This week I’m following up on last week’s post that you can read HERE.
A friend of mine suggested an additional phase that I agree I need to include. This means we now have “SIX Phases of Transformation”.
The additional phase is “God Initiates“. This phase slots in as the first phase in the cycle.
In Acts 9 we see this phase clearly as Jesus appears to Saul while he travels to Damascus. He doesn’t appear to Saul as a gentle whisper, but in a blinding (literally) light from heaven and with an audible, bodiless voice. “Saul, can you hear me now?”
God had plans for Saul and he wasn’t going to sit around twiddling his thumbs hoping Saul would come to this realisation on his own. No, God stepped in and personally called Saul in a very attention getting fashion.
Not everyone receives such a personal call to discipleship from God. But God works in everyone’s life prior to our acknowledging Him. God Initiates. He Originates. He is the original Cause.
Our lives have always been a reaction to God’s action.
- God created. How would humanity respond? With disobedience.
- God cursed but preserved humanity. How would they respond? Cain kills Able and cycle of violence is initiated.
- God planned a Flood as judgement but gave a means of escape. How would humanity respond? With apathy.
- God promised relationship with Abraham and his descendents.
- God entered a covenant with Israel at Sinai. Will Israel be faithful? Increasingly, no.
- God ultimately sends his Son to Earth. How will his people respond? They kill him.
- God allows Jesus to die as a sacrifice for the world’s sins. Will people respond? Some do, some don’t.
- God raises Jesus from the grave. Will people believe? Some do, some don’t.
On a personal level people respond to the Gospel as a result of asking, “How does God’s gracious act of dying for my sins impact my life? God offers me forgiveness. Do I accept it?”
Even apart from the meta story of creation – cross- redemption, God inserts himself into our lives in a way that opens us up to the need of relationship with Him. I recently talked with a guy who was motivated to pursue relationship with God because he watched The Bible tv series. Hundreds of thousands of people watched that series but only a small percentage were prompted to study the Bible. God was already working in this guy’s life so that he was open to hearing the message of the Gospel. Perhaps six months earlier he would have simply rolled his eyes at another Christian TV show and changed the channel.
I believe that God in providential ways connects His people with those seeking Him. I don’t see God as a grand puppet master for all people all over the earth. But God inserts Himself in people’s lives at moments when they need Him. Sometimes God initiates by placing a person in a Christian family. Sometimes God initiates by exposing a person to a Christian teacher, or neighbour, or friend. Sometimes God initiates because a church in the community offers a ministry that an individual desperately needs. Sometimes God initiates by sending a teacher to the wilderness to meet a man in a chariot. (Acts 8:26-29)
So here’s what the updated diagram looks like:
For an alternative approach you might also appreciate this post by my friend James Wood as he reflects on the book The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay.