The "How We Change" Series
How We Change
Back at the start of this year in January, the Garden Church started a four week series called "How We Change." The series was jam-packed with so much truth that it's likely hard to retain or remember all of that valuable wisdom without revisiting it. So, if you missed it or remember how great it was but can't remember the content very well. In this post, you'll get a recap.
There is difficulty of change in everyone's life. And the difficulty to change in order to become more like Jesus isn't any easier. As Christians, we are called to be apprentices of Jesus. We are called to be like Jesus, become like Jesus and do what Jesus did. The only way that this is possible for us to change and become more like Jesus is through spiritual transformation.
Within that process, there are three areas of influence: unintentional influences (such as where you live), intentional influences (your community) and practicing spiritual disciplines.
Teaching v. Stories We Believe
All three of these aspects of our spiritual transformation (where we live, who we surround ourselves with, and the habits we make) influence the ways we view our life story or narrative. We are spiritually formed from babies through all of adulthood. We have a specific story we have lived and are living. The experiences, the people, where we are and the rituals we perform in life have been shaping us to become who we are today and who we understand we are.
And often times, we find ourselves startled, waking up to find that we don't relate so much to the bible anymore or maybe we never related to the bible in a certain way. We find ourselves looking at ourselves and looking at the bible, confused about the stark contrast we see between ourselves and the person God calls us to be.
This is because we carry lies about ourselves, our worth, what kind of god God is, how much we really deserve or don't deserve in life that get in the way of us receiving God's truth over us. These lies come from stories we believe about ourselves or the "narratives" we believe about ourselves.
Although, as followers of Christ, the only One who should hold the truth about who we are and what our life means is God Himself.
Unfortunately, more often than not, false truths in our lives can be so ingrained within us that it can be very difficult to break away from them or make a shift in the stories we believe about ourselves. So, in order to accomplish that goal set before us to become like Christ, we must first recognize and acknowledge the false beliefs we may be carrying about who we are and who God is. From there, we should pray for the Lord to help us lay down the lies and ask our minds be renewed by God’s Word (Romans 1, Mark 1).
Here are six practical steps to renew your mind with Christ's teachings and truths:
Read the Bible
Read biblically sound Christian books
Sit under biblically sound teaching regularly
Get a mentor
Practice replacing false narratives with true narratives
Practices v. Habits
Teaching makes us replace old lies with new biblical truths. It renews and refreshes our minds to make us more like Christ. Practices break down habits that keep us from transforming into Christlikeness.
Practicing spiritual disciplines is one of the three areas of influences mentioned earlier in which we become spiritually transformed (1 Timothy 4). Spiritual disciplines are “practices based on the lifestyle of Jesus that create time and space for us to access the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and, in doing so, be transformed from the inside out.” (Pastor Darren). Discipline has a central role in every disciples life.
God's love is not conditioned by what you do. Rather, God’s desire is for you to fully live. Especially when bad habits rule our lives, disciplining ourselves in to Christlike habits breaks us free into the holy spiritual transformation that brings us even more into life and joy.
Here are five ways called the “Liturgical Audit” Pastor Darren suggests to help effectively implement counter-formational habits:
Take an inventory of the rhythms and routines and rituals that make up your life.
Make a list of the things you regularly do.
And then, see if you can figure out what they are doing to you. Specifically, to your heart.
Then identify one, cut it out.
And here’s the key: replace it with one of the practices of Jesus.
Relationships v. Community
“Let us make mankind in our image” God is in community with Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, we are made for community. After creating man, God said “man is not made to be alone.”
Does anyone really know you? It’s not good if they don’t. Western civilization is raising up the individual at the expense of the community. Loneliness is the leprosy of the modern world. We are the most connected than ever but more isolated than ever. It’s not about being connected to each other, it’s about being in community.
Unfortunately, the #1 preferred kind of discipleship is the “just me and Jesus” kind. The reality is that community is non-optional for disciples of Jesus.
