If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.

If You are a Butterfly, Act Like One
If You are a Butterfly, Act Like One

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2a

 

I would argue that there is a negative consequence to not renewing your mind…that is, you will be conformed to this world.

Romans 12:1-2 is a classic verse of Scripture regarding the importance of transformation in the life of every believer.  Most teachers that I have heard stress the importance of transformation in a positive sense…that is, you ought to renew your mind because then you will know God’s will more clearly.  And this is certainly true and a blessing to us.  However, I would argue that there is a negative consequence to not renewing your mind…that is, you will be conformed to this world.  I think it’s one or the other…there is no middle ground.  Each day, you either renew your mind or conform to the world.

Recently, I engaged an online “discussion” with a person who calls himself an “Agnostic Catholic”.  He grew up Catholic, adopted reformed theology, felt certain he was regenerate, then turned away from the faith and to agnosticism.  During my interaction, I renewed an old struggle with the meaning of Hebrews 5:11-6:11 and uncovered some new insights.  Once of which is relevant to this post.

I think he is saying that a person who thinks he is regenerate can fall away if he does not act like a regenerate person acts.

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened … and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit … and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance…”  Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking this way.” Hebrews 6:9 (NASB)

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises”. Hebrews 6:11-12 (NASB)

I’m not going to write a commentary here, nor am I trained to do so.  So, please test these thoughts in light of Scripture.  But, I think what’s going on here is that the writer is frustrated that the disciples are not pressing on toward maturity, so he issues are warning.  That warning is, “look, if you are not maturing in your faith, you are at risk of falling away and proving yourself to be a fraud.  So get in gear and press on to maturity.” 

To be clear, I don’t think the writer is saying that a regenerate person can become lost again.  I think he is saying that a person who thinks he is regenerate can fall away if he does not act like a regenerate person acts.

My salvation is not tied to my works, but my assurance certainly is.  For, if I am not acting like a believer, why should I think I am?

And, I think Peter says the same thing.  After calling the saints to maturity, Peter says this …

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” 1 Peter 1:10-11 (NASB)

And so, assurance of salvation is tied to maturity. If you are not pressing forward, you may indeed stumble (i.e. fall away), perhaps even to the extent that you prove that you were wrong about His “calling and choosing you” to begin with.

Have you ever interacted with someone who was a believer and now is not?  This is the first I have met…that fell as far and as hard as this.  Only God knows the condition of his heart, but it has awakened me to the reality that unless I am pressing on in maturity, I risk the same fate.  My salvation is not tied to my works, but my assurance certainly is.  For, if I am not acting like a believer, why should I think I am?

Deeper Dive on Growth Themes

In my last post, I introduced the concept of a growth theme.  Think of themes (joy, compassion, humility, perseverance) as the more concrete sub-components of the growth dimensions (knowledge, character, and behavior).  And remember, growth on these dimensions within the themes is a result of hearing, believing and obeying God.  Later, I’ll go a little deeper on hearing, believing and obeying God…the things we do.  But first, lets look a little closer at what we are trying to become (increasingly joyous, compassionate, humble, and persevering).

Joyfully forget yourself and focus on others forever.

The above statement is something I made up as a kind of personal mission statement.  Notice how it includes each of the four growth themes…joy, humility (forget yourself), compassion (focus on others), and perseverance (forever).  We are followers of Christ if we do this increasingly, genuinely and in the context of God’s truth.  Note that I did not say we are “saved” because of it.  We’re “saved” because we professed faith in Christ and He gave us life by His grace alone.  What I’m taking about here is actually following Christ after we have been regenerated.

Now, let’s look under the hood.  Are four themes really enough?  What about love, wisdom, righteousness, contentment, faith, dependenance, generosity, etc?  As I said before, we created a mind map to organize these characteristics so that we could get our arms around the different facets and begin to eat the elephant one bite at a time, so to speak.

Here is a link to that mind map: Themes v0.3

Remember, this is one of an incalculable number of possible arrangements.  This is just one that works for our purposes.  I’m happy to take feedback on it, because I do want to improve it…but, let’s not miss the forest for the trees either.

