It’s the most amazing process in the universe—how Jesus finds us in the twistedness of our sins, doubts, fears, and illusions. He rescues us not only by his death on the cross to cleanse our sins but also to invite us into a friendship with him that untwists what has been damaged in our hearts. Do you know what it’s like to live increasingly untwisted in a very twisted world? It is the essence of joy and freedom, even in the chaos of the brokenness of others around you. Instead of being pulled into darkness by them, you can offer them a way into the light.
As Sara and I read I Peter recently, a phrase jumped off the page at me and took my breath away. Here’s how Eugene Peterson in The Message translated what Peter writes about obedience to God: “Let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.”
Does that not capture your heart with great hope and promise?
Who wouldn’t want a life shaped by God’s life? I’ll tell you who—those whose views of God were shaped in religious settings where he was portrayed as the angry author of onerous rules and where holiness was a standard impossible to reach. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to get someone schooled in legalism to be excited about the possibilities of his blazing holiness. They think the fire comes when you haven’t done enough and that his holiness means we suppress who we are to follow the rules. Nothing could be further from the truth.
But for those of us who know him, we hunger to live in his reality, where his affection sets our hearts at rest, and we get to discover who he really made us to be. He lives without fear of the future and without a doubt that he will prevail over the darkness. He is the safest place for us to be at our most broken. Imagine what your life would be like if it were shaped by his life.
Over the last year on The God Journey, Kyle and I have been sorting out what a transformed life looks like. How does living loved change the way we think and engage the world around us? We’ve used a chart to consider how God reveals himself in our tangled-up mess and engages us in friendship. With every revelation of himself and his wisdom to each of us, he invites us to know him. As we learn to listen and believe him, he lifts us above the pain and chaos of this broken age so we can grasp God’s reality that pulses with joy and wonder.
In him, we begin to discover what it means to live inside the Trinity with Father, Son, and Spirit. We learn what love is by how he treats us and then watch it rises in our own hearts for him. We see how his work is so much better than our own efforts and to rest in God’s work and his agenda. And finally, we discover the playful wonder of how God interacts with us, even in our most painful moments. Like a father playing with his children, we become ever more endeared to him, laughing through our joys and weeping with him in our pain.
Now it becomes unthinkable not to believe him, and when we believe him, we will find ourselves following him. This is where we are drawn into a way of living shaped by God’s love, wisdom, and character. In the I Peter verse above, notice that God does the shaping. That’s not our job; we would be incapable of it anyway. We only do the letting. I don’t have to change anything about me to make God happy; all I need to do is let him have me, and that exchange over time will begin to transform me from the inside. This is not following the rules to make him happy; it’s enjoying his life as it liberates me from the illusions that twist my heart in knots. He is always drawing me into that life. My choice is either to go with him or resist him, replacing his wisdom with my own and letting my fears drive my actions.
Discovering how to let him draw us is such a different trailhead from all we were taught to do to try to earn God’s favor. This is where Christianity has gotten discipleship so incredibly backward by creating systems of thought, ritual, practice, or discipline and imposing that on how we think or live. It would be great if it worked, but it doesn’t. No matter how much it is based on truth, it is still an artificial construct like David trying to put on Saul’s armor. It never fits and won’t change us. Our cookie-cutter, mass-produced attempt to make Christians in the world continues to fail when we could instead invite people on a transformative journey with a loving Father.
Helping people discover how to recognize and respond to God’s fingerprints in their day, and his whispers in their hearts are the real work of discipleship. Finding a relaxed pace inside his love will do far more than our old zealous attempts to conform our lives to his ways through human effort. Learn to listen, believe, and follow as you grow to know him, and his fruit will be borne in your heart.
So what does that God-shaped life look like? I’m sure it can be described in many ways, but the following five terms express it well for me. I gleaned these from Scripture and from observing those in my life who have lived multiple decades in an awareness of his love. They provided an excellent completion to the above chart Kyle and I have been working through this year. (You can see the chart above or download it here. And, if you want to listen to those podcasts about that chart, you can do so by following the reverse of the list here. These would make a good study for personal enrichment or even small-group study.)
Here are those five attributes that give evidence of a God-shaped life:
- Sincere Love — Not flattery, pretense, or mere niceness, but the heartfelt impulse concern for those you’re engaging and the ability to help them discover what’s true as much as their hearts will allow.
- Resilient Trust — A growing confidence in God’s goodness and faithfulness through the chaos and disappointments of life. Everything that comes at us is an opportunity to discover what he is doing in it, knowing he has the best in mind. It may ebb when challenged, but it always comes back stronger.
- Generous Compassion — An awareness of the needs of others, especially those on the margins, that touches our hearts and opens the doors to make available our time, emotional support, and physical resources available to others.
- Tender Authenticity — Never less than honest, but always in a form best able to find access to another’s heart.
- Bold Humility — Never lording over, never pressuring anyone to accept our view, but also not shying back from stating the truth plainly, even with people who might take offense to it.
Please keep in mind that this is not a list of the ways we’re supposed to behave or traits we are supposed to mimic. The wonderful thing about the God-shaped life is these attributes increasingly emerge in you as you grow freer in his love. You cannot produce these characteristics by your own ingenuity. They can’t be taught in a seminar or codified into a workbook. This is the fruit that grows out of a life spent in God’s presence, discovering who he really is and how he engages you and the world around you.
We have covered the first two characteristics on The God Journey and will cover the remaining three in the next few weeks. I hope you find them helpful to your journey.
Some other items of interest:
Sara and I finally have a move-in date on our remodeled home. We’ll be moving back to Newbury Park on May 30 and setting up our house, where Sara plans an extraordinary garden. And the dogs will love having a yard again. We can’t wait to share this home with others who want to come hang out with us.
The final gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club will be held Sunday, May 21, at 1:30 pm PDT. We will cover the final chapter of the book, as well as open up to any questions or discoveries from anywhere in the book. Anyone is welcome to join us, even if it’s your first time. We will also stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it. You can view our last discussion on chapter 12 here.
Next up, we’ll be starting a Book Club for He Loves Me over the summer. Stay tuned for details.