Spiritual Renovation
St. Bartholomew, Apostle
24 August 2017
After living in the same house for fifteen years things began to look a little shabby and tattered. Although my wife and I had done routine maintenance, major things started to go wrong in our home. Appliances were having to be replaced, such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and water heaters. Homes need regular maintenance; that's all there is to it. The Christian life also needs regular maintenance. God's Word gives us the tools to do the regular spiritual repair work that needs to be done. Spiritual entropy continues to attack our lives, just as physical entropy attacks our homes. This is no minor thing. We are all fallen. John Chrysostom says in a sarcastic understatement, "It is likely that humans would sin every day." On what day could we avoid repentance and when would we not need God's mercy?
Several years ago, we had the exterior of our home painted. A new coat of paint makes a big difference to the appearance of a house. But a new coat of paint did not maintain our refrigerator, or fix our sprinkler system. Renovation cannot merely be an external paint job. A coat of paint will never repair the damage done by termites. In much of our culture, we are convinced that appearance is all important; as though, if we look nice, we are nice. My parishioners often compliment me on how I dress, because I am attempting to dress in a way that is appropriate to my office as pastor. I tease them by replying to their compliments: "If you are going to be an empty suit, it better be a nice looking one." But clothing cannot make the man. A nicely dressed corpse is still just a corpse.  
We are in need of daily renovation in the Word of God. We are wearing out and the only one who can do anything about it is Christ. We live every day in repentance so that our whole life comes from God's mercy. Our transformation in repentance means that we will take on the more substantial form of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible uses the word "form" in a way that is quite different from our use of it. The Bible calls the divinity of Christ "the form of God," which isn't nearly an appearance or an external form, but the very substance of the divine nature. When the apostle Paul calls on us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, the transformation is shaped by the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5). We are transformed from the insubstantial into that which will abide even unto eternity. We can die every day in repentance because we know only the dead will live. Christ guarantees it.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

John Chrysostom
"'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind' (Rm 12:2). For the fashion of this world is groveling and worthless, and is but temporary. It has nothing that is elevated, lofty, lasting, or straightforward, but is entirely perverted. If you would live right (ortha), do not think about yourself after the fashion of this present life. For in it there is nothing abiding or stable. This is why Paul calls it a 'form'; and so in another passage, 'The present form of this world is passing away' (1Co 7:31). For it has no durability or fixedness, but all in it is but for a time; and so he calls it this age (or world, aeon), to indicate its liability to misfortune, and by the word 'form' its insubstantiality. For speak of riches, or glory, or personal beauty, or luxury, or whatever other of its seemingly great things you would, it is only a form, not reality, a show and a mask, not an enduring substance. Paul says, 'Do not be conformed to this, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.' He says not 'change the form,' but 'be transformed,' to show that the world's ways are merely a form, but virtue's not a form or fashion, but a real form (Phil 2:6) with a natural beauty of its own, lacking the deceits and fashions of outward things, which no sooner appear than they go to nothing. For all these things, even before they come to light, are dissolving.
"If you throw the mere form aside, you will quickly come to the true form. For nothing is weaker than vice, nothing so easily wears old. Since it is likely that humans would sin every day, Paul consoles his readers by saying, 'renew yourself' from day to day. This is what we do with houses. We keep constantly repairing them as they grow old, and so do to yourself. Have you sinned today? Have you made your soul old? Do not despair, or become despondent, but renew it by repentance."

John Chrysostom, 
Homilies on Romans, 20
Philippians 2:1-18

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, You were transformed in the sight of Your disciples at Your transfiguration. Send your spirit that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Renew us from day to day through repentance. Free us from the fashions and fads of this dying world, that we might be shaped by You alone, taking on the form of truth from You. Amen.
For President Donald Trump, that he would be strengthened and upheld in every need
For the church, that she might confess the true faith in the face of increasing threats to her confession
For the enemies of the church, that they would be converted to Christ and share with us in the promises of God unto salvation
Art: SALVIATI, Cecchino del  St Bartholomew  (1550)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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