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.

Fighting to Believe

Are Evangelism and Discipleship Different?

Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19 are clear. We are to “go and make disciples.”  We typically think of this command in two phases and use two terms; evangelism and discipleship. Evangelism involves sharing the good news of Jesus to the unbeliever. Discipleship involves obedience once one has believed. When we are not careful, though, this bifurcation can lead to a truncated understanding of the Christian life.

Most professing Christians are aware of the discipline called apologetics.  The word means to “speak in defense” of some belief. In the early church, those who defended the faith to outsiders were called apologists.

As you can see, this term has largely been used by Christians to describe evangelism; the discipline of defending the Christian faith over against non-Christian unbelief. This is wholly appropriate and right. It is the first half of the great commission in Matthew 28:19 “Go.”

Who Are We Trying to Persuade?

I want to broaden the audience of the Christian apologist, though. Not only is the Christian apologist to convince the unbeliever concerning the claims of Christ; but the believer, as well! That is discipleship. It is what I call “pastoral apologetics.” There is a desperate and daily need to make a case for the truth, relevance and power of the Gospel for the believer as he or she faces the daily challenges of living the Christian life.

Notice how the apostle Paul warned the Colossians from being duped into thinking that there was something more they needed in addition to Christ to face the problems of living. Paul says this to believing Christians in Colossians 2:6-8;

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

In other words, while Paul found himself on many occasions defending the faith against the unbelief of those who rejected the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; he found as many opportunities to make a case for the claims of Christ for the benefit and sake of those who already believed. He does not want the believer to be taken captive by any other “false gospel.”

Are You Fighting to Believe?

Every time we gather with other Christians in fellowship and worship, pick up our Bibles to read or take a moment to pray, we are asking this question, “Is this really true?” Why? Because we are so easily duped. We need convincing on a daily basis.

Today, what are you struggling with? What temptation are you facing? Where are you tempted to find meaning and the resources to live another day? If you are honest with yourself, you are always fighting to believe what you profess. May your heart’s cry today be the same as another believer in Scripture who made his doubts and struggles known to God with these words,

I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Copyright © 2015 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.