Wednesday, December 1, 2010

God's Transforming Presence

Yesterday, while blogging through Dick Staub’s book The Culturally Savvy Christian, I wrote about the deep presence of God, and how we will only become deeply well when we experience the depth of God’s presence. Many of us seek to transform our culture, but we ourselves have not been transformed by God. In the next chapter of his book, Staub writes powerfully about the transforming presence of God.

Staub talks about his own journey with God, beginning, as many of us do, at a place of youthful zeal to transform the world. However, he eventually realized, “God wasn’t interested in transforming me so that I could transform the world; God wanted to transform me so that I could become fully human.” (92-3) The goal of transformation is to become fully human—that is, to be restored to the creature that God originally intended us to be, before we chose to rebel against him and exchanged our full humanity for a false divinity. The only one of us who has been fully human since Eden is, of course, Jesus.

“God’s transforming presence will change us, not so we can transform the world, but so we can experience God’s presence more deeply and be restored to God’s image more completely.” (93) The first thing that was ever true of you is that you were created in God’s image. Your being created in the image of God predates, and runs deeper, than your sin. This is why God is committed to your restoration, not your destruction. He wants to make you again what he made you before; and we know what that looks like because he sent his son into the world to show us not simply himself, but also ourselves. “Jesus did not come to make us better; he came to make us new.” (94)

“God’s original purpose is not our salvation or the evangelization of others; it is that we glorify God by reflecting God’s image through expression of the spiritual, intelligent, creative, moral, and relational capacities uniquely imprinted on humans.” (95) You are an image bearer of the one true God. Broken? Yes. Cracked? Yes. Beyond repair? No. God’s will for your life is not simply that you tell others about Jesus. (Though that is a part of it.) God’s will for your life is that you become fully human, that is, that you fully reflect his image in you by expressing those qualities that are unique to God’s image bearers: spirituality, intelligence, creativity, morality, relationship, and art. That we can sing and dance and pray to God and understand his ways and choose to lay down our lives for one another is truly remarkable! This is the image of God in you. These are the things that will become more evident in you as you are transformed by God’s deep presence.

Using Romans 12:1-3 as his guide, Staub lays out a process for the transformation to full humanity in three steps:

  1. “Restore God to the central place in your life by presenting your body as a living sacrifice.” (96)
    • “It is impossible to nurture God’s presence or to experience a personal transformation to our full humanity without acknowledging God’s centrality in each moment of each hour of each day.” (97)
  2. “Stop conforming to the world.” (97)
    • “Our minds have been squeezed into the mold of the thought patterns, beliefs, values, and behaviors of our fallen culture. …As we resist conformity, we will become highly sensitized to culture, recognizing the superficial, mindless diversions and seeing through the shallowness of celebrity.” (99)
  3. “Renew your mind.” (100)
    • “Most of us cannot recognize the contrast between the ideas and values that dominate our culture and those consistent with our faith, because our primary education has been in the ideas and values of our age and we remain illiterate about Jesus’ expectations for our life. …All the excitement about new paradigms, enthusiasm for relevance, and the sincere desire to transform church and culture will amount to nothing unless they are accompanied by the deep faith that produces transformed people.” (101-2)

Transformation is not about minding your manners or managing your sin or keeping all the mandates. God’s deep, loving presence transforms us into the image of Jesus, the one who was fully human, who perfectly reflected the image of his father.

In order to transform church and culture, you must be (and be being) transformed in God’s presence. He is with you every moment, and in every moment you can offer your body to him as a sacrifice that remains alive; in this way you will become fully alive! The world has a pattern, a mold, that it has squeezed you into. Break free from that mold by living in the presence of God, talking with him, hearing from him, obeying him. And, lastly, your mind must become new again. You must learn to discern the truth, because this culture is full of appealing and delicious lies.

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