Cooperating with God in His “Handiwork”

by | Apr 21, 2017

TPM and God’s Handiwork

Key Concepts

  • Transformation that produces the fruit of the Spirit, is effortless, since it is God’s fruit and not our own. We are called to “bear fruit” and not DO the fruit. (Col. 1:9-10)
  • The TPM PROCESS provides a means by which every member of the Body of Christ may intentionally, consistently, and systematically cooperate with God in His “handiwork”(Eph. 2:10) of refining their faith, that brings about the renewing of their minds and that produces an effortless transformation in their belief and behavior.

 

worker and production of cast iron inside of steel plantGod is like a smelter of metal, heating up our lives, exposing the impurities that hinder our walk with Him. His refinement brings about the effortless transformation made evident by the presence of the fruit of His Spirit. The reason that it is effortless is because this fruit  is God produced.  We cannot produce His fruit, we can only bear it. Bearing fruit is the outcome of what He has done.

“…be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (what God does), SO THAT  you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father…” (What we are able to do because of what God did.) (Col. 1:9-10)

The Process of Transformation Prayer Ministry (TPM) (the protocol followed in a ministry session) provides a means by which every member of the Body of Christ may intentionally, consistently, and systematically cooperate with God in His “handiwork” (Eph. 2:10) of refining their faith, that brings about the renewing of their minds and that produces an effortless transformation in their belief and behavior.

 

How do we cooperate with God in His handiwork?

Key Concepts

  • We must learn to re-frame our unavoidable life troubles, difficulties and crises as opportunities for benefit as opposed to a drudgery we must endure and somehow get through.
  • If we fail to understand God’s process of refinement, we may be caught off guard by the “fire” when it comes, discouraged by its flames and fail to benefit from its purification. (1 Pet. 4:12-13)
  • Transformation makes it possible to walk in the Spirit and to live out the truth of the written Word through the power of Christ.
  • If we approach the Scriptures as a “rule book” to follow and then put out our best effort in performing it, we are doing the same as the Muslims who seek to keep the teachings of the Koran and the Buddhists who seek to follow the teachings of Buddha. This is not the way of Christ.
  • Much of what we have called spirituality and transformation in the Christian life is nothing more than the controlled behavior that any unbeliever could do if he just set his mind to doing it.
  • Transformation is not the result of trying to conform our behavior to the truth and Christ’s image, but rather a result of being transformed by the truth.

 

The first step is to re-frame our unavoidable life troubles, difficulties and crises as opportunities for benefit as opposed to a drudgery we must endure and somehow get through. This is the refiner’s fire designed to purify our faith. These “opportunities” are the context in which God is doing His refining and renewing work. When we are genuinely able to recognize God’s handiwork in the midst of our crises, difficulties and trials, the “refiner’s fire” ceases to be a threat and takes on a whole different meaning. However, if we fail to understand God’s process of refinement, we may be caught off guard by the “fire” when it comes, discouraged by its flames and fail to benefit from its purification.

The Apostle Peter warned of this when he wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

However, as we are able to cooperate with God in the midst of our “fiery ordeal” this refining of our faith brings about mind renewal that results in effortless transformation. The Apostle Paul revealed this relationship of mind renewal and transformation when he said, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2).

The mind renewal described here is a work of God and not self-accomplished. It goes far beyond  filling our mind with Bible verses and reaches into the depths of our inner being. Without question, intellectual knowledge has its purpose, but without a refined faith it only makes us smarter and may even “puffeth up” or make us arrogant (1 Cor. 8:1). The mind renewal that God produces is the outcome of a purified faith that results in transformation.

Then this raises the question, “What is faith-produced transformation?” Again, it is not something that we produce on our own or even with God’s help. This is not an endeavor in partnership with God but one of submission and total reliance on what only God can do. It is only brought about as an outcome of an inner working of the Holy Spirit. When this occurs the outcome is the expected and spontaneous expression of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. His fruit flows naturally and effortlessly out of the transformation He brings about. Simply put, apart from genuine transformation the fruit cannot be experienced.

