We are inclined to think that we depend on others to change in order for our relationships to change. But the biggest relationship transformation comes when spiritual transformation comes to us. While we all have different relationships, we can focus on relationship transformation in our quiet time by focusing on in three key areas.
Our quiet times are about spiritual transformation. Spiritual transformation means we change by growing in holiness. When we change, our relationships also change–or at least the way we relate to others will change.
The focus is on how we relate to each of these areas, or how I think about this part of my life or my relationship with this person or group. Transformation changes our hearts, our beliefs, our affections and our volition. We can cross-reference genuine heart change with three relational areas.
Spiritual transformation in how we relate to the Lord
It should be obvious, but the primary relationship that should be transformed through our quiet time is our relationship with the Lord. Inherently, we reject the Lord. This rejection requires that we think and believe things about God that are not true. A key element of spiritual transformation, therefore, is understanding God accurately. In fact, of all the relationships and of all the changes that need to take place, this is foundational. The less we think rightly about the Lord, the less holy we will be. The more accurately and fully we understand the character of the Lord, the more holy we will be. The knowledge of God is the foundation upon which all our relationships are built.
But believing rightly about the Lord is not enough. Right beliefs should have an impact on our desires and affections. If we believe that God is harsh and judgmental, this will negatively impact our desire to come to Him when we sin. But if we believe that God is merciful and gracious, we will be more inclined to come to Him and confess. This aversion or attraction is rooted in our affections, but it is informed and supported by our beliefs.
This aversion or attraction also affects our volition or what we do. The expectation of rejection and the fear of judgement tends to conflict with any commitment to confess sin. While a right understanding of God is not the only thing that needs to change, it is the gateway to spiritual transformation in our relationship with God.
Spiritual transformation in how we relate to ourselves.
The way we relate to ourselves may not be as obvious as how we relate to the Lord. Yet, spiritual transformation must change the way we see ourselves if we are to grow.
We are commanded to consider ourselves with sound judgment (Rom 12:3), which means we are not to think of ourselves too highly, nor underestimate the contribution we can make to the world or the people the Lord puts in our lives. Having sound judgment regarding ourselves can be a battle to balance. Rightly judging ourselves is also connected to how we relate to the Lord.
A high view (belief) of self leads to entitlement, demands and expectations we set for ourselves. Often these cannot be met, leading to disappointment and gloom rather than the joy we are commanded to have (Phil 4:4). Therefore, we are commanded to set our minds on things above (Col 3:1), and love God above all else. If we recognize the distinction between what we feel and what the Lord says we should feel, we can trace faults in the way we think about who we are and what we should do.
Often we will read a command (such as Philippians 4:4) and notice that it is something we currently do not obey. Recognizing areas of disobedience gives us a clue that there are parts of our heart that need examination. Our quiet time is the ideal time to do that examination.
Spiritual transformation in how we relate to others.
We have not fully experienced spiritual transformation until it affects how we relate to others. Yet, our relationships with others tend to be the last place the knowledge of God is applied. Therefore, our relationships are the last place that we see transformation.
The way we relate to God and to ourselves are foundational to how we relate to others. If I am unwilling to confess my sin to the Lord, I’ll be even more unwilling to confess my sin to others, because whatever we think of the judgment of God, we have all experienced the judgment of others. We often let our experiences with others shape us rather than let the knowledge of God shape us.
Therefore, the more the knowledge of God shapes us, the more we will recognize the need to let this shape the rest of our lives. Over time, we should see a biblical view of God and ourselves set us free from the desires and demands of others, so that we focus on pleasing the Lord first. In some cases this will mean pleasing the Lord even if others don’t like it. In most cases, pleasing the Lord will result automatically in us being more beneficial to others.
Ultimately, we are made to serve, and service is always rendered to and benefits others. This is love (see John 13).
What to look for
How we relate to God impacts how we view life. It flows into our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to others. Therefore, spiritual transformation must change our view of God first. From here we need to allow our knowledge of God to change how we see ourselves and how we relate to others.
You might also notice that the mind has a primary role in bringing this change, and in it flowing through our entire heart. Right beliefs lead to right desires which lead to volitional change. This is why the word of God focuses on obedience from the heart (Rom 6:17), and the need for heart change. Heart change ultimately changes our entire life.
In the next article, we’ll look at how you can focus on this set of relationship changes in your quiet time.
What relationship changes have