Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy - Lesson 2

True Transformation (Part 2)

This lesson discusses the distinction between static and dynamic holiness. You will learn about the importance of being available to God and the potential for transformation in one's relationship with him.
Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
Lesson 2
Watching Now
True Transformation (Part 2)

I. Introduction

- Two distinct notions of holiness: static and dynamic

- Static holiness: defined by a list of things one should not do

- Dynamic holiness: experiential, transformational change and growth in one's relationship with God

II. Critique of static holiness

- Leads to frustration and misunderstanding of true holiness

- Definition of holiness as not stumbling leads to frustration in light of James 3:2

- Perfection not achievable on this earth

III. Importance of dynamic holiness

- Becoming more like Jesus in one's thoughts, attitudes, and actions

- Concept of being "wholly available" to God

- Set apart from things that may pollute one's service and open to being used by Him

IV. Environmental influence of faith

- Example of professional football players and the impact of their faith on their teammates and fans

- Importance of producing fruit as a Christian and being used by God to make a difference in the lives of others

V. Conclusion

- Emphasis on dynamic holiness and the importance of being available and open to being used by God to transform the world.

  • This lesson focuses on the concept of spiritual formation, which is the process of growing in one's relationship with God and becoming more like Christ. You'll learn about the role of historical figures such as Perpetua and Francis of Assisi in spiritual formation, the importance of more than just belief in doctrine, the need to cooperate with God and surrender to his will, and the challenges and opportunities of spiritual formation.
  • This lesson discusses the distinction between static and dynamic holiness. You will learn about the importance of being available to God and the potential for transformation in one's relationship with him.
  • In this lesson, Gary Thomas discusses the societal pressure to conform to a certain physical standard and how this can lead to insecurity and self-doubt. He contrasts this societal view with the Christian view of the body, which holds a respect for the aging process, and acknowledges that our bodies have a purpose because they were created by God and that God incarnated himself in human form in Jesus Christ and how our bodies will also be raised on the last day.
  • This lesson focuses on the transformation of our physical bodies to become spiritually alive, and the idea that worship is not limited to singing and music, but encompasses all aspects of our lives. An example of Madame Galen Jean, a historical figure who lost her physical beauty but found spiritual depth and wrote books that inspired others, is used to illustrate the idea that surrendering oneself to God can lead to spiritual growth. The class also suggests that individuals can bring Jesus to others by approaching them with love and understanding, and by focusing on bringing Jesus to others rather than personal ambition and people pleasing.
  • The lesson highlights that God desires a personal and intimate relationship with each individual and that different people will have different ways of relating to him. It is emphasized that there is no one right way to connect with God, and that we should be open to exploring different ways that resonate with us personally. Throughout scripture, various forms of worship are celebrated and it's encouraged to find the way that works best for us.

  • The lesson discusses the idea that spiritual growth does not happen by accident and that it requires purposeful and intentional effort. The main focus is on humility and gentleness as two important qualities necessary for spiritual growth. The lesson cites Proverbs 3:34 and James 4:6 as biblical references to the idea that God opposes those who let pride reign in their lives, and that humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking less about oneself and putting others first, and gentleness is the way of being like a mother caring for her children.
  • This lesson delves into the idea of spiritual formation, discussing three paths through which one can grow: practicing virtues, experiencing difficulty and suffering, and practicing spiritual disciplines. One of the virtues discussed is thankfulness, which is counterintuitive to the way the world thinks, and that maturity in faith is marked by being malleable in God's hands and surrendering our own desires. It is emphasized that when difficult times come in our lives, it is a opportunity to grow spiritually, but it can also be used as an opportunity by Satan to create bitterness and resentment in our souls. The lecture also provides several suggestions for books that can help deepen the understanding and practice of spiritual disciplines in one's life.
  • Marriage can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth and holiness as it can help reveal and work through one's sin and selfishness. However, we need to understand and accept that all people stumble in many ways, and that it's important to adopt God's agenda for our marriages rather than trying to impose our own expectations and desires on it. This way we can have a healthy and fulfilling marriage.
  • In this lesson, it is discussed how marriage and parenting can be used by God as tools for spiritual growth and personal development. It is shown that by putting the needs of others first, as in caring for a spouse when they are sick or teaching and guiding children, individuals can learn to become more like Jesus Christ and grow in their faith. The speaker emphasizes that despite the challenges and mistakes that may come with these roles, they present opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson covers the historical development of Christian spirituality including the Desert Experience, various forms of prayer, Eastern Orthodox approach and challenges for Western-minded Christians.
  • The lesson covers historical movements in Christianity, including monasticism, Puritanism, and Pentecostal/Charismatic, and their emphasis on asceticism, scripture, and the Holy Spirit.