Jesus builds a community of good Torah-reading boys (4 disciples who were fishermen) and then invites in tax-collectors and sinners. When questioned why he invites tax-collectors and sinners to dine with him, Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have come to call not the righteous, but the sinners.” In other words, the messy people are supposed to come into the church. He doesn’t just call the religious, he calls the messy.
Jesus is the kind of man who brings together the doubting Thomas, the loud-mouth Type A Peter, and Judas Iscariot the traitor of all. Do you think they always got along?
In the context of community, we are transformed. You are shaped by the people around you. You are the average of your five closest friends.
When you are disturbed or out of your comfort zone, what is on the inside spills out. People bring out every side of you. Community is a powerful thing and it is where we are transformed.
1) We are made for community, 2) Community is non-optional and that’s good because 3) we are transformed in community.
Community is the byproduct of commitment. This goes beyond just being committed to Sunday gatherings but being committed to being with one another in community in places such as House Church and genuinely working to get to know one another and be known.
If people do not know you, people will not be able to love you. If you do not pay attention and listen, you will not be able to know people and love people the way God intended you to. Worst of all, if people don't know you enough to bring out every side of you, you will not be part of the transforming process of our darknesses being brought to light through community.
Environment v. Holy Spirit
True freedom is the ability to want to right thing and then having the willpower to overcome evil desires to do the right thing. Living in true freedom takes willpower but the problem is that our will does not have much power. It is like a muscle that can be fatigued. It is a finite resource. For example, you say you are going to eat healthily today. You start out the day with a healthy breakfast but then, as the day goes on, your willpower runs out. You find yourself at the end of the day wanting that sugary donut and caving in.
We can exercise our will to make it stronger. We influence and exercise our will by being in community, practicing spiritual disciplines and through listening and acting on biblical teaching. Part of the reason our willpower crumbles is because we do not exercise our will to become stronger by repeating practices that make us strong enough to withstand those weak moments.
But the problem is that no matter how much willpower you actually have, it will never be enough for you to live the way of Jesus. (This is why self-help will fail. And why when people say "Just pray more," it doesn't solve the deeper issues).
Fixing the outward behaviors is not enough to transform our inner being. The reality is that we are powerless to change ourselves. We still need massive help.
This is why Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to help us.
Being in an on-going loving relationship with the Holy Spirit is what transforms us into Christlikeness over time. It happens by God, not by our own efforts. Gordon Fee writes, "Through Christ and by the Spirit, we are being transformed so as to bear the likeness for which we were intended at the beginning." (He is referring to Genesis 1 + 2). Like in Exodus when Moses was able to enter into the presence of God and through experiencing God, he became holy, we also get to enter into the presence of God through the Holy Spirit and become holy by experiencing Him.
So how do we experience an ongoing relationship with God? We experience Him through breakthrough moments and process moments.
Breakthrough moments are unplanned, rare, and come out of no where. They are when God shows up (usually in response to us) and breaks through where we've been stuck. They radically alter our life and accelerate our transformation. Breakthrough moments are amazing refining, eye opening mountain top experiences where we come to know, understand and love God more but they alone do not build character.
Process moments are daily conversational moments with God. They also can be moments of disciplines like showing up to community, opening the Word or taking a risk to lay yourself down for the good of another. Through these process moments, we can experience more of a relationship with God. The purpose of the disciplines mentioned (teaching, community, practices) is to experience God. And it is there that He refines us.
But the way we experience an ongoing relationship with God is by letting Him in. We're trying really hard on our own to deal with our sin. We need to let God into those sinful, dark places. For many of us it is a place of deep shame, a place of hiding and a place where we keep secrets. The Holy Spirit wants to illuminate those places so we live no longer with secrets, no longer have to hide and no longer have to deal with shame. Open up your heart and your life practically and intentionally to the Holy Spirit to allow the change to happen.