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Study of spiritual transformation to guide future LifeWay resources

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–A biblically based paper on spiritual transformation presented by Ralph Hodge of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is expected to form the “template” for future LifeWay resources.
The paper was presented during Discipleship and Family Week at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center, July 18-24.
“A lot of people have been assimilated into the life and ministry of the church who have not been transformed into the likeness of Jesus,” said Hodge, discipleship design specialist for LifeWay’s discipleship and family division. “We have tried to design a way to say, ‘This is what God wants to happen in your life.’
“The heart of God is that believers be transformed into the likeness of Jesus,” he said.
Leaders from LifeWay’s discipleship and family, Sunday school and church leadership divisions formed a team to develop the paper.
Plans now are to evaluate materials considered for future publication based on their contribution to individual spiritual transformation. The next step is to design ways churches may choose to employ the spiritual transformation concept in helping believers grow, Hodge said.
Launching a completed spiritual transformation initiative is not expected until 1999, he said, but providing the concepts a year ahead is expected to build anticipation and excitement for a character-based model of discipleship, he said.
“When we are transformed, we don’t have a spiritual life and then another life,” he observed, “but all of life has been transformed.
“Spiritual transformation is God’s work of changing a believer into the likeness of Jesus by creating a new identity in Christ and by empowering a lifelong relationship of love, trust and obedience to glorify God,” he said.
The transformation begins with a new identity in Christ, continues in a growing relationship of love, trust and obedience and glorifies God, concepts that are elaborated in the seven-page document.
Spiritual transformation begins and continues by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the person who is saved by grace through faith.
“Transformation is a miracle,” Hodge said.
Major agents of transformation listed by Hodge are Scripture, family and home, the people of God, circumstances of life, spiritual exercises for godliness and God’s discipline.
“It is not the time but the intensity of the relationship with Jesus that determines spiritual growth,” Hodge said. “Such growth develops from obedience with the appropriate motive — love of God and trust in him.
“The measure of discipleship is the degree to which a believer is like Jesus,” Hodge continued. The believer is characterized by love, trust and obedience; lives in harmony with God’s Word; sees the world through the lens of Scripture; has a relationship with other believers; and makes God’s love known to others.
Citing Galatians 5: 22-23, Hodge said “character-based transformation reveals an inner Christlikeness evidenced by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
“The transformation by the spirit of one’s character will be reflected in responding to the demands and events of life in the same character and manner as Jesus.”
Activity-based transformation, in contrast, focuses on things to do.
“These things may be good things: prayer, Bible study, journaling, worshipping, witnessing, teaching and ministering,” he said. “But there is a difference between inner spiritual growth based on love, trust and obedience and simply participating in outward activities that conform to a Christian way of doing things.”
Included in the paper are discussions of the hindrances to spiritual transformation. Among those are Satan, the world, personal desires, lack of faith, lack of knowledge, unintentional drifting, deliberate rebellion and distraction.
He told conference participants that “being transformed spiritually is not an inoculation. It is a pilgrimage.”
Discipleship and Family Week was sponsored by the discipleship and family division of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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  • Charles Willis