In this class, you will learn about the process of spiritual formation and the importance of developing a deep devotional intimacy with God. The lesson will explore the biblical foundations of spiritual growth, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the individual's personal responsibility in their own spiritual development. You will also delve into various spiritual disciplines and practices that help foster a closer relationship with God, such as prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, worship, and fellowship. Finally, you will examine common obstacles and challenges faced in the journey of spiritual growth and discover strategies to overcome them.


Dr. Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
True Transformation (Part_2)
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:10] At the beginning. I want to talk about two distinct notions of holiness that express this experiential, transformational change. The two ways we can look at holiness and still look at a static holiness and a dynamic holiness, a static holiness and a dynamic holiness. When the Church has talked about change in the past, too often I think it's gravitated toward what I call a static holiness. And that's a holiness that's focused primarily on what we don't do hear that phrase. I'm a holier Christian you because I don't do more things and you don't do right. I don't smoke, drink, or to go out with girls who do. And the notion is that that the more mature you become as a believer, those the longer your list grows of the things that you don't see. You won't use those words. You won't go to these places on the Internet. You won't do this. You won't do that. You want to ingest this, you won't drink that, you won't watch this, you won't listen to that. Now, there is an aspect in which Christianity is taking off, but there's a real problem behind defining our faith primarily by what we don't do. I believe it leads to frustration. I believe it leads to a misunderstanding of what true holiness really is. The big problem is rooted in a scripture from James chapter three, verse two When James is very clearly in context speaking to teachers, we all stumble in many ways. Now he's even talking about mature leaders in the church. So if we want to define growth and holiness by not stumbling, you can see the the frustration we're setting believers up for. When James promises us, even the teachers in God's church stumble, how often? In many ways, and if holiness is defined by not stumbling, then we're going to have problems when we run up against the Scripture.

[00:02:16] And I think James has a unique perspective here that he writes out of most of you know, James is writing literally as the brother of Jesus Christ. Of course, I didn't have the same father. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but they grew up with the same mother. They grew up in the same household. James literally grew up with a perfect man. Now imagine sibling rivalry when your brother is literally perfect. I could imagine the frustrations inside. You know, Jesus never gets in trouble. He's get in trouble all the time. So he thinks he's got to. He's right. He sets up the perfect settings scheme and he calls out to Mary. Mom, Jesus, push me. I'm Mary. No, James, We know that Jesus didn't push you. He'd never do that. And now you're going to get in trouble for lying. I can't believe you bear false witness against your brother. Now, after James tries this for a while, he knows he can't win at that game. He finally gives up. And now he's writing as an adult to the first century church with all of this experience. And he's saying to the church, You know what? I've lived with the perfect man. He's perfect not just in his actions, but in his words, in his thoughts, in his attitudes. Look, if you could live with him as I looked at him, you and me, we stumble in many ways at our best. We stumble in many ways. No. I begin our time together with this because I know when I talk about transformation, some of you going through your mind, well, I've got to stop doing that. If God's going to transform me, I got to stop doing that. And I'm not saying there isn't some truth in that, but I do want you define your faith by that.

