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Outside->Inside->Outside

I am going to say something I rarely ever say. “I was wrong.” I have often said to my friends that change comes from the inside out. By this I meant that we don’t make lasting change by changing outward things but we only change significantly when we change on the inside and then the inner change can be outwardly seen in our lives.
I am now convinced that true change comes from the outside rather than the inside. In my defence I think I knew this all the time but was a bit sloppy in my thinking and expression of this. Inside out attempts at transformation rely on carnal methods rather than spiritual ones.
We often try by an exercise of will to change a character defect. By great effort and through prayer and support of the Christian community we address this defect and make marked progress but like a stream that is dammed up my defect finds another channel and I go to work on that. One at a time I address the presenting problem. Through great dint of effort and much prayer and support I make progress, and lose ground at the same time!
Sometimes we take a more positive tact. Instead of battling against the negative we decide to accentuate the positive. We find people and particularly Jesus and we mimic. We learn the seven principles and the 12 rules to successful living and we make them the rule for our lives. If we can succeed in meticulously following these ‘laws’ we can win a victory over our own fallen nature. The two great problems with this are: 1) It is exhausting! and 2) It is Pharisaical religion.
“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18
The key to this is the passive tense “Being transformed” the activity is from the outside! I am transformed not by my own straining but from the outside. This outside –> inside-> outside change is the only true transformation. Our spiritual growth is like all growth. We don’t ‘grow’ plants. We provide the optimum environment for them and they grow. The same is true of children and adults. “God makes things grow.”
My friend Kris and I have been in a lot of discussion lately about how we so often miss this simple truth. We see all around us good people (like ourselves) who have missed the point. We feel a call to a season of rallying people around this simple idea that those things we see as problems are painful symptoms of a deep spiritual problem. Our activity can never ultimately fix even though we address symptom after symptom with energy. A spiritual problem requires a work of the Spirit, just as Paul describes it in the above verse.
Self effort no matter how well intentioned can only hinder true transformation. In weeks ahead I want to spend some time unpacking this idea. Please feel free to comment and help me in working my way through this.

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One comment on “Outside->Inside->Outside

  1. My dear friend Reed after reading this something became very clear to me, so I will try to put it to words. Our biggest problem is fear because it produces self-pity, self-seeking, self-delusion and self-centeredness which comes out as character defects. So how do we over come fear, I believe by faith and actions which is what Paul writes about. I look at my own life, change started with a thought, (I need to do something or I am going to die this way) then a feeling ( I can’t do this alone) then a behavior ( asked for help). Also asking for help broke the vicious cycle of fear. Then I could see I was the one who blocked others and God out of my life and as I began having faith in others and God my fears became manageable which gave me freedom.

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