September 5th, 2013

About 50 times a day I crash into the reality that I’m not everything God intended when he created me. Part of the wreckage was caused because I was born into a fallen and sinful world. The rest of the damage has been caused because I am a fallen and sinful person.

I don’t like admitting I’m a sinful person, but my disquiet with the phrase doesn’t rob the idea of its truth.

I’m a mix, as I suppose you are. I am sinful, but I don’t want to be. I want to be all that God intended. I want more than “saved” – even though being saved is glorious. I’m not worried about whether God loves me or about my place in God’s everlasting Kingdom. I’m worried about whether or not I’m becoming the kind of person God can trust with His everlasting kingdom.

Here’s what I mean:

Sin Management

 

The scriptures teach that faithful believers will have an eternal job. 1 Timothy 2:12 tells us that job will be to “reign” with God. That’s a heavy job description – reigning with God. Who could possibly be up to the task? Are you? I’m not.

At least not the way I am today.

I have to become something in this life that I am not yet.

A Quick Example:

Imagine this:  A woman who is selfish and self-concerned dies and ends up in God’s eternity. Yes, the same God who would not spare His son and the same God who called believers to “consider others better than yourselves.” How much could this selfish woman enjoy Heaven? Not much. She is selfish in a location made by the selfless. The entire experience is designed for another kind of person than she has become. She’d be like an Eskimo at the Equator.

All of our quirks, mistakes, and, yes, sin, make us the kind of people who wouldn’t enjoy spending eternity with God. You heard that right. Getting to Heaven is the easy part. Jesus took care of that. The part that requires effort is becoming the kind of person who would enjoy Heaven; becoming the kind of person God could trust with His kingdom.

We become that kind of person by deeply embracing activities God can use to transform us into a different kind of person. Through the centuries, these activities have been called “spiritual disciplines”  – prayer, fasting, silence, solitude, generosity, hospitality, secrecy, sacred reading, service, and many others. It is the routine practice of these habits which transforms us from our sin-filled and selfish present into a Spirit-filled and loving future.

To enter into this Spirit-filled future each of us need to clasp onto three crucial spiritual shifts:

1. Spiritual Development Requires Effort: Dallas Willard defines spiritual disciplines as “anything I can do by direct effort to help me accomplish what I cannot do by direct effort.”  We have to be deliberate about out interaction with God. Being saved by faith alone does not mean we are developed by faith alone. We are going to have to put forth time, energy, and effort. As my fitness trainer says, “You can’t just show up. You have to give effort.”

2. You Won’t Change Until You Change: A dynamic, growing relationship with God simply won’t fall from the sky. Your daily habits will have to change. Whether you choose to begin practices of prayer, service, fasting, etc…you’re going to have to rearrange your life-rhythms to give them priority. For most of us this means some activity which presently occupies your time and attention will have to cease.

3. Become a Student:  The Scriptures call the men and women who first followed Jesus, “disciples.” As the Lord was departing earth, he charged these disciples to “go and make disciples.” Disciple is an old word for “student.” And that’s what we are. We are students of the Master Teacher, Jesus, learning to do everything just the way He did it, so that our instincts reflect the instinct of our savior. Therefore, you and I need to become students and students have teachers. More than likely there are men and women in your area who are close to God. You hear it when they speak to you and see the fruits of God’s presence in their lives. Go and sit with them. Learn from them and allow them to feed your soul. Eventually, you’ll want to go farther and find a certified spiritual director. These men and women can pour into your life in a dedicated way. You can’t do this alone.

A New Creation

Ultimately, spiritual disciplines are a means of practicing the presence of God. When practiced with regularity and, yes, discipline, you will find yourself being transformed, as the Apostle Paul says, “from one degree of glory to another.”

Let me help you get started. I’ve created a short screencast teaching a method of Bible reading called, “Lectio Divina” (divine reading). This screencast will take you through the process of reading the Bible systematically, yet devotionally. Try this little practice over the next week and I promise, you will begin to feel God’s spirit moving inside you in new and exciting ways.

 

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 5th, 2013 at 7:00 am and is filed under spiritual formation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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