skeleton keys

Skeleton Keys (Photo credit: peatbogyeri)

Most of us learn the Sermon on the Mount as a random, disconnected collection of sayings from Jesus. But that’s not what it is.

It’s a comprehensive action plan for new life, presented in a specific order for maximum results, and recorded in three full chapters of Matthew (5-7).

Following it is how one follows Christ to seek his kingdom. To use Paul’s words, it’s how you put off the old self and put on the new (Eph. 4:22), continually working out your salvation (Phl. 2:12).

The Sermon is where Jesus has “hidden” the keys to the kingdom of heaven, God’s system of goodness and well-being at hand. Even the spiritually destitute can unlock it and enter, provided they’re not merely hearers of the Word, but are also doers of the Word. (Jas. 1:22)

How Did I Miss This New Life From Above?

I used to wonder why, having been a “believer” all my life, the presumed new creation in me never actually showed up, and Jesus’ words and ways still seemed ridiculously unrealistic. Yet they must be crucial to grasp or he wouldn’t have said them.

But the Christian books I read and radio shows I heard insisted that Jesus’ primary value is in his blood. Whatever he taught was back-burner stuff—either too random or too profound to make sense of in real life, and in any case, was separate from deliverance.

This conclusion shows in the lives of multitudes of sincere Christians (including the old me) who nevertheless have no idea how to love their neighbors, themselves, or do what Jesus says to do. We’ve been taught that getting our doctrines correct—the Trinity, justification, atonement, baptism, etc.—takes priority.

However, the new me has learned that doctrines, although helpful, don’t produce the radical, long-term changes that God is looking for. No wonder genuine new creations in Christ are as common as three-legged cats. There’s more to Jesus than his blood!

A Brilliant Savior

The sequence in Jesus’ Sermon is a divine strategy for life to the full. Before he delivered it, he had already provided incentive and hope for scores of people trapped in the “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (ROTSAP) by announcing his good news of an alternative system available for new life, i.e., his gospel of the kingdom of heaven at hand.

So here’s a quick run-down of his plan that invites even the most spiritually impoverished people to follow him into the kingdom of heaven in the life they’re living now. It’s a matter of “yoking” with him, through practice and grace, to eliminate the following habits of mind, heart, and behavior.

1. Willful, retained, “righteous” anger and contempt. The Pharisees were constantly angry at Jesus. The more he went on about God’s kingdom, the more offended and contemptuous they became. People rarely say, wow, my anger is wrong. It always seems right, so we cherish it and hold it dear, refusing to let go. This leads to:

2. Adultery and divorce. Individual human affairs/divorces aren’t Jesus’ direct target here, although they are micro-reflections of the systemic target he’s aiming at. This is primarily a spiritual adultery “in the heart” and a collective divorce from God. It’s about lusting for substitute ways of life, both religious and secular. Together, they become the “harlot” we embrace, which leads to:

3. Swearing oaths. This addresses stubborn insistence, pride, and proving things by swearing this or that, which often backs us into disastrous corners. Recall that Peter swore on oath that he didn’t even know Jesus. So Jesus advises that anything beyond simple Yes or No comes from the evil one. Swearing progresses to:

4. Score-keeping, returning evil for evil. This stems from a greedy sense of fairness that turns revenge into something righteous (eye for eye). It demands “payment” from people who owe anything from apologies to favors to money. If they don’t pay up, pay-back’s a bitch, and a sworn enemy is born. Compounded by anger, it manifests as anything from spiteful insults to mass shootings. Score-keeping leads to:

5. Obsession with outer appearance and reputation. The old fashioned term is vanity, and the Pharisees were experts at it. This is about egotism, looking down on others with contempt if they don’t measure up, or about envy, admiring people for superficial qualities. Both finally create:

6. Judgmentalism and hypocrisy. Here’s the finished product of all the previous habits. It manifests as a compulsion to correct everyone else, whatever it takes, up to and including abuse. Whether it’s snobby social practices, political character assassinations, or “holy war,” the full-grown beast destroys others in self-congratulatory “correctness.”

This is sin and spiritual death in a nutshell, to which everyone falls prey. It’s important to realize that these are not only sequential, but also cumulative. Each new habit is built on the previous one, creating a less and less Christ-like heart.

