Wednesday, April 9, 2014


"The real issue facing the church is not essentially about methodology or even the preserving of the message. The real issue is why the church is so unaffected by the transforming presence of the living God." Erwin McMannus
"Information, by itself, does not lead to transformation. That is one of the painful lessons so many evangelicals are learning. We have relied on what I describe as information delivery systems (preaching, teaching, seminars, etc.) and assumed that if we delivered Biblical information to the listeners, they would be transformed."  Brian Rice
"I've been a follower of Christ for more than 50 years, and my testimony is that I'm disillusioned. What I have understood to be a distinctively Christ-centered, biblically informed approach to living does not seem to be transforming me the way I was encouraged to believe it would. I'm appalled, after all these years, at how untransformed I remain." Larry Crabb
Jesus did not go to the cross just to save me from the pit of Hell. He went to the cross to free me from the bondage of sin, to transform me into a new creation, and to use me for his kingdom purposes. But for years I was content to be rescued from eternal damnation, saved but sadly untransformed.

The above quotes from respected Christian leaders tell me that I am not alone in that experience.

Are you satisfied with salvation or do you crave transformation?

People tend to favor one of two theological extremes. One side claims that transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit, and that I cannot do anything to transform myself. The other side claims that I must work out my salvation with fear and trembling, investing great effort, in the process, as if everything depends on me.

I think that we are not called to choose one of these extremes; but rather, to hold both truths in a holy tension. It's not either/or but yes/and. Yes, transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. And yes, I must intentionally cooperate with that work. But cooperation with that work cannot be reduced to attending church, having quiet times, and reading the latest Francis Chan book. As Brian Rice clearly states above--we are tempted to believe that information will necessarily lead to transformation. It simply isn't so.

I have far to go on this journey, but the amazing thing is, I do finally see progress. I am being changed--and it is clearly the Lord who is changing me. Yet, I am investing great effort in the process as well. Paul  wrote "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." Paul knew that both salvation and sanctification are the work of God. Still, he says, "Run hard! Give it everything you've got!" This tells me that God invites me to participate in the transformation process.

Besides, if transformation is only ever God's work, how could we possibly explain the reality observed by McMannus in the above quote? For indeed, churches are full of faith-professing untransformed people! Either the Holy Spirit is failing at transforming people or people are failing to be transformed. I'm fairly certain that the problem lies with us. 

So what I am doing to avail myself more fully to the transformational work of Christ in my life? I am following the Spiritual Exercises that were first developed by St. Ignatius and have been modified by Brian Rice. I blogged earlier about the first book of exercises called Conversations. Rice simply teaches the reader how to employ classic spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, journaling, lectio devina, etc, for the purpose of knowing God. Which, by the way, is an entirely different thing than knowing about God, which is what most Bible Studies teach.

For me, Bible reading is no longer just an intellectual activity or just a spiritual activity. It is those things, but it is also a relational activity. So is prayer. So is solitude. So is writing. And as I move into  deeper relationship with him, I am changed. No intellectual or spiritual activity apart from relationship will produce lasting transformation. But when I do those things in the context of relationship, I cannot help but be transformed. 

So here's my question for you. How is the Lord transforming you? Are you more like Jesus today than you were a year ago? Is fruit being produced in your life? Do you know your Savior better? Do you love him more? Are you walking in his ways?  

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