Have you been transformed by Christ, through your relationship with him?
Many Christians allude to this reality but sadly many of us fail to show it in our lives.
In his book "Divine Conspiracy' the late Dallas Willard said this: “The understanding of a commitment to Jesus Christ has not penetrated our character deeply enough to influence our behavior, transformation of life and character are not a part of the redemptive message offered by the church today.”
None of us are perfect, we know this and all of us are the worst of sinners, but the fact remains clear that we in contemporary America, claiming to be Christians have failed in many ways. Most Christians are biblically illiterate and at best are are observers and an audience for weekend "Church." Now having said this we also know there are some who are abiding in Christ each day, Christ is their focus.
But the question is are you and I focused on Christ? Or have we fallen into the sinful culture that surrounds us.
We must intentionally make the effort to have Christ as the center of our lives.
In his book Divine Conspiracy Dallas Willard laid out the following guidelines to help us in our relationship with Christ.
1: Confidence In and Reliance Upon Jesus
“Confidence in and reliance upon Jesus as ‘the Son of man,’ the one appointed to save us (John 3:15)… This confidence is a reality, and it is itself a true manifestation of the ‘life from above,’ not of human capacities” (Heb. 11:1)… Anyone who truly has this confidence [is] ‘included’ [as a participant in eternal life].”
2: Desire to Be Jesus’ Apprentice
“This confidence in the person of Jesus naturally leads to a desire to be his apprentice in living in and from the kingdom of God… We live within his word, that is, we put his teachings into practice (John 8:31). And this progressively integrates our entire existence into the glorious world of eternal living. We become free indeed (John 8:36).”
3: Obedience to God
“The abundance of life realized through apprenticeship to Jesus, ‘continuing in his word,’ naturally leads to obedience. The teaching we have received and our experience of living with it brings us to love Jesus and the Father with our whole being: heart, soul, mind, and (bodily) strength. And so we love to obey him… (John 14:15, 21)
4: Pervasive Inner Transformation
In his concluding comments on his third dimension Dallas seems to introduce his Inner Transformation stage: “Love of Jesus sustains us through the course of discipline and training that makes obedience possible. Without that love we will not stay to learn.”
“Obedience, with the life of discipline it requires, both leads to and, then, issues from the pervasive inner transformation of the heart and soul. The abiding condition of the disciple becomes one of [the fruit of the Spirit]”…”
5: Power to do the Works of God’s Kingdom
“Finally, there is power to work the works of the kingdom [relying on Jesus to do the works he does and even greater works] (John 14:12)… But, frankly, even a moderate-size ‘work’ is more than most people’s life could sustain… Great power requires great character if it its to be a blessing and not a curse…”
“It is to God’s intent that in his kingdom we should have as much power as we can bear for good. Indeed, his ultimate objective in the development of human character is to empower us to do what we want…”
We see from stage four that there is ongoing growth in our Christian character. In practice daily union with God is ultimate and open-ended.
“The abiding condition of the disciple becomes one of ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faith to the brim, meekness, and self-control’ (Gal. 5:22; compare 2 Pet. 1:2-11).
Through our abiding is the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ which are not our direct efforts but come about as we admire and emulate Jesus and learn how to obey him.
Dallas goes on to say, “Looking back over this progression, one of the most important things for us to see and accept is that, once confidence in Jesus lives in us, we must be intelligently active in stages or dimensions two through five.”
How do we do this?
We do this by our total commitment to Christ as a person who walks beside us and with us.
Our study under his mentorship is relentless and we structure our lives around Christ and his teachings.
Romans 8:13 plainly states ‘through the spirit do mortify the life of the flesh’.
Colossians 3:9-10 tells us to ‘put off the old person and put on the new’.
As disciples we teach and are in turn taught by others and we must help those around us with a concept and a plan for daily worship and living. Spiritual formation is not a template or a one size fits all, it is as unique as we are and is developed in conjunction with our Lord over a lifetime. we do this by working with our pastor and others in our life.
Life, suffering or our secular culture can and does distract us. Each of us must ask Christ to free us and help focus upon Him and Him alone!!