Burt Miller
Paul writes to us about being transformed in Christ’s image, about being transformed by the renewing of our mind, about being a new creation, and about following and allowing oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit in 2 Cor 3:18, Rm 12:2, 2 Cor 5:17, Gal 5:16, and Gal 5:18, respectively. Gal 5:16 reads “So I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” and Gal 5: 13-14 reads “You my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The transformation starts at baptism with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:38). We need to stop and think about the magnitude of this gift. God’s spirit is now living in each of us. “Do you not know that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor 16:19).
Each of us has both the responsibility to consciously follow the Spirit and, at the same time, to allow ourselves be led by the Spirit. When this is done, the love command will be fulfilled in our life. To walk in the Spirit is, therefore, a way of life.
Brian, Andrew and Jamey have been speaking to us about transformation: transforming our character in Christ to include our relationships, our attitudes, our bodies, and our homes. The Elders were asked to speak to the congregation on March 22nd. Each Elder planned to speak to our own transformation and faith journey for 5 minutes that Sunday. Covid-19 has revised our presentation method. My prayer is that I will say something that will be of value to your personal transformation into the character and image of Jesus Christ.
My journey started at a young age. I grew up in the Lutheran church, was baptized as an infant to be recognized as a member, and then in my teen years completed a course in Luther’s Catechism to become a communicant member permitted to partake the Lord’s supper. This process, Confirmation, made no new promises, but repeated the confession of faith made for me by my mother at my baptism. Growing older and having more interaction outside my nuclear family, I was exposed to ideas that caused a tension, motivating me to learn more about God and his expectations for me. That tension led me to believe “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Rm 10: 9-10). Later, however, I continued to study and was challenged by a friend to consider other evidences given to us by God in the New Testament. At that point in time, I was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Looking back on my life’s journey, I can see God working in my life in a variety of ways. My spiritual transformation has occurred through study of God’s word, by the example set by faithful men and women, by prayer, and by the Holy Spirit.
Paul instructs us in 1 Cor 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow Christ.” My spiritual growth has been greatly influenced by the faithful lives of a few. It started during my United States Air Force enlistment in Bossier City, LA; when a coworker shared with me the additional evidences noted earlier that led to my baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The next significant influences occurred in Marianna, FL, after graduating from college. It started with a coworker inquiring about my spirituality and then another family visiting my home and inviting us to worship God with them. Several people in the Marianna congregation fulfilled Paul’s exhortation of 1 Cor 11: 1 and loved us in a way that motivated us to follow Jesus. The most significant influence was through an older man who had spent his working years as an estate gardener. His gentle words, humility, and prayers have had the greatest influence on me during my adult years. I keep a picture of him pushing a loaded wheelbarrow in my office so I will never forget his Godly character. Later we moved to Columbia, MO and, once again, found Christians who have had significant spiritual influence on me. One friend has taught and demonstrated generosity in a way that continuously challenges me to be more like Jesus. Another has exampled serving by continuously working for the betterment of the family at both Stadium Blvd and now Fairview Road. That person also took interest in my understanding of God’s word and my growth in spiritual knowledge, by gifting me two books (Baptism and Fullness by john R. W. Stott and Rees Howells Intercessor by Norman Grubb). Still another has demonstrated a love for teaching children that models the love of Jesus. Finally, another demonstrated gentle boldness that allows one to search for truth and then to speak that truth in love, during times of church family fracture.
My final thought about transformation is something that actually started back in 1995, when I studied the books by Stott and Grubb noted above, and then was revived in a significant way in 2015. The time gap is partially explained by Mark E. Powell in his book Centered in God: The Trinity and Christian Spirituality. In his book, Powell says you can take the words ‘Holy Spirit’ out of the English language, and you would never know it, if you were worshipping at a Church of Christ. In 2015, I taught a class about the Trinity which focused on holiness. Knowing the Holy Spirit dwells in me, intercedes for me when I speak to the Father, and guides me along the path to Jesus has helped me accept what is going on in my life and has given me peace, that peace that transcends all understanding, as described in Ph 4: 7.
I know that I am a work in progress, and I know the Holy Spirit will lead me to an everlasting life, if I simply will allow myself to be led and commit myself to following. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit is revealed and observed in our lives and observed through our loving, serving, forgiving, and showing generosity to others, not by trying to control them. I encourage all of us to reflect upon the fruit of the Spirit addressed by Paul in Gal 5: 22-23 and the actions associated with being filled with the Spirit identified in Eph 5: 19-20.
The above was written by Burt Miller – originally to be shared in worship service on 3/22.  This is being published as part of a series where all of our elders are sharing their personal story of transforming faith.