…On Spiritual Transformation


Spiritual Transformation is an important subject in the Christian community and rightfully so. One of the inescapable truths that serious church leaders must grapple with is the apathy of those who populate church pews on Sunday. Common knowledge is that perhaps as much as 90% of all the work in a local congregation is done by about 10% of the members. The numbers fluctuate a bit but this sad template applies to most churches and across denominational lines.

To say that “most” church members are content to show up once a week for a worship service, give some money, sing a few songs, listen to the preacher, and live much like their pagan neighbors the rest of the week is not a stretch. Since this is true, the challenge is how do we get “Mr. Joe Christian” transformed from nominal believer to an on fire disciple?

Based largely on the popular idea that more “activity” equals more “maturity”, many church leaders have simply opted to create more and more opportunities throughout the week for members to be involved. In my view, having committees,  ministry teams, and small groups staffed by people with little appetite or aptitude for God solves nothing. Unless church leaders are content with a church that operates like a civic club that methodology is not a good idea.

The apparent question then is how does “Spiritual Transformation” happen? There is no valid answer unless we first know “what” it is. The first thing we must understand is that it is a work of God.

“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)

This important text, understood in context, lays the foundation for any spiritual transformation of the believer. I invite you to read the prior 12 verses and you will see the Apostle’s plea for selflessness, putting the interests of others ahead of our own, and imitating the humility of Christ. The verse preceding  the one above gives the correct response to the knowledge that God is at work in us for His pleasure.

“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” (Philippians 2:12)

The often quoted phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is more often than not taken out of context and misapplied, putting “self”in the seat of power only God deserves to occupy. The “work(s)” we do are in the knowledge that our part of the equation is to humbly walk with God as He directs.

Paul’s absolute confidence in God’s ability to transform believers into the image of Christ should encourage each of us that in our own lives and the lives of those in our faith communities, God is at work!

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

It is God’s will, work, and purpose to transform every believer into the image of Christ. That work will be final at the resurrection. Until then we must cooperate, on purpose, if we want God’s best life now. We must not only know God is at work but we must do the work of a disciple, that is we must practice the disciplines of the Christian faith. Bible study, prayer, and interaction with other believers is essential to our growth.

A man is what he thinks. The remedy is to think right. The injunction of Romans 12 applies here.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1,2)

Two striking truths challenge us from this passage. First, we are to give our whole selves to God as a sacrifice. This is true worship! The implication is human effort alone is worthless to God. Secondly, we must have renewed minds. Unless, and until, we are no longer depending on the energy and resources of human flesh, and we begin to have minds filled with God and his purposes and not focused on our own agenda’s, there will be little “Spiritual Transformation”.

What then is the solution for the church at large? First, know and admit the problem. Our people have not been taught correctly. We have taught for centuries that more “church” related activity equals spiritual growth. Instead of a recipe for maturity this method often results in hypocrite church members.

Once we believe and admit the bankruptcy of human effort we must focus our personal and cooperate teaching and practice on the worth and work of God in us by the Holy Spirit. We must dethrone “self” and invite God to have free access to every facet of our lives.

More trust and less trying, less hustle and more humility, and ego crushing purposeful living and loving will open the door wide for God’s work in us and through us.

Agape’

Royce

A.S.K.


“Only those who pray get their prayers answered.”

It is usual and normative for Christian believers to pray. It is also usual and normative for those same people to have answers to  their requests.

Reduced to its most elementary definition prayer is simply asking. Prayer is a human asking God for something. All of the teaching about prayer, and all of the prayers in the Bible verify this foundational truth.

A S K

Jesus gave this simple teaching in Matthew chapter 7 saying:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek, and you will find; Knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who Asks receives, and the one who Seeks finds, and to the one who Knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-9)

Ask, Seek, Knock, a very simple way to remember just what prayer is. He then went on to tell what the results would be for those who do this simple thing.

  • Ask! Can you do that? Sure you can. And, the sure promise from Jesus is “it will be given to you…” Do you need something only God can give? If the answer is “Yes” then Ask! “Everyone who Asks receives…” The reverse is true also. We don’t have what we need because we don’t ask God for it. (James 4:2) And, we sometimes ask motivated by the wrong motives. (James 4:3) If what you ask for will honor God and bless your life, boldly Ask!
  • Seek! Seek implies that are to be diligent in our praying. To seek is to go for something, to explore every avenue, to be proactive about what we need. The Bible in Hebrews 11 (the faith chapter) gives more light on seeking. “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6b) Don’t be lazy in prayer, put forth some effort and go to God with passion for what you want.
  • Knock! Prayer is knocking on God’s door! This another way of teaching us to pray. If I go over to my neighbor’s house to borrow a cup of meal I can’t just go and stand be the door, I must knock! And, if he doesn’t answer at first I must keep knocking. The difference is, God is always at home. If you knock God will open the door. Keep knocking until you have what you need.

