A couple of months ago, a guest speaker came to give a message at my church. He said:
As new believers, we’re taught that it’s all about God, only for God to remind us that it’s all about us, only for Him to then tell us that it’s all about Him.
This statement has been on my mind because I believe it closely outlines the walk of many Christ followers.
Phase I – It’s all about God
Phase II – It’s all about us
Phase III – It’s all about God
In Phase I, when you first start following Jesus, your mind is not yet very renewed. You may still feel as though your life is not quite the abundant one that Jesus promises, nor full of joy, peace and love. The gospel message is nice, but a bit stale.
If you can find yourself in most of the below characteristics, it’s most likely you’re in Phase I:
- Have to perform for God and others to be accepted (striving)
- fear of failure
- not beautiful
- full of regret over past mistakes
- easily hurt/offended
- emotionally unstable
Even though you *know* it’s not true, sometimes you feel as though God is:
- ready to criticize
- loving only because He has to be loving
- not happy about the fact He had to die for us to save us
- disinterested in your desires or everyday concerns
- only wants you to serve Him
Resist the temptation to allow discouragement settle in if you identify with this list because that temptation comes from the enemy. All people struggle with these things to varying degrees before they come to know their true identities as sons and daughters of God, but the good news is that Jesus will heal you if you A) recognize the need and desire to change and B) follow Him daily.
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
For it is by grace you have been saved [to make well, heal, restore to health], through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. not by works, so that no one can boast.
The bold words I added came from a Bible lexicon defining the word “saved.” It’s not just about being saved from hell, but about living in full restoration now. Jesus wants to leave no place untouched in your soul ravished by darkness!
Phase II is where God will take us if we persevere and believe in Jesus’ heart to heal us of all negative thinking. God will teach us about our true identities. He will tell us, “Hey, it’s all about you! You’re dearly loved and cherished! You’re worth more than gold! You were created for love! I believe in you – if I didn’t, I would not have sent my Son to die for you! You’re fearfully and wonderfully made in My image! I want to give you your heart’s desires! Everything about you is perfect! I see your sin no more!”
Renewal of the mind is the hallmark of this phase because it’s the only way we can start believing what God says about us and Himself. It’s where we discover our identities and our lives hidden in Christ.
Inner healing may be involved too, although one of the main purposes of inner healing counseling is to renew the mind. It also gives you a chance to encounter God in a way you never have before and it allows Him to take away the pain from hurtful memories that keeps you living out of an orphan spirit. Sozo inner healing is effective because it recognizes that only God Himself can heal us. Another counseling method that adheres to this principle is Restoring the Foundations.
Believers must also practice God’s presence, learn to hear His voice, and obey what He is saying to reach greater maturity, i.e, to go from glory to glory.
By the end of Phase II, you will begin to see yourself in many of these characteristics:
- identify solely in God’s love
- delighted in
- not lonely
- full of life
- emotionally stable
- not easily upset/worried by circumstances
- gracious toward others
You relate to and view God as:
- slow to anger
- never critical
- not manipulative or controlling
- full of grace
- caring (about all details and dreams in your life)
The last characteristic of God I listed, “merciful,” leads me to Phase III.
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.
“Mercy” in this verse is transliterated into the Greek as “Oiktirmos,” which means:
- compassion, pity, mercy
- bowels in which compassion resides, a heart of compassion
- emotions, longings, manifestations of pity
I got this definition from the same online Bible lexicon referenced above.
Apparently, to the Hebrews of the day, “bowels” referred to the place where you’d find the deepest, most tender affections. The definition also includes “emotions, longings.”
So when “mercy” is used in Romans 12:1, it’s as if it’s saying:
because of the deepest, most tender affections [longings] of God for you, present your bodies…
Paul isn’t laying down the “guilt trip” on us saying, “Geez guys, Jesus DIED for you and you can’t even give up $50 for this person?”
No, he’s exhorting us to come to a new level of understanding of the gospel (including all His affections for us attached to it), through mind renewal and abiding in Jesus.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16
I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints,
Now obviously the phases aren’t so black and white – they can blend a bit together. For instance, the renewal of the mind never ends. But I like painting big pictures because I find them helpful.
All truly mature believers, however, will learn to love God and themselves purely, and have a godly, basic trust in others.
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
In this Phase, the Spirit of God is teaching us that truly, it is all about Him. And with our fresh (renewed) perspective, we can joyfully agree and exclaim, “YES! It IS all about You! I only want more of You! Nothing else will satisfy!”
This kind of surrender is our true worship stated in Romans 12:1 – where we can lay down the freedom we found in Christ to do His will above our own. We know we have grace and won’t be loved less in our sin, but we gladly decide against a life of compromise because of our ever-increasing love for God.
It is out of this phase where each of us will live to our fullest potential.
So if you’re in Phase I, don’t give up! And if in Phase II, keep pressing into God!
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.