Everyone Needs Recovery

I’ve been thinking about how our church might better reach into the neighborhood, what needs to we see? Marriages need to be strengthened, kids are involved in recreational drugs, pornography attacks half of the male population (according to the national average)… what is a church to do in order to impact our community with the gospel?

The Home Run movie came out on April 19 this year, and I sense THIS is the next wave of hands-on help that can make life transformation practical and possible for so many people.

Here is some introductory research into that which Celebrate Recovery is based:

The Eight Principles of Recovery:

1.   Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. — Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.  (Matthew 5:3)

2.   Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover. — Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

3.   Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. — Happy are the meek. (Matthew 5:5)

4.   Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. — Happy are the pure in heart. (Matthew 5:8)

5.   Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. — Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires. (Matthew 5:6)

6.   Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others. — Happy are the merciful. Happy are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:7, 9)

7.   Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.

8.   Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words. — Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires. (Matthew 5:10)

The Twelve Steps with Biblical Comparison:

1.    We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. — I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)

2.    We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. — For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

3.    We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. — Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)

4.    We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. —  Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD. (Lamentations 3:40)

5.    We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. — Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

6.    We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. — Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)

7.    We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

8.    We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. — Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:3 1)

9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. — Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

10.   We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. — So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10.12)

11.   We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out. — Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)

12.   Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. — Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

The Truth About Life Change

My Bible study class studied for several weeks a book by Chip Ingram on the Miracle of Life Change. I recently discovered nine foundational truths about life change (from Pastor Rick Warren):

1. Understand that the goal of all change is Christ-likeness. God doesn’t want us to be happy; he wants us to be holy. We become holy as we become more like Jesus. When you see people, remember this – God’s goal for the people you see isn’t balance, happiness, or comfort. He wants nothing less than for them to become like Jesus.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” We have a phrase here in America, “Like father, like son.” God wants nothing more than for us to become like Jesus, in how we act, how we talk, how we relate to others, how we relate to God, and every aspect of our lives. This is always the goal of biblical change.

2. Realize that both you and God have a part to play in changing. You can’t do God’s part in the change process, but you must do yours. You can see this clearly when Paul writes in Philippians 2:12-13, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Notice Paul says, “Continue to work out …” That’s your part. Then he says, “for it is God who works in you …” That’s God’s part. We both have a part to play.

The Bible doesn’t say to work for your salvation. It says to “work it out.” There’s only one way you can find salvation – by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Think about it, you don’t work out in the gym to create muscles you don’t have; you work out to strengthen the muscles God has given you. When you “work out” your salvation, you don’t earn it. Instead, you strengthen what God has already given you. You can’t transform or change yourself, but – because of the cross – the Holy Spirit can. But you have a part to play.

3. Accept that lasting change starts with choice. Whatever hurt, habit, or hang-up you have, change begins with a choice. Choice is one of the greatest gifts that God gives us. In the Bible, God tells us to make healing choices (Deuteronomy 30:19), “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

4. Change requires truth. Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth may set you free, but first it makes you miserable. The reason most of us aren’t free is that we don’t want to face the truth about our sin. We don’t want to face the truth about others, our relationships, our parents, or our past. The Bible says our hearts are “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

That deceit has to be balanced with the truth of God. Why does truth set us free? Because the way we think affects the way we feel. The way we feel then affects the way we act. If you want to change the way you act, you don’t want to start with your behavior, you start with your thoughts. The battle over sin always begins in the mind. You can’t stop the thoughts that come into your mind, but you need to know how to divert them. Change happens when we’re honest about what is in our heart and then we challenge it with the Word of God. The truth is, behind every self-defeating behavior in your life is a lie that you believe to be true.

5. Lasting change happens in community. God has wired us to only get well in community, not a cocoon. Koinonia (the Greek term for fellowship or community) simply means being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ, and sharing a common life.

Change happens when you open up and share your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It’s the only way to get over them. James 5:16 tells us to, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. If you want to see true life change, you need to develop Christian community or fellowship in your life.

