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Morphin’ Time…

October 11th, 2006

And now for something completely different. A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to teach a course for our church during our Wednesday night activities. The course is a video presentation based on John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted. Let me cut&paste a bit from the preface:

If you have ever been frustrated with the state of your spiritual life. If you’ve ever wondered why spiritual growth goes so slowly. If you’ve ever wondered if real change is possible. If you’ve ever felt confused or stuck in your spiritual life — you’re my kind of person.

Throughout the centuries, wise people have devoted themselves to following Jesus in this way. This series is an attempt to make some of that wisdom accessible to people who line in a world of freeways, corporate ladders and Xboxes. When you are through, my hope is that you will accept Christ’s invitation to live life his way because it truly is the live you’ve always wanted.

A facinating topic, to be sure. One that I’ve struggled with for much of my life. Spiritual maturity or growth is a weird thing. If anyone has a litany of things you must do to mature spiritually, run away, seriously. Not because a list of things to do is inherently bad, it just might be misdirected. These past few weeks in my daily reading of blogs, or studying for Sunday School, or just leafing through the book that goes along with the study, I’ve realized I’ve playing a bit on the fringes of my spirituality.

Its gonna get wordy, so if you’re interested click to continue reading.

One of the things I’ve read that brings the focus on the correct things is reading Phil Johnson‘s latest series of posts on the ‘Lordship Salvation’ debate. At his group blog Pyromaniacs, he is currently on part five of a series that explains his role in this evangelical imbroglio, and how he has embraced the idea of ‘lordship’ as opposed to ‘non-lordship’ salvation. An interesting read, and an engaging topic.

About five years ago, I was browsing the shelves at one of the local Christian book stores, trying to find my next book to read. It was one of those times in my life, that I chose (lead) to read almost exclusively Christian books, instead of popular novels, or distracting things. I was back in the fold, but didn’t know a lot about good Christian authors, with the exception of Max Lucado, or Phillip Yancey. So scanning the titles, I found quite a number of books written by John MacArthur. The kids were getting a bit rambuctious and I wanted to grab a book to read before I left on a mission trip to Alaska, so I pulled the one book title that grabbed me, The Gospel According to the Apostles, bought it and packed it away for my trip.

When I started reading it, I suddenly realized it was part two of a series that started with The Gospel According to Jesus, and I had plopped myself into a polemic series on this ‘Lordship Salvation’ doctrine. Which to John MacArthur and Phil Johnson, it isn’t a doctrine, it IS the gospel. Reading through this book, which I felt had holes I had to read through, because of references back and forth to advocates and opponents on this debate, I kept running into references to Charles Ryrie. The one bible I had at the time was a Charley Ryrie study bible, so there was some name recognition, but Ryrie was on the wrong side of this debate, as MacArthur genuinely crushed many of the things Ryrie had written about on the topic of spiritual transformation.

The jist of the debate, in my opinion, is what is the core of your salvation. If you focus on the time you said a prayer, or the time that you were baptised, or even the time you decided to turn your life around, then you may be focusing on the wrong thing. If you focus on Jesus as changing your life, Jesus as active in your life, Jesus as the author and finisher of your faith, then you are leaning in the right direction. Advocates of a ‘non-lordship’ (using Phil’s term) salvation have made an assertion that acceptance of salvation isn’t necessarily followed by spiritual transformation. That salvation may not have any effect on the person that you are, the habits that you keep, the outer behavior of your personality.

The ‘Lordship’ position is that salvation is grounded in transformation, that a true salvation becomes the stepping off point in a saved person, and from that moment on they are ‘being saved’, ‘being transformed’. That your person, countenance, behaviors will become subject to the will of Christ. This is grounded on the ‘P’ in the Calvinst TULIP that stands for ther Perservence of the Saints.

Phew… that was a long, but needed prelude to the things swimming through my mind. Because it really all comes down to the LORDship of Christ. If you haven’t submitted to his Lordship, you are blocking any chance at truely metamorphising spiritual change. I don’t want to get out on a limb and start questioning decisions, or salvation, because I believe that you can’t chart, or measure spiritual growth on a graph and make determinations of another person’s spiritual transformation. That becomes as erroroneous as using ‘tongues’ as a marker of the indwelling of the Spirit.

We should recognize that we should be growing spiritually. We should engage in friendships and relationships that encourage spiritual growth, and restrict or hinder spiritual apathy. In Messy Spirituality, the late Mike Yaconelli paints a wonderful picture about spiritual growth. That it doesn’t always appear as a straight line that trends upwards, that more often it is jagged and volitile, and we err a bit by attaching normal value labels to growth like good and bad, instead of nuetral labels like leading and resting.

John Ortberg (I have no idea which side he falls on the Lordship debate) illustrates this well in his defining the emptiness of what he calls spiritual markers. Using outward physical signs to determine how well people ‘fit’ into a culture. He uses the importance placed in first century times by the religous leaders on tithing, cleanliness and the sabbath. Illustrating this was how they exerted the dominance, by upholding these traits as sacred. He also illustrates Jesus outright condemnation of the practice, and how he didn’t focus on the outward appearance, but the inner heart problems of the people around him.

I think that is the essence of spiritual growth. If we are really wanting to see the life we’ve always wanted, we’d look at it through the lens of loving God and loving our neighbors. Not adherence to these outer spiritual markers that more often trip us up, or bind us tight. Do you love Jesus? Do you follow his commands (1 John 2)? Do you love your neighbors (1 J ohn 3)? Do you question who your neighbors are (Luke 10:29)?

I’m excited to be teaching this class. I’m excited to have my heart and mind quickened in reviewing this topic. I want to submit to Jesus’ will in the execution of this class, and hope any students can feel the same quickening in their spirit, as they begin or resume this wonderful metamorphis in Christ.

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