Getting rid of these habits one by one is what “dying” to self is. Jesus knows that if you start by knocking the legs out from under willful anger and contempt, the rest of the structure gets wobbly and almost falls apart by itself. It’s precisely how you repent, surpass ROTSAP, and seek and enter the kingdom of heaven through Jesus’ well-defined “narrow gate.”

Re-boot

If the forgiveness-only view of life from above purifies the human mind and cleanses the heart, why do we still have obnoxious, forgiven Christians? Wouldn’t these destructive thoughts and behaviors vanish? Forgiveness cleanses guilt, but has no transformative power over sin, the cause of guilt. Wouldn’t it be smarter to aim for the root, as Jesus does, and let the result take care of itself?

If we plan to someday rule the earth with Christ, it’s best to follow his plan and practice. God can hardly entrust dominion to people who can’t or won’t live in His system of total well-being.

So Jesus’ complete package to restore God’s system to humanity consists of his gospel of the kingdom of heaven, his Sermon on how to unlock and live in it, and his death and resurrection to ensure safe passage for those who choose to practice. Faith alone in Christ alone.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (Jhn. 1:4)

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Easter garden tomb with stone rolled aside

Photo by Crunklygill
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I wanted to take a little break from series I’ve been running on soul restoration to reflect on Easter. My Christian writers’ group solicited thoughts from members for their web site, which I wanted to share with my own readers.

The iconic Easter image is that of an empty, cave-like tomb that once contained the crucified body of Jesus. Normally, we don’t associate tombs with energy or activity. We associate death with stillness, expressing it in figures of speech like “quiet as a tomb,” “dead silent,” or “deadlocked.”

Once a body goes into a tomb, it doesn’t walk out. Even if it could, passage is blocked because the opening is sealed shut.

But the Easter tomb is anything but normal. The great stone that sealed its opening is freakishly out of place. Jesus is AWOL and the scene is abuzz with human activity and angelic energy. “He is not here; he has risen.” (Mat. 28:6; Mrk. 16:6; Luk. 24:6) The resurrection message of Easter isn’t one of static stillness, but of dynamic movement.

When I consider the parting of the Red Sea, another iconic image, I see obvious movement. In both the great Exodus and Easter, the impossible is made possible. Both are about passage from death to life. Both are about incredible power and activity.

When I consider grace, again I see movement. I see that God’s grace is a dynamic force acting with mankind through the great corridor of time. With God, we pass through history like a baby through the birth canal, learning to live with Him in increasing goodness and love.

In Mat. 17:20, I see that Jesus reminds us that even the tiniest faith moves mountains and that nothing is impossible for us. In God, we live and move and have our being (Act. 17:28).

Easter’s hope is God’s message through the ages: The impossible is occurring right in our midst—not just for Jesus, but for everyone. The last immovable obstruction was rolled aside when he abolished Death to bring new life. Love for God, self, and one another is the transforming path we walk in the land of the living, not the dead, and in bold assurance, not fear of mistakes and guilt.

I see that at the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain of the temple tore in two. The earth shook and rocks split. Tombs broke open and many people who had died were raised to life and came out of their tombs (Mat. 27:51-53).

Even Psalm 23 speaks of it. Although we walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, the same Jesus who rose now holds it back like thick, dark drapes; like massive walls of water. We need not fear that evil might seal our doom because with him, passage is safe, open, and full of possibility.

The Lord of life is the first-fruit. In following him, renewal of the mind and spiritual resurrection precedes the physical version. I didn’t see it before, but God’s plan makes sense in a long view of dynamic movement, even if it seems to me to happen at a glacier’s pace. Easter is the joyful proof that Love’s power always has, and continues to move among us.

FrankensteinTransformation of a collective body happens just the way it does in an individual body: from the inside out.

It begins in the mind, in a unified vision, thought processes, and feelings. Then it settles into the will and heart where it dwells as belief and intent. Finally, it inhabits the whole body as loving behavior in all neighbor relations.

The result is the mending of an entire social structure, sense of place, and community with God. Jesus likened it to yeast working its way through a batch of dough (Mat. 13:33).

