Most people settle for pseudo-transformation instead of real transformation. People who follow Jesus can do the same. When they do it is damaging. When we aren’t becoming like Jesus—more kind, patient, loving, etc.—we settle for something else. That something else is boundary markers.
Biblical scholar James Dunn says the first century rabbis talked a lot about three boundary markers: dietary laws, Sabbath keeping, and circumcision. In many cases their hearts had not changed—as we see when Jesus confronts the leaders—so these boundary markers helped to decide who was in and who was not.
We have them today. John Ortberg describes it with bikers. What is their favorite mode of transportation? A Harley. What is their favorite color? Black. What is a biker’s favorite drink? Beer. What is a biker’s favorite type of woman? A biker chic. It’s a way of knowing who’s in the group and who is not.
When real change doesn’t happen in us we look for boundary markers outside us to make us feel better about ourselves. Christians do this all the time. Real change isn’t happening so they come up with silly boundary markers of who is in and who is out: music, clothing, to drink or not to drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with … you get the idea. And people even jump from one church to the other in search of the one that appears to have it all together when the real problem is they haven’t changed. Changing location won’t help that.
Neither will trying. And that’s what’s wrong with most resolutions. People say they will “try” to change: try to lose weight, try to get in shape, try to read more, try to (fill in the blank). Those of us who are Christians do the same: try to read more Bible, try to attend more often, try to be better. We try but really do little if nothing. Trying won’t help.
But training will. There is a big difference between training and trying. Paul says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” The word for “training” is the word “gymnasia.” We get our word “gymnasium” from it. A gymnasium is a place where training takes place.
Want to train for transformation this year? If you want to be a better you this year, you need to start with your thinking. And one of the first things you need to think about is the kind of training you will enter. Eliminate the word “try” from your thinking and your vocabulary. As one wise sage has said: “Do or do not. There is no try!”
The first step is Mind Renewal. Sometimes we call this “personal reflection” or “quiet time.” But Mind Renewal gets to what Paul had in mind. It’s not just something to check off a list. Remember, if you are going to see real change, you have to train to change your thinking. And the best way to get your mind thinking like Jesus is to spend time in the Word. That’s where Jesus said his disciples would be: “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples” (John 8:31).
When you train in the Word you bring all of what you know about yourself to all of what you know about God. You read scripture, not looking for a rule or a boundary marker, but for who God is and what the experience in the Word tells you about yourself.
You also need some Training Partners. There’s a strategy behind Jesus calling the Twelve. There’s a reason he sent them out by “twos.” There’s a reason he said is disciples were those who loved each other. We are made for community.
We need community in life training. We don’t always see the destructive patterns in our lives. We don’t always hear the negative self-talk. We don’t always know what to make of what we discover in our Mind Renewal moments. But others can help us. We need Training Partners if we want to see change.
We can experience mind renewal. We can receive coaching from training partners. But it will all be wasted if we do not practice Radical Obedience. We have to step into the vision of who we want to be. Jesus said “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” The word “keep” means to “observe” or “obey.” What Jesus teaches us to do comes out in our life. It’s proof we are his disciples (John 15:8).
God has a desire to see you be the best you you can be. He’s given you a path to get there: a renewing of the mind with some training partners who will help you be obedient. It’s called the church. With a training regimen in place you might live into your New Year’s Resolutions past February.
Question: What is your plan for transformation to a Better You this year?
Click Planning Sheet 1 if you did not get this in the previous blog and continue work on a Better You.