6. Lasting change is a step-by-step process. The kind of change that we really long for won’t happen by accident or by chance. Change happens intentionally and incrementally. The Message paraphrases 2 Corinthians 3:18, “Our lives are gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” When God enters our lives, we become gradually more like Jesus. That is sanctification.

7. Lasting change requires multiple reinforcement. You’ve got to get truth in a lot of different ways to make the way for lasting change. How can people listen to Pastor Skip’s sermons for years and not grow? People just don’t grow by listening. James tells us not to merely listen to the Word of God but to obey it (James 1:22). He goes on to say that the one who “looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

It’s the person who remembers the Word of God and does it who is blessed. Leaders must teach people the Bible in multiple ways to make that happen in their lives. God loves variety. He wired some people to learn through what they hear. Others learn from they see or read. Others learn by doing. Those who participate in worship will hear the Word. They talk about it in their small group Bible studies. They read about it in a book.

8. Lasting change requires new habits. I’ve heard it said that you are the sum total of your habits. You’ve got both good and bad habits, but what you do habitually is what you are. You don’t have to think about taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or shaving. You just do it. Those are habits. You’re not an honest person unless you are habitually honest. You’re not faithful to your spouse if you’re only faithful 98% of the time.

For 2,000 years Christians have been developing good habits. We often call them spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, quiet time, Bible study, solitude, fasting, service, journaling, etc. These are building blocks of spiritual growth. Not many believers have been to a boot camp for spiritual growth because. We just did not know that we needed it.

9. Real change changes others. A lot of people come to marriage counseling and say they wanted to change their spouse, when what they really needed to do was change themselves. You can only change someone else by changing yourself. When you change, you force the other person to change because they can’t respond to you the same old way. When God changes you, he’ll use you to change others.

How do you know someone’s life has been changed by God and they’re spiritually mature? You know the same way that you know if someone is physically mature – reproduction. Spiritually mature people reproduce. As people experience real life change, they’ll help others find the same hope.

God says life is a choice. Jesus says, “I came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). Life is a choice, but most people are just existing. They get up in the morning, go to work, come home, watch TV, and go to bed. Then they get up in the morning, go to work, come home, watch TV, and go to bed… over and over, repeating that same pattern. One day they wake up and realize there is more to this life than just existing!

The kind of life that God wants us to have is not automatic. Spiritual growth is not automatic. You have to make choices to help yourself grow.

Set Apart or Living Like the World?

Why is it that some people who are actively a part of the church seem to make such poor choices in their lives? I’m talking about choices that are not only conduct unbecoming a follower of Christ but could very well be illegal in some cases. We all have good intentions, but the fact is, good intentions are never good enough. We need to emphasize life change. My Sunday Bible study class recently finished a study on real life change… the churchy word is transformation (Romans 12:2).

The kind of change that God wants to see in a believer’s life does not happen by an act of will. We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups that keep us from being everything that God wants us to be. We won’t change simply by trying harder.

The Bible says, “If the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free” (John 8:36) but if you look around our church, a lot of people are sitting around in chains. We’re not living free. You may have been a believer for 20 years, or a teenager who is new in the faith, but many people still have the same habits, the same struggles, and the same worldliness and values that everyone outside the church does. People are simply not growing into the likeness of Christ.

We often feel like Paul when he writes about his struggle with sin (Romans 7:15, 18-19, 23, 24). I believe that all of us can identify with that. In every human being there’s a civil war going on inside – between what is good and what is bad, between God and the enemy. The changes that God wants to see happen in your life, and those of our congregation, are going to take more than desire, determination and a prayer.

Just attending church isn’t the answer. Plenty of people who attend our church are not living lives worthy of the calling of Christ (Ephesians 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:11). I’ve been around church people most of my life, and I have come to realize that there are many people who had been in church for years who are just as envious, just as angry, just as sinful, and just as worldly as everyone else. The church doesn’t change you on the inside.