[00:03:54] I think holiness is much bigger than what we don't do because none of us graduate to the place of perfection. This side of heaven, James, reminds us that we all stumble in many ways and the problem of sin not stumbling as the definition of our holiness or, or or the level of our transformation, is it? If you define yourself by not stumbling and then you stumble again, you feel like you're back at square one, don't you? You feel like after all these years of study, after all these spiritual disciplines, I'm back right where I started, there really isn't a sense of growth and maturity. So the Bible must be talking about something bigger than merely not stumbling. And I also say this for the sake of our children. The studies are in North America that we're losing about 75% of our youth, the evangelical youth that in their twenties no longer actively attend or part of church. And I think in part what I see now, I have a 20 year old son and 22 year old daughter, a 17 year old daughter. I mean, and I live with this and seen their generation and their group of friends. I can see our spiritual enemies saying picking them up because what happens? When they see the church defining holiness by what they don't do and then they do stumble or they come up against the Senate is really hard for them to break. Satan just picks them off one by one because it's a see, you must not really be a Christian after all, because you keep stumbling. And if you were really holy, you wouldn't stumble at all. Or he keeps them out of ministry by saying, God can't use somebody who stumbles in his ministry.

[00:05:34] You have to live a sinless life for a certain period of time before you can even think about going into ministry. And and obviously they can never achieve that. And he's pulling them away from active service, even though we know from scripture, James is talking to teachers in God's church admitting that we all stumble. In many ways, you see the the notion that holiness is defined by what we don't do sets up Christian spirituality as trying to create these museum show pieces of saints that everybody can admire. They can look at our self-discipline. Maybe there's this glow coming from behind our heads this this heavenly light in the dust that just comes around us or something always smelling pleasant or something like that. And for me, it reminds me of the sport of bodybuilders. Now, I don't mean to disparagingly. That's a bodybuilder in here. I don't know if you are not, but. But the one here, they focus so much on building up these huge muscles. And I just, you know, like in sports, I just want to know. But what are they good for? You have a lot of muscles, but can you jump? Can you make a basket? Can you hit a ball? I dare posers. I mean, literally. I don't mean to use a negative, but that's what they do. They build muscles simply to pose. I mean, we nobody can ask, what can they do? I mean, we know they can get elected governor of California, but can they even balance the budget? Right. I mean, we don't know. And that's not the type of Christianity I'm talking about when I'm talking about transformation. It's not merely building spiritual muscles so that we can pose and look good to others, that there is very much a utilitarian purpose.

[00:07:22] But if our view of holiness is what we don't do, then all of my energy is focused on not doing something. Now here's the trap, and I think it's a real spiritual trap. If my goal in life is not to do something, then best I've achieved nothing. Isn't that the case? If my goal in life is not to do something, then at the end of my life, at best I've achieved nothing. I might not have offended certain people, but how have I benefited anyone? How have I built the Kingdom of God and defining holiness by what we don't do when I think of Perpetual and Francis. And then I think they're sharing the faith with a young woman who said to me, Why would I want to become a Christian? All they do is tell me to dump all the good music off my iPod and wear ugly clothes. Is that what she thinks? Being a believer is the dynamic nature of knowing and loving and serving God. And she's reducing that to all she hears is don't listen to this music and don't wear those kind of clothes. And I compare the dynamic, transformational faith of a Perpetua and Francis and say, we're going to reduce it to that in this day and age. That comes from a view of defining holiness by what we don't do. So it's not that I'm saying we should be lax about what we do. Doesn't matter that we shouldn't be serious about sins and mortification and repenting of them. I believe all of that, and we'll get into that. And simply saying that focusing on not doing something is simply not very effective at not doing something. I mean, most of us have tried it, right? How does that work? What I think we find is what scripture says in many ways, the best defense is a good offense, and that's what leads us to dynamic holiness.

[00:09:33] All right, Static holiness, focusing on what you shouldn't do. Dynamic holiness is focusing on being a fully active participant in the kingdom of God that God uses. And it's sort of a holiness on the run. It's a holiness exhibited, I believe, in the great characters of Scripture. Look at King David. If you're going to define him as a man after God's own heart, as Scripture does, what do you do with the fact that He was an adulterer and then a murderer to cover it up? That's a pretty high hurdle to over. Com. And yet Scripture tells us why even with those stumbling, as God calls him a man after my own heart. Because I found him a man after my own heart, because he will do everything I want him to do. This is why I have a battle to be fought. If I have a war to be won, I can send this man. He'll get it done. He's a man of action. He is a man of dynamic holiness. He's building my kingdom. It's what Jesus was known for. John, 17 for Jesus praying to his father. I have brought you glory on earth, Father. How? By never looking at a woman. Luckily, by never stealing from a widow. By never striking a man in anger. That's not what he says, is it? Because I brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Jesus. God sent me here with the mission, and I'm honoring him, my father. I'm honoring him by completing that mission. Paul lived with this sense near the end of his life. Speaking to a secular ruler Acts 2619. He says, I have not been disobedient to the vision given me from heaven, he said.

