Inside-Out – Part 1
If we could look at my personal journey with Christ from a 30,000-foot view, we would see a handful of impactful moments when God moved my soul and spirit to a higher place. Studying Inside Out was one of those times. Come with me as I recapture some of the important elements from his teaching that I believe help crystalize all that we’ve learned through the previous chapters:
Certain groups of people come to my mind as I write. First, those who are trying really hard to do what the Bible commands but feel frustrated. You are doing all you know to do – not perfectly or course, but sincerely. And yet things just aren’t right inside, and you know it. You feel more pressure than joy. God isn’t changing either you or things in your world the way you ask Him to. You wonder if He listens to your prayers, or if He simply doesn’t care about your struggles. My message to you is, THERE IS HOPE!
Second, I think of those who are doing quite well and feel content and happy most of the time. You really do love the Lord. You have proved Him faithful and real in hard times. Time in His word is often a rich experience. Prayer is far more than mere ritual in your life. You like your church, you’re blessed with good friends and family, you feel satisfied with your work, and you enjoy your leisure time. Your life is not without tensions, but God gives you the strength to press on with confidence. By the grace of God, life is good. My message to you is, THERE IS MORE!
Third, I think of those who are hardened. Nothing has really gone your way. The promises of God you were taught don’t seem to materialize, at least not in your life. Perhaps you’ve always felt different, never a good fit like your brother or sister. Your parents never held you up as the model for other kids to follow. My message for you is, THERE IS LIFE!
Fourth, I think of those who are in positions of Christian leadership. The pressure to model for others what maturity looks like can lead to breakdown or pride. You realize that others think of you as better than you know yourself to be. It’s hard to maintain an image, but the pressure to encourage people by displaying what God can do in a life surrendered to Him makes you hide a few of the real struggles. My message for you is, THERE IS LOVE!
Is it possible to change at the core of our being? How much change can we really expect? This is about changing from the inside out, a process that begins with an honest look at whatever is happening in our life and continues without ever pretending things are better than they are. The courage to be honest is necessary if we are to experience the kind of change Jesus makes possible. Real change requires an inside look.
Can a woman molested as a child really learn to embrace her sexuality? Can men with homosexual urges ever really become heterosexual? Can people who worry too much about things, or a couple whose marriage is no more exciting than a television rerun, or folks with bad tempers really change?
Perhaps the most concerning question that emerges from a study of change from the inside out is how far inside do we have to look? Once we agree that an inside look is necessary for deep change, we enter the mouth of a dark cave that tunnels off in endless, uncharted directions. There will always be more to see. We could spend a lifetime (unnecessarily) exploring the winding caverns of our soul and never come out into sunlight.
There must be more to this journey than just more and more darkness. As Christ-followers, we are children of light. Even in the midst of darkness, we know where we are headed. We have a lamp that always reveals the next step, and a hope that keeps us moving even when the lamp seems dim. The Christian journey is not to be characterized by joyless confusion and morbid despair. And that’s precisely what develops if we define the path to growth as merely an endless search for further awareness of all that’s happening deep within us.
We must not mistake an intense, absorbing heaviness for spiritual growth. Spiritual depth frees us to be spontaneous in the midst of sadness. It enables us to press on in our involvement with people even when we stagger from blows of severe disappointment. A mature relationship with Christ is reflected in the capacity to hear whispers of assurance when discouragement is oppressive. And even when we’re mishandling frustration by retreating into an anger or self-pity, mature depth won’t let us escape the convicting awareness that we’re designed to love, even in a situation like this.
The purpose of an inside look is to promote that kind of spiritual depth and soul health. The more deeply we sense our thirst, the more passionately we’ll pursue water. The more clearly we recognize how we tend to dig our own wells in search of water, the more fully we can repent of our self-sufficiency and turn to God in loving, obedient trust.
An inside-out perspective is necessary if we are to move beyond superficial (behavioral) change to authentic (heart) change from the inside out.
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