According to Paul, he discovered how to experience real life change (Romans 7:25). Paul’s answer for life change is the same for all of us sitting in church each weekend. He says, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

As cliché as it sounds, Jesus really is the answer. Believers are to live in such a way as to show people how Jesus brings about lasting change. How should a believer’s life change because of a relationship with Christ? Have you ever thought about actually living out the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)?

It’s not enough to just capitulate, go along with the crowd and claim that living the Christ life is too hard. Worse yet, how many people around us want to believe the facts about Christ, secure their fire insurance, but have no intention of growing in the likeness of Christ? If we claim the name of Christ, we must also seek to live the life of Christ. It doesn’t happen overnight, but we must strive toward Christ likeness as our goal.

At KGBC, we seek to “Know Christ and Make Him Known.” It is impossible to make Him known if we really don’t know Him. If we don’t strive to live in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7) how can we claim to be His follower? Every day we wake up and have to make a choice; will I live for Christ or live like those who are lost without Him?

How to Guide Your Destiny

When I taught at Hargrave Military Academy, I remember the chaplain had a great saying regarding character and destiny (a quote from Frank Outlaw):

  1. Watch your thoughts, they become words.
  2. Watch your words, they become actions.
  3. Watch your actions, they become habits.
  4. Watch your habits, they become character.
  5. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

These are not only wise words for developing strong character and leadership in young men and women, but also for anyone desiring to make a difference in business, school, marriage, and life.

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God’s Spiritual Training Program

My Bible study class is discussing Chip Ingram’s book, The Miracle of Life Change. These few pages are my notes for that class.

Personal Integrity:

Without this area under control, there is no hope for personal transformation. This is what we are to do in this area (Ephesians 4:24-25):

  1. Put off – falsehood
  2. Renew – recognition of shared membership in the body (Ephesians 4:15, 25); the reason
  3. Put on – truthful speech

What do you put off and put on when you train for honesty (Psalm 15:1-5)? Start with little things, like little white lies and exaggerations. Curb the tendency to bend the truth. Chip mentions that we are to “practice confession.” Knowing you will have to go back and apologize might keep us from lying in the first place.

Emotional Control:

This area involves anger (Ephesians 4:26-27, James 1:19-20). There is an anger that does not lead to sin, but anger expressed will often lead to sinful behavior. Uncontrolled anger gives the devil an opportunity. Couples may go to bed mad at each other and the emotion smolders. No one wakes in the morning thinking that yesterday was fine, but today I think I’ll go and wreck my marriage with an affair. But that is how adultery starts, usually with unresolved anger. Chip called this anger vision, when everything she does sets you off and reinforces the reason you’re angry in the first place. Unresolved anger hardens the heart.

  1. Put off – anger that leads to offense and sin
  2. Renew – recognition of dangers that lead to retaining anger
  3. Put on – appropriate expressions of anger

Chip mentioned using “I feel” statements to identify the emotions and talk about the situation. Write the feelings on index cards… I feel angry when you… I feel hurt when you… I feel isolated when you… I feel left out when you…

Financial Stewardship: Work Ethic

Many people grow up with a poor work ethic: go in as late as possible, leave as early as possible, get as little done as possible and get paid as much as possible. Unless you’re the owner, then it’s go in before dawn, stay late because work is all there is. Paul tells them to steal no longer (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a hypothetical situation.

The idea here is that people always seek a short cut, and this mentality affects all areas of life. As an oak tree, things that grow well and last grow slowly. How is you work ethic (Colossians 3:23-24)?

  1. Put off – stealing
  2. Renew – think differently about your work ethic
  3. Put on – work

Diligence (Colossians 3:22) is a quality that comes from good mentors. A work ethic is caught not taught.

