How does God grow us to become more like Jesus?
God can do anything. He loves to do the impossible; walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out evil and feeding twenty to thirty thousand people at once. He could do the impossible of instantly transforming us into the image of Jesus. But, He has chosen to develop us slowly. Jesus was deliberate in developing His disciples; serving them, calling them, doing ministry with them, doing life with them, explaining things to them, correcting them and so much more. In a similar manner, we can see God walk slowly and patiently with the Israelites as they walked through the desert for 40 years.
We can see God seeks to grow us one step at a time so, "throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Eph 4:22-24.
Why does it take so long to change and grow up?
There are several reasons:
1. We have a lot to unlearn. One of Jesus' teaching style was designed to address this need to unlearn. "You have heard it was said about adultery... but I tell you this about adultery...." (Sermon on the Mount). Since most of our problems and all of our bad habits didn’t develop overnight, it’s unrealistic to expect them go away immediately. It has taken us years to develop these negative thinking and behaving patterns. There is no pill, prayer, or principle that will instantly undo the damage of many years. It requires the hard work of removal and replacement. The Bible calls it “taking off the old self” and “putting on the new self."Eph 4:22-24
2. Another reason, we are slow learners. We are quick learners for other people to change. But, for most of us, we often have to relearn a lesson dozens and dozens and maybe a few more dozen times to really get it. The problems keep recurring, and we think, “Not again! I’ve already learned that!” How often did Jesus say to His disciples, "Oh you of little faith?" The disciples and the history of Israel illustrates how quickly we forget the lessons God teaches us and how soon we revert to our old patterns of behavior. We need repeated exposure.
3. A third reason, growth is often painful and scary. Think about the Rich Young Ruler, after Jesus pointed out the growth plan for him, he walked away grieving. There is no growth without change, there is no change without fear or loss, and there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind. We fear these losses, even if our old ways were self-defeating, because, like a worn-out pair of shoes, they were at least comfortable and familiar.
4. Good habits take time to develop. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Rom 12:2 Remember that your character is the sum total of the repeated things that you do, your habits. You can’t claim to be honest unless you are habitually honest. You can’t claim to be an encourager unless you habitually encourage. You can’t claim to have a positive and inclusive attitude unless you habitually have a positive and inclusive attitude. Your habits create your character.
There is only one way to become like Christ, you must practice to be like Jesus. This takes time! There are no instant habits. Paul urged Timothy, "be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress." 1 Tim 4:15
Is there a character quality that God is seeking to change in you?
Is there a bad habit He is trying to change?
What one thing do you need to practice doing every day so that you are growing to be more like Jesus?
Praying to grow one step at a time together,
What is grabbing your attention lately?
Who is grabbing your attention lately?
How is Jesus grabbing your attention lately?
As I was reading the Bible this week, three words grabbed my attention. Three words. How can three words grab me? How can three words grab you? When was the last time three words grabbed your attention? Maybe today...
Jesus preached, "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matt 6:5-8
The Master Teacher used two words in His language where in English it is translated into three.
"When you pray"
Re-read Jesus' teaching...
Jesus used those three words three times rather quickly.
Clearly, Jesus is grabbing our attention.
Let those three words grab you.
What is Jesus saying to you with those three words?
How would you describe your prayer life to a friend?
Under what circumstances do you typically pray?
What motivates you to pray?
What generally keeps you from praying?
Read today’s passage again slowly and listen for what invitation God might be extending to you about prayer. What did you hear?
Seeking to dialogue with Jesus more regularly alone, with my family and with Southtown,
What comes to mind when you think about running a race?
Some of you might think, "Awesome, where do I sign up."
Others, "Are you crazy, I'd rather do anything but run." or, "Do I have too?"
We may wonder, "Who else is running? Depending on who is, I might be there or I might not."
God describes the Christian life experience like a race. It is an accurate description, especially those of us who have been running with Jesus for a few decades or more. Just like a race, it is exciting (at first), enjoyable (at times), hard (almost always), long (our entire life once we say "Yes" to Jesus). Looking at just a few of these adjectives, why would anyone want to run this race? Why would anyone not want to run this race? So many have stalled out and pushed Jesus to a side focus of their life. Some only call out to Jesus when they are in a crisis. Others have quit the race, hoping that when they die Jesus will still be gracious to them. Others keep going in the race, sometimes running, other times walking, other times clinging to Jesus as they crawl.
I am so glad that the Author of Hebrews gives some encouraging words to never give up on this race with Jesus, no matter how hard life gets.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Heb 12:1-3
One encouragement I want to highlight is "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses."
Many read this rather quickly and jump to the conclusion that all living Christians are living their lives on a massive football field and the stands are filled with all the Christians who have died cheering us on. But, a careful read and study of this passage, it does not paint this picture. We have to look at the word,"Therefore," which points us back to chapter 11, the great hall of fame of the faithful. Most Biblical scholars understand that what is surrounding us living Christians, who are seeking to run this adventurous race, is the legacy of these faithful and forgiven followers. So, when we are running the race we need to be remembering how God used these normal, average humans who are just like you and me. We need to re-read about these fellow citizens of heaven. We need to let their example encourage us, motivate us, inspire us to keep on running. Maybe pick one of these people each week to read, re-read, think about, talk about and learn from. I have been re-studying Abel who followed his parents teaching about how to get right with God regularly through blood sacrifice and how his shortened life is still preaching to all of us today. Why did Abel trust and following his parent's instructions about the most important thing in life and Cain did not? Why did Abel want to get right with God? Why did Abel desire to be close with God? Why did Cain ignore his parent's instruction on how to get right with God? Why did Cain give up on this race? What temptations were more attractive to him than walking with the Creator of the Universe? How many of us have sought to be like Cain by trying to create a new way to get right with God?
God reveals to us through this, that Cain is the father of all other religions and philosophies that are human-made to get right with God. How do we lovingly walk with others who have chosen these human ways? How will Jesus use us to talk about these things with them? Jesus is calling you to these safe and honest conversations that determine peoples' eternal destiny.
Maybe each week, pick one of these people in chapter 11.
Read their story in the OT.
Talk about them with a few friends; Christians and not yet Christians. See how God will inspire your race.
See how God will use you to inspire other people to keep running or even to join this awesome race.
Seeking to keep running,
Pastor Chris Reinertson enjoys all sports, especially those involving a ball. He loves to hang out with people and challenge them to be Jesus REVolutionizers.