What kind of “spiritual formation” does God desire for us?
Read Ephesians 4:1-6.
Here’s a confession. I’ve always been drawn to those parts of the Bible that spell out how I should live as a Christian. Ephesians 4–6 is so practical. I grew up in a church that emphasized personal piety and spiritual formation.
But obsessing about my spiritual development can be counter-productive if it makes me more focused on myself. In the end, I feel more convicted of my failings, more aware of my inadequacies, more critical of myself for falling short of God’s expectations. I end up critical of others too: “They’re no better, but at least I’m trying.”
It’s not easy to escape the cycle of the self. I can’t, until I engage with something beyond me. Continue reading “Spiritual formation (Ephesians 4:1–6)”
Romans 12 (NIV) 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
A wide-eyed country lad sat transfigured at the big camp meetings, while holiness preachers thundered against the wickedness of this world. The way I heard it, this planet was doomed, so I should set my mind on things above in the hope that God would take me to heaven.
Paul would be horrified to think we’ve used his words to threaten each other and damn the planet. He was giving a message of hope and human flourishing.
What is “this world”?
Continue reading “How a new mind transforms the world”
Can a generation be worse off if it refuses to follow Jesus?
Open Matthew 12:43-45.
Jesus’ contemporaries called him Satan’s servant — one who pretended to release people, but actually made their oppression worse (12:24). After pointing out the flaws in their logic (12:25-29), he offered them a royal pardon for their insult. But he warned that they would have no release if they resisted God’s Holy Spirit (12:31-32).
He went on to describe how their situation would worsen if they rejected his leadership. Listen to this parable: Continue reading “Worse off with Jesus? (Matthew 12:43-45)”
Becoming like our teacher is every disciple’s joy. Does it mean we suffer too?
Open Matthew 10:24-25.
It’s the hope that motivates every disciple: as we follow Jesus we become like him. Wow!
Does being like Jesus mean suffering too? Which statement represents what you believe
- Jesus suffered so we don’t have to.
- Jesus suffered because we suffer.
- Jesus suffered, so we must suffer too.
Perhaps we should listen to Jesus’ promise in context: Continue reading “Like our teacher (Matthew 10:24-25)”
Overwhelmed? Focus on the few.
Open Matthew 10:2-4.
I was dying to try out all the things I’d learned in 5 years of Bible College. My first church was well-established, a mature-aged congregation willing to wait for me to get over my youthful excitement. I couldn’t move them, so in my second year I focused outside the church on reaching needy people in the wider community. In my third year, I realized there were some of the congregation who really did want to grow, so I prayerfully selected people to pour my life into. I’d stumbled on what Jesus knew — that discipling a few people was the most fruitful form of ministry.
Continue reading “Mentoring is ministry (Matthew 10:2-4)”
The narrow way is counter-intuitive for those who want power.
Open Matthew 7:13-14.
Matthew 7:13-14 (my translation)
13 Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction; many go that way. 14 How narrow is the constricted gate, the way leading into life; few are those who find it.
Many today assume these verses are about the doors to heaven and hell. According to this interpretation, only a few people find the way to heaven and the majority are doomed to hell. But that isn’t Jesus’ message. He’s talking about the kingdom of God — heaven reigning over earth, in contrast with the usual way that kingdoms operate here on earth. The wide way that everyone travels is the way kingdoms normally operate, and Jesus is calling us to recognize another less obvious way: the way of the kingdom of God.
Continue reading “The less obvious way (Matthew 7:13-14)”
Who would you choose to help change the world?
Open Matthew 4:18-22.
The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign. That was the book by Berelson and Lazarsfeld, published at the end of World War II. Most people are influenced by their friends, they said, so marketers should target the influencers. Continue reading “The people of the kingdom (Matthew 4:18-22)”