Positive Speech:

This area involves the tongue (Ephesians 4:29-30). It can give grace to those who hear, and it can also grieve the Holy Spirit. Words can be positive and negative influences (Proverbs 10:11, 15:1-4, 16:24, 27-28). How’s your speech? Recognize the power of words, that in them can be life or death (Proverbs 18:21), what comes out of the mouth can make or break a person’s day.

The heart is at stake (Luke 6:45) because if you really want to know what is in the heart of a person, listen to what comes out of his mouth. Examine your speech (James 3:2) and remember these haunting words of Jesus (Matthew 12:36).

  1. Put off – negative speech
  2. Renew – give grace to others and avoid grieving the Holy Spirit
  3. Put on – positive, encouraging speech

We ought to practice silence and solitude, get away on a retreat to allow God to transform your mind and practice talking less (Proverbs 10:19).

Holy Positive Attitudes:

This area deals with forgiveness. The putting off involves six different attitudes (Ephesians 4:31) embodied in hate:

  1. Bitterness – deep-seated resentments
  2. Rage – a blow-up type of anger
  3. Anger – describes resentment and negativity that permeates all of life
  4. Brawling (clamor) – shorting and baiting that incites violence
  5. Slander – involves stealth anger, defaming another person
  6. Malice – an evil intent that lies behind the other five

We are to put on three other attitudes (Ephesians 4:32) embodied in love:

  1. Kindness – practice on treating others the way you want to be treated
  2. Compassionate – one that deep down reaches out to help others in need
  3. Forgiving each other – being Christ like, responding to others like Jesus would

Practice the Matthew 5:24 principle. Forget who’s responsible and take responsibility for your own part. After all is said and done, track your progress, others will be (Philippians 1:6, 1 Timothy 4:15). Renew your attitudes to allow God to transform your life.

Why is Living This Life so Difficult?

My Bible study class is discussing Chip Ingram’s book, The Miracle of Life Change. These few pages are my notes for that class.

Ephesians 4:17-24

A believer whose life does not change is an oxymoron; so you best go back and discover if you’re really a Christian. Ephesians 4:17-24 uses strong language: insist and must. Don’t live like the rest of the pagan world, in futility of mind (vain, aimless purposeless, and totally unrelated to God). What does the futility of an unbelieving mind look like (Ephesians 4:18)? What does it mean to live with a darkened heart (Ephesians 4:19)?

It doesn’t make sense for those who know Christ to live as those who do not know Christ. These people have basically stiff-armed God. If you are born again, you are a new creation. Did you understand from the beginning that coming to Jesus would involve a radical life change? If not, do you see it now?

Paul says you heard of Him and were taught in Him (Ephesians 4:21). How can you fall back into the same old immoral lifestyle? The challenge is to put off the old self, renew your mind, and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Life Characterized by Moral Purity:

Paul insists that we must live a holy life, characterized by purity. It’s not an option. Change doesn’t happen to earn God’s favor, but because of who you are and whose you are (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). How then should you live?

A closer look at Ephesians 4:17-19 allows us to see what we are to avoid:

  1. Command: each phrase describes how the Gentiles live. Futility of thinking, darkened understanding, separated from God.
  2. State: a position of those not in Christ, their condition, mentally and spiritually blind.
  3. Reasons: here’s the “why” question; because of ignorance within them, and hardening of their hearts. It’s not intellectual ignorance but spiritual ignorance. Their hearts are like petrified wood.
  4. Applied results: loss of sensitivity, sensuality, every kind of impurity, and a lust for more. Think of a calloused hand, and transfer that to the heart.

Compare these persons as to what they did and did not do, and what they consequently became (2 Chronicles 36:11-13, Nehemiah 9:16-17, Zechariah 7:11-12.

An Immoral Lifestyle is Inconceivable for Believers:

God wants to save us from our destructive patterns that breaks His heart, embarrasses His family and destroys His people (you). We generally find ourselves rationalizing and compromising. The reasons:

It contradicts who we are: we are not what we used to be. Who are you now and what have you become (2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1)?

