Transformation from the Inside Out

SummerBlogTour (5)

Note: This Summer I’m a part of a ‘Summer Blog Tour’. This Summer participants will be posting a series of writings as guest posts on the theme “Inside Out”. If you like them, please share them in social media. There is a book give-a-way associated with the tour, so go HERE for details. Now on to the next entry in the series … some thoughts on transformation by the insightful Ryan Lassiter. As always, thanks for reading. JD


As I observe the Christian world around me (or maybe the entire world around me for that matter), it seems that extremes win the day. I grew up like many Christians have over the past 30 or more years in a faith tradition that was steeped in legalism. God was seen as this angry God who really did not much like his people, but he could be “bought off” with good deeds. As a reaction to that, we lean over into a world of “justification by faith” to talk about the gospel in such a way that it seems like simply an endeavor of the mind. Believe this, think that, say these words, be immersed in water, and you are “good”. The goal is simply to think certain things and confess certain things with your mouth, and then go to heaven when you die. For some reason, we never settle in the middle of these extremes with the biblical view that you are loved by God simply because, and that you are saved by faith alone. Therefore, live out your salvation and embark upon a journey of following Christ. We love the extremes it seems.

There has been a lot of scholarship over the past 30 years that has led us to believe that Paul wasn’t plagued with guilt when he wrote Romans, like say Martin Luther was when he read it. It seems that Paul’s goal was not simply to help get people to heaven when they die (though that is important), but it was to get heaven inside of Christ followers. The gospel was not simply something to be believed, or a formula for salvation from hell at death, but it was a good news event that should dramatically alter the life of those who believe it and follow after this Crucified Christ. To follow Christ is to orient one’s life toward Christ and begin a journey of being formed into His image. It is why Paul would say things about us being transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So I don’t know if you are like me, but I find myself often frustrated. I want to be more patient, loving, kind, gentle, generous, and self-controlled. I want to react differently, or perhaps be less reactionary at times. I wish I was less impatient, less rash, less compulsive, less…well, you name it. It is a bit like my golf game.

I love golf. I don’t think my swing and my game are that bad. In my head, I know how to play the game really well and I can see myself playing well. However, I continually am amazed and frustrated when I go play and I’m not much better than the last time I played. Yet I never think that part of the problem is I don’t practice. And so it is with my faith. I wish I saw more of the fruit of the Spirit pouring forth in my life, but I do nothing toward that goal.

As Paul is concluding his theological masterpiece, he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2 (emphasis mine). Paul seems to believe we can be different, and that we can be transformed from the inside out by the renewing of our minds. The gospel can and ought to transform us now, not just at the end. The deal is though, it isn’t a magic formula that you believe and confess and all of the sudden your life is dramatically changed. Sure there are these monumental moments in our faith, but more and more I think it is about the daily process of pursuing Christ. And it is into this thinking that I believe the spiritual disciplines call out to us. The spiritual disciplines are no magic formula, but they can position us for the Spirit to do its work.

I love the teaching of people like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. They have a holistic and full view of salvation that it isn’t simply a one time conversion moment, but it is a journey or a process of transformation. Both of these guys also believe that the spiritual disciplines are the “practice” so to speak of the faith. If we want to see transformation in our lives, if we want to be less compulsive and reactionary and more patient and kind, perhaps we ought to do things that position us for the Spirit to make these changes in our lives. Maybe we incorporate into our daily lives what St. Benedict called a “rule of life”, or “rhythm of life” that practices the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, solitude, silence, hospitality, submission to others, etc. If the goal isn’t simply to get to heaven one day, but to get heaven inside of us, to become people who begin to look and act more like Christ, then maybe these spiritual disciplines are a very practical tool for this inside out transformation, or what Paul calls the “renewing of your mind”.

The western story of Christianity has been hijacked into one that sounds like Jesus came into the world so we could get out of it. The problem is, that is not a very biblical picture of faith. Rather, what if we let go of that story and began seeing that Christ came into this world to get His image inside of it, or inside of us. No we don’t want to conform to the ways of this world, but neither do we want to hide from it. Rather, let us be transformed from the inside out by the renewing of our minds, and through this bear His image to a lost and broken world.

I can guarantee you that practicing the spiritual disciplines will position you for this transformation because I have seen it in my own life. The deal is though, no one can teach you into this change. Rather, you will have to try it. We can talk about the disciplines, but if you really want to see how it might could work in your life, then do it. Slow down, carve out space in your life, and lean into these disciplines. And don’t be surprised if you notice yourself reacting a bit differently, perhaps a bit more like Jesus would react.

The Holy Spirit wants to transform you into the image of Christ, but this can only be done from the inside out.


Ryan Lassiter
Ryan Lassiter

Ryan Lassiter is the preaching minister at the Hunter Hills Church of Christ in Prattville AL. Prior to that he served as a minster at the Golf Course Road Church of Christ in Midland TX, and he and his wife Sarah have also spent time as missionaries. Ryan graduated with his masters in Missional Leadership from Rochester College and his passion is helping people join God in his mission of redemption and restoration. He blogs at www.ryanlassiter.com.


Summer Blog Tour Posts In Case You Missed Them!

Inside Out by Peter Horne

Church Inside Out by Tim Archer

Experiencing Miracles From the Inside Out by Jennifer Rundlett

More to come!

