Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In His Image

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Days 22 and 23 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I think that the greatest compliment any one of us can receive is to hear that someone saw Jesus made present in us. Before we can get to the place of reflecting God to the people in our lives, we have to be transformed and allow God to make us more like Him. I realize that this won't be fully possible on this side of heaven and is a continual (and sometimes painful) growing process.
Day 22 (Created to Become Like Christ) and Day 23 (How We Grow) bring us into the third purpose, You Were Made to Be Like Christ.

From our very creation, we were made to grow in character and become more like God. Our clearest example of how God thinks and acts is shown in the words and actions of Jesus. Our first example of how not to do this is in the garden of Eden, when Eve was convinced by Satan that through knowledge gained from eating the forbidden fruit, "ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). I never really thought that I had this tendency until I read Rick Warren's words on page 172, "This desire to be a god shows up every time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and the people around us." I immediately thought of how I usually want to respond whenever my son is having a regression. I start to panic and think of a million different things that could be causing the regression, not to mention the many things I could try to get him back on track. Just last week it was all I could do not to try three new supplements and a medication just to feel like I could make the constant meltdowns and complete defensiveness stop. It was a tug of war within myself not to get stuck in self-pity and frantically try every intervention I could think of and just keep turning to God and wait for His guidance. Autism will often throw situations at us that we can't control and as we grow in faith and knowledge of Christ, we will learn to behave more like him when the going gets tough. I'm definitely not there yet, but the baby steps of progress I've made are encouraging and help me to keep pressing on. This verse in Colossians really encouraged me to keep growing in Christ so that I can be up for the challenge on the days when autism unexpectedly gives me more than I feel equipped to handle,

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience". -Colossians 1: 10-11

It's not easy to let go of our old ways of coping and reacting. It is a given that we will never be able to do this on our own strength, but through cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Rick Warren states this well on page 174, "You cannot reproduce the character of Jesus on your own strength. New Year's resolutions, willpower and the best intentions are not enough. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to make the changes God want to make in our lives." We release the power of the Holy Spirit by taking steps of faith. When we take conscious time to learn God's word, restructure our lives to reflect our values and make regular, quiet time for God, we can hear the "small, still voice" of the Holy Spirit, convicting and guiding us. By listening, obeying and allowing our hearts and minds to be changed by what God says, we are made more and more like him.

Our fleshly, human impulses can be viewed as very immature and baby-like. As we are convicted and changed, we learn how to "grow up" in Christ. The first thing we need to do to grow spiritually is change the way we think. On page 182, Rick Warren states, "The way you think, determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act." Before we start acting like Christ we have to first start thinking the way he thinks. The biggest key identified in Day 23 is to make the shift from only thinking about your own life to thinking first of others. I never really began to grasp this truth until I became a parent and there was another life fully dependent on me. Parenting a child with autism often takes this to an extreme and it sometimes feels as though we have a prolonged "dependent" state of taking care of our children. It helps me to bear this in a more Christ-like way to think that these experiences are building blocks for building Godly character. Growing in compassion for others, helping others in their time of suffering and learning the true meaning of patience are just a few examples that come to mind of how these qualities can be worked into us as we raise our children. This is a huge undertaking, but with the help of the Holy Spirit is fully possible-one baby step at a time.

Bible Verses for Days 22 and 23:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
-Colossians 2: 6-7

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. -Philippians 2: 12-13

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. -Ephesians 4: 22-24

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
-2 Corinthians 3:18

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
-Philippians 2: 1-4

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