It contradicts who Christ is: you’ve heard of Him and have been taught and immorality is not what Jesus is all about! The rare phrase “in Jesus” is a historical term. You know what Jesus did on earth. He was not some evil person, but one who lives a sinless and perfect life for all to see. Now live it out: love, be salt and light, experience peace. Remember what first attracted you to Christ. What keeps you in Christ now? A good moral life is simply a natural by-product and reflection of a genuine relationship with God.

The Morphing Process: How to Break from the old Life

According to Ephesians 4:22-24, there are three steps:

Put off the old (Ephesians 4:22, the past): this points to a specific decision in time when you got started in Christ. The most miserable people on the planet are believes stuck in the old life, overshadowed by guilt and shame. They don’t enjoy the sin any long but are slaves to it. Sin affects our fellowship with God and hinders our prayer life. They are fake and superficial. (see Colossians 3:5-10).

Be renewed in the mind (Ephesians 4:23, the present): like a computer that needs to be reprogrammed, Christians need to be involved in discipleship. The commands here are given in second person plural, meaning that we are not supposed to do this alone, but in community. What actions are you taking to renew your mind?

Put on the new self (Ephesians 4:24, the future): live with a new orientation, Christ becoming the central aspect of all you are and intend to accomplish. List the specific clothes that Paul commands us to put on (Colossians 3:12-15).

Application Questions

  1. In what areas of your life did God convict you personally as you thought about putting off the old self?
  2. Where is your life not holy?
  3. In what ways do your thinking actions, speech and attitudes reflect a new you?
  4. What will you do with the threefold principles of transformation?
    1. What will you put off?
    2. How will you renew your mind?
    3. What will you put on… specific behaviors or actions?

God’s Game Plan

My Bible study class is discussing Chip Ingram’s book, The Miracle of Life Change. These few pages are my notes for that class.

Leaders are Gifted to Equip God’s People:

How does one put into practice that which is learned? We will continue in Ephesians 4:11-13, which details God’s design for the church. If we don’t understand what God has designed for the church, we will never be able to tap into the grace that is available there.

Apostles: originally given to someone who received a divine commission, to be sent out, like on a mission from God. It was for those who had been eyewitnesses to the risen Christ and received a divine commission. Today it usually describe those called to start new work; like pioneers and church planters, maintaining the goal of spreading the message.

Prophets: What illustration does Paul use to describe the church (Ephesians 2:19-21)? What is the foundation? A prophet was someone who communicated God’s truth with power, and people’s lives changed because of it. It’s no longer foretelling the future and receiving new revelation from God, but forth-telling a message and proclaiming God Words to others. Prophets today clarify and present the truth of Scripture in a culturally relevant manner.

Evangelists: this is a supernatural ability to share the gospel with others that motivates them to respond. We all have the task of evangelism, but some people have the gift.

Pastors and Teachers: these tend to go together. A pastor is a shepherd, giving oversight, feeding, caring for and giving direction to the faithful. A teacher is someone who communicates God’s truth in a systematic way.

Leadership: Think about what you believer is the role of church leaders today. The actual role of leadership is to equip the saints for the work of ministry! Equip means to restore. Like a compound bone fracture being put back into alignment, or fishermen mending their nets.

Every Member is a Minister:

According to Ephesians 4:12, what is the reason leaders equip and train God’s people? “Works of service” really means ministry. Ministers are just regular people, not just the paid staff at a church. Remember that you have been given a spiritual gift to be used in the service of the kingdom (Ephesians 4:8). So every member of the church is a minister of Christ. You were sealed, adopted and forgiven (Ephesians 4:13-14) and now the task is to discover and practice your gift.

Ministries are to Help Believers Live as Jesus Would Live:

What is the goal of equipping the saints? (Ephesians 4:13)

Until they attain the unity of faith: being connected to the body of Christ. Not just connected by proper theology, but by sharing a common life.