The opposite is also true. Evil inhabits a collective body just the way it does an individual: first in a mind-set, then the heart, and finally, in behavior and relationships. The result is a fractured society of individuals incapable of neighbor love. Good will seems strange, out of place, and possibly not too bright.

This is a dead body going through external motions to appear alive, but not embracing the inner character that is life. Many of its parts attack or reject one another, and few are securely attached to the head. As Paul said it, “without love…having a form of godliness, but denying its power.” (2Tim. 3:5)

How the Love of Most Grows Cold

Attack comes in many forms—willful anger, bullying, lying, stealing, murder, and more. Rejection is another form. Damage comes by withholding goodness, mercy, encouragement, or honesty. Rejection inflicts cold indifference and withdrawal intended to harm.

Verbal assault is a misuse of power that’s often elevated to an art form, especially in political circles, but in all parts of society. The readiness to publically cut people down is considered a skill and earns respect and applause. Even Christians get into the act.

I’ve been a life-long Christian, but not so long ago, I honestly thought that the best way to handle people who treated me badly was with an all-out verbal assault. I hurled word-grenades designed to inflict damage and put people “in their place.” Sometimes, it got me what I wanted, with the added bonus of smug satisfaction. Other times, it completely backfired.

Love is cold even in the body of “believers” because we make it conditional. For example, we say that respect must be earned. You respect me, I’ll respect you. One good turn deserves another. But hurt me, and I’ll hurt you. Alternatively, I may try to get God to hurt you. At the very least, I won’t ask Him to bless you, but will hope instead that He withholds it.

When our sense of well-being depends entirely on people treating us well, we’re left in the position of figuring out how to control them. The result is conditional love and a readiness to attack if conditions aren’t met—pronto.

A Heads-Up

It’s interesting that Satan is characterized as a single serpent, and Jesus characterized the Pharisees, who embodied the devil, as a brood of vipers (Mat. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Luk. 3:7). He warns that their yeast is in the dough, too.

The typical Christian today isn’t a disciple, but merely a convert to rules and doctrines (like the old me). It gives the appearance of life, but doesn’t impart life. This was the woeful situation among the Pharisees, whom Jesus said traveled far and wide to win converts, but made them twice as evil as they were (Mat. 23:15). It explains why love is lukewarm at best even for life-long Christians.

So, whether it’s a family, congregation, institution, city, or nation, any social body poised to strike is in a habitual posture of ill will. Collectively, with no intent or means of loving neighbor as self, it’s unprepared, “unfit,” and simply in no position to treat all human beings with unconditional love and good will. It just implodes in self-destructive chaos.

Mankind’s hope, then, is in new life from above, readily available through knowing God and His Son. This is God’s eternal plan now underway to get the head reattached to humanity’s body. Disciples learn to stop cooperating with various forms of attack in the misguided need to control others. In the gracious use of power, we cooperate with God, control ourselves, and get fit.

Then we can be trusted with more, and the larger body of man is transformed and redeemed, one individual at a time, from the inside out.

Practice

Obviously, the best model for Christ-likeness is Jesus himself. So it’s eye-opening to watch how he used his power. How did he react when people attacked him?

First, note that he wasn’t easily offended. His strength and well-being didn’t depend on people treating him right, especially not those who thought they held all the power and control. Even when driving the money-changers from the temple, Jesus was never manipulated into an out-of-control fit. Decide whether or not you’d like a similar freedom, and what you’d need to change to get it.

Then, try this. Picture Jesus belittling the woman caught in adultery. See him hold his nose when interacting with sinners. Hear him hiss, telling his disciples to lord it over people as most leaders do. Watch him refuse to heal a woman on the Sabbath, reminding the congregation that a sheep is more valuable and worth rescue than a person is.

Watch as he calls down curses and legions of angels from the cross. After his resurrection, look how he rakes Peter over the coals for denying him.

Silly, right? Even in a vulnerable human body, Jesus knew how to handle who he is and the power he has. We can become the same, classy kind of people. If you think not, ask him what the purpose of Christ-like love is. On the other hand, if you believe that Christ-likeness just gets infused into you like electricity, how long must you wait for it, and are you to live like a monster in the meantime?

