And finally, conversion means changing the way we look at signs of the time. This is point number three. Join me in John 16:31-33. “31"You believe at last!" Jesus answered. 32"But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
On December 21, 2012, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, a 5,125-year cycle calendar system designed by the Mayas, will come to an end. Hollywood has produced a science fiction film called 2012: We Were Warned that’s set for release in early November so you should start seeing previews any day now. It depicts global disaster on a massive scale. And it’s all based on the expiration of the Mayan Long Count calendar.
Which makes me wonder: Why is it when something ends, people seem to think up the most extreme possibilities for the end of civilization as we know it? Maybe the earth’s magnetic field will reverse with the north pole switching with the south. Maybe huge volcanos will erupt filling the atmosphere with ash, blotting out the sun. Maybe earth will collide with a planet called Niburu which astronomers deny even exists. I don’t know. And frankly, I'm tiring of caring.
Because prophetic end of the world scenarios don’t move me any more. Periodically, I receive emails from organizations within Adventism obsessed with the latest world events. Whenever a politician goes to the Vatican, I can be sure to receive an email shortly thereafter chronicling the latest developments. And while the world was watching Michael Jackson’s funeral, President Obama was talking to the pope during one such visit. And sure enough, a couple weeks later, I got fund raising letters detailing the latest things the pope has said and done.
And shortly after that, I started receiving the email forwards from other Adventists detailing the end of time scenarios I might have missed. Pleading with me to share with you what they shared with me. But I’m not going to do it. Because Jesus said repeatedly in the book of John [cf. John 13:19; 14:29; 16:1] that the point of prophecy is to look backward not forward. To affirm one's faith after whatever happens not as a tool to raise money or manufacture faith before.
So what’s my take on signs of the times? My take is that humanity, whether we’re talking about Hollywood or the Hope Channel, most effectively raises its money from fear not faith. And that too often, the pope's words are more important than Jesus'. If they weren’t, tickets for scary movies about the end of time wouldn’t be sold and the stories of lives transformed by the grace of God would fill the pages of the fund raising letters I receive. But that’s not the case. Yet. I hope it will be one day. But I don’t think it is right now. Yes Jesus said, “You will be scattered and you will have trouble.” But guess what? He also said “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” Colossians 2:15 says it this way: “15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
Listen, I don’t know when Jesus is coming again. And neither does Hollywood. Anyone who says they do is lying. But I do think it’s ironic that after God gave us all these signs of the times in Joel 2 and Matthew 24 and Luke 21, he told us the end would be not yet. But we’ve flip flopped the meaning of Jesus’ words and have taken those signs to signal the beginning of the end anyway! Why do we do that? I don’t know. Re-read Matthew 24:6 sometime. Those signs of the times are to prove that the end is not yet. That’s what Jesus said about them. But that’s not what we say about them.
The only unfulfilled sign of the time Jesus actually associated with the end is a positive one. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says right after encouraging us to stand firm to the end, then he says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” That’s why if you want me to give you any money, you better tell me some stories about the gospel of this kingdom transforming people’s lives! Because I’m sick and tired of hearing about the pope, the end of the world, and all the latest greatest scenarios of destruction. Now more than ever, we need to hear more about Jesus who said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you have peace. But how many of us have peace?
Friends, the Savior is waiting to enter your heart / Why don't you let Him in / There's nothing in this world to keep you apart / Why don't you answer to Him / Time after time He has waited before / And now He is waiting again / To see if you are willing to open the door / Oh, how He wants to come in!
Tonight during Film Fest, we’re going to see how the life transforming grace of God transformed Francis of Assissi’s life. Another story about him I read told about how one day he was hoeing in his garden when someone asked him what he would do if he knew Jesus was coming again tomorrow. Francis looked up from his garden, smiled, and replied, “I’d finish hoeing my garden.” I think he understood that conversion means changing the way we look at changing, the way we look at prayer, and even the way we look at the signs of the times. May the Holy Spirit convict you. And convert you day by day. So that with Jesus, you may have peace whatever happens. Amen.