Until they attain the knowledge of the Son of God: knowledge here is ginosko, meaning to know by experience. The word also has a prefix, epiginosko, meaning a deep, personal, intimate knowing. Paul desired to know Christ (Philippians 3:7-10).

Until they become mature: the word is teleios, which we get telescope, referring to a design or pattern. You are designed to become a new person in Christ.

Until they attain the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ: God’s standard is maturity, conforming to the image of Christ.

Here is a passage on maturity – Hebrews 5:11-14.

How to Know if You’re Morphing:

If we are not morphing, or transforming, I dare say we are simply going through religious motions. In Ephesians 4:14-16, we are given a way to measure our transformation, sort of a litmus test on how we’re doing.

Doctrinal Stability (Ephesians 4:14): do you have a settled knowledge of God’s Word? There are a few verses that describe the actions of a doctrinally stable believer (Romans 16:17-18, Colossians 2:8, 1 John 4:1-3).

Authentic Relationships (Ephesians 4:15): a commitment to both people and the truth, to tell it not only when it is convenient or when it works for you. Do you have people in your life to whom you speak the truth in love, and that speak the truth in love to you? (Proverbs 27:5-6).

Full Participation (Ephesians 4:16): coming from the words whole, every and each. Individual parts being held together, like the construction of two boards with a hinge. The body of Christ depends upon you, and you depend upon the body of Christ. You do not just look out for your own needs, but for others.

Growing Capacity for Love (Ephesians 4:16): Paul uses the term agape, which is God’s sort of love; unconditional, I love you anyway. It’s not an emotional response but a supernatural love.

Diagnostic Tool:

Rate yourself, or let a friend do it for you, on these statements:

  1. I am currently involved in activities and training that are equipping me to do the work of ministry.
  2. I am currently participating in intentional, meaningful, biblical worship on a regular basis.
  3. I am currently in an apprentice or mentoring relationship with an older believer that is stimulating my spiritual growth.
  4. I am currently ministering and building into the lives of others
  5. I am becoming more like Jesus in my everyday life, evidenced by a desire to read the Bible, disciplined study, and the ability to recognize false teaching.
  6. I am currently more like Jesus in everyday life, as evidenced by enjoying deep authentic relationships in Christ.
  7. I am currently in a small group where speaking the truth in love is common, and personal accountability is expected.
  8. I am currently becoming more like Christ in everyday life, as evidenced by a desire to become deeply committed to God’s people, to worship, to learning, to serving, to meeting needs; a clear sense of where I fit into the body of Christ; and I am loved by others.

Where Do We Get the Power to Morph?

My Bible study class is discussing Chip Ingram’s book, The Miracle of Life Change. These few pages are my notes for that class.

Life-change Begins with Truth:

We are continuing in Ephesians 4:7-10. We often think that life-change begins with our experience, but it actually begins with truth (John 17:17). Jesus said that He wants us to reflect who They are and what They’re like.

Jesus even had a group of early believers (John 8:31-32). Think about how many Christians you know who are truly free. Are they really free from all the old habits they struggle with? Free of anger outbursts, free of lust; really living in a loving and authentic way? The truth underlying or relationship with Christ is that the power of sin has been broken… we don’t have to sin (Philippians 2:13, 1 John 4:4). Believers are free, forgiven and secure; the truth is that sin is defeat and you are free.

Life-change Demands that We Act on the Truth:

This action goes by the title, “faith.” Remember that there is a process of holy transformation, and it is not enough to just simply know the truth. Here are great passages about faith (Romans 1:16-17, 4:2-3, 18:21, 5:1-2, 10:17, Hebrews 11:6, 1 Peter 1:6-9, 1 John 5:4-5).

Many people think the Christian life is primarily about morality; do more good deeds than bad deeds. People want to act Christianly. It comes down to a list of “shoulds” and “oughts,” rules and guilt. People need transformation.

Life-change is Both a Gift and a Responsibility:

Even when we intellectually believe the right stuff about Jesus, we usually experience very little genuine change. This is active and passive. Passive in that we are given a gift, active in that we have a responsibility to act.