It’s worth asking because you’re a treasure that Jesus considered worth laying down his life for. If he can rise from the crucifixion, surely, a few honest questions won’t kill him. So you’re safe with him, and he’s safe with you.

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Jesus teaching the crowds . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been blogging about how Christian disciples move from brokenness and ruin to wholeness and well-being.

The goal is to see value in transformation and become people substantially like Christ, able to love God, self, and neighbor even in the most challenging situations. The purpose is to restore our sense of place with God so we can be trusted to rule and serve with Him.

To clarify a common misconception, a disciple is simply anyone who employs disciplines to develop a certain set of skills. For example, the kindergartner learning ABCs is a disciple. The teenager with a learner’s permit is a disciple. The fighter pilot training in flight school is a disciple. A disciple is a student of a master teacher, with a certain child-like, beginner quality.

So, Christian disciples aren’t a race of superheroes; they’re simply students of Jesus, learning from him how to live. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom belongs to such as these.” (Mat. 19:14, Mrk. 10:14, Luk. 18:16)

To aid their seeking and finding a transformed new life in God’s kingdom, God has provided disciples with several means. In general terms, we have the prime model of Jesus, God’s other people, and His Word to show the way. In specific terms, we have Christian spiritual disciplines.

In a crazy world where it can seem that life just happens and there’s nothing you can do about it, these help us shift into the solid sense of peace and self-control talked about all through Scripture—much like passing through churning walls of water on dry ground.

Doable Disciplines

The discipline of Scripture study is one means of learning the ideal way of life for human beings. God has not been silent or left us helpless, and He delights in teaching those who are eager to obey.

The discipline of prayer lets me interact with God. I can invite His power to augment my own; I can welcome His movements (grace) in my life. I can also pray for the guy who cuts me off in traffic or the gossip who tells lies behind my back. This helps carry me away from a spirit of anger or payback that imprisons me in every little offense.

The discipline of meditation or reflection is another resource. I can meditate upon Christ, how he thinks and feels, what sort of person he is, and why he behaves the way he does. I can reflect particularly on his teaching about eternal realities, inner goodness, and sound living, and compare that to conventional human wisdom with its often less-than-ideal results.

With watchfulness, I can observe how other Christ-followers have lived their lives, the freedoms they experienced, the insights they gained, and the joys (and pains) they expressed. (Dietrich Bonheoffer and C.S. Lewis are two examples of twentieth-century disciples.) In addition to biblical men and women, I can find real-life inspiration in an ordinary grandparent, sports coach, pastor, or other neighbor who lives with a Godly spirit.

I can train ahead of time to prepare for more challenging encounters with neighbors. I don’t wait until I’m upset, frightened, or at the mercy of my own offended pride. Instead, I practice while I’m not on the spot and my thinking is clearer. If I pay attention to Jesus’ instruction, I can prepare and build reliable, loving reactions that will be there when my guard is down.

I can plan and organize small steps that will steadily re-shape my thinking and behavior. I can intend to learn, change, and practice taking on Christ’s vision, understanding, spirit, character, habits, and choices. I can repent.

Here and there, I can give up an argument, a demand, or having the last word. The discipline of fasting uses food to practice letting go of all sorts of ideas I thought were important, but actually enslave me. “Man does not live by bread alone.” (Mat. 4:4, Luk. 4:4)

Or I can occasionally loan something without expecting it back, visit a shut-in, or bring a meal to a lonely neighbor (discipline of service). I can greet a stranger (hospitality), give up bragging rights (humility), donate an anonymous gift (secrecy), or keep my opinion to myself when no one asks for it (silence). All these (and more) are simple, specific means to help form Christ within me.

Beginnings

I need not and should not turn these into laws, chores, or obligations. That duplicates the Pharisees’ constant burden and defeats the whole purpose of doing them happily and willingly. After all, children sing the alphabet; teenagers celebrate every driving errand; and fighter pilots dance the skies in laughter-silvered wings. These, too, are disciplines, but a legalistic approach wipes them out in certain death.

I also need not learn and engage them all at once. In fact, I can’t. I’m a beginner, not a spiritual hotshot. I don’t do them for show or to make a point, and I’m not in competition with other disciples. God works with me individually at my pace, according to my abilities and circumstances. What others think of me is none of my business. (This alone brings enormous freedom and self-control!)