And so you will see that we’re framing contentment as a joy issue.  If you do not have God’s joy, it is possible that the underlying cause is a contentment issue.  With this kind of vocabulary, we can use it in a number of different ways to help people.  Here are a few:

Assessment: Helping Disciples Know Where They Are

We can develop a means of helping people understand where they are in their walk with regard to joy, humility, compassion, and perseverance.  This then drives where/how they spend their time addressing areas of weakness (rather than simply ammassing knowledge by an endless stream of “bible studies”).  The intent of “assessment”, would be to help someone understand that contentment is a bigger issue in their life than say generosity.

Guidance: Helping Disciples Know Where to Go and How to Get There

Guidance can be attached to the same vocabulary.  Guidance (e.g. passages of scripture, teaching, books, podcasts, disciplines, ad-hoc experiences and advice, etc)  can be provided on how to become more generous, for example, and loaded into a shared repository.

Search: Helping Disciples Find The Best Stuff Fast

Now that guidance has been loaded against a specific vocabulary, and a person understands their need using the same vocabulary, an extremely efficient search capability can be put into place that helps a disciple find exactly what they need almost immediately.

There is alot more to be said, but alas…it will have to wait until next time.  Until then, I will continue to pray for all of you as you strive to become more like our Savior.

The Ultimate Goal

In my last post, I spoke about the specific and immediate goal of ministering to God’s people.  But what is the ultimate goal?  How does the mission of SeqHim converge with and support the ministry of the Church?

I mentioned what I believe is the ultimate goal in my last post, and I want to expand upon it here a bit: bring glory to God.  That ought to be the underlying reason for anything we do (or do not do).  Otherwise, what is the point?  Do everything you do for the glory of God, and work hard at it.  Yes, it is good to just chill from time to time, but even that brings glory to God…it acknowledges a) that God designed us to need rest and recreation; b) that our efforts are not nearly as important as we usually think; and c) that God himself rested and commands us to rest as well.  And so, go play golf, take a nap, or watch HGTV this weekend knowing that you may be bringing great glory to God in the process!

Given that it is good to rest and it is good to work, what do we work at?  What work brings glory to God?  Is it only “ministry” work?  Am I bringing glory to God when I go to church, serve in the nursery, help little old ladies across the street?  Sure, but does that mean that I am not bringing glory to God when I am writing a computer program, changing diapers, taking out the trash, leading a marketing project, punishing the kids, performing financial analysis, studying for a test at school, and so on?  I certainly hope not, because most of us spend most of our time doing these things that are usually perceieved as less or even non-spiritual.

Then how do we glorify God in everything we do, whether it is a ‘rest’ activity or a ‘work’ activity?  Here is a phrase that has helped me tremendously through the years: ‘do the right thing for the right reason’.  As long as you are doing the right thing (with pure motives) in any situation, you are bringing glory to God.  Sounds easy, right?  Ha!  If you think that is easy, you have never really been serious about it because it’s incredibly hard!  As a matter of fact, it’s impossible as long as we remain in this fallen world prior to our perfection.  And so, allow me to revise our goal statement to make it a bit more accurate to what is really expected of us: “strive to do the right thing for the right reason”.  We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength…to do the very best with everything God has given us to do the right thing.  Thankfully, God’s grace enables us to try and still accepts us when we fail!  But the true measure of our faith is the effort we put into doing the right thing, purifying our motives and avoiding the wrong thing…regardless of the personal risk.

So, may this be an encouragement to you today.  Strive to do the right thing, moment by moment, for the right reasons.  Make it your number one priority, higher than any any other objective you have for today.  Expend yourself learning how to determine what the right thing is, seeking the Lord in His Word, asking the Him for moment by moment wisdom, trusting that He has granted you that wisdom (James 1:5), and then acting accordingly, confidently and courageously.  In this way, you will be a delight to the Lord, He will be glorified, you will be transformed, others around you will be loved as Christ loves them, and others will be attracted to the Savior through your example of Him.