Monday, November 8, 2010

Conformed to Transformed, Part III

The definitions of our life are manifested through our actions – this includes our reactions. The foundation of our expectations is betrayed by how we respond to the hurts and disappointments of this life. Are our expectations grounded in truth or are they motivated by a desire for our own way? Are we consistently coveting a different scenario than the one that God has allowed in our life? Though our covetous flesh will not die graciously, God’s gracious provision of truth can conquer our selfish motivations.

II Peter 1:3-4 tells us that the divine power of God, through Jesus Christ, “…has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (NASB)

A life built upon the deception of self-gratification is a life conformed to the world, but a life built upon the true knowledge of God is a transformed life.

As we fill our minds with truth, the definitions of our life -- our very belief-structure -- will be rebuilt. To say our belief-structure is being rebuilt is another way of describing the renewal of our minds. The rebuilding of our belief-structure (renewing of our minds) is the practical process of realigning our thoughts with God’s truth.

Realigning ourselves with God’s truth is a constant process. The moment our expectations show any sign of covetousness, we must realign ourselves with the truth of God’s Word. If we are consistently in God’s Word, the Spirit will begin to bring truth to our minds, but these moments will be equally filled with the bombardment of self-gratifying and self-defending thoughts. It is right then that we need to stop and realign ourselves with God’s truth.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a perfect outline to help with the realigning process, it says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NASB)

I cannot tell you how much these verses have helped me.  As a child, I memorized these verses. I know them as well as my own name, but they have not always impacted me as they do now.  When the phrase in all your ways acknowledge Him really sunk into my heart, it changed everything for me.  A light bulb went off in my head:  In order to acknowledge God above my own understanding, my feelings, emotions, expectations, motivations, and intuitions need to be realigned with God's truth.

II Corinthians 10:5 describes the realigning process in a powerful way.  It says that "arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" need to be demolished and every thought needs to be taken captive that it might be obedient to Christ.

To acknowledge God above my own understanding is not a natural inclination, it is a deliberate action.

The first step toward realignment is to recognize thoughts that are not based upon God's truth.  Am I coveting a different scenario than the one God has allowed?  What is fueling my actions and reactions, fleshly expectations and motivations or God's truth?   As soon as a faulty thought process is recognized, admit that in this moment, your path, or thought, is not straight; it is filled with distraction and deception rather than being focused on truth.

The second step is to ask Christ to be your support; tell Him that you do not want your own understanding, emotions or feelings to be your source of support. Ask the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul to help you trust Him.

Finally, acknowledge God’s truth and dwell on His character. Allow yourself to praise Him, not only for who He is, but also for what He is going to do through you. Speak His Word to yourself and to Him.

For instance, when someone has done or said something hurtful, my automatic reaction is not one of love and understanding.  I want to defend myself.  Sometimes, I pull away, shrinking inside myself rather than reaching out in kindness.  Other times, I want to lash out and say something hurtful in return.  But I have come to understand that the Lord wants me to stop and allow Him to take control of my thoughts so that He can reign in my actions.  I am learning to stop and talk to Him before I render any kind of response.

I will often pray something like this: Lord, I know that your Word says that your plans for me are good, but right now this situation hurts – it feels evil – yet, I know that even when others mean something as evil, your intentions toward me are good. You are faithful. I, too, want to be faithful to you. I want your beauty and faithfulness to be on display rather than my selfishness. I trust what you have allowed. I know that this situation is an opportunity to portray truth. You are my Lord and I bow to what you desire to do in and through me. May your truth reign in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

No matter the scenario, as soon as I surrender my thoughts to Christ, submitting to His truth over my own way, my focus is shifted and the bombardment of the moment begins to diminish. By acknowledging God’s way as the only right way, I am declaring the Lordship and authority of Christ over my heart. Self-preservation is no longer my objective; rather my aim is that Christ's truth be evidenced through my life.

Though this realigning process is constant and deliberate, it is not about perfection. Perfection is not the goal, nor is it attainable on this earth. Realignment is about Christ-mindedness which produces Christ-likeness.

When God-appointed words flow from my lips, when forgiveness is freely given, when grace is offered instead of judgment, when joy and praise fill my heart though illness overtakes my body -- this is glorious transformation.  Though I have done nothing to deserve such a priceless inheritance, in Christ, it is mine.