two transforming truths (#nwa2011)

As mentioned in my earlier blog post (“reflections on New Word Alive”, 16 Apr 11), this is the second in the series of reflections on nwa2011.

Why did I choose the phrase ‘transforming truths’? Yes, there is a purpose other than the (intentional) pleasant alliteration! In my walk with God, I had come to inadvertently pick up and accept certain lies or half-truths about Him, and in my intellectual arrogance and self-sufficiency I failed to realise that something was amiss. Such is the nature of spiritual warfare; it is the battle for your mind, for your thought-life, (more on this in the next post on #nwa2011) and if the devil is able to get you to believe anything but the truth about God, he can deny your finding joy in Christ.

During nwa2011, God impressed upon me two truths which set me free from the shackles of certain subtle lies, and has jolted me back onto the path of transformation again.

So without further ado…

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TRUTH #1: We grow in faith in the same way as we first came to faith.

Needless to say, this statement has to be unpacked a little. 

What happened when we first come to faith? We placed our trust in Christ, and were filled with the Holy Spirit.

How then should we walk and grow in faith? By placing our trust in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit daily.

At this point what I’ve said may strike you as being obvious and hardly anything ‘transforming’. But perhaps the power of this simple truth will become more apparent when I describe the lie that I had come to accept over the past few months. I had come to believe something like this:

“Sure, I believe in salvation by faith. But after that, once we’re justified, we’ve gotta put in our side of the deal haven’t we? We’ve gotta do steps A, B, C, D, and try to transform ourselves into Christ’s likeness. We have to work towards our own sanctification.”

You could fill in steps A, B, C, D, with things such as “doing my QT”, “reading my bible”, “prayer”, “going for CF”, etc. Does this seem more familiar to you now?

Now the problem with this thinking, other than the bare claim that it’s wrong, is that we are completely powerless against sin. Often times we think we can handle it, but we often forget that if not for Christ’s work on the cross, we would still be in sin’s grip, unable to change ourselves.

Walking with Christ and growing in Him thus is not by one’s own effort – a lie that I had unknowingly come to accept – and this was killing my ability to find joy Christ. So many times I came to Him in prayer, asking “why can’t I change?”, “why can’t I become more like You?”, “what am I doing wrong?”, “what am I thinking wrong?”, before reaching the inevitable conclusion – “Ok, I must do A, B, and C, better. That’s the problem.” I frankly cannot recall the number of times I went through this cycle of sin, confession, seeking repentance and change, and sinning again. Each time I analysed what I was doing wrong, and tried to change it. I had completely missed the point.

How then are we transformed into His likeness? Is there a happy ending? I can tell you assuredly, there is.

And we all, with unveiled face,beholdingthe glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same imagefrom one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

It is by ‘beholding the glory of the Lord’, or by contemplating upon Him, that we grow to have His heart, His attributes, His desires, His goodness… that we are transformed into His likeness.

This in turn begs the question, how then do we behold the glory of the Lord? It is about continually reminding ourselves of the truths of the gospel, the good news; the story of Christ who has rescued and saved us in his infinite grace. It is about remembering God’s supreme goodness with respect to our fallen-ness, about rejoicing in Him, praising Him, worshiping Him with our lives in light of this truly amazing, good news.

And it is at this juncture where the spiritual disciplines come in – steps A, B, C, et al. alluded to above. Spiritual disciplines in and of themselves will never work in any way to make us holy. However, spiritual disciplines assist us in contemplating, in dwelling, in abiding, in remaining in Christ. And the more we remain in Christ, the more our heart and our desires become unified with His heart and His desires, and we will bear fruit, fruit that will last, fruit that is to the Father’s glory, and fruit that show us to be His disciples. (cf John 15:1-8)

We must not forget also the role of the Holy Spirit in this transformation. Consider the second sentence of 2 Cor 3:18 – “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” If not for the work of the Spirit, this would just be an effort of spiritual brainwashing or hypnosis – the more you force yourself to remember that God is good, the more you’ll believe it? – and this is ultimately futile. As we contemplate Christ, the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts, changing us into His likeness.

Therefore, in conclusion, we grow in faith in the same way as we first came to faith – through turning to Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, daily. This is such a simple truth that we often forget, choosing instead a series of rules or routines to live each day by, when God is just calling us to focus on His son!

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TRUTH #2: Christ as the perfect bridegroom who has come to rescue His bride, the Church

Another truth that really struck me during nwa2011 was the image of Christ as the bridegroom, who came down to rescue His people, the church. So often the devil tries to deceive us into thinking that God is distant, God is in heaven and He’s so ‘great’ that He needs to add as much distance between Him and us as possible. So the diagrammatic result:

—————— God ———————

—————— Us ————————

(Ok this is embarrassingly amateurish, but you get the point.) And this is even after Christ’s work on the cross for us. Even though we have been redeemed by Christ, because we’re ‘dirty’, we need to keep our distance from Him.

This is why I found the imagery of the New Testament which talks about Christ as the perfect bridegroom acutely powerful. Furthermore, Christ was the prince, the son of the King, yet He chose an adulterous people who had chosen to love things other than Him – He came to rescue a lowly prostitute.

And not because this prostitute had anything desirable about her. No no, this prostitute was ugly, deformed, detestable in every way. But He came down to rescue her to make her beautiful.

Personally, I know of no greater love story than this. Greater love knows none other (John 15:13).

Perhaps it is because I am secretly a hopeless romantic that this story of Christ as the perfect bridegroom resonates so deeply within me; but I dare say that you would be heartless if this does not stir up within you any response whatsoever to the Saviour’s love.

And it is here I shall end this post, with the lyrics of a hymn that we sung at nwa2011, which struck me so hard I could not help but break down. It is the 3rd stanza & chorus of the hymn ‘And Can It Be That I Should Gain?’:

My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

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