GBC Email Update - January 26, 2023
Throughout 2023, I’m going to use our email update to periodically explore together the question:
How Does God Change Us?
This series will be helpfully informed by the book Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners by Dane Ortlund.
I want to explore this question together because it’s something we all feel . . . . the desire to grow, to change. But, then not seeing the growth and change we want. Our day-to-day and even year-over-year experience doesn’t often feel like growth, does it? Maybe you feel stagnant or stuck at the beginning of another year. You want to grow, to change in a particular area in your life. So, how do you actually change? More importantly, how does God change us?
2 Peter 3:18 talks about growth when it says,
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
How do we do that?
How does God actually change us?
By going deeper. Change is a matter of going deeper.
It’s like what C.S. Lewis said:
“The Christian life is simply a process of having your natural self-changed into a Christ self, and that this process goes on very far inside.”
That’s what many of us want, isn’t it? Deep sustainable change. Not just behavior modification, but real growth. Because superficial change only brings surface level growth.
To be changed, we must be changed in a deep kind of way. Growing in Christ is deepening. Real growth is from deep change. Growth in Christ fuels actual change. Ortlund writes: “Christian growth is bringing what you do and say and even feel into line with what, in fact, you already are.”
So, to experience actual growth, deepening change, we must grow in Christ. Only growth in Christ brings real deepening change. The change that “goes on very far inside.” The kind of change we long for.
As we explore our question together (How does God change us?), I want to set before us that maybe one reason why we don’t seem to experience growth in Jesus is because we have misconceptions about who Jesus is.
If we’re to grow in Christ, we must deeply know who Christ really is. Know him in his “diverse excellencies.” Know him for who the Bible says he is . . . . not who we feel he is. We need a real Jesus for real growth. It’s been said it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian. Amen! And, by implication, we can say it takes a whole Christ to make a whole Christian.
We must know the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). Not the Jesus we want to fit the frame we’ve placed him in. Know Jesus in his person. Know him relationally. Know him for who he says he is as tender and kind. As gentle and lowly (Matthew 11:28-30).
When I feel stuck, when I’m not changing where and how I want to, I get discouraged. I labor and am heavy laden in a Matthew 11:28-30 kind of way. This is probably true for you too. The eyes of my heart become self-focused, and I grow deeper inward bent upon myself. Laboring in my strength and my resources for the change I want. Inevitably feeling burdened. Exhausted. Maybe feeling misplaced shame more than I feel salvation. Hearing the feedback loop of my lack more than his fullness. Functionally, I’m pushing Jesus away to wallow in my stuckness. Then, worship decreases and anxiety and despondency build. Not an environment for real, deepening heart change.
Maybe you experience something similar. But, this is only a deepening in myself . . . . not a deepening in who Jesus is. What I need for real change is the deepening of Jesus. For me. Through the gospel.
To change, to grow in Christ, you and I need the real Christ! The Lord Jesus Christ of Scripture. The Jesus who said he truly is “gentle and lowly in heart.” The one whose kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Do you believe that? In your heart of hearts, do you trust Jesus is who he said he is? Tender. The King who is holy, powerful, sovereign, and glorious. Yes! And the One is also gracious and kind. Tender. “Gentle and lowly in heart.” What’s on the playlist of your heart most often . . . . your misplaced shame or the tenderness of Christ?
It’s been said: “In the story of God, coming to the end of ourselves isn’t a sign of failure, it’s the beginning of grace.”
We need the tenderness of Jesus to get underneath those areas in our hearts that need changing. If we don’t trust Jesus is tender, we won’t really be honest to trust him to do his work of changing us in the deep places in our lives.
Consider what Ortlund writes:
Let me plan. You will not change until you get straight who Jesus is, particularly with
regard to his surprising tenderness. And then spend your whole life long going deeper into the gentleness of Jesus . . . . The only alternative to the real Jesus is get back on the treadmill–the treadmill of doing your best to follow and honor Jesus but believing his mercy and grace to be a stockpile gradually depleted by your failures . . . . shed once and for all the reduced Jesus and lift your eyes to the real Jesus, the Jesus whose tenderness ever outstripes and embraces your weakness, the Christ who riches are unsearchable. This Christ is one under whose care and instruction you will finally be able to blossom and grow.
How do we grow in Christ?
First, we need the real Christ.
How does God change us?
That’s a question I find myself meditating on, both personally and pastorally. I trust this periodic series will help you as it’s helping me.
Please join me in praying for us as a church. That we’ll grow in the glories of the gospel together in 2023. True glories that are inexhaustible. Applied to our hearts as sinners and saints. That God will do his gracious work of change in us as we grow in our deepening with Jesus.