Wednesday Night Class
Renovation of the Heart:
Putting on the Character of Christ
November 18, 2020
Spiritual Formation in the Local
A Spiritual “Hospital”
• Ephesians 4: A people not swept up
in every current of teaching or taken
in by human trickery is a goal.
• A group of disciples won’t all be at the
same stage in their spiritual journey.
• The analogy of hospitals is used.
The Central Cause of our Current Situation
• Lieth Anderson:
– Those who strive to be New Testament
churches must seek to live its principles
and absolutes, not reproduce the details.
• The matters so many churches
devote themselves to are not the
primary matters that are addressed in
the Bible. 4
The Vessel and the Treasure
• We can mistake the vessel for the treasure
• The outer man decays, but the light of Christ is
the treasure. In the same way, congregations
treasure traditions and their higher level
groupings, or denominations.
• These denominations become “100-percent
vessel” and yet, so often they are regarded as
• List of traditions that people can obsess over.
• Spending most of your time on these matters
will not lead to progress in spiritual formation or
Righteously Mean Christians
• IN FACT, STANDING ON these things as
essential is what produces mean and angry
• “Why are Christians so mean?” becomes the
• Many in the American church have the basic
goal flipped. They try to get people into heaven
rather than heaven into people.
• This actually implodes upon itself because it
“creates groups of people who may be ready to
die, but are not ready to live.”
• How do you avoid this? 6
God’s Plan for Spiritual Formation
• The Great Commission becomes the
basis of the plan for spiritual
transformation of the local congregation.
And there are three stages:
– Make Disciples, apprentices of Jesus
– Immersing the apprentices at all levels of
growth in the presence of God
– Transforming disciples inwardly in such a
way that doing the words and deeds of
Christ is not the focus but the natural
outcome or side effect 7
• Making apprentices of Jesus is the
• So what is an apprentice of Jesus?
• They are those who are with him and
learning to be like him. They are
learning to lead their life in the same
way Jesus would lead it were it him in
Two Inseparable Aspects of Apprenticeship
• There are two aspects of what we are
learning about, but they are
– One is the “religious” aspect. What were
the teachings of Jesus?
– The other is the “secular” aspect of our
lives. It’s the “how” of our lives. How do
you as a Christian run a business, get
along with neighbors, participate in
Giving Up Your Life
• Becoming a disciple is a matter of giving
up your whole life
• When the vessel overwhelms the
treasure in these groups, discipleship to
Christ is dropped or redefined as
devotion to the institution.
• The vision and intention to be and make
disciples must be present (V & I of VIM).
Disciples Are Us
• The primary candidates for discipleship are
the people who are already present in the
• Those who are present should understand
clearly what it means to be a disciple of
• We’re not the ones to judge between wheat
• Serious work will have to be done. It could
very well cause people to show how 11
• The next two stages come under the
M in the VIM pattern.
• The second stage is “Immersing the
apprentices at all levels of growth in
the presence of God.”
• The presence of God in the midst is
the only sure mark of the true
• Honesty and openness means we must
eliminate performance (where we try to
make an impression rather than just be what
• When we gather, we should be gathering to
encounter the presence of God through the
others who are present.
• We should not hold up leaders and speakers
or their actions as the objects of our worship.
• Far too often, those who gather focus too
much on the small stuff. 13
• Transforming disciples inwardly in
such a way that doing the words and
deeds of Christ is not the focus but
the natural outcome or side effect.
We Do Not Choose to Believe or Not
• Beliefs and feelings cannot be changed by
choice. We can choose to take in ideas and
information that form our beliefs and feelings.
• Focusing our input on the word of God will pull
us in a godly direction.
• There is a difference between professed belief
and actual belief.
• And the changing of belief is very much the work
of God, though we work to understand or help
others to understand in the teaching at a local
And Beyond Teaching
• There are going to be people who will not be
reached or helped by “regular church
• “We must be Spirit led, Bible informed,
intelligent, experimental, and persistent.”
• We must flatly say that one of the greatest
contemporary barriers to meaningful spiritual
formation in Christlikeness is overconfidence
in the spiritual efficacy of “regular church
services,” of whatever kind they may be.
Though they are vital, they are not enough. It
is that simple.
Two Steps of Confidence
• There are two things the local
congregation must do to be stabilized
and “drawn onward.”
– First, openly expect the apprentices to
learn to do the various things that Jesus
taught us to do.
– Second, announce that you teach
people to do the things that Jesus said
to do. 17
• Patience: Take the long view of the race that
is set before us.
• Keep our eyes focused on Christ who gave
us faith to run in the first place.
• Time is now for specific planning. What are
the particular things we must do to bring our
dimensions in alignment with Christ?
• Leaders or those with influence over others,
what are you doing to aid and direct the
progress of those in our care?
November 25—No Class
December 2, 9, 16, 30—Single Topic
January 6—Start new series; TBD
Matters for Thought and Discussion
• 6. Does “righteous meanness” actually happen? If so, do you agree
with the explanation given in this chapter of why it is acceptable
• 11. Could it really be true that “outreach” should not be a primary
goal of church life? What should be primary goals?
• 12. Could we really eliminate “performance” from our church
gatherings? What would our meetings be like if we did?
• 14. What things could your local congregation do beyond “regular
church services” to advance spiritual transformation in its members?
• 15. Could we really publicly announce that we teach people how to
actually do the things Jesus said for us to do? What would have to
change around the church house if we were to do that?
• 16. “It really matters little what else you do or don’t do in the local
congregation, so long as all is organized around God’s plan for
spiritual formation as given in Matthew 28:18-20.” Could this
possibly be true? If so, what should we do about it?