[00:11:22] When I was there on the Damascus Road and God struck me blind and down, He gave me a vision of what I was to do. And he goes, Whatever else you may say about me in my life, I've been faithful. I have given my life over to that vision. Matthew three. John the Baptist produced fruit in keeping with repentance. It's not enough to turn away. It's what we embrace. Dynamic holiness, then, is about becoming a fully active, participating member, building God's kingdom. It's being transformed so that I'm then useful to God's work in His kingdom. Throughout the history of Christian spirituality, not so much now, but in the Middle Ages, there was a huge debate between the passive life of the in the act of life, the contemplative life and the active life. Is it better just to sit in a room and pray and meditate and be transformed? Or is it better to go out and to minister? I just want to say at the start, I think that is such a false distinction that holiness is both. I want to be transformed and set free from those sins so that then I am an active, participating member in building God's kingdom. If I'm letting lost or pride or or ambition ruin its way into my soul, then it's going to affect the way I look at people. Instead of ministering to them, I'm going to use them or abuse them. And so I want to get rid of those sins. But the importance is getting rid of those sins so that I can be used in service to God. It is a holiness on the run training for the work of ministry. Here's how it plays out and here's how I use it in the life of parenting.

[00:13:05] When my son was a few years younger, 16 years old, I think he went to a theology camp put on by Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. They're not able to do it anymore, but it was a great work where they would just be. And Graham was in the leadership track and he would he was setting up those meetings. And after the week, one of the professors who was there told me this I wasn't there to witness this, but there was this meeting going on where a young woman had stepped out in leadership and things were not going well for her. It was bordering on humiliation. Everybody was kind of getting a little bit nervous because they felt bad for her and she could start to sweat and just get nervous and everything. And one of the professors told me, Girl, I wish you could have seen your son, because he saw what was going on. He stepped in, used some self-deprecating humor to sort of reduce the tension, said something that really affirmed this young woman and then just led us into an experience of of of knowing God's presence into a new place. And they said, I just haven't usually seen a young man being used by God in that way to take a group and just lead them into God's presence. And I would like to suggest that that Graham experiencing God using his ears, saying, Graham, I want to open your eyes to see what's going on, and I want to use your tongue to bring redemption into a situation that could be embarrassing to a young woman you see so often. We want to tell our young people, Don't say these words. Don't listen to that kind of music, don't speak this, don't look at that.

[00:14:38] And there's a place for that. That's an aspect of Christian training. But I think far more beneficial is, you know what, kids God can use your eyes to see people that others no longer see. You can use your ears to speak to you. He can use your tongue to bring encouragement and healing and redemption. He can he can use who you are, your heart to care for people that other people stop caring for. And so when a young person has been used by God. In that way. That's far more fulfilling than any experience of sin can possibly be, because that's what God created us to be. And so I want to give the church a vision of this dynamic holiness that God uses as its transformation to be use. And we'll talk about this more in the next hour. But but it's the sense of of two aspects, really. I want to become holy because without consecration, I'll never be available. If my mind is worried about people pleasing, if my mind is worried about ambition, if my mind is is filled with anger. I'm not available to hear God and to be used by God. But then I also want to be available because if I'm not available, then being prepared doesn't doesn't help me. I don't want to just be a poser. I want to be used by God. And so that the two phrases are put together, one book wholly available, that really a large aspect of holiness, not the whole aspect of holiness. We can't define holiness this way, but a huge aspect of holiness is being available to be used by God, set apart from those things that will pollute my service, pollute my mind, that pollute my tongue, that pollute my eyes, that pollute my heart, and then available for God to transform the world I live in.