We’ve all heard stories of extraordinary acts of heroic goodness, but the hero usually shrugs it off with, “My training took over.” Learning to love ourselves and neighbors spontaneously and routinely is no different because, for better or worse, people are very much the products of their beliefs, training, and experience.

Ignore the widespread rumor that human nature is frozen stuck like some immovable mountain. The most reliable Word says it can be re-born, and every ordinary encounter is an opportunity to re-train and practice something. That’s why God gives us trials, which I think of as try-als. Mistakes, of course, are part of seeking and walking, but God is patient and good-natured. Just watch how often the original twelve disciples fumbled and stumbled at first.

To our great relief, the point isn’t to become flawless; it’s to become perfect (whole, mature, complete). “It is enough for the student to be like his teacher.” (Mat. 10:25) Yet the journey must begin somewhere, so we start with less demanding situations and neighbors, and grow into the obnoxious ones with increasing Christ-like skill.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mat. 11:29-30)

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Blah Blah Blah (Photo credit: arhezbee)

Last week, I wrote that by God’s design, the will (heart, spirit) is linked to thought and feeling (mind, choice).

This week, we’ll explore the link between those and the body and behavior. If that link is lost or broken, a soul (self) degenerates into ruin; and when you separate them all from God, the self descends into spiritual death.

The reverse is regeneration—that is, restoring the individual elements of the soul to a cohesive whole, and bringing that into harmony with God. This is new life, salvation. “He restoreth my soul.” (Psa. 23:3)

Christians talk about lostness or brokenness, but in my experience, it’s mistakenly confused with worthlessness. However, if you lose your wallet, does that mean it’s worthless? If you break your leg, do you throw it away? The biblical concept of human ruin doesn’t mean worthlessness.

Jesus emphasized this with his parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin (Mat. 18:12, Luk. 15:8). He also said, “What good is it if you gain the whole world but forfeit your soul?” (Mrk. 8:36, Luk. 9:25) These describe the tremendous value of people even in a ruined condition.

Dysfunctional Training

The term “flesh” generally refers to an unbalanced fixation on body sensations or behavior. The focus is external. Paul observed that the mind set on the flesh is death, while the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile toward God and simply can’t submit to His Law of love (Rom. 8:5-7). (more…)

 

English: Monarch Butterfly Cocoon
English: Monarch Butterfly Cocoon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week I wrote about the salvation process—regenerative transformation that delivers us from evil, inner chaos, and slavery to sin’s control.

Scripture instructs us to continue working out our salvation (Phl. 2:12) and, as disciples, it is we who carry our crosses with God’s help (Luk. 14:7). To know that He gives each of us responsibility for our own part in His redemptive process is humbling, gratifying, and exhilarating at the same time.

I often mention practice, but it recently occurred to me, If you never knew what practice is or understood its importance before, what makes you think others do? God is speaking to me, so I plan to write several posts on this subject. It should help others and make good practice for me!

First: Why We Need It

A human being is divinely designed to function as an integrated whole. Individual components of personhood are like the engine in your car. There’s the cooling system, fuel system, electrical system, and so on. When we want to analyze or discuss the components, we can isolate them, but we know they work as an integrated unit known as “the engine.” If one or more component malfunctions, the engine doesn’t run well or maybe not at all.

It’s the same with “the person.” We can isolate individual aspects of a human soul to analyze and talk about them, which Scripture does, but they’re meant to work as an integrated unit. However, because we’ve been born into and trained by an un-Christ-like world, they don’t. As we get further from God, people splinter and don’t function well. Scripture variously calls this ruin, death, and lostness.

Far more than forgiveness for sin, Christ provides the way, as well as personal support and assistance, to re-integrate broken parts of personhood (heart/will/spirit, mind/thought/emotion, body, behavior/relationships) into a whole person like Christ. S/he is able to think and act in ways that are consistently good and right.

The biblical term for that is “perfect,” which means complete or mature (not flawless). In this, we see the passage from death to life, the resurrection and renewal that eventually culminates in a global bodily resurrection when the current age ends.

