Relate to God in Real Time

Going Vertical: Talking to the Father

Going Vertical: Talking to the Father

Union with Christ enables us to focus on the various ways that we are connected to Jesus (see previous blog). Now we need to bring these truths into the real life fight to grow in grace. So here is the challenge: how do we take the truth of our union with Christ and utilize it in such a way that we relate to God during our struggle and therefore actually change? That’s step 8.

Step 8

Your union with Christ should move you in two ways: a lifestyle of repentance (or “deconstruction”) and faith (or “reconstruction”). What does this look like?

Gospel Deconstruction: Repentance

I’ll start by sharing an example from my own life—follow along as I highlight a few themes from the previous blogs.

Look Around You (You, Baggage, Terrain, Weather)

Late one afternoon, I was sitting in my house enjoying some peace and quiet. This always works better when no one else is around to interrupt you! At just the moment that I was contemplating how peaceful it was, the front door opened and then was quickly slammed. I immediately felt tense and a bit agitated. It was my teenage daughter coming home from school. I managed to welcome her home by saying, “Hey, how was your day?” I got a terse response: “Why would you care?” She proceeded to stomp up one flight of stairs, then stomp down the hallway and stomp up the second flight of stairs. Then I heard it again: she slammed her bedroom door! What was a peaceful, quiet afternoon in the house was shattered in about 15 seconds.

Gauge Your Reactions

I could feel myself tense up immediately. There was that all-too familiar struggle with irritation and anger. It was a personal battle within that occasionally spilled over into my interpersonal relationships. It was as if I was standing at the junction: would I respond in the right way?

Look Under the Hood

Why was I irritated? What was I not getting that I wanted? On the surface, there was nothing inherently sinful in my desires. But in that moment, they had become something that I was living for, or worshiping, more than Christ:

  • Peace and Comfort: I had been working with people all day and all I wanted was some down time from the challenges of what other people wanted. Drinking a diet coke and catching up on the daily news on TV was bliss. As soon as my daughter entered the house, the atmosphere had been ruined. Peace and comfort, which can be very good things, had morphed into something I was living for.

  • Appreciation and Respect: Who doesn’t want appreciation, especially from your own son or daughter? After all the sacrifices you make for them, the least they could do is show respect! In this instance I felt disrespected when my daughter did not respond positively to my greeting. Appreciation and respect, which can be very good things, had morphed into something I was living for.

Gospel Reconstruction: Faith

This is where the reconstruction began. It started with a desperate cry for help to God and continued into ongoing conversation with him. It just happened that I had been doing some sermon preparation earlier that morning on a passage in 1 Corinthians 1. (Of course, these things never “just happen!”) The one verse that stood out was 1 Corinthians 1 v 30.

It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

That verse captures a host of the blessings that we discussed in the previous blog. And as I studied it, it had begun to penetrate deep into my soul. It was beautiful in its simplicity. It captured so many of the blessings that were mine because I was in Christ. These truths enabled me to start talking to God and turn from gazing at daily pleasures like peace, comfort, appreciation and respect and start gazing at Christ.

So as I rounded the corner at the top of the first flight of stairs and uttered my simple prayer—“Help me, God. Here I go again”—something astonishing happened. What followed was utterly miraculous, though no one would have been able to see the transformation that was going on in my soul at the moment. Here is how it unfolded:

  • By God’s grace, I was beginning to see how I was living for peace, comfort and respect rather than for Christ. Seeing patterns and signature temptations is a work of the Spirit.

  • I started to cry out to God for help. This simple pivot took me out of myself and directly to God.

  • I began to talk to God based on 1 Corinthians 1 v 30. The truth of Scripture began at the “head-level” but moved to a deeper place. I began to relate to God. The written word enabled me to engage with God and talk to him.

  • The truths in that one verse reminded me of my connection to Christ. They captured who I was in Christ and how that was deeper, more profound and more beautiful than anything else in this world; even good things like peace, comfort, appreciation and respect!

It is encouraging to know that there is hope for these everyday moments in your personal and interpersonal life.

You can find a full explanation and illustration of this in Chapter 8 of Unstuck: A Nine-Step Journey to Change That Lasts

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

The New Normal: Resurrection Living

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What is the “new normal” for life in light of the resurrection of Jesus? What are the implications for the person who believes it to be true? In Revelation 21:5, the resurrected Christ says, I am making everything new! That everything is everything. Jesus has come to bring cosmic renewal to all that he has made.

In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul draws out some of the most central things that are a part of this amazing renewal that Jesus promises. He begins by saying this: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. He then says that the following two areas are at the center of Jesus’ renewal agenda.

Character Renewal

In verses 5-11, Paul calls on those who belong to Jesus to put to death the things of the old order and live in light of the new order. Here is a list of things that are passing away and should be put to death in the life of anyone who names Jesus as their King:

  • Sexual immorality        
  • Impurity
  • Lust
  • Evil desires
  • Greed, which is idolatry
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Malice
  • Slander
  • Filthy language
  • Lying
  • Divisions among people groups and classes

There is something heartening in Paul needing to tell Christians to put away these types of behaviors and attitudes. Why? Because we are far from perfect. We continue to fight against the reality that all things have not been made new, yet! Including you and me. This should keep us very humble.

Relationship Renewal

Here are the things Paul says should be replacing the list above:

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Forbearance
  • Forgiveness

What a contrast! Jesus has come to change you and me so that we live very different lives personally and with one another. This can feel overwhelming because the second list of virtues does not come naturally to any of us. In fact, you might feel like it’s not even worth trying. That is why we must see one more thing in this passage.

How?

Paul grounds all calls to change in the fundamental reality of the resurrection. Look at these promises and the resources that are yours as you continue to grow in grace:

  • Colossians 3:1 -- Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
  • Colossians 3:12 -- Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved
  • Colossians 3:13 -- Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
  • Colossians 3:15 -- Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
  • Colossians 3:16 -- Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
  • Colossians 3:16 -- Gratitude for God’s grace.

Personal and Community renewal is the new normal in light of Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s pray together with one voice, “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!” Make all things new!

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane
Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.