How to Make Lasting Change

We are often perplexed on why we make commitments to change yet fall miserably short of success. One essential start is to make your life based on the Bible:

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” (John 8:31b NASB)

One cannot stress enough how important it is to make a commitment to reading the Bible regularly. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31b NASB). It’s a long-term commitment to learn from Jesus and his Word that makes us his disciples.

How do you continue in the Word and stay connected with Jesus through his Word for the long-term?

1. Make the decision. It starts with your commitment to actually do it. Don’t wait for a better time to make God’s Word a regular part of your life. Start your commitment today.

2. Make a declaration. Announce your intentions to others. Hold yourself accountable and allow yourself to be held accountable by others. If you keep your commitment to God a secret, it’s easier to slip up.

3. Make a determination. Don’t allow anything to knock you off your commitment. Absolute determination can make this a permanent habit in your life, particularly in the early months. If you start skipping days, it will be much harder to stay committed to God’s Word.

4. Double up. Get a spiritual partner to come alongside you for support and encouragement. This is someone with whom you can share what you learn in your quiet times. It could be someone in your small group, a friend, or a family member. The Bible says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT).

[print_link] [email_link] [Based on a devotion by Rick Warren]

Casting Vision

I was just today reading some information about VISION from Bruce Wilkinson, regarding Proverbs 29:18, which says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (or perish), But happy is he who keeps the law.”

Wilkinson mentions that meanings of the Hebrew meaning adds a lot to the understanding of the verse. The word for VISION never means a plan or a goal, but rather a “divine revelation” (the essence of our Bible, a record of God’s self-revelation of himself). The word used for PERISH never means to lose motivation, slip into apathy, or death, but rather, “to run without restraint into immorality.” So the better translation is “Where there is no Bible (taught correctly) the people will run without restraint into immorality.” It is little wonder why teaching the Bible is so important!

When it comes to making plans for the future, how do you cast a vision that will motivate people toward the great possibility of what you see? Here are four elements that we need to keep in mind, according to pastor Ronnie Floyd.

When you are casting vision, I think you need to filter it by ensuring the vision is:

Clear: Clarity around a vision is imperative. As the communicator, you have to be clear about your understanding of it. This is why writing the vision is also imperative. This written documentation is what you will return to again and again. Through a meticulous process, you learn how to communicate the vision clearly. When the vision is clear to you, you are more able to clearly communicate it to others.

Concrete: I think having a concrete vision means that you have a vision that is real and tangible. It is not about using language that no one understands or trying to impress others with great and extensive content. It is a vision that people can touch, feel, and become engaged in personally.

Concise: In today’s world it is really true: less is more. This is especially true when we cast a vision. It needs to be concise. It needs to be brief, free of too many details. You will go deeper into details so you know that you understand the vision; however, when you cast it before others, they just need to know the work is already done. You need to be on top of it, but remember you are breaking it down, not only so others can grasp it, but also for them to be able to communicate it to others. I will state it again: It is not about how much you share, but share enough for the people to have complete clarity.

Compelling: A compelling vision moves the people to action. As a servant-leader, you are God’s instrument to rally the people to a better future. You are there to lead them into a future where they would not go on their own.

To sum up, the vision has to be…

  1. Clear enough for them to understand
  2. Concrete enough for them to believe it is real
  3. Concise enough for them to communicate
  4. Compelling enough for them to own personally and enthusiastically

As the communicator of the vision, do your very best to be strong, believable, and capable of moving people into owning the vision enthusiastically. If the vision is going to capture their imagination and heart, moving them into the vision personally and enthusiastically, then the vision must be compelling.

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Our Part in Spiritual Formation

Here are several ways we develop our own character:

1. Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Formation:

  • Philippians 2:12, So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
    • You “work out” your salvation, you don’t “work for it.”
    • We must work out our salvation with fear & trembling. (see Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Once we experience salvation through Christ’s substitutionary death we are responsible to work out this new relationship/position in Christ with “fear & trembling.”  As we face new challenges, problems or temptations we are not to haphazardly devise a solution with little reflection on what God would want us to do. We are to approach this new life in Christ with “a healthy fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for Him (cf. Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Isaiah66:1-2).” MacArthur Study Bible

2. Start From the Outside In:

  • Matthew 23:25-26, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
  • Legalism – is an External Make-Over

3. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines:

  • 1 Tim.4:7b-8, On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
  • Spiritual disciplines (practices, habits) interrupt the flow of normal life in order to be open to God’s work in our lives. Disciplines of the Spirit:
    • Study of the Scriptures – reading, observing, interpreting, applying, meditating
    • Fasting
    • Solitude
    • Praying
    • Silence