The gift of grace: we see both in the life of Paul (Romans 1:5-6). This is the gift that helps believers to morph (Ephesians 4:7). This grace gift is really a spiritual gift. The word gift has to do with our capacity for service; spiritual gift has to do with the area of service. Every believer has a spiritual gift. Only God can bring about life-change, but He never does it alone; it is done in the context of community. Change comes by grace and not self-effort (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). We’ve been given a gift and it is our responsibility to use it for God’s glory.

The Team Together:

The church functions together by using individual parts. Gifts are described in Ephesians 4:11. The purpose of these gifts are given in Ephesians 4:12-13. Leaders equip (or prepare others) for service. Christians are to become mature, like Christ, reaching full potential, working in ministry, thinking like Jesus, loving like Jesus, responding to enemies like Jesus.

The next three verses provide a clear-cut description of what maturity looks like (Ephesians 4:14-15).

Four Tests of Spiritual Maturity:

Check these out when determining your maturity ion Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15).

  1. Can you handle the Scriptures well enough to spot false teachers and trendy religion?
  2. Do you have the ability to speak the truth in love?
  3. Are you fitted with a spiritual gift? Do you know and use your gift?
  4. Do you have an ever expanding love for God and others?

Three Reasons We Fail to Morph

My Bible study class is discussing Chip Ingram’s book, The Miracle of Life Change. These few pages are my notes for that class.

Spiritual Ignorance:

Many people don’t understand their identity in Christ, or what it means to be in Christ. Here are some theological words regarding salvation:

Justification: this is what happened when we first came to Christ (Acts 13:39, Romans 3:24, 28, 4:25, Galatians 2:16-17, Titus 3:7). Our debt column now has “paid in full” written across all the entries. Righteousness was imputed or deposited into our account. It’s grace, getting what we don’t deserve.

Sanctification: this is being set apart for a purpose (John 17:17, Romans 15:16, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:23). We can be set apart and transformed into the likeness of the Son (Romans 8:29). This also involves walking by faith. We need to be the master of the contents and doctrines of the Bible. We need daily and systematic reading of the Bible, becoming a part of a small group, memorizing Scripture so that we will not sin against God. I like this tip for getting God’s Word on your hand and in your heart:

Hear it – faith comes by hearing.

Examine it – make sure what it says, look for words and phrases, and meanings.

Analyze it – find other places that teach the same truths, dig in to the text.

Remember it – memorization is a good thing, to help transform the mind, attitude and behavior.

Think about it – meditation is a positive step, to really dwell on the teachings and how God is speaking to you.

Spiritual Isolation:

A butterfly transforms in isolation while a believer transforms in community. Mark 3:13-14 is a key life verse for me, we are to first be with Jesus, then be sent out on a mission. Other verses on transformation in community are Acts 2:44-47, Romans 12:15, Galatians 6:1-2, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24, James 5:16).

Spiritual Myopia:

We often fail to see the magnitude of what is at stake in our relationship with Christ. Myopia causes us to not see clearly. This is subtle, because we feel it is no one’s business but mine. But people wonder if the church is real, we are the billboard for Christ that people see everyday. What is your hindrance (of these three so far)? The issue is not if Christianity works for someone, but whether or not we will be obedient to the holy, omnipresent, all-powerful God who’s got a plan for the planet and for us.

Facing Our Biggest Challenge:

What keeps us from morphing? It’s easy – sin (Romans 6:1-4). How do you deal with the sin problem? In Ephesians 4:7-10, Paul is teaching that breaking the power and penalty of sin demands a clear understanding of what it means to die with Christ. He explains what Jesus was doing between the crucifixion and the resurrection. After all, is death punctuated with a period or a comma (John 12:24-25)?

