Beyond Conversion - 1

by Tim Isbell, September 2017

The Personal Journey Toward Christlikeness

In conversion, the Holy Spirit leads us to confess our rejection of the Creator’s path for us, receive forgiveness through Jesus, and begin following Jesus into the future. Saint Paul offers this perspective on conversion:

Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ, you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.
Galatians 3:23-27 The Message (MSG)

One way to understand the Christian life is the Family Metaphor: God the Father adopts us into his family where Jesus is our elder brother and the Holy Spirit lives within us as our guide. This Trinitarian family re-parents us, along with other adopted sisters and brothers, so that we increasingly exhibit the family characteristics. In particular, our hearts grow to beat more and more like Jesus’ heart, where sorrow and love flow mingled down. Our part is to respond daily to the Spirit’s urges to keep Jesus at our center.

God created us in his image, including with the freedom to choose. Even after conversion and throughout all earthly life, our humanness and surroundings tempt us to replace Jesus with someone or something else at our center. The Spirit notifies us when we stray. Our knee-jerk strategy is to apply willpower to get back on course. This seems so right, but it is so wrong because it puts self back at our center!

Here's God's redemptive loop strategy: First, remember that despite our slip, Jesus' sorrow and love flow mingled down to us again. With that in mind, we humbly confess, offer gratitude for God’s continuing grace, and invite Jesus back into our center. Second, we stand up and start moving forward again. This sequence seems counter-intuitive but it's the key to growing in Christlikeness.

Each pass around God's redemptive loop leads us deeper into intimacy with Jesus, where our hearts beat increasingly like his heart. Over time, we grow beyond the parent-child relationship of the Family Metaphor. Some of us experience this deeper life as an intimate brotherly love such as Jonathan had for David, or the sisterly love such as Ruth had for Naomi. Others experience this as an intimacy such as described in the Nuptial (Marriage) Metaphor.

Friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors begin to notice something different - and oddly attractive - about us. Some ask us to explain the reason for the difference, and then we can gently and respectfully share with them the good news of life with Jesus at the center.

Caution: Living in the deeper life's Freedom in Christ rarely offends secular people, but it can offend religious people. The New Testament tells of religious leaders attacking Jesus for breaking their religious laws when, in fact, he was doing a more redemptive thing! Indeed, that’s why the religious leaders crucified him. So, as we follow Jesus, we can expect pushback from religious people. But we’re in good company: the company of Jesus.


Blessings,
Tim


Notes regarding future posts in this series. This post subtitled The Personal Journey Toward Christlikeness is one in a collection of web pages I intend to write about the process God uses to grow us up in Christian faith. Next, I intend to post a page on the "Marks of Christlikeness." Then I'll post Beyond Conversion - 2 on the Christian community dimension of life beyond conversion. And finally, Beyond Conversion - 3 will deal with the global implications of living beyond conversion as what Pope Francis calls custodians of "Our Common Home."

Note for those readers from the Nazarene tradition. Altogether, the Beyond Conversion collection will express my understanding of the proposed version of Nazarene Article of Faith X, historically labeled "Entire Sanctification."

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