[00:16:32] Whether that's a world of banking, whether it's a world of commerce, whether it's the world of academia, whether it's the world of the church, whether it's the world of raising my family just like Perpetual lived in a time of persecution. Francis live in a time of affluence. If I'm available to God and transformed by God, it doesn't matter what occupation He calls me to. It doesn't matter what station of life I'm in. God can use me to transform this world. So the question becomes this If you're being transformed, are you producing fruit as a Christian? Are you producing fruit? That's a good measure of maturity. Is God using you? Do you do you think it's possible for God's presence to go into a room, into a Starbucks, into a classroom, around a family table and not make a difference in people's lives? That's something I can test. It's something I can measure. It's something I can aspire toward. It's the aspect, I think that Mark's point is now the reason I want to stress this so much is the environmental influence of our faith. The environmental influence. And I know I'm skipping a point or two in your outline, but we got started a little bit late and I'm looking at the clock and I really want to keep on time having done this a number of times. I know how important that is. And let me just give you a little story about how important influences and then we'll pray. And I was speaking at a conference for professional football players. This is American football. You know, just I can't express to you how gigantic these men are. If you've watched football on television, you have no idea because they're around other large men.

[00:18:21] I mean, these men are just they don't look human up close. I look at them. I'm not exaggerating here. Some of their arms bigger than my thighs. I mean, they're just just gigantic. I mean, you think of how fast those guys, how hard they hit. It's just amazing. So I'm at this conference. It's a private conference they have in and out of the way resorts. So people don't know. But it's a great ministry. They just wants to speak the gospel. The people can be very influential with their faith. At the time, this was earlier in the year. Last year in February, I'd been trying to lose a few pounds because I was going to run a marathon in April, and it's just a whole lot easier to run when you're as light as you can be. And my wife's with me. She's seen these gigantic men. She's saying, Gary, please don't tell them you're trying to lose weight. They're just going to they are so pathetic. BE Because, I mean, these men were, you know, three times as heavy as I was. It literally in some ways. And I start saying, yeah, you know, maybe this is kind of silly that I'm trying to do that. Well, then earlier I had been in Duluth, Minnesota. I had run a marathon out there. And Duluth, Minnesota has a marathon where it's a long standing marathon where they pay the winners. So they get the elite Kenyan runners because they can earn money from running. And I don't know if you've ever stood next to an elite marathoner. These guys are my height. It's not going it's they're about 130, £540, which I know it's you don't go by pounds. So these are but I mean, they're they're just alarmingly thin, man.

[00:19:54] And I'm standing next to one of these guys on the elevator and I'm looking at him. I'm thinking to myself, Dude, you got to hit the salads a little bit more. I mean, you just I felt so overweight standing next to one of these guys because there was nothing on them. And the same body. All right. Two different environments had a whole different approach about myself. And that's what I think happens in the church when experiential transformation and being used by God isn't the norm, isn't the expectation. We go to church and we're not challenged to be transformed. We're not challenged to be used. We're not bothered if we're not being used. But when Christians take the words of Peter and Paul and Ephesians for seriously and they allow themselves to be transformed and God is using them in whatever sphere of life they find themselves in, whatever season of life they find themselves, that transformed other Christians, to say, I want to be like that when I'm around a man who really loves his wife as Christ loves the church, it inspires me. I can love my wife better when I'm around a woman who has a passion for the lost, and I see how she uses every opportunity to express her faith. It makes me want to be a better evangelist when I'm around somebody and the scriptures just pour out of them. You know, they've given their lives over. I want to study the scriptures more. And so in spirit, Christian spirits, I want to say is let's let ourselves be transformed so that there's a huge environmental influence. There was a study in the New England Journal of Medicine in the States. That's the probably the most respected medical journal that there is.

[00:21:39] And they talked about a level of fitness is is socially contagious. The best thing that's going to challenge your level of fitness is if you're living with somebody who's getting fit or not getting fit, that that is what your immediate family, your closest friends, They said they can pick a person's level of fitness not by even looking at them, but by looking at their network of friends. They could pretty much accurately pinpoint what that person's level of fitness is. And the same thing happens in the church, I believe, with the level of transformation. If we think Christianity is only about belief, if we're not bothered when we don't see true transformation, a whole church can be happy in their complacency. You put a perpetua for a Francis in that church and we're all challenged not to do exactly what they do, but to do what God wants us to do. Christ in us the hope of glory. Let's pray.

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