It was not God’s intention or God’s purpose for us to define our change by looking at our lives to see if we are over time acting more like Jesus in our character and in our participation in his mission. God’s targeted aim for our change is more deeply core and more central to our being than what is observed by any external markers of change or improvement. God’s aim (and the really good part within the Good News) is to establish within grace a beautiful, mysterious and uncomplicated union with our creator. That’s it! That’s our transformation – that’s our change. It says in the deepest and truest part of me, “I am wholly found within God through Christ”.
It is from a place of union within God that we come to know God for who God is, to know ourselves for who we are, and… we grow. Our transformation is about what is core to us (our being) and not periphery actions or deeds. Observable character traits and mission are just the periphery. Rather than becoming the markers used to reflect and evaluate our own and other people’s transformation, our character and participation in mission are better understood as the out-flowing fruit or natural outcome of our union.
The distinction here is subtle, but important. Union with God (or “communion” with God), far from being something we control and use to develop us, is more aptly described as what we are both entering and undergoing at God’s hand. We are in the process of becoming because of this union. Less importance then is given to exactly how much like Jesus we are becoming, and more given to that we are actually becoming. The former elevates the product and the latter elevates the process. (Note: I believe it is this process that is little understood and yet deeply needed in the church today – more on that in a later blog). Our role then is not to be about vigorously conforming our life and our mission to be like Christ (or vigorously calling others to do so), but rather it is only in faith willfully cooperating within communion with God and under-going change by this union.
Therefore, what matters most fundamentally to our transformation and understanding change is not what is externally visible and can be put out in front of others to see, but what is inward and unseen about us. Transformation, our change, is first and best understood by an internal reality – it is our continual desiring – our longing – for relationship with God that marks us. It occurs in setting our heart’s intention, our wills, to always be toward God and being within God. The important distinction is this: the driving force describing and tallying transformation is not our faithful obedience to good and true commands, rather, it is found in an internal desire… a sustaining attitude of having our wills always being turned and turning toward God – this is what marks the reality of the spirit of God within us and ultimately our true change and transformation. The one who controls the change is God, our responsibility is to continually posture ourselves to receive and cooperate.
In the midst of my successes and failures, triumphs and mistakes, it has been the continuous return to, and desiring for, that which is found within God that marks my change. It is always only in longing for what belongs to God and then again returning to God that in the end marks what transformation is all about. Our intentions and longing for what is good and right are therefore, in actuality, the only genuine marker for the Christian for how we are becoming like Jesus. Rather than being a the much maligned and pithy description of what marks “the road to hell”, or “the road to our own destruction”, intentions and desires are the one true lasting markers of our union with God”. This is what I believe the core of change is all about.
For years I had used the wrong metric for evaluating my own change. I looked too much outward and not to what is inward. My understanding of change needed to be replaced by a different quality of measurement altogether: transformation is a grace that is continually being received; it is an enduring love being entered and re-entered; it is an experience (ing) that I am now found always and only within God and always responding to the desire to return here.
The intention of my will is always only toward this end: that I am found within God and deeply long to live there. The only metric that matters is the relationship we are always being pointed back to – a mysterious and unseen relationship within God. This is a relationship that cannot be erased or changed. It is a relationship that cannot be altered; improved, nor does it decrease by any markers within our performance or achievement. It is in the end a relationship sustained by God within God – a relationship just like Jesus had with His Father.
So I guess in the end, I am like Jesus, not by what I had earlier practiced and believed, but by what I have been given, what I have been called to into, what I am desiring, and now experiencing with God while I am in this world. A blog like this often begs the question: How do we tend to our desires and how does our will get continually turned back to God? My final blog post in this series will be on “Turning our wills to God?”
Gracebridge Alliance seeks to support ministry leaders in tending to their interior life with God in the midst of the demands and challenges of ministry. If you personally related to the idea of not being like Jesus and still very much drawn to the idea of experiencing communion with God as a daily practice, I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment on this post or use the contact form to reach out to us. Thanks for reading.