There is an ancient fable that is told about a wonderful king who had no son. His heart’s desire was to produce a male child that he could love, mentor, and someday leave his kingdom to. Sure enough, as fables go, he finally had his son. But very quickly, to his dismay, it became apparent that the boy was physically challenged. His spine was not developing properly and the older he got the more stooped and deformed he became. While the king loved his son, his heart broke for the ridicule and pain that he knew this deformed prince would surely endure.
The year before his son’s 12th birthday, the king said to his son, in one year you will be 12. What gift can I give you now in anticipation of that important day? The stopped son very quickly replied, “A statue of me. A marble statue of me in the center of the garden standing straight and tall and strong.” The old king was crushed. How cruel it would be for his beloved son to be reminded everyday of what he was not, to see the stone image mocking him for his misshapen figure. But he kept his promise and had the statue built and placed in the center of the garden.
Every day, for hours on end, the young, deformed prince would go out into the garden and stand in from of the statue. He would, with great effort, contort his back and neck, strain with all his might, trying to look up into the face of the boy whose image he wished he could be. Day after day, rain or snow, the lad would stand and strain and stare. The court people whispered. They shook their heads sadly but he was undeterred. Towards the end of that year an interesting thing began to happen. As the boy strained each day to look into the face of the statute muscle and sinew began to stretch. Calcified connections to bone and spine began to give way. Every day the young boy would look up and almost imperceptibly, up would not be as far away as it was the day before.
On the day of his 12th birthday he invited his father out into the garden. Surrounded by friends and family, he took them to the center of the garden to stand in front of the statute. Then, to their amazement, he arched his back, stretched his neck, squared his shoulders and like a conquering hero, through his arms in the air in celebration. He was tall and straight and looking the marble statute right in the eye. And from that day he never had to bow his head again.
Isn’t that a neat tale? We are on week 5 of a 6 week look at the Abundant Life. Today the passage that comes to my mind is II Corinthians 3:18. Paul says. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
The Abundant Life is a life given by and lived in the Spirit of God. It is a life lived above fear of failure and with courage over our circumstances. It comes with His presence and His power and we do not somehow survive and Christ followers, we thrive. We are “more than conquerors” and we “can do ALL things through Christ.” Good stuff!
But I am thinking today that maybe the most significant offering of the Abundant Life is the passion of the Spirit to make us like Christ and the power He possesses to bring us through the process of daily change into His image. One translation says we are being changed from “glory to glory.” In small increments, little improvements at a time, like the prince looking at the statute, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of the Christ that we adore. That process, that change is the very life of what it means to walk with Him. We do not adhere to a bunch of rules and regulations. We are not slaves to structure and institutional faith. We are learning and laughing and falling down and stretching and becoming more like Him every day. The 15th century theologian Erasmus said this, “The Glory of God is always found in movements of love, in communication of life, never in static outline, cramped piety, thoughtless repetition, conventional observance of religious acts. Those things become the letter of the law that kills, the tyranny of the sinful self. The Spirit by contrast is wind, fire, light, water, Glory; the unexpected, the transforming, the self-communicating, the self-outpouring power that shapes by embracing and not letting go. The way if the disciple is necessarily a way of discipline because discipleship is a living school in which we learn to be like Christ by intimate association with Him.”
We are being changed by the Spirit of God. Fantastic! And that change is about joy, and peace, and power, and enthusiasm. And best of all, it comes from Him. We simply relax in His presence and let Him work in us. But…what do I do while I relax? How do I live so that I am most receptive to the formative freshness of the Father flowing in me?
Here are some practical suggestions for putting yourself in the best place to be changed:
- Remember His love. Every day, in every way, I focus on the grace and mercy of Our Amazing God. I see His love for me in a thousand examples from my daily walk, the laughter of my grandchildren, the beauty of the sunrise, the warmth of our fireplace; all singing reminders that He loves me. He is crazy about me. In fact, that is what the Word is about. It is a love letter from Him to me. I read the Bible everyday not to get new marching orders but to be reminded that HE LOVES ME. Wow! Paul prays in Ephesians 3:18-19 that we “may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
- Invite His presence. That is why I pray. Now I know that the Spirit of God lives in me. That’s what this Abundant Life stuff is all about. But I have come to believe that He needs to hear me invite Him again into the activities and affects of my life. He is a gentleman and He does not force Himself into my day. I begin the day saying afresh and anew, “Lord, this day is Yours. Guide me as I try to be more like You today.”
- Learn His voice. “Be still and know that I am God.” I’m not very good at either one of those things. Mediation is a foreign idea to me. But as He is changing me I find great value in mulling over and morsel of scripture, in contemplating the King of Creation. By waiting quietly without rushing into my list of, “And God do this” stuff I am becoming increasing familiar with His language and the lilt of His message to me.
- Finally, follow His steps. I know this seems a little redundant but part of the way I become like Christ is by doing the things that Christ does. It forces me to be aware of my choices. It requires me to exercise my faith. It enables me to see my influence at work. And it creates in me a passion for His people. Take a minute and watch this clip today.
standard.html#/video/living/. It’s called Ed’s Garden. 2012/02/11/eds-story-my- garden.cnn?iref=allsearch
Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike Christ.” I think he was right but it doesn’t have to be. Go out in the garden. Pull yourself up straight and tall and look into the face of the One who is making you like Himself. You will be amazed at how you”ve grown.
(Read all six thoughts from the series on Abundant Life and more blogs by Mike at www.branchesrecoverycenter.com or subscribe to www.mikecourtney.blogspot.com)