Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The image of christ

Chapter 3 of Mulholland's book 'Invitation To A Journey' is on what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ.

He makes an interesting point on p. 37:
The process of being conformed to the image of Christ takes place primarily at the points of our unlikeness to Christ's image. God is present to us in the most destructive aspects of our cultural captivity. God is involved with us in the most imprisoning bondage of our brokenness. God meets us in those places of our lives that are most alienated from God. God is there, in grace, offering us the forgiveness, the cleansing, the liberation, the healing we need to begin the journey toward our wholeness and fulfillment in Christ.

But this can be uncomfortable. We would much rather have our spiritual formation focus on those places where we are pretty well along the way. How much of our devotional life and our worship are designed to affirm, for ourselves, others and perhaps even God, those areas of our lives that we think are already well along the way. In fact, may not such practices become a defense mechanism against the areas that are not yet conformed to the image of Christ?

If, indeed, the work of God's formation in us is the process of conforming us to the image of Christ, obviously it's going to take place at the points where we are not yet conformed to that image. This means that one of the first dynamics of holistic spiritual formation will be confrontation. Through some channel - the Scripture, worship, a word of proclamation, the agency of a brother or sister in Christ, even the agency of an unbeliever - the Spirit of God may probe some area in which we are not conformed to the image of Christ. That probing will always be confrontational, and it will always be a challenge and a call to us in our brokenness to come out of the brokenness into wholeness in Christ. But it will also be a costly call, because that brokenness is who we are.

Good stuff, isn't it? I believe a key is recognizing that God is with us from the beginning. We don't 'get ourselves right' and then come to God. We come to God and he 'helps us.'

I remember a church plant we helped with had as their slogan, "A safe place to try God." The idea was - God is going to confront us, and we need a safe place, and safe people, to help us deal with that. I liked that idea. I always kinda struggled with the slogan though.

And then this snippet on p. 38 about what it means to carry our cross... I don't think we often think of it like this:
Our cross is not that cantankerous person we have to deal with day by day. Our cross is not the employer we just can't get along with. Our cross is not that neighbor or work colleague who cuts across the grain in every single time of relationship. Nor is our cross the difficulties and infirmities that the flow of life brings to us beyond our control. Our cross is the point of our unlikeness to the image of Christ, where we must die to self in order to be raised by God into wholeness of life in the image of Christ right there at that point...

So the first step is confrontation, and then...
The second dynamic in holistic spiritual formation is consecration. We must come to the point of saying yes to God at each point of unlikeness. We must give God permission to do the work God wants to do with us right there, because transformation will not be forced upon us.

He sums up...
When we respond to the confrontation of the Spirit at the point of our brokenness with a consecration that allows God to do the work God wants to do, we begin to experience the reality of being conformed to the image of Christ.

As with the discussion yesterday on 'being' and 'doing'... I think order is important. I used to think most people were aware of the sin in their lives, but I'm not so sure anymore. And I think what we often do is we try to convince people they need to be consecrated - to surrender to God - and they have no idea why, because they've never been confronted with their sinfulness by God. A lot of people see the sin in others, but I'm just not so sure anymore if that many see it in themselves. I dunno.

I also think, again like yesterday, that we see being 'Christian' as just adding Jesus "on," rather than recognizing that there are some serious, fundamental changes that need made in our lives.

Innaresting stuff to wrestle with.