This is why it’s a mistake to reduce salvation (the common understanding) to an afterlife-only issue severed from biblical practices in ordinary Christian living.

Second: Surrender

Transformation to wholeness can only develop through discipleship, active pursuit, and practice. Surrender to God doesn’t mean you do nothing; it means you learn to do things differently. And you don’t do it alone; you do it with Jesus, for “I am with you to the very end of the age.” (Mat. 28:20)

To know that is to experience the presence of God (“have eternal life”) in ordinary life—in the land of the living. But we need to know what and how to practice. Therefore, while it may sound ridiculously unnecessary, the first thing you can and must practice is the presence of God. You practice knowing that He isn’t somewhere in outer space or a 5th dimension.

Amazingly, many Christians don’t believe that God is anywhere near or that He still interacts with people. Worse, many are told that His only method of communication today is through the Bible. Yet they talk about relationship and “walking with Jesus” while living with constant inner conflict and struggle, dead to God’s kingdom of peace and joy.

So don’t laugh it off; you can’t surrender or put your faith in a big blank. Everyone needs the solid experiential knowledge of God’s presence because it supports everything else in the reality of eternal life. You shouldn’t (and needn’t) rush this preliminary step. Just start from where you are.

Third: Preliminary Practice

There’s no right or wrong way to practice the presence of God, but exploring the following ideas is a good start. Your goal is to discover whether you actually believe them, and if not, why not. For example, what do they mean to you? Have you been told something different? Have you made certain assumptions?

Do some soul-searching just between you and God. Ask Him to bless and interact with you as you seek His nearness. It may take several attempts if you’re not used to hearing His voice or perceiving His touch. Hence the practice.

  • You can repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near—literally at hand. It isn’t far away or far future, leaving you cut off from God until you die. It’s fully available while you live to guide, support, and provide what you need to live a new kind of life. (Mat. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7)
  • Christ-like transformation and perfection (completion) are possible. You can be filled with the fullness of God and know the love of Christ that surpasses mere head-knowledge to become experience (Eph. 3:19). You not only receive it, you can learn to reproduce and give it. It becomes an all-pervasive presence.
  • “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence…” (1Jhn. 3:19)
  • “And lo, I am with you to the end of the age.”

The Psalms are wonderful reminders of the ever-present God among us. Here are two verses, but you can go to Biblestudytools.com (or any Scripture search engine) to find more. In fact, it’s more responsible and effective to find out for yourself.

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.” (Psa. 89:15)
  • “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psa. 139:7)
Sparks
Sparks (Photo credit: Gnal)

Unlike the early Church, today’s American concept of salvation is separated from transformation into Christ-likeness. It probably wouldn’t occur to most modern Christians that transformation is salvation.

Regarding transformation, there’s debate as to whether God automatically does that to you after you’re saved, or whether it’s something that only hard-core believers seek as a desirable, but non-essential dimension of Christian living. Either way, salvation is seen strictly as an afterlife issue; Christian living in ordinary life is seen as a separate issue.

In this view, the definition of salvation is forgiveness of sin so you get into heaven when you die. The only essential connection between salvation and ordinary life is that you must get on the heavenly reservation list before physical death.

Generally, you get on the list by 1.) admitting that you’ll never measure up to God’s flawlessness, and thus need a Savior; 2.) acknowledging that Jesus Christ is that Savior who saves you by simply forgiving sin; and 3.) asking him to “come into” your heart.

If you do that sincerely, you’re immediately placed on the list, and that’s that. You’re suddenly saved and right with God (justified). “I got saved” usually means the end of a sin or merit problem, not the beginning of a process.

Grace is seen as something that happens to you. You contribute nothing to the process but gratitude, and to suggest otherwise somehow steals God’s glory. Even your faith isn’t your own or anything you do, but something God just produces in you. “Transformation” then follows, if at all, as mere behavior modification (Bible study, praising God, etc.) and adherence to various statements of belief. This is considered Christian living, and it’s the extent of transformation for most.

Instead of generating a new kind of life in people, this model creates stone-like passivity that prevents discipleship and passage from “death” to life, the dominant issue in Scripture. American churches are thus full of converts to doctrines, but few disciples to Jesus. (more…)