Here is another powerful excerpt from our sons, Ryan and Josh’s upcoming book Firsthand:

“Love from the center of who you are, don’t fake it.”  Romans 12:9 (The Msg)

 

Our generation is obsessed with how we appear on the outside. We spend more time tweaking and constantly changing our Facebook pages then we do in developing real and close friendships. We spend so much time both online and in life trying to create, redefine and manage our image. I’m not here to point the finger in judgment because we all feel the pressure to project a version of ourselves to the world that isn’t entirely who we are.

I’ve discovered that it’s much easier to appear “cool” on the surface than it is to establish real and deep relationships with people. That’s because anything that is real and goes beyond a superficial level takes time, energy and effort and is always messy!

It’s much easier to act “spiritual” on the outside than it is to be truly and radically changed on the inside. That’s because real life change is always messy!

There is this tendency for many Christians to act like once you commit your life to Christ, your whole life just comes together and it’s “happily ever after.” It’s just not that way!

I was at an amazing Christian homeless shelter and restoration center recently, and one of the men shared his story of how Christ was changing his life. He said that he was living on the streets addicted to drugs when he first came to the center. He then received Christ into his life and went through the recovery program and became a counselor to others. He went on to say that after a couple of years, however, he left and went back to the streets and got back on drugs and lost everything again. He said that he screwed up big time and was living in sin, but the Lord Jesus never left him.

He finally came back to the center and joined another recovery group, and God continues to change him and use him.

I love that man’s story because real life change is real messy, and it’s often three steps forward and two steps backward! It’s not neat and tidy “happily ever after” until we get to heaven.

I really think the reason why so many churches never reach out to those far from God is because their neat and tidy church would get too messy! There would be too many tattoos and not enough ties in the church! There would be too many people addicted to drugs and too many people addicted to porn, too many people who’ve been divorced three times, too many people with Aids and on and on I could go! But, wait a minute. Every church has people with all the issues I just described. It’s just that many churches and Christians project the image that everything is neat, tidy and in control.

In reality, we’re all a mess! That’s why we need real change that goes beneath the surface. Real and deep change will never be neat and nice with everything coming together perfectly.

Real change starts when we stop worrying about how spiritual we appear on the outside and surrender our messy lives to the God who wants to change us from the inside out. In Romans 12:2 Paul shares how we can experience radical and real transformation.

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”  Romans 12:2 (The Msg)

 

The Greek word for “changed” is the word “metamorphosis” which literally means “changed from the inside out.” If we are serious about this journey to radical fulfillment and transformation, we are going to have to be changed from the inside out. You were called to be different from the crowd. This kind of change that Jesus is talking about can’t occur from external forces. You have to make a conscious decision to embark on this journey. Then you are on the path to real change.

 

Ryan and Joshua Shook from the book Firsthand: Dumping Secondhand Religion for the Real God

Release date: March 19, 2013

Publisher: Waterbrook/Multnomah

 

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