Monday, February 15, 2010

Signs of Life part 1: the transformation

Contributed by:
Eric Dunaway
small groups pastor

At Pathway, we state that our mission is to intentionally influence people to seek a genuine and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. What does that look like? If this is what we're about as an organization, then we should have some idea what a genuine and growing follower of Christ is and does. So let's ask the question: What is a genuine and growing Christ follower?

If you think about it, following Christ is more than just adhering to a system of beliefs, a code of conduct, or a ritual of participation in weekly gatherings. Certainly, those things come to play on some level, but they're not the focus... and they shouldn't be. To make those things the focus would be legalism, which would either stifle our experience in Christ, or give us a false sense of security in our relationship with Him - either way, our lives would be diminished under such a system.

Instead, the focus should be on the life we have in Christ, which we receive by the Grace of God, and was made available to us through His death on the cross. We firmly believe that Christ didn't come to impose upon us a system of legalities to hinder our lives. Instead, he came to give us a new life... a fuller life... a life that is rich and rewarding, as John 10:10 says:
The theif's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NLT)
So, back to our original question: What is a genuine and growing Christ follower? To answer that, we've discovered that a genuine and growing follower of Christ is someone who pursues four vital signs of life. In fact, these vital signs of life have become our core values.

I'd like to dedicate a series of posts to look at each one of these values in a little bit more depth. Each one is very intentional in how it is presented, from the wording to the visuals. We want the people of PCC to understand each one, and to pursue them as a part of their daily relationship with Christ. And again, we believe that journey groups become the primary environment where people can connect to one another, as well as the mission and purpose God has for their lives, as they pursue life together. See my earlier post, Narrow the Focus, which specifically addresses this topic.

So let's begin with the first:

The PCC website says, under this value, that our desire is to see people encounter God in ways that transform them from the inside out. When God breaks through, so much changes. We begin to view our lives differently. Our priorities change. Our standards begin to change. We think differently. We view things - we view people - differently. In fact, everything changes. Scripture says that we literally become new creations. (2 Cor. 5:17) This is the transformation that takes place within us as we follow Christ. It begins internally as the Holy Spirit does His work, but it's also something that gradually makes it's way outward... it's something that we live.

Spiritual transformation begins as we surrender our whole lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It's both a one-time decision, and a continual one. Maybe you can think back to that moment, or series of moments, when God broke through and got and a hold of you. For me, it was a series of events where God made himself so real that I could no longer ignore him and his call on my life. And that's when we made that first act of surrender to follow Him... to live for Him. But what happens next is a lifetime of continually yielding every area of our lives to His will and direction.

One of my favorite stories is C.S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is part of the Chronicles of Narnia series. In this story, Lewis gives us a powerful image of the transformation process through the character of Eustace Scrub, the boy-turned-dragon relative of the Pevensies. Although Eustace tried many times to get out of his "dragon clothes," so to speak, he was never successful. Finally, Aslan told him, "You will have to let me undress you." That's when Eustace surrendered to the Lion. That's when he underwent a long, and sometimes painful, process of having the layers of his dragon self pulled away. And as a result, he was transformed into the person that Aslan had created him to be. If you've read the book, you know that Eustace experienced a whole new life after that point. He was, in more ways than one, a new creation.

Spiritual transformation happens as we allow God to do the work in us that he's desired to do all along. We may take steps and make efforts to change ourselves. We may work harder to become better people. But ultimately, only God can do that work in us. And it starts with our surrender. It is indeed a journey of learning to trust and follow, and it will literally transform us from the inside out... it will impact every facet of how we live our lives. Living a transformed life truly is one of the four vital signs of life in Christ. Romans 6:4 and 12:1-2 are other great references.

To illustrate this, we've used a very distinct icon in our visual representation. As you will see with each of our visuals, they all include circles arranged in a variety of ways. These circles represent a Christ follower (or Christ followers, in many cases) who is experiencing the value it represents.

For the spiritual transformation icon, we've used the form of a square that is being reshaped into a circle. You will notice that the top left shows the "corner" of the square, which is rounded out on the other four sides. This is done to illustrate the process by which we become new creations under the direction of Christ in our lives, and the influence of the Holy Spirit within us. We once were lost, but now we're found, as the famous hymn goes. You might say we once were squares, but now we're circles... a stretch, for sure. But that's what this visual represents.

The truth is that we're in a constant state of being reshaped into the likeness of Christ. This is what the journey is all about. God has given us new life. We're called to live out that transformation as we journey further toward maturity in Him. It's about the surrender. It's about the process of growth. It's about the call into further depths of loving and living for him. It's about the daily decision to apply His Truth to our lives in obedience. It's about the constant and steadfast abiding in Him that John 15 talks about. This is the first of four vital signs that we hope to see our people pursue.

Watch for the next post, part 2, as we look at the second vital sign of life: Included in authentic community.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things that I have been learning through my studies is that our transformation is by grace alone, but God provided us with practical ways to allign ourselves more with his grace and power. When we practice obedience to the Word of God, we allign ourselves with His grace; when we spend time in communion with God through prayer, we allign ourselves with His grace; when we practice the spiritual disciplines (meditation, solitude, fasting, service, Scripture memorization, etc.), we alling ourselves more with His grace; when we share in community with other believers, we allign ourselves with His grace. It truly is a journey and a process of God continually re-shaping us into His image, the image He inteded for us from the beginning. And we can humbly play a role through our daily surrender to His will, through obedient living, and by practicing the disciplines that allign us with His grace! Then we can truly experience the "full life" that Jesus came to offer - That is where we expoerience true freedom and true joy!