That Person Next To You

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I’m as guilty as anyone of being zoned out to those around me while I contemplate what I have to do next or fret about why this line is taking so long. I will admit that I’ve often ignored the person next to me while I took care of my own business. I also want to assert that we’ve got to start noticing the person next to us.

How tempted are we to start thinking in grandiose terms when someone mentions we should love our neighbor as ourselves (a teaching of Jesus!)? I start thinking about the world, cities, the community … and may even be daydreaming about that while there is a person 3 feet from me that I’m not acknowledging.

When Maggy and I travel to the Mississippi Delta to see family, we usually go on the same route. Along that route is a McDonalds restaurant which happens to appear about the same time we need a break! So we have stopped there many times. Yesterday we were taking a break on our way home and an elderly black man sat down near us.

So what was I doing? I never noticed him. I was watching Republican convention coverage on the TV monitor and also thinking about the trip home and what we had to do when we get there. That’s when I heard Maggy say:

“I like your hat.”

That’s all. Simple, sweet, acknowledgment of the human being that was right there near us. That statement broke my ‘concentration’ and I noticed it was an LSU hat. So I joined in and told him we were from Monroe and there were lots of people here who love LSU.

He beamed and said that he had a son that graduated top of his class in the engineering department there. He then added that he had a son that was in the Navy and had soared to the top of the ladder in the area where he served (he called the rank specifically what it was, my memory won’t recall that now). Then he said he had one son that wasn’t worth nothing – but he was smiling as he thought about his youngest. I told him that maybe he’d find his way before long. We complimented him on his parenting skills and he gave all the credit to his wife.

That’s when he told us that his wife passed away a few years ago. And I knew at that moment how important it was for us to acknowledge the person next to us. He wasn’t eating lunch at McDonald’s by himself for the fun of it…nor was he talking to strangers just to be kind.

To tell the truth I was the one who was blessed when we started talking to an elderly black man in McDonald’s one afternoon.

Recently on Facebook I saw a post relating to a meeting at the Hunter Hills Church of Christ near Montgomery. It said in part:

What a blessed time we had on tonight with the Hunter Hills Church Family. A great message from our minister Tim Anderson, Jr. He challenged the audience to start a conversation with some who doesn’t look like you and get to know others.

Simple, but powerful. It all starts with noticing that person next to you. They may need some encouragement or a kind word … but chances are they have something to share with you. We might not be able to fix all of the troubles of the world, but we might be able to ease the trouble of one person near us.

If that catches on, I think something beautiful might be up in the world. No surprise… it’s part of the Jesus Life to which we’re called. He didn’t pass up an opportunity to speak to the person next to Him. Neither should we.

Thanks for reading,  JD.

The Preacher and the Lady

al3In today’s mail I received an issue of Preacher Talk. It’s a small occasional publication that’s been around for a long time (this issue says Vol. 31, No. 2). It’s aimed, obviously at preachers and always has several short, interesting, pithy articles and observations. On page three is always an article all set up to be used in a church bulletin. The editor and sole writer is Cecil May, Jr., who is the Dean Emeritus and Professor, College of Biblical Studies at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.

I found the timing of the arrival of this publication striking. At the time it was mailed, the Preacher could not have known that he would be saying goodbye to the Lady.

Winnie May passed away on the morning of July 17, 2016. For 62 years it was the Preacher and the Lady. You seldom saw one without the other. Although some in my family knew them when Cecil preached in Vicksburg, Mississippi, I didn’t meet them until the Spring of 1981. That’s when I entered Magnolia Bible College at age 17. They had just arrived to Kosciusko so that he could be President of the college.

So my relationship with them was one of School Administrator to Student, but it never felt that way. Abundant with kindness, I always felt that they were there for me if I needed them. Their children became my friends. Cecil III’s last semester was my first semester. Roslyn and Richard were still in high school. I only met Betty years later. There was something about the May family that made me feel like I was a part of their family. For a teenage boy away from home for the first time, that was a good feeling. It still is.

I’m sure there are many students at colleges and universities who never get to know their administrators on a personal level. But I knew the Preacher and the Lady well, and even worked for the college for a few years after graduation. Winnie was a strong lady with an unyielding loyalty to the Preacher. I don’t know how many church bulletins came through the mail at Magnolia Bible College, but she looked at every one and could pretty much tell you who was preaching in any church in Mississippi and how it seemed they were doing. It was one of the ways she partnered with Cecil in his influential work.

Winnie had strong opinions and viewpoints and never minded sharing them with you. Even so, I never knew her to be unkind if she disagreed with you. This was the way of the Preacher and the Lady … committed, convicted, and kind.

On the day that my son died, I received a message from Cecil that said how sorry they were. That he and Winnie had cried and then prayed for us.

I haven’t seen her in several years, but being friends with her children I knew her health was declining. I don’t know what the Preacher will do now that the chair where the Lady sat is empty. He’s a man of faith and I know he will lean on His Lord… but a broken heart will now be a part of that relationship.

There was a memorial service in Montgomery yesterday which was very encouraging to the family. The funeral will be in Fulton, Mississippi Thursday. I pray for my friends as they say goodbye to their mother and wife. They are going to miss her strong presence in their family.

And I wonder what the next issue of Preacher Talk will look like. I hope it’s all about Winnie.

Thanks for reading, JD