A Glimpse Beyond the Grave:

In Ephesians 4:7-10, circle the words grace, gift and therefore. In Ephesians 4:8, Paul quotes an obscure passage about leading captives and giving gifts to men. Eventually we understand about spiritual giftedness, but the captives are interesting.

What Christ did there: Christ came in power to free the captives. It is a picture of a conquering king riding back on a white horse leading the captives, who would become slaves, these trophies of war. The word is triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). Wagons loads of the spoils of war followed. Once the king arrived, the next order of business was to divide the spoils. These gifts were a reminder of a great victory over an enemy. Jesus reminds us of the reason He won the battle, over sin and death, and these gifts were proof of that victory.

Where He did it: The “lower parts” refers to sheol, which is a place of the dead. All those who died went there, the righteous and the wicked, all men being made equal. It was not until Jesus time that there became a paradise and a place of torment. Luke 16:19-31 has a story that illustrates what Jesus accomplished on the cross. 1 Peter 3:18-19 tells us where Jesus was while He was in the grave. He went to the punishment compartment and preached, not a message of salvation for the hearers, but a proclamation or royal announcement of victory.

1 Peter 4:6 mentions Jesus preaching to the faithful of God in the Old Testament. This word is different than in 1 Peter 3:19, it is the word for gospel, the good news. He visited paradise to inform and confirm the faith of Old Testament saints.

Why Christ did it: That He might fulfill all things (Ephesians 4:10). He established His right to reclaim creation. He declared the defeat of sin and death. He provided the basis for spiritual freedom and transformation. To be transformed we must die with Christ.

It’s Morphing Time

My Bible study class is discussing Chip Ingram’s book, The Miracle of Life Change. These few pages are my notes for that class.

The Call: (Romans 12:2)

The key word here is transformation, metamorphoo, something that is passive rather than active in our lives. “Be transformed” by the renewing of your mind. We don’t transform ourselves. Morphing is expected, normal, possible and even commanded.

Paul gives instruction about this transformation (Ephesians 4:1). He wants our life to match who you are in Christ. “Worthy” describes the way we are to walk, or live. Transformation is the basis of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8). We were once dead but are now alive in Christ.

The Process:

Transformation does not begin with activities, it begins with relationships. Here’s Paul’s outline for holy transformation (Ephesians 4:2-3): humility, gentleness, patience and bearing one another. Natural morphing takes place in secret, like in a cocoon, but spiritual transformation takes place in community (Ephesians 2:19-22, Hebrews 10:25).

Four Attitudes:

These attitudes create life transformation:

Humility: to have an accurate view of yourself, no having a low view of yourself (Romans 12:3). Relationships must focus on others rather than yourself – servanthood is a good summary.

Gentleness: to be considerate, power under restraint or control (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Are we willing to give up our rights, not impress others, and not fight for approval?

Patience: to be steadfast and strong in suffering, like a long fuse before you get angry. Those who get made are defending their rights, don’t really like themselves, and are insecure.

Bearing one another: to put up with other people, their quirks, failures and idiosyncrasies.

Why Morphing Matters:

The Bible doesn’t order us to achieve unity, only that we maintain it (Ephesians 4:3). We must practice godly things even when we don’t feel like doing it. Like-change is about becoming more like Christ, becoming clear on seven things (Ephesians 4:4-6). Morphing is imperative.

What Unity Looks Like:

Unity can be describe as the “one” in each phrase (Ephesians 4:4-6). Notice each member of the Trinity receives special attention. “One” emphasizes unity; “all” emphasized inclusion.

  1. The first triad refers to us, the church (body, Spirit, hope) – the Spirit allows us to have many things in common.
  2. The second triad refers to the Son (Lord, faith, baptism) – baptism being our shared identity in Christ.
  3. The third triad refers to the one God and Father of all (like a sovereign summary) beginning with the unity of God, the Spirit leads through the lordship of Christ, to the sovereignty of God the Father.

The likeness of Christ is not just an agenda that God has for us as individuals, but a plan for His church and for the world.