SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 3 ways to walk a spiritual bridge to new life w/ someone

by Bob Whitesel, Church Central, April 30, 2017.

Two things are happening to a person in spiritual and physical crisis:

1. At this point they realize that only God, the one who created them, can effectively and enduringly meet their needs.

2. They also feel that their relationship with God is estranged because they have ignored him for so long.

The uncommon church will foster an environment where helping others navigate this bridge is the norm. Therefore, the uncommon church walks this bridge with others, not retracing their own steps again but walking alongside helping, answering questions, and encouraging others as they cross a bridge between natural and supernatural living. A verse that reminds us of the magnitude of the newness and that we represent God in it, can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17–19: “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives” (MSG).

The importance of walking the bridge with them 

And so, as Christ’s representatives we need to tell others how God gave his Son to provide a bridge back to himself. I have found that in many growing churches almost all congregants know how to explain the story of Jesus’ bridge.

Thus, the last key toward helping others navigate the bridge back to a restored friendship with God is to have a congregation that can explain God’s biblical bridge. Sometimes called “the plan of salvation,” these are simple memory devices that the majority of all attendees in the uncommon church must know if we are to fulfill Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that, God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives” (MSG). Here are three of the most common explanations of that bridge:

The Four Spiritual Laws 13

1. God loves you and created you to know him personally (John 3:16; 17:3).

2. Humans are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know him personally or experience His love (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for human sin. Through him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3–6; John 14:6).

4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience his love (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8–9; Revelation 3:20).

The Romans Road 14

To aid in memorization, this explanation employs the metaphor of a Roman thoroughfare:

• Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (Everyone needs salvation because we have all sinned.)

• Romans 6:23: “The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (The price or consequence of sin is death.)

• Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Jesus Christ died for our sins. He paid the price for our death.)

• Romans10:9: “Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation.” (We openly declare that we receive salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.)

• Romans5:1: “Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Salvation through Jesus Christ brings us back into a relationship of peace with God.)

Steps to Peace with God15

This explanation uses phrases tool: from John 3:16 as a memory

• For God so loved the world: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

  • That he gave his only Son:“While we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
  • That whoever believes in him: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
  • Should not perish:“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
  • But have everlasting life: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So pick an explanation that works for you. But hold one another accountable to be able to explain at least one route, for 1 Peter 3:15–18 urges:

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God. (MSG)

13 The “Four Spiritual Laws” was originally conceived by Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright (http://campuscrusade.com/fourlawseng.htm), but the original version seemed to build on people’s more selfcentered desire for attaining God’s plan for their lives. While this is certainly valid, an alternative version is quoted here (compare http://www.4laws.com/laws/englishkgp) because it better emphasizes the missio Dei
(God’s desire to be reunited with his wayward offspring).

14 Additional verses in Romans that provide further insights for each one of these steps (along with ideas for sermons, Bible studies, and teaching tools) to help congregants remember the “Romans Road” can be found at http://www.gotquestions.org/Romans-road-salvation.html, http://theromanroad.org, and http://christianity.about.com/od/conversion/qt/romansroad.htm.

15 “Steps to Peace with God” was developed by the Billy Graham organization. It supports this presentation with an extensive web presence at http://peacewithgod.jesus.net.

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012). For further online notes: See Chapter 8 Complete Notes. 

four spiritual laws Romans road steps to peace with God

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018


NEWNESS & The Route Back (Principles of God’s Plan of Salvation)

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

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

“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)

Therefore …

  • 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.