This week I’m traveling in North Carolina. It’s been an interesting trip, as I went to high school in North Carolina…way back before many of you were born. And since it’s been so long since I’ve been back, it’s been interesting to see how much has changed - and how much has stayed the same.
As I thought about that, it occurred to me that the same is true for me personally. I have changed in so many ways - and yet, there are still parts of me that are very much the same. When that thought first occurred to me, it was a bit discouraging - because some of what has stayed the same in my life are the sins that I struggled with then, and still struggle with now. Sins like impatience and pride and anger - and a lack of grace and kindness and forgiveness. Those are all things I struggled with in high school - and expected to not struggle with once I reached “spiritual maturity”. But those of you who know me will be quick to point out that those things are unfortunately sometimes a part of my life today!
The good news is, God has not given up on me. And as I reflected on the changes that have happened in my life, God reminded me that becoming like Christ is a long and slow process of growth. It’s part of why He’s left me here on this earth as long as He has. It’s to allow time for that change to happen. And what’s true for me, is true for all of us who belong to God. Spiritual maturity isn’t instant - and it’s not automatic. Instead, it’s a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of our lives.
Paul puts it like this in Ephesians 4:13: “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” We are are all a work in progress. Our full spiritual transformation will take the rest of our lives. Actually, it won’t be fully completed here on earth! It will only be finished when we get to heaven.
So the key for us is to choose to keep moving forward in that transformation process - no matter what. We all know the sins that still live in our hearts and minds. And we all know that they need to be surrendered to the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit. So we can’t look at the world to tell us who to be or how to live. We need to focus on Christ, and becoming like Him. And we can’t let discouragement sidetrack us in that process. Instead, we have to stay focused on the fact that we’ve made progress at all - and that we belong to the God who is committed to our full transformation.
Jesus died on the cross to make us like Him. So today, let’s commit to that process. Let’s surrender fully to His work in us, allowing Him to mold us and recreate us - no matter how painful, and no matter how challenging, and no matter how long it takes. And let’s allow the work He’s already done in us to encourage us to stay faithful to the process of what He wants to do for us in the future.