Transformation Without Expectations

I got this email yesterday and it is one I get a lot from people who are trying to rethink the nature of sanctification outside the religious process of setting expectations and trying to coform people to them. I don’t that that’s exactly what this brother was asking, but it does invite that deeper dialog.

Does God change us by setting a standard and holding us to account, or has he prepared a better way for us? Here is the question that got this rolling in my mind:

I’m confused as to how to distinguish between what you call “performance-based establishments” and churches with biblical expectations. The scripture clearly lays out some expectations for overseers and deacons (as just one example), but of course these expectations shouldn’t be interpreted as a reflection upon earning one’s salvation. Isn’t there a way to maintain the biblical expectations for the church without undermining the truth of grace in salvation?

‘Expectations’ isn’t one of my favorite words. It kind of reverses the process by which transformation takes place, though I realize you might be using it in a wholly different context than I hear it.

In my mind ‘performance-based establishments’ use guilt and pressure to conform people’s behavior. I think Galatians is makes it clear that this process isn’t necessarily evil, it just doesn’t work. The law may get people to ACT different in the short term, but it cannot transform them from the inside. Elsewhere Pauls says law only adds to our sin by increasing our temptation and multiplying our shame.

On the other hand nonperformance-based environments will extend people the authentic grace of Jesus as it invites them into a relationship with him that will transform them from the inside. So while the goal is still the same—being transformed into his image—the process is vastly different. And they wouldn’t see the attributes of an elder in Timothy and Titus to be an expectation to perform to, but the fruit of God’s transformation evidenced in their daily lives. Remember, the ‘elders’ in Ephesus and Crete didn’t have those lists BEFORE they were ‘appointed’ by Timothy and Titus. This was not something they tried to live up to, but rather what had become true of them out of their relationship with him.

Thus a performance-based environment will be one where people feel they have to pretend, are looked down upon when they don’t measure up, and usually picks on the obvious sins of sexual brokenness or the obvious failures that impact the institution, such as giving and attendance. But they ignore the weightier issues of spiritual arrogance, greed and gossip. Nonperformance-based environments encourage people to be authentic even in their doubts and struggles realizing that it is only Jesus who change us and thus none of us end up with anything to boast about, nor to look down on others…

If we introduce people to the living Jesus, we don’t need to “maintain biblical expectations without undermining the truth of grace. They will WANT to be like him and as they learn to live loved and love, they will keep the entire law. I don’t think the new covenant changed the outcome God wants in us, but id did change significantly our perception of the process.

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6 Comments
  1. Fran April 9, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Your response to this person describes a viewpoint change that I have had. When I read scripture, I used to think that verses that described a person’s character were a standard of measurement that I had to achieve. Very recently though I have come to understand the reason for my viewing a scripture that way was that in a very subtle way I thought of myself as someone looking from the outside in when it came to the love and favor of God. Now I see myself as being inside the heart of God and being invited to share in the love and favor that the Father has for His Son. I don’t have to strive, I just have to rest in Him.

  2. Fran April 9, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Your response to this person describes a viewpoint change that I have had. When I read scripture, I used to think that verses that described a person’s character were a standard of measurement that I had to achieve. Very recently though I have come to understand the reason for my viewing a scripture that way was that in a very subtle way I thought of myself as someone looking from the outside in when it came to the love and favor of God. Now I see myself as being inside the heart of God and being invited to share in the love and favor that the Father has for His Son. I don’t have to strive, I just have to rest in Him.

  3. colin thompson April 9, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    I like the way Jesus commanded Peter to ‘follow me, and I will make you a gatherer of men,’
    Jesus will make us into whatever he chooses to make us, if we will follow Him.
    Lets not get distracted from the day by day sticking close to Jesus, depending on Him and the grace He gives, by problematic texts in a book we may not feel able to appraise objectively.
    If we know that it is Jesus who gives us of the Holy Spirit if we ask Him, and that apart from Him we can do/be nothing in His kingdom. let us not be distacted even by scriptures into neglecting so great a salvation.
    Fortunately even little children can enter, via Jesus.

  4. colin thompson April 9, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    I like the way Jesus commanded Peter to ‘follow me, and I will make you a gatherer of men,’
    Jesus will make us into whatever he chooses to make us, if we will follow Him.
    Lets not get distracted from the day by day sticking close to Jesus, depending on Him and the grace He gives, by problematic texts in a book we may not feel able to appraise objectively.
    If we know that it is Jesus who gives us of the Holy Spirit if we ask Him, and that apart from Him we can do/be nothing in His kingdom. let us not be distacted even by scriptures into neglecting so great a salvation.
    Fortunately even little children can enter, via Jesus.

  5. wileybones April 10, 2007 at 5:50 am

    As one who has been bound up in preforming for approval and driven by expectations for much of my life, I really resonate with your explanation of how nonperformance-based environments can encourage our transformation into Jesus’ image apart from placing expectations on others to perform. My early discipleship and discipling was along the lines of “People don’t do what you expect, but only what you inspect!” This added to my own wounded heart from my youth to turn me into a first-class people pleaser. I’m only recently on a journey of recovery and healing which has taken more than 5 years of hearing a message of grace to truly sink in. Your “Transitions” series and “Sharing in Father’s Affection” have been a real key in this latest stage of my journey, along with working my way through John Eldredge’s “The Way of the Wild Heart” book and workbook.

    I especially like your point about the elders that Timothy and Titus were appointing not having the lists that Paul sent them to strive to measure up to.

  6. wileybones April 10, 2007 at 8:50 am

    As one who has been bound up in preforming for approval and driven by expectations for much of my life, I really resonate with your explanation of how nonperformance-based environments can encourage our transformation into Jesus’ image apart from placing expectations on others to perform. My early discipleship and discipling was along the lines of “People don’t do what you expect, but only what you inspect!” This added to my own wounded heart from my youth to turn me into a first-class people pleaser. I’m only recently on a journey of recovery and healing which has taken more than 5 years of hearing a message of grace to truly sink in. Your “Transitions” series and “Sharing in Father’s Affection” have been a real key in this latest stage of my journey, along with working my way through John Eldredge’s “The Way of the Wild Heart” book and workbook.

    I especially like your point about the elders that Timothy and Titus were appointing not having the lists that Paul sent them to strive to measure up to.

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