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Transformed (part 4)

Romans 8:38-39

 

After Sam finished his first tour of duty as a Navy Seal in Viet Nam, his next billet was stateside pulling shore duty in the San Diego area. That's where he met Mark. 

Mark was going through seal team training at the time, and would eventually end up on the same team with Sam, but they didn't meet at work, they met at church. Because Mark was training to become a Seal and was a new believer, Sam took a special interest in him and they became friends.

Mark made it through the program and became a BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition Seal) instructor. He was making a success of himself, that is, until alcohol got the best of him. When his problem became disruptive at work, the Navy put him in rehabilitation, but it didn't take. His problem got so bad, that he lost his career and had to get out of the Navy. But his career isn't all he lost, he lost his family too. After a while, his wife had enough and she left him.

Mark had lost it all, except his salvation and his friendship with Sam. Even when the Navy and his wife didn't want Mark anymore, God still did. Romans 8:38-39 says, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, [39] neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

What can separate us from God's love? Notice the extremes Paul mentions when he answered that question. Death-life. Angels-demons. Present-future. Height-depth. Nothing, absolutely, nothing can separate us from God's love.

I suppose that if it was Mark's responsibility to hold on to God, he would have slipped away years before, but it wasn't Mark that had to hold onto God, it was God that held onto Mark. Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:28 NIV)

What kind of life did Jesus promise in John 10:28? Eternal life, the scripture says. Life that doesn't end. Not life for as long as you walk a straight line-there is no condition to the promise-it is eternal.

"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." ( John 10:29 NIV)

God held Mark in the palm of his hand, even when Mark was drifting away from his commitment, God held him tightly. And Mark was certainly drifting.

For the next two years, Mark would stop by to chat with Sam but was continuing to live out of God's will. Sam patiently encouraged Mark to return to the Lord, but Mark would always say something to the effect of, "If God will do this or that, then I'll follow Him again."

One afternoon, Sam got fed up with Mark's rationalizations. He sprung out of his chair, grabbed Mark and threw him up against the wall. "When are you going to get your act together?" Sam yelled. "Get out of here, and don't come back until we have something new to talk about."

When Mark left, Sam prayed, "God, this guy doesn't deserve to breathe your air. Why don't you do us all a favor and just beam him up?"

Mark had grievously sinned against God and his sin was destroying every relationship he had. He'd lost his career, his wife, and now, he was losing his friend.

That's the way it is. Even if we don't lose our salvation when we live in habitual sin, we still lose a lot.

King David, a man after God's own heart, grievously sinned against His God when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover up his sin. Throughout the entire ordeal, God continued to love David, and when David's life was over, God showed David's descendants favor, because of David's heart. In 1 Kings 15:4-5 the scripture says, "Nevertheless, for David's sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. [5] For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord's commands all the days of his life--except in the case of Uriah the Hittite."

But don't think David wasn't disciplined for his sin. Rev. 3:19 says, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." David was rebuked and disciplined.

The child born of his adultery died. One of his sons raped one of his daughters and another son rose up in rebellion against him and tried to overthrow his kingdom. David suffered greatly because of his sin.

But in the end, David was restored because he received the discipline and repented from his sin. Solomon wrote, "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke," (Proverbs 3:11 NIV)

Receiving discipline isn't easy, but it is necessary. 

Pastor Haynes met Willy at a gas station early one morning. The pastor was trying to sell a car and Willy was trying to sell some dope. Neither of them were buying that day, but Pastor Haynes did convince Willy to agree to come to church. After a while, Willy gave his life to Jesus, but he kept falling back into his old ways of selling dope and chasing women.

Every time he backslid, Pastor Haynes would dismiss him from his church positions, and tell him he had to get his life right before he could serve in the church again. The discipline didn't drive Willy out of the church, he'd say, "Don't give up on me Preacher, I'm going to get it right some day . . . I'll get it right."

Today, Willy is faithfully serving the Lord-he finally got it right. Love motivated the pastor to discipline Willy. He didn't discipline him in anger, it was in love.

God's love compelled Him to discipline David. And it made him a better person.

But sometimes the pain we feel from our sin isn't at God's hand, it is a natural consequence for our actions.

Mark couldn't blame God or the Navy for losing his career. The Navy isn't going to let a drunk be a BUDS instructor. Neither could Mark blame God that he lost his family. His wife deserved better, and she moved on. It wasn't God's fault. Mark designed his own nightmare.

When Sam finished his prayer, asking God to beam Mark up, he fell under conviction of the Holy Spirit for losing his patience with his friend. He began meditating on the transforming power of the resurrection, visualizing Jesus raising from the dead. And when he thought about Jesus coming out of the grave, he realized that for a time, he wore grave clothes.

That was Mark. He had experienced the power of the resurrection, but he never took off the old grave clothes. 

Sam prayed again, "God, I'm sorry, I still think Mark is a sorry individual, but I know your transforming power and I know you can transform him." From then on, every time Mark came to Sam's mind, he prayed for him to take off the grave clothes and live in Christ's transforming power.

About a year later, Mark came by to see Sam again, but nothing had changed. He said the same old stuff, "If God will just . . .then I will . . ." This time, Sam didn't throw him against the wall, instead he looked him square in the eye and said, "Mark, God is God and He will only accept an unconditional surrender from you." And then Sam asked Mark: "Are you willing to surrender your life to Him now?"

Romans 13:12 b says, "So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." Are you still wearing the deeds of darkness, or as Sam put it, "grave clothes?" 

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he said, "'Lazarus, come out!' [44] The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'" (John 11:43-44 NIV) Grave clothes are for the dead, not the living. Lazarus needed to take them off, and so did Mark.

Mark said, "yes." And he did. He took off the grave clothes, and began walking in the transforming power of the resurrection.

Today, Mark has remarried and is actively serving the Lord. His life radically transformed, by the power of God. And he is living his life wrapped in the armor of light, without grave clothes! (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
 

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