by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2012.
Why NEW is Needed
Humans Are in a Pickle.
As we just noted, humans want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves constantly and repeatedly failing to do what we know is right. God knows we are prone to this (after all he’s a long time observer of our behavior). And, God has made a way for us to be changed. The Message Bible is a good translation for putting such principles in modern idiom, and Figure 7.3 explains this fracture.
Figure 7.3 Our Wrong Actions Fracture Our Fellowship With God
|We have an inner pull that makes us do the wrong thing, even when we know better
||· “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back..” Titus 3:3 (MSG)
|These wrong actions separate us from our loving heavenly Father
||· “There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (MSG)
|If we accept God’s plan to have Christ bear our punishment, then God will restore our fellowship with Him, help us change and give us eternal life too!
||· “But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG)
How Did God Create a Route Back?
Once humans see that we are prone to do what is bad for ourselves and that we are incapable of changing by ourselves; we then notice that God has created a route, a bridge so to speak, back to fellowship with God. Figure 7.4 is how the Message Bible explains it.
Figure 7.4 God’s Plan for a Route Back
Jesus took the punishment for our wrong actions (so we could be restored to a close relationship with our loving heavenly Father):
|· “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death … Romans 5:8 (MSG).
· “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)
Trusting in Jesus’ actions will acquit us from the punishment due for our wrong doings and give us a “whole and lasting life:”
|· “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…” John 3:16-17 (MSG)
|This route back is only available through Jesus Christ.
||· “Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.” John 14:6 (MSG)
How Do We Take That “Route” Back to God?
Now that we understand that God has created a route back to fellowship with himself, we begin to grasp that the all-powerful Creator of the universe wants to have personal friendship with each of us who will return. So, what is involved in returning to him? The answer can be summed up in the statement of Figure 7.5. let’s look at this figure and then examine three important words in it.
Figure 7.5 How We Take the Route Back to God[i]
|Repentance must be combined with faith in order to bring about spiritual transformation.
Repentance is a decision to “break with the past” which also carries the idea of turning and going in a new direction.[ii] This is what it means when 1 John 1:8-9 says “…if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (MSG).
People come to this stage when they realize they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going and know they need help beyond what humanity can provide. They may be frustrated that their life is full of animosities, pride, biases, deceptions, conflicts and a host of other maladies. And so, they seek inner change.
The good news is that God wants that change for you too! He even promises to give you supernatural power to help you make those changes. It is this trust (or faith) in God’s ability to help you that takes you to the next step.
“Faith” is a reliance and inner sense of knowing that God has the power to transform you.[iii] The author of Hebrews offers a classic statement about faith:
It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. Heb. 11:6 (MSG, italics mine)
Author and lay theologian C. S. Lewis reminds us that faith also carries the idea of growing in unwavering faith, stating, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.”[iv]
New People (Spiritual Transformation)
Spiritual transformation in biblical terms means divine empowerment to reverse direction and go in an opposite direction with your life.[v] The author of Titus describes it this way:
He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG, italics mine)
- When repentance (for our wrong doings)
- combines with faith (in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf)
- then spiritual transformation (into a new person) occurs.
This spiritual transformation into a new person has been called many things: conversion, salvation, being born-again, etc. And, though these are important terms they also have been mischaracterized. Unfortunately to many people today they do not bring to mind the original meaning of being transformed from our old way of life.
Today spiritual transformation may be the best term to sum up what God is doing. When he creates a new person our old desires for self-satisfaction, preferring oneself over others, etc. will still be there, but spiritual transformation reminds us there is divine power to increasingly overcome these self-serving lures. And, we experience an emerging confidence and power as we see God daily helping us come closer to him and as we participate in his mission. And so, spiritual transformation is a remarkable intersection of human will, Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness and a rekindled heavenward relationship. This is not a transformation that we can muster up ourselves. This is a change that goes deeply to the purpose of the One who created us. It goes to the core of our relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us and can help us.
And so, the Church is primarily a community that is collectively and constantly welcoming and experiencing this spiritual transformation where new people emerge. Yet, the gloomy fact is that most commonly today, congregations are not experiencing this. And, it does several things to a church, including robbing a church of its supernatural expectation and making a church more familiar with churchgoers than non-churchgoers.
Thus, the “HOW” of Growing N.E.W. is critical for nurturing an uncommon church, But, before we look at Chapter 8: Grow N.E.W. HOW let us look briefly at why spiritual formation is at the pivot point of the uncommon church.
[i] This statement is adapted with updated terminology from Richard Peace’s terms in “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion: A Missiological Challenge,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 8.
[ii] Metanoia (the Greek word for repentance), William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 513-514; see also Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion: A Missiological Challenge,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, p. 8.
[iii] Pistis (the Greek word for faith), William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 668-670.
[iv] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFransicso, 2001), p. 140.
[v] Epistrophe (the Greek word for spiritual transformation or conversion), William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 301; and Richard Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion: A Missiological Challenge,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, p. 8.
Excerpted from ©BobWhitesel, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), pp. 126-130.