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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sacrament of the Mundane

Why don't Christians change? 

The Bible teaches transformation, and Jesus promised it to those who followed Him, but the Church at large is still indistinguishable from her surrounding unbelieving neighbors. The statistics illustrate a stark truth: divorce, domestic violence, pornography are all just as prevalent in Christian communities as in secular ones. The question becomes even more important as the homosexual issue continues to be debated, with many traditional churches just throwing in the towel; they say change isn't possible, therefore it's God's will they remain the same. 

In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, most of whom were living immoral lives while professing Christianity, he warns them against believing that certain sins, including homosexuality, were acceptable as long as one was a Christian. But what was the motivating factor behind this cease and desist order? A belief in change.
"Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." - 1 Cor 6:9
In the midst of their struggle to leave these sins behind, Paul strengthens them by reminding them of who they were in Christ. Even in the midst of moral failure, the rest of his letter is a call for the Corinthians to finally live up to the change that happened to them internally, rather than to exclude change from the equation altogether. 

Gary Moon, director of the Renovare Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation and author of several books on discipleship, writes the following:  
"What if the problem with experiencing authentic transformation among modern Christians is the tendency to reduce the real meaning and process of atonement to absurdity? Instead of accepting the process of dying daily to any will but the will of God, we may often substitute the one-time profession of a sugar-coated "magic phrase" that equals transformation; as a result, we may then become more prone to argue about the "how" and "who" of salvation instead of stepping away from our self-sufficiency and into a transforming friendship with the members of the Trinity."
I believe transformation is possible. To be honest, I've struggled to see it in my own life, but as it's written, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." We have to, at least, know the goal is possible before we start taking the steps to get there. 

And what are those steps? The sinner's prayer isn't really one of them. The steps are what you take by living daily in light of God's Providence, trusting that through taking up your cross and abandoning yourself to God's will, change will begin to take place. This is the point Moon is making: the sinner's prayer doesn't work. It's foundational to the business model, the get-er-dun approach to doing church. Jesus never asked anyone to recite a sinner's prayer. Instead, he called people to repentance and then to follow Him every day, throughout the day, for all our days. It's a truth far too often overlooked. We want things exciting, new, and up-to-date, but it's in the mundane daily grind where we meet God in obedience and experience change, slowly but surely. 

The duties of each moment in your life, as you submit yourself to Christ, are more important than any grand ministry you might have planned. If you want the change that was promised by Jesus and Paul and that is required for entrance into God's Kingdom, you have to do what God says: take up your cross daily, and follow Christ. You do the following; He does the changing. Every day you get up, go to work, do your job well, treat your co-workers with love, or care for your household is only a shadow of what is happening in the spiritual world: God and the angels witnessing your every step, with the Holy Spirit bringing about a character and will that is ready for the real work that lies ahead in the coming Kingdom.

Think of the Virgin Mary once more; after the archangel departed, she had to go tell Joseph she was pregnant. That was probably an awkward conversation. And then there were the months of waiting, and after the Messiah's birth, years of the mundane life of a Jewish house-wife. Still, the promise of God was kept in her heart, and she trusted in His Providence to get her through to whatever it was God was doing. 

Every day you simply strive to love God and love your neighbor is filled with extraordinary grace for the most ordinary events. It's no less than the great God operating in all those little things, making the most menial task great. We may not see it now. We may sigh and wish our ship would come in and want what's new and exciting, struggling to find the secret of contentment, but one day, when we reign with Christ, we'll look back and see how each little step was not taken in vain, that what we longed for was coming, and that the growing was in the waiting. 

It's the Sacrament of the Mundane, and it changes us from glory to glory as the grace of God meets us in every present moment. 

3 comments:

  1. I appreciate and agree with this blog post. In our culture today - both inside and outside of the church - we have confused what it means to be a Christian verses what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. As you said in this blog, I do believe spiritual transformation is possible.

    I've written about it in depth on my website at www.kenlroberts.com especially under the two blogs Why I'm No Longer A Christian and Fairy Tales and Follers of Jesus Christ.

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  2. Hi Ken!

    Thanks for your response and thanks for reading! It's interesting: transformation is possible and, in one sense, easy - because it is God who does the work. I mean, it's not hard for a dead man to remain dead, and we're called to be dead to sin. I think what makes it hard is that we struggle to have faith that God is good, and without this faith in God's goodness, it's almost impossible to walk into transformation. The flesh makes it too hard. "We struggle to enter into rest" and we give up because it's too hard.

    Many times we tell people who are gay, for example, "Just stop being gay" as if the sinful nature can just be removed by an exercise of the will. Instead, the sinful nature is removed little by little as we give up all to follow Jesus to total transformation at the end of our lives. Sometimes the things we have to give up for His sake seem unkind and too much to bear, but if we have FAITH that what God has for us in the coming Kingdom is even BETTER, then we can more easily do just that. And then as we give up what's dear to us for that "pearl of great price" we see that for many, transformation and new life IS possible, even this side of the 2nd coming.

    Being a Christian is following Jesus and being transformed into the image of God. There's no two ways about that. I recommend reading Dallas Willard's "The Great Omission" about this very thing.

    Thanks again for reading, and I'll be sure to check out your blog!

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  3. The Dandler,
    Good stuff. Yes, I was fortunate to take the 2 year program with Renovare on Spiritual Formation and Dallas was the main teacher in four, full week on-site classes. It was a priviledge to learn from him before he recently passed.

    Keep up the good work. We need it!

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