Author and pastor Drew Dyck recently put into words a dilemma we have all observed, but have rarely stated so eloquently:
“How is it possible for someone to go to church year after year, listen to great sermons, read the Bible, absorb Christian classics, find ways to serve, and even attend ministry conferences — and change very little. Strange question, I know, but not hypothetical. I ask it with someone specific in mind, someone whose minimal spiritual progress I’ve watched with mounting frustration. That person is me.”
In Part 4 of our Questions on Salvation series, Morgan focused on the middle-tense of salvation, which we call sanctification. Sanctification is the lifelong process by which we partner with the Holy Spirit to see God change us from from the inside to become more and more like Christ. Morgan taught on the Bible’s commands regarding sanctification, the means by which we are sanctified, and the motivations we should have to seriously pursue sanctification.
And yet observing the evidence of sanctification in our lives can be challenging. Its pace may be glacial and hard to detect without markers against which to measure our progress. Gordon MacDonald, the president of Denver Seminary, has recently contributed an article for Leadership Journal in which he offers 12 signs that transformation is taking place in our life. Each trait is stated in the present tense, indicating that these markers point to ongoing transformation in the life of the believer. According to Dr. MacDonald, a Christian who is being transformed:
- Has an undiluted devotion to Jesus;
- Pursues a Biblically informed view of the world;
- Is intentional and disciplined in seeking God’s direction in life;
- Worships, and has a spirit of continuous repentance;
- Builds healthy, reciprocal human relationships;
- Knows how to engage the larger world where faith is not necessarily understood;
- Is aware of a personal “call” and unique competencies;
- Is merciful and generous;
- Appreciates that suffering is part of faithfulness to Jesus;
- Is eager and ready to express the content of his/her faith;
- Overflows with thankfulness;
- Has a passion for reconciliation.
One note of caution: the points above are only the bullet points, and the value of his article is not in the list, but in his explanation of each trait. And before you throw too many stones at this list, you should know that Dr. MacDonald himself said, “I fully expect that every person who works in spiritual direction and discipleship will second guess every line I write. But I’d be a happy man if I knew that a few Christian leaders hammered on these answers and improved on them.”
For those who have faced difficulty grasping how transformation might look in the believer’s life, it would be helpful to read the full article, which elaborates on each of the points and provides explanations for why each marker is included. You can find the full article here. You might also want to go back and listen to our series on Salvation, which can be found here.