That’s why we are moved by stories from Extreme Makeover, The Biggest Loser and American Idol. We know we can overcome obstacles if we change the way we think. Regardless of language, culture and position in life, humans love the story of the underdog, soaring to victory. From the times of David and Goliath, we love the “against all odds” victory of the unlikely hero. We want to be that hero.
We also know that the cards we have been dealt in life might have a say in our journey, but they don’t define our life. Ultimately our attitude about life will define our quality of life.
Positive psychology, dismissed by many as a fad is now a “legit” science and has made remarkable progress in the last 15 years. It’s absolutely factual that glass-half-full people have a distinctive advantage over the glass-half-empty people.
One of my favorite research projects is one with 180 nuns from the School Sisters of Notre Dame, all born before 1917, who wrote down their thoughts in autobiographical journal entries. 50 Years later psychologists who came about this treasure trove of information, codified their entries and correlated them with the outcome of their lives. The joyful lived nearly ten years longer than the nuns whose entries were more negative or neutral. By age 85, 90% of the happiest nuns were still alive, and only 34% of the others.
Another study was done by a professor Langer in 1979. He designed a week-long experiment on a group of 75-year-old men. A week long retreat simulated a return in time to the year 1959. The men were immersed in 1959 news, politics, conversations and other details of their lives 20 years earlier. They had IDs from that time, and everything they talked about was about their realities as of 1959. After just one week all of them recorded better physical strength, perception cognition, posture, short term memory. The average improvement in eyesight was an astonishing 10%.
In short. Our thoughts are powerful and transformative. But if the secret of transformation lies just in us changing our thought patterns, why are so many of us not transformed? Why does the parade of teachers, books, diets, and exercise systems never end?
I think it’s because the natural is lacking the supernatural. There’s something beyond the obvious, outside of us. Ultimately what we really crave, is not a new personality, body, career or house. We crave God himself.
And yet many of us in the church struggle in our spiritual journey without seeing much transformation. Many feel like a failure, burned out, frustrated with God, themselves and the church.
We are currently exploring this theme in Austin Christian, having a conversation about the three rings of transformation:
Identity – the ways our view of ourselves in Christ define our ability to be transformed.
Community – the ways our life in community have a major role as a catalyst of transformation.
Gravity – the ways a group of transformed followers of Jesus can have a transformative effect on outsiders.
Let’s talk about the first ring – Identity.
Here are six reasons why, you as a Christian, might be stuck in the transformation process.
1.You insist on your will to being done.
Rom 12: 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
It’s not about us getting our way. God is not an ATM machine. We are transformed by learning the good and pleasing will of God for us. Until we care more about God’s person and will than hours, we’ll stay untransformed.
2. You think the church will transform you. It won’t. It is an amazing catalyst of transformation, but it’s not the source of transformation. Only God is.
Gal 6:15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.
From the very beginning human tendency has been to codify God, make HIm easier to wrap our minds around. So we can slip into arguing about circumcision in the first century or worship music in the twenty first.
Whatever it is, that we hold on to as our hope for transformation, the horizontal aspect of Church is the most obvious. Transformation happens when the Church becomes an environment that inspires us to go vertical.
3. You have a misplaced identity. You don’t really believe you are a NEW CREATION.
Gal 6:16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.
Rom 6:11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
When God saves us, he doesn’t just rescue us from death; he gives us a completely new identity.
- All that is part of our old self has been crucified ( Rom 6:2-11; Gal 2:20).
- We are completely forgiven and reconciled with God ( 1 Cor1:2, 2 Cor 5:17-19, Gal 2:16)
- We are made completely new and are given eternal life. ( Eph 2:5-6, Col2:13; 3:1; 1 Peter 1:3-5)
- We receive the Holy Spirit ( Gal 2:20, Col 1:27)
- The Father has chosen us and made us” holy and blameless before Him in love.”
Our God-less self identity can come from culture or upbringing, it has a way to persist and shape our worldview for many years after we become Christians, but there’s only one true ID for a Disciple – we are fully and completely a new creation. This is one of the hardest realities to embrace, believe and implement in life.
4. You think you Christ-Idenity is how God sees you, but not who you really are.
Genesis 1:3: And God said, "Let there be light, and there was light."
When God speaks, reality is created.
So why do so many of us walk around with this idea, that there are two people inside of us? One is godly, one is not. Like the old films that show an angel and a demon sitting on our shoulders fighting for our attention.
Some of this comes out of our perception of the term sinful nature. This unfortunate translation gives us this image of a creature living inside of us, like in the film Aliens. The original word often translated as sinful nature, sarx, simply means flesh and does not imply there’s a weird double nature.
That state of feeling a wave of sinful thoughts or temptations is very real. So what to do with that? It happens partially because we are still part of the fallen creation, which is waiting to be redeemed. Partially because of what one of my favorite authors Greg Boyd calls a “deceptive state of being”. This means, there are lies about who we really are, that we believe and live by. But they are still lies. They are ideas, thoughts and habits that the Apostle Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to do battle against in the name of Christ.
2 Cor 10:4-5 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
According to this, we are to rethink everything we have in us from culture, upbringing, our life story and filter it through truth of Christ. Easier said than done, for sure, and yet vital to transformation in Christ.
5. You think if you try harder, things will change.
Without diving into work-driven Christianity, which many of us have experienced first hand, this view is popular because it makes a lot of sense. 1) Let people know what they’re supposed to do. 2) Motivate them to do it. 3) There are usually immediate results (not long term).
We all know what happens if we try to “white knuckle” our way through Christianity. It simply doesn’t work.
Gal 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
The fruit we all crave is the Spirit’s, not ours. We don’t have to try harder. All we need to do is keep in step with the Spirit.
6. You keep trying to earn something that has already been given to you.
We live on the outside what is true on the inside. So if we feel stuck and far from transformed, it might be because we have a hard time accepting God’s grace. If you think about it, the best thing God will ever do for us he already did. He has forgiven us, brought us into his light, we are in His Kingdom forever, we will never die. All of that is a done deal. Period.
2 Cor 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lords glory, are being transformed into his image with ever- increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
It’s counterintuitive, I know. Even too good to be true, and yet scripture is clear: Ultimately, we are transformed by contemplating the Lord’s glory. He is the only source of true transformation. Does that inspire you, confuse you, frustrate you, mobilize you? Why is the manual not clear enough?
I think because it’s not a manual (what a terrible sermon analogy for the Bible, by the way), it’s the living, breathing word of God, and the Lord’s glory cannot ever be codified into a “Three Steps to Transformation” formula.
So let us forget the formula and stop looking for the manual. May we boldly step out of our comfort zone and into the ocean that is the glory of God.
Shared from austinchristian.org