I burned my old journal pages.
Ripped them clean out of the carefully selected, beautifully bound book, tossed them into the fire, and watched them melt to ash.
Their reminders of defeat would mock me no more.
Too many entries revealed failure after failure to sustain lasting transformation.
Exposed inabilities to reach the ideals in my head.
Displayed the accusing gap between my understanding of the Christian life and the reality of my own.
Ever struggle with the same problem again and again?
Ever find it impossible to sustain desired change in a particular area of your life with God?
Why do we repeatedly battle the same issues?
Why is it so hard to create the deep and lasting change we desperately long for?
Far from resolving our failures, being a Christian sometimes seems only to add to our burdens.
On the verge of moral exhaustion, it’s often tempting to abandon our lofty spiritual ideals as hopelessly unattainable and find ways of “being a Christian” without being Christlike.
But there is no template found anywhere in the New Testament for being a Christian without being like Jesus.
The reason we fail to meet our performance expectations in the Christian life isn’t that we don’t want to be like Jesus; we fail because we are going about it the wrong way.
More than anything, the Kingdom message Jesus taught was about a genuine, real-life relationship with Him that actually works.
A relationship with Him that creates change on the inside of us!
A relationship with Him that transforms us into the kind of people who fully take on His character and become a dwelling place for God.
What if we stopped trying harder to change our external behavior and instead decided to become the kind of person who naturally does what Jesus says in all areas of life?
This, my friend, is the process of Christian spiritual formation.
Christian Spiritual Formation is the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner dimension of ourselves in such a way that we take on the very nature and character of Jesus.
The result of this inner transformation is that our “outer” self ~ our behavior ~ increasingly becomes a natural expression of Jesus and His teachings.
It’s a progressive co-laboring between God and man that makes us freer from sin and more like Jesus in our actual, everyday lives.
Our inner self is so transformed, that doing what Jesus said and did increasingly becomes a visible demonstration of who we genuinely are on the inside.
But HOW? How does this kind of inner transformation take place? How do we become the kind of people who naturally do what Jesus says?
Stay tuned because that’s where we’re going next!
First, though, here are a few questions to ponder:
In what ways do you find yourself tempted to “be a Christian” without being like Jesus?
What unwanted external behaviors are you trying to manage, and what is it that might need to change on the inside?
If the gospel message is more about forgiveness of sins and less about transformation into Christlikeness, why should a person bother to do what Jesus says?
When you merely try to follow Jesus’ teachings and find yourself suffering under the oppression of shame and the weight of guilt-ridden legalism, what happens to your relationship with Him?
And a few scriptures for meditation:
Matthew 23:25-26; Mark 7:14-23; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18