Originally posted in the Canaan English Ministry blog on April 20, 2012
Dear Canaan EM’ers and friends,
“If God accepts us just as we are, why can’t she do the same?” My friend confided with me some of his recent struggles with his wife. After ten years of marriage and two kids, there was plenty of dissatisfaction and unfulfilled expectations to go around.
Certainly one of the key lessons for any relationship (with one’s spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or even with fellow believers) is accepting and loving each other unconditionally – just as Christ did for us (Romans 15:7).
But alone, this is an incomplete lesson. Relationships become healthy when each person is committed to changing and growing. For Christians, this means a commitment to become more like Jesus. “To this you were called,” says Peter, “because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (I Peter 2:21, NIV, see also I John 2:6)
How does a person stay committed to growing and changing? The Apostle Paul’s answer is found in Romans 12. The first two verses are most critical:
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform 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.
First, believers stay committed to change and growth by staying focused on worshiping God. True and proper worship means regularly offering one’s body as a living sacrifice. Worshiping God is not a theory or a feeling. It requires that we physically give ourselves to God. That is why singing out loud is so important. So is attending worship services, fellowships, and study groups. In order to truly worship God, our bodies must be physically set apart from our everyday routines (i.e., holy) and presented before God. All this physical activity protect us from becoming isolated and sedentary, the two surest way to avoid change.
Second, believers stay committed to change and growth by allowing our minds to be renewed. This is more than acquiring knowledge. It means asking ourselves regularly “have I been conforming to the pattern of this world more than to Jesus?” Is my behavior towards my loved ones and my fellow believers more like Jesus’ way of relating to people? In fact, the rest of Romans 12 is a guideline for how to live like transformed Christians. It is difficult to be honest with ourselves, so we need each other as well as mentors and spiritual leaders to hold up a mirror of accountability to our faces regularly.
One caveat. In many relationships, your spouse (or significant other) may not be the best person to serve as your accountability partner – especially if both of you have not fully committed your relationship to Jesus Christ. Of course, it would be ideal if the couple mutually helps each other grow. But this can only happen when both are equally committed to changing. If not, prepare yourself for many years of frustration. If you are in a relationship of unequal commitment to change, then find another brother or sister to be your mirror. Also, it is probably not wise to insist that your partner change. Ask God to change your spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend – and yourself!
In sum, joyful Christians are all about transformation. Grateful for God’s saving grace, they restlessly yearn to tell the world how Christ changed their lives. They have a burning zeal to follow Jesus’ footsteps. They are hungry for bible and theological study. They are passionate about missions and social justice. They are committed to building up the church. They never have to be asked to serve. They bear fruit because they simply can’t contain their joy. Indeed, their lives overflow with God’s grace and love.
I pray that God will raise up a large company of joyful believers in our English ministry this year. To witness this would encourage and bless me more than anything else I can think of! And I’m sure that you’ll feel the same when you are surrounded by people who are committed to transformation!
See you Sunday!
Tim Tseng , Ph.D. 曾 祥 雨
Pastor of English Ministries