A Discipleship.Network Interview to #ReimagineDISCIPLESHIP as Biblical Formation

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Gary Millar, author of Changed into His Likeness A Biblical Theology of Personal Transformation 


Phil>>>What is change and why is it so hard?

Gary>>> According to Psychologists, ‘change’ is basically starting or stopping doing something. It’s a matter of acting differently. Even then, it seems to be pretty elusive. I want to push a little further and say that ‘change’ actually involves reshaping our character - altering who we are at the level of character. That, I think, makes clear why it’s so hard - we’re not just dealing with well-grooved actions (that’s hard enough), but actually with personal transformation. 


Phil>>>How is a biblical theology of personal change distinct from a non-theistic anthropology or psychology?

Gary>>> Biblical change is profoundly different from any other kind because God in the gospel offers us both the power and the resources to change - or to be more accurate, to be changed. He does all the heavy lifting. Because of God’s work in us, change becomes a possibility. More than that, however, change in the Bible is modelled on and targeted on the Lord Jesus Christ. 


Phil>>>Please help us understand and begin to apply these two principles of transformation:

•Principle 1: "We Have Already Been "Changed"

Gary>>> One aspect of biblical truth is that those of us who have been united to Christ by faith have already been changed - we are ‘in Christ’; we have been ’born again’; we have already been made holy etc. This is now who we are - made alive in Christ, we really are a new creation. It’s easy to underestimate the profound difference this makes



•Principle 2: "We Will Be "Changed"

Gary>>> The Bible also makes clear that one day, the change process which is started in conversion will be completed at the end of time- as the apostle John says, ‘we will be like him for we will see him (God) as he is.” God’s rescue plan for us will reach completion as we are equipped for life in the new creation in our resurrection bodies as those in whom the likeness of Christ has been perfected. 


•What do you mean by "Life in the middle"?

Gary>>> We have been changed and we will be changed. And now? We are being changed. ‘Life in the middle’ is life as those who have been brought to new life in Christ by the power of the Spirit but have not yet been made perfect. So, we continue to live as those who are ’simul justus et peccator’ (justified and sinful at the same time), as Martin Luther famously said, as God continues his transforming work in us. 


•Are we (preachers, teachers, authors, disciplemakers, intercessors) "promising too much"?

Gary>>> I suspect it depends where we are - in some contexts, the church has slipped into promising ‘heaven on earth’ - you can see that, for example, in the many expressions of the prosperity gospel, or in expressions of Christianity which hold out a ‘higher life’ if we will only claim it. The challenge is to maintain the beautiful balance of the gospel, where we live as those in Christ in a messed-up world - who have tasted new life, but have to wait for its full expression in the age to come. 


Phil>>>Our pursuit of transformation seems to be a process empowered by God. 

•"God changes us" This may be the most important truth for us to grasp?

Gary>>> It’s vital to remember that the heavy lifting - the real work - is done by God in the power of the Spirit. Only God can bring dead people to life, and only God can fix the damage wrought by sin. 

•"God changes us...

    • ...through the Gospel"
    • Gary>>> The means God uses in the power of the Spirit to change us is truth - or to be more specific, the truth of what he has done, is doing and will do in the Lord Jesus Christ. To quote Paul, we are ’transformed through the renewing of our minds’ - the truth of Jesus is God’s change instrument. 
    • ...with repentance"
    • Gary>>> Our part in the process is to embrace the truth, face our sin, and turn to God in repentance and faith. Some older writers called this ‘mortification’ - God exposes our sin, we face it and run to him, asking for the resources we need to turn away from it. 
    • ...in the Church"
    • Gary>>> Change is a team sport in the New Testament. In particular, transformation takes place as we hear the word and live it out together, in the community of God’s people. It is here, as we rub up against one another, having to prefer each other’s needs, that God works on us and in us. 
    • ...in the World"
    • Gary>>> In God’s sovereignty, one of the means which he sweeps up in his purposes is suffering. As Romans 8:28 makes clear, there is nothing which he cannot harness in his grand commitment to produce in us the likeness of his son. This change process does not happen in the abstract but as we negotiate all the challenges and vicissitudes of life. 
    • ...as we persevere"
    • Gary>>> God’s careful work in our lives is a lifelong thing - and in the same way that perseverance is the ultimate proof of our faith, it is a necessary element in the progress of our transformation - if you want to be changed, keep going! 


Phil>>>Please write a prayer we can return to often -

... a yielding to the work of God's Spirit and God's Word to transform us more clearly into the image of Christ our Lord...

Gary>>> Loving Father, in your very great kindness, you have already changed us. By the power of your Spirit, you have united us to Christ, given us the gift of faith, and brought us to real life which starts now and goes on forever. We are not what we once were. But we also know tender God, that we are not what we will one day be. We are all too aware that we don’t always act like our elder brother, the Lord Jesus. We are so far from perfect - we know we belong to a holy God, but the ways in which we think and act are still so often deeply unholy. So, we ask that, in your mercy, you would continue your great work in us. Finish what you have started. Please chip away at our old habits and thought patterns, that we might increasingly display the beauty and integrity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please do as you have promised, for our good, and for the glory of Jesus we pray. In his precious name. Amen.



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