4. Cultivate a Hunger for God’s Word:

  • 1 Peter 2:1, Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.
  • Why do some people grow when in the Word and others don’t grow as much?
    • Matthew 13:8 says –”And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” cp. Mark 4:8; Luke 8:8.
    • The answer to this question is found in Luke 8:15 “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
  • Luke provides the explanation for the different levels of growth and fruitfulness. Luke records Christ giving four steps to being good listeners that maximizes their time in the Word.
    • Step 1 is to have an honest heart. This word “honest” [Gr. kalos ] is the opposite of false-hearted, dishonest about self.
    • Step 2 is to make sure we have a good heart. The word “good” [Gr. agathos] Thayer’s Lexicon says – it means good in the sense of fertile soil, it denotes a soul inclined to goodness and accordingly eager to learn.
    • Step 3 is to “hold it fast” [Gr. katechousin – “cling to” the truths learned]. We are all prone to hear something and then forget it. Jesus is saying we need to hold on to it. For me this requires taking notes if I’m listening to a message, going over those notes during the week, memorizing a key verse from the passage.
    • Step 4 involves bearing “fruit with perseverance.” Fruit bearing takes time and perseverance [Gr. hupomone]. This requires life application, action steps, accountability, prayer and a lot of patience. The degree to which we apply these four steps will determine our fruitfulness.

5. Repent Over Your Sin:

The word repentance [Gr. metanoia] means “a change of mind.” An unbeliever must have a change of mind about their:

  1. “Sin” – Revelation 9:20, 21
  2. “God” – Acts 20:21
  3. “Dead works” – Hebrews 6:1

The biblical concept of repentance involves far more than merely a casual change of thinking. True repentance is always a turning from sin (1 Thessalonians 1:9), and it always results in changed behavior.

  • 2 Corinthians 12:20-21, For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. cf. 2 Corinthians 13:1-5
  • 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

There are seven marks of a believer that is truly repentant over their sin.

  1. “What earnestness” [Gr. spoude] denotes haste, diligence to try to change things in contrast to previous indifference.
  2. “What vindication of yourselves” [Gr. apologian] denotes an eagerness to clear oneself.
  3. “What indignation” [Gr. aganaktesin] denotes vexation or anger that they have troubled others with their sin
  4. “What fear” [Gr. phobon] denotes fear over God’s displeasure
  5. “What longing” [Gr. epipothesin] denotes yearning to see the matter rectified and relationships restored. Describes a person that will accept all the help he can get.
  6. “What zeal” [Gr. zelos] denotes a fervency or enthusiasm to do what is right.
  7. “What avenging of wrong” [Gr. ekdikesin] denotes a readiness to turn against oneself.

How does godly sorrow differ from worldly sorrow (2 Cor.7:10; Matt.27:3; 26:75)?

  • Judas had worldly sorrow; he felt remorse but it only led to his own suicide (Acts 1:18-20).
  • Peter wept bitterly after he denied the Lord and became extremely vocal about his faith to a lost and dying world.

6. Confess Your Sin & Seek God’s Parental Forgiveness:

  • 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

7. Obey God’s Word as You Learn It:

  • Philippians 2:12, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
  • Luke 6:46, Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
  • Luke 8:19-21, Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you… 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

8. Replace Old Habits with New Ones:

  • Ephesians 4:22, “…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

Examples

  • Ephesians 4:25, Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
  • Ephesians 4:28, He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
  • Ephesians 4:29, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

9. Place Yourself Under the Authority of a Local Church and Soul-Care of a Small Group Leader:

  • Heb.13:17, Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:10, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?

Place ourselves in a “face to face” environment where people are honest about our need to change.

  • Matthew 18:15-20, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

You need the “teeth of accountability”

10. Get an Accountability Partner:

  • Hebrews 3:13, But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
  • 2 Timothy 2:22, Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Write out your spiritual growth plan

11. Apply All Diligence in Developing Your Character:

2 Peter 1:5-7, Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love Diligence involves seeing the task of character development as a special assignment from the Lord and using all of your energy to accomplish it. (IBLP adapted)

Spiritual formation is a lifetime task

  • Philippians 3:12-16, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, ” I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
  • It’s a lifetime of work. The Apostle Paul was always pursuing this goal but was very conscious of the fact that he hadn’t arrived.

12. Our Progress Should be Measurable:

  • Ephesians 4:11-13, And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
    • Measurable Outcomes – Is formation occurring? What is your next step?
    • What bench marks have you set to measure your progress?
    • Marked by Love – Love for God & a Love for People
  • 2 Timothy 4:15-16, Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

What is Christian Character?

