Let’s Spark a Transformation
1993 was a powerful year for us. On New Year’s Eve, I had watched Dead Poet’s Society. I had seen teenagers who were passionate about dead poets, and I felt convicted that I was not equally passionate about serving Jesus. The theme of those teenagers was “Carpe Diem,” Latin for “Seize the Day.” So I resolved that I was going to “Seize the day” for Christ, and that my family would join me in that endeavor. We would not let the sun go down without doing something of significance in God’s Kingdom.
Looking back, I don’t remember the individual things that we did. I do remember the bigger picture, of how God used them to transform my life. By the Spring of that year, I began to sense God calling me to leave the practice of law and enter pastoral ministry. By Summer, God had confirmed that call through my wife. By August, I was in seminary. And on Oct. 31, I was called to serve my first church.
I am inspired in this goal by Col. 4:2-6: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Notice the movement of this passage. Paul tells the Colossian church that he wants them to be devoted to prayer. Then he begins to unfold some specifics. He asks prayer for “us,” that God would open doors for the message of Christ, for which he is imprisoned. Then he makes a more personal prayer request. It is that he would be able to proclaim the message clearly, as he should. In other words, rather than crying out to God about the injustice of his imprisonment, Paul asks God to give his chains meaning and purpose. Instead of asking for his personal freedom, he asks for clarity as he talks to others about the mystery of Christ. Even in chains, Paul’s driving passion is to communicate the gospel more and more clearly to more and more people.
Then Paul addresses the Colossians themselves, and his theme remains the same. He has asked for more opportunities for his team, and more clarity for himself personally. Then he tells the Colossians that they, too, should be wise in the way they act toward outsiders. I think his meaning is to be strategic in their approach. Hence the words that follow – “Make the most of every opportunity.” And hence the encouragement to make their conversation full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that they might be prepared to answer everyone.
So, Paul’s passion is that his team have more opportunities to proclaim the good news, that he personally be more effective in proclaiming the good news, and that the Colossians strategically engage others to create opportunities to proclaim the good news, and then seize those moments. That is what I envision, too.
I think this thought runs parallel to 1 Peter 3:15-16: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Peter had essentially told his audience to live in a way that distinguished them from the world. Live that way so as to raise a question: “Why? Why is your life so different?” And then, Peter writes, be prepared to answer that question. Seize the moment.
We cannot transform anyone. That is, we cannot change their hearts. God alone can do this. But He has committed to us the power and authority to transform situations, to transform moments. I believe that is what He is talking about in these passages–strategically creating moments when we can share the good news, then seizing the opprotunities that arise.
To accomplish this, I have encourage the members of FBC Barnwell (www.BarnwellFBC.org) to make this a year of 2011 SpARKs – Spitiual Acts oif Random Kindness. By random, I do not mean “without purpose,” but rather “spontaneous.” And by “spiritual,” I mean that our acts of kindness are done in Jesus’ name. It’s as easy as telling others, “I am a follower of Jesus. I am serving Him by serving you.”
Perhaps we will have opportunities to explain further the message of Phil. 2: “Jesus did not consider equality with God something to cling to. Instead, He humbled Himself and became a servant.” Perhaps these SpARKs will even generate opportunities to give a reason for the hope that we have. I can’t be sure of what will happen. But I am convinced of this: If we undertake 2011 SpARKs in a single year, we will not be the same, our church will not be the same, and this community will not be the same. God will do a work of transformation.
So, let’s SpARK a transformation.