Growing more and more like Jesus can be difficult. It can seem overwhelming. It can seem like a journey that we make very slow, if little, progress on.
Perhaps that’s just my experience.
Maybe you’re different.
But does it have to feel/be this way?
In his book The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith pushes back against the notion that becoming more and more like Jesus should feel like an uphill battle. He argues that our problem is that we’re trying to change by our own will power. Instead of willpower, he believes that we need to try something new. Or perhaps something very old.
We cannot change by simply saying, ‘I want to change.’ We have to examine what we think (our narratives) and how we practice (the spiritual disciplines) and who we are interacting with (our social context). … If we think the things he [Jesus] thought, do the things he did, and spend time with likeminded people, we will become like him, and it will not be difficult.
Above are Smith’s “Four Components of Transformation.” You’ll notice that life transformation is always powered by the Holy Spirit, best happens in community, relies on shaping our minds and lives through the stories of Jesus, and uses spiritual disciplines to help train our souls. He makes it sound so simplified… so attractive…
So where do we start?
Today, I’m going to start with “Soul training / Spiritual Disciplines” and I hope you’ll join me.
In my Methodism 101 class we’ve recently been discussing some of these ideas. This week’s lesson, which was cancelled due to the snow, was supposed to be on what John Wesley called the “means of grace.” These are largely what Smith calls “soul training exercises” or “spiritual disciplines.”
By “means of grace” I understand outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace. – John Wesley
These means of grace are practices that God invites us to take part in so that we can be transformed/trained over time to be more and more like Jesus. The church word for this transformation is “sanctification.” These practices include prayer, Bible study, fasting, worship, living in Christian community, and more.
Since these are such crucial components of becoming like Jesus, I didn’t want the snow to stop me from teaching on these. So I setup my tripod and did a short teaching session on the “means of grace”. I hope that it will spur you on towards Jesus.