Just as Jesus sought to develop the character of the disciples, not just training them for the task of the Great Commission, we must develop character. It is destructive to have a believer’s competence larger than his character. So what is character?

1. Character Defined:

  • “Character is who you are when no one’s looking” – Bill Hybels
    • It is NOT the same as reputation – what other people think of us.
    • It is NOT the same as success or achievement.
    • It is NOT what we have done, but who we are.
  • The Greek word for character is charakter. It is translated in Scripture as the “express image.” One of God’s primary goals for believers is to transform them into the image of His Son so that they may be a reflection of the character of Christ. – Bill Gothard
  • According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, the word “originally denoted an engraver or engraving tool. Later it meant the impression itself, usually something engravers, cut in, or stamped, a character, letter, mark, [or] sign. This impression with its particular features was considered as the exact representation of the object whose image it bore.” In Hebrews 1:3, Christ is referred to as the “express image” of God; He fully expressed the character of God through His life.
  • We can take comfort in God’s purpose when we experience difficulties because “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
  • Character is the inward motivation to do what is right according to the highest standards of behavior in every situation.
  • Character consists of the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life that determine his or her responses, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Character is the wise response to the pressure of a difficult situation and what we do when we think that no one is watching. It is the predictor of good behavior.

2. Character Needs to be Added to our Lives:

  • 2 Peter 1:5-7, Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply (or add)  moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

3. Character Needs to Increase in Our Lives:

  • 2 Peter 1:8, For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; “for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.

4. Character Development Determines Our Maturity:

  • 1 Timothy 3:2-7, An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
  • 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13, Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach… 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
  • Titus 1:5-8, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
  • 1 Timothy 3:11, Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.

5. Character Deficiency:

  • 2 Peter 1:9-11, For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 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; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my 3 possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

6. Character is Rewarded:

  • 2 Peter 1:11, for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Dreams, Visions and Goal Setting

Dreams are wishes that seldom happen. Life does not hand you your dreams. Dreams can only become a reality when they become a part of your vision. The leader must do something about his dreams and vision. You must also cast your vision to others if your vision is big enough. If there is no vision, the people scatter (Proverbs 29:18).

Helen Keller said the most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.

Vision that is ready to go to work is called a goal. A great Scripture on reaching your goal is 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25. Dave Ramsey says that opportunity knocks at your door wearing overalls.

From your vision and goals to have long-term positive impact, they must include goals for: Career, Financial, Spiritual, Family, Intellectual, Physical, and Social. Imagine each area as a piece of the pie. Ziglar calls it the wheel of life.

Gossip: talking to someone about something or someone who is not in a position to fix it.

Plan on problems: you are employed to solve problem, or you are not needed.

Goals are bite-sized visions: Goals convert vision into energy. You cannot be vague with your goals. Do the activity that brings the results (like a salesman making 30 calls a week is the base line). You cannot reach the goal if you do not do the work.

Goals work SMART if they are:

  1. Specific: create precise behaviors and outcomes, linked to rate and frequency. Each objective must have only one desired outcome.
  2. Measurable: too “improve” is far too vague, mention steps toward the desired outcome.
  3. Achievable, and yours (not someone else’s goals): stretch, but make it reasonable.
  4. Results oriented: and in writing
  5. Time bound: when will the results be expected?

Break everything down into smaller parts and time frames.

For your team to have goals, you must have goals. Sharing goals and selling goals is called casting a vision. Shared goals create communication and unity. A positional leader pushes you into goals (go make your quota), while a servant leader pulls you into goals. Goals for a team are shared when they are developed together. Individual team members cannot have goals dictated to them; instead, help people to develop their own goals.

Management by objectives: when team members set goals within general company guidelines. Coach Carter (the movie) said that if you have no vision to college, you cannot win a national championship. Napoleon said that leaders are brokers of hope. Ziglar said that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.

We can spend a ridiculous amount of time avoiding the things that are outside of our comfort zones. The movie, Castaway, shows us there is a sin of losing time. Steven Covey (the 7 Habits guy) has an interesting matrix on establishing priorities:

If you don’t do Q2, you will always move to Q1. Recognize that you are being productive when you are in Q2. Scott Peck said that “until you value yourself, you cannot value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything about it.” Good verses (Proverbs 16:9, Isaiah 30:1). If the leader must ask “where do I start?” you have not broken the goal into measurable action plans (like if I want to drive home, what do I do first?).