Transformation makes it possible to walk in the Spirit and to live out the written Word of God through the power of Christ. Transformation makes it possible for us to rightly discern and even to do the will of God. The Apostle Paul said this succinctly when he wrote, “… be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2 HCSB).

This reality is again clarified by Paul when he wrote, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

The apostle is describing a position of rest in this passage as opposed to one of labor. Too often we approach the Scriptures as a “rule book” to follow and then put out our best effort in performing it. This is how the Muslims approach the Koran and the Buddhists seek to follow the teachings of Buddha. But it is not the way of Christ.

If we try to conform our behavior to match the truth, we will not experience transformation; this is conformity. Transformation is not the result of trying to conform our behavior to the truth and God’s image, but rather a result of being transformed by the truth into His image. Only God can bring this about. Performance-based spirituality is often mistakenly thought to be transformation when in fact it is the same process all other world religions advocate and practice.

Too often, it is the one who performs and looks the best who is considered to be the most spiritual or transformed. This is not so. Transformation is not accomplished by performance and has nothing to do with what we can accomplish in our own strength. Transformation is a genuine and lasting change that God brings about through the refinement of our faith. It is a sad reality, but nonetheless true, that much of what we have called spirituality and transformation in the Christian life is nothing more than the controlled behavior that any lost person could do if he just set his mind to doing it.

 

Genuine Transformation is Effortless.

Key Concepts

  • The listing of the fruit in Galatians chapter five is not a “to-do” list for us to try to fulfill but an expected outcome of genuine transformation. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control are not attributes that we are to strive toward, but rather an outflow of transformation. 
  • A refined faith made pure is the foundation stone that supports living a life pleasing to God. Therefore, it is vitally important that we understand what it is, how to attain it, and how to help bring about its purification. 
  • We do not need to discipline ourselves to be transformed into His likeness since transformation is what God brings about. However, there is a discipline in our choosing to position ourselves where He can better accomplish this work.
  • Cooperating with God requires that we choose (discipline) to take ownership and responsibility for what is ours and to submit to “… His mighty hand …” (1 Pet. 5:6) during the heat of His refining fire.

Transformation is not self-attained or self-sustained, but only accomplished by God. In the same way, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is God’s fruit and not ours. The listing of the fruit in Galatians chapter five is not a “to-do” list for us to try to fulfill but an expected outcome of genuine transformation. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control are not attributes that we are to strive toward but rather an outflow of transformation. This raises two more questions. “Why are the fruits not always present in our lives? What is hindering us from experiencing them?” We are going to examine these very important questions. (Spoiler alert: The answer is not in our overcoming sin.)

It is important that we discover why God is so invested in refining our faith. We also need to identify what it is about our faith that needs to be refined. The very fact that our faith needs refinement suggests that it is not totally pure. However, before we explore these facets of faith refinement, we must first understand what faith is and why its refinement is critical for successfully living out the Christian life.

The Bible is clear when it says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). This passage is a strong indicator that a genuine faith is critical if we are to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

A refined faith made pure is the foundation stone that supports living a life pleasing to God. Therefore, it is vitally important that we understand what it is, how to attain it, and how to help bring about its purification. The Apostle Paul brings it all in focus and clarifies the importance of faith when he wrote “… whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

TPM is a “tool” by which we may participate with God in His refining process so that He may more effectively bring about genuine and lasting transformation. When this occurs the fruit of the Holy Spirit is experienced naturally and spontaneously as an outcome of a purified faith. In the latter portion of this discussion we will look at how to apply this tool to our daily lives as a life skill and spiritual discipline. My using the word discipline here may appear to be a direct contradiction to what I have just said. Actually, it is not.

Transformation is a work of God. We do not need to discipline ourselves to be transformed into His likeness. He accomplishes this. However, there is a discipline in our choosing to position ourselves where He can better accomplish this work. We can resist Him, blame others, or distract ourselves from what His fire exposes in us by self-medicating, and in many other ways thwart His purpose.

Cooperating with God requires that we choose (discipline) to take ownership and responsibility for what is ours and to submit to “… His mighty hand …” (1 Pet. 5:6) during His refining fire. As we choose to do this (discipline) we will reap the benefit of Him granting us a pure faith and an effortless transformation.

 

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