If there’s one observation that I believe most all of us would affirm it is that change does not come easily for any of us. Candidly, I’m speaking about all kinds of change from what we eat to how we sleep, how we respond under pressure to how we spend our free time.
When we choose to focus this rather universal acknowledgement on our spiritual lives, I believe that the challenge compounds itself because there is not that much clear teaching on the subject, nor sadly, many others with whom we might relate that could serve as role models.
Rarely do I have a conversation in these days where this topic of “spiritual transformation” or “continued spiritual growth” does not become part of the exchange.
For those of us who have been true recipients of the amazing grace of God that forgives our sins and brings us into personal relationship with God the Father through Christ the Son, you are likely to know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who aren’t that far in your spiritual journey, this will still make sense to you because even if you’re not spiritually convinced, you are aware of the need for the power to change in some area of your life.
For many years it’s fair to say that I was lazy about pursuing my understanding about what exactly did happen when someone passed out of this life into the next one. It’s only on very rare occasions that we hear a message about this topic other than at a funeral or memorial service. Consequently, most of us have heard enough about the amazing grace of God that forgives our sins and “washes us white as snow” that we believe that following our last breath in these physical, earthly, bodies, we awaken in the presence of Christ in the glorious heaven whose description defies our imagination, let alone our ability to describe it.
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
nor no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9
We’re not sure how this works but the majority of us believe that the full work of Christ in our lives will come to it’s complete and indescribable perfection the moment that we open our eyes in heaven.
The Apostle Paul seems to hint in this direction when he says, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in this body we are away from the Lord.”
However, the danger in this sort of “God takes care of it all in the end” belief is what USC philosophy professor and highly acclaimed Christian author Dallas Willard calls the “cosmic car-wash” conviction. In other words, we don’t know exactly how it works, but the moment we die we are scrubbed clean and made perfect and then somehow assigned our place in the heavenly realms forever and ever.
It doesn’t take a lot of deep thinking to see that this position might offer a very reasonable excuse not to worry much about your spiritual growth because God’s going to take care of everything at the end, no matter what you have or have not done. That’s not to say that people willfully sin and believe that God will forgive it all. “By no means” the Apostle Paul warns of this sort of behavior. Romans 6:1-2
Just these few thoughts along with many others that I’ve contemplated over the past few weeks has unlocked a place of significant need for greater understanding while at the same time infusing my life with fresh hope that there is incredible purposefulness for all of us, no matter where we are in our spiritual journey in this present life.
Over the next few postings, I want to open our minds to think of the possibility that spiritual formation continues following our last day on this earth even though we may be correctly understanding that we are in heaven!
In other words, even though we have been made perfect by the cleansing power of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we are not yet complete in our transformation and that what we do in the years that we have left on this earth may significantly impact what happens to us when we enter the next, and let’s be clear, eternal season of our lives.
This is not a hidden message about the possibility of purgatory or some place where we somehow work our way into a better status. It does have to do with the possibility that the Lord continues His work in transforming us, as bringing about the change that we have found so difficult and challenging in this life, to it’s full completion as God has always intended for it to be.
My hope is that you will find these thoughts intriguing enough to nudge yourself into a little deeper study on spiritual formation and perhaps even more specifically, what happens to us in the next realm and what can we do to prepare for heaven in a way that has amazing consequences both in this life and the next.
Let’s begin by being thankful that in this matter of transformation and our heavenly existence, God is “no respecter of persons” and that anyone who hungers to be more like Christ will find the grace to do so.
Blessings in Jesus,