Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spiritual Formation - Get Into the Presence of God

In Galatians 4:19 Paul expresses his hope that Christ is "formed" in the hearts of the Galatian Jesus-followers. In the famous Romans 12:1-2 Paul wants the Roman J-followers to be de-morphed out of their conformation to the pattern of this world and be trans-morphed into Jesus-ness.

Spiritual formation and transformation: how does this happen? Here are the four stages, from my point of view.

Stage 1: the recognition of how needy we are. I need to be changed. I need to be different. There are things in me that need to be burned away. I am not all that I need to be in Christ.

Stage 2: recognition of the gap between myself and Christ. This is recognition of the magnitude of the transformation, which is: that Christ be formed in us. (Gal. 4:19)

Stage 3: the realization that I cannot change myself. So, no striving allowed, because it won't do any good anyway. "Will power" won't work anyway. To think it will is to diminish Christ, reducing Him to just another fallible subhuman like all of us.

Stage 4: God can change me!

Stage 5: Therefore, get into the presence of God. A person cannot consistently dwell in God's presence and remain unchanged.

Jesus gives us this secret of spiritual life and transformation in John chapters 14, 15, and 16. We are to dwell in Him, abide in Him. Be like a branch, connected to Jesus the Vine. Attach yourself to Jesus, every day!

We have an old pear tree in our back yard. Sometimes I see a branch that has fallen off the tree. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that this detached branch will never produce pears. But if that branch could be reattached to the tree it will bear pears. Inexorably. Necessarily. No striving needed or allowed. The Jesus-life is not about "trying hard" but about "abiding." Analogically, Jesus tells us that if we are attached to Him our lives will produce "much fruit." Plus, He gives us His peace and His joy and His knowledge and we're told we will do what he has been doing and even greater things.

All because we are "in Him" and He is "in us."

Therefore abide in Christ. Dwell deeply in Him. Let the morphing begin.