We started a new series in Sunday school. I came home with lots of reading material so will be posting notes... For now, here are my reflections on Sunday morning's material.
Spiritual transformation is essential, not optional, for Christ-followers.
This ties in with the item below... One thing that greatly upsets me is the fact that often the conversion experience is so emphasized that it seems all right to return to "normal life." We can just go to church on Sunday, confess, and "get right with God" later. What a disservice to ourselves! And what a slap in the face to Jesus!
Spiritual transformation is a process, not an event.
It's easy to view beginnings as events. We do this all the time with many things that should rightly be viewed as beginnings: the beginning of adult responsibility signaled by graduation, the beginning of driving responsibility signaled by getting a driver's license... But more often than not, we view them solely as things to celebrate, little rites of passage. Once the celebration is over, nothing more ever takes place because the event is viewed as complete instead of as a beginning.
Spiritual transformation is God's work, but requires my participation.
This was discussed in quite a bit of detail on Sunday. Is "my participation" my "work?" I kept thinking of the verse that says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Yet I cannot achieve salvation by my own work... So often it seems that the things of God are paradoxical. It can be frustrating but at the same time amazing.
Spiritual transformation involves those practices, experiences, and relationships that help me live intimately with Christ and walk as if he were in my place.
My first thought about this is that it is a delicate balancing act. I think that these things are vital, but I must also be careful not to make any of them idols. Sometimes in my quest for closeness to God, it is easier for me to prefer the things that make me feel close to Him instead of the reality of Him.
Spiritual transformation is not a compartmentalized pursuit. God is not interested in my spiritual life; he's interested in my life -- all of it.
This was another topic that we spent some time discussing--and another topic that I feel strongly about. I probably feel strongly about it because I happen to struggle with it personally. It's easiest to "do church," and then go about the rest of life, "have a quiet time," and then go about the rest of the day and hope that the "quiet time" somehow fuels us. We leave the real "evangelizing" and "church work" to the "professionals." It does bother me to hear people say things like, "I don't believe that God has a calling for everyone." Sure He does! Maybe it isn't always to be a pastor or missionary. Maybe it is to be a child care worker or a brick layer... Maybe it is something ordinary: Jesus was a carpenter for most of his life. We really have no idea who we live for if we only live to pay the bills.</p>
Spiritual transformation can happen in every moment. It is not restricted to certain times or practices.
I absolutely agree! In fact, most of my transforming moments have happened in unlikely places: the back seat of my mother's car, my bed, the shower, an airplane...
Spiritual transformation is not individualistic, but takes place in community and finds expression in serving others.
This is another paradox: God loves us as individuals, and He is very good at relating to us as individuals when necessary. But for the most part, He relates to us as a community. He did so to Israel, and He did so to the New Testament churches. This is something we have been discussing recently on the Church of God email list. Most of the time, we people have the tendency to interpret Scripture as directive to the individual,, and this is not how much of it is written.
Spiritual transformation is not impeded by a person's background, temperament, life situation, or season of life. It is available right now to all who desire it.
We spent a lot of time on this one. It can feel very much like these things impede a person's ptoential for transformation. But what I think is impeded is the DESIRE for transformation. When that desire is strong enough, nothing will impede the transformation! It can be painful to know that one does not have "enough" desire." The solution is to ask God to strengthen the desire.
Spiritual transformation, and the means of pursuing it, will vary from one individual to another. Fully devoted followers are handcrafted, not mass-produced.
I like this! Very often I notice church groups trying to dictate formulas for spiritual growth, and sometimes I notice people beating themselves up because they aren't maturing exactly in the manner of so-and-so next door.
Spiritual transformation is ultimately gauged by an increased capacity to love God and people. Superficial or external checklists cannot measure it.
I think this sort of ties in with the above, but it's about the outcome rather than the method.
Edit: The reading material didn't scan well.