The idea presented here can be illustrated by this example. Have you ever been inclined to give a child something, partially because they just kept asking over and over and over? I have and I think you have.

We are to ask and keep on asking, we are to seek and keep on seeking, and we are to knock and keep on knocking. If we do, God will keep on answering, we will keep on finding, and the door will keep opening.

You have tried it your way, used your reasoning and resources and remedies? Why not just make a request, and keep making your requests?

A man much more wise than I am once said “The weakness of a Christian will usually be a prayer weakness, and the weakness of a church will also usually be a prayer weakness as well”.

Need anything? Ask God.

Royce

Facing 2010 with Expectancy


2010 will mark my 65th year on planet earth. I’m getting old but I stand on the starting line with a twinkle in my eye, with a sense of expectancy, and with faith in my heart.

What will a new year bring? Who knows but God alone? I know that whatever it brings will come to me with God’s approval and for my good. It might be great blessing or it might be pain and suffering, or even death, but it will be filtered through His sovereign will. Of this I am sure and am content.

My prayers and my dreams are alike. I desire that my future, however long, be marked with increased holiness, a more desperate prayer habit, loving others more frequently and in tangible ways, and being a blessing rather than waiting for one.

I want to become one who loves God more than I love the approval of men (This is an admitted struggle for me all of my life). I want to place more emphasis on adjusting my life to the truth I know than seeking more truth. I want my teaching to be marked by more integrity, my love for my wife and family to be more generous, and my need for repentance less frequent.

If I could be granted but one wish it would be at this time next year God could say of me “Royce is my friend”.

An honest appraisal of this man who has been a believer for almost 50 years is not pretty. I love satisfaction at the expense of sanctification. Sometimes I spend more time on Face Book than in God’s book. I tend toward measuring myself against men rather than against the God-man. I am too negative and skeptical at the expense of being poor in spirit. And, perhaps worst of all, sometimes I try to rationalize rather than repent.

So, I lean heavily upon the arm of the everlasting One, wallow in His grace, and give thanks for His faithfulness. I am the chief of sinners but I know whom I have believed and am confident that one golden day break He will complete his work of making one helpless sinner into the glorious likeness of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.

I will not live in Romans 7 forever. Sooner than later I will move to Romans 8. Count on it…

Happy New Year! Agape

Royce

Not so obvious lessons from John 17


This wonderful portion of Scripture is a prayer Jesus prayed just after explaining once again about his leaving the disciples, his authority over the world, the coming Holy Spirit, and just before his death on a cross.

There are many wonderful truths here that are often overlooked. I want to share my understanding of  a few of them.

There is only one method, one plan for world evangelism.

As Jesus was praying he said

“they have believed that you sent me. 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:8b-9)

God so loved the “world“. Christ died for the sins of the “world“. And yet, in one of his last prayers on earth Jesus plainly stated

I am not praying for the world..”

Without question he loves the people of the world so why would he not pray for them, and even say it in such a public way that today it remains a record of the sacred Text?

This is why,

I am praying for them (those who had believed), “those you have given me, for they are yours.”

God has but one plan to reach the whole world with the good news. It is the church. It is those who have believed who will spread the message to every tribe and tongue. In Matthew 28 when Jesus gave the great commission he said

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18b-19a)

Here we can ask “What is the therefore there for?” Christians can go into a hostile world, right in the midst of Satan’s stronghold, and make disciples because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth“. And he has passed on that authority through the agency of the Holy Spirit in and upon the believer’s life.

Just before his ascension into heaven Jesus told his followers

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

When the Holy Spirit anointing comes there is a transfer of power and authority to the one who has believed and waited on the Lord. God has no other plan, it is up to you and me and our brothers and sisters of every age who have put our trust in Jesus. But not really. I am not that dependable and neither are you, but God is faithful! Jesus said “I will build my church…” and the devil and hell can’t stop Him.

Nothing will thwart God’s plan to reach the world with the gospel. Those who have not yet heard are in good hands. God uses an inspired and all-powerful message (the gospel) given by the mouths of imperfect saints who are empowered by the Holy Spirit and out of the listeners those whom God has chosen will believe.

Jesus prayed for those who belonged to God, to Him. He did not pray for the world. Their salvation is complete because of His perfect obedience and sacrifice. They can have life because He ever lives. They only need to know it.

I suggest we get in on God’s plan and chunk our own upon the heap of human failure. The focus is never on a plan or a program. It is always about an empowered people. So, may I suggest then that we too pray for the church, for our brothers and sisters, at least more than we do for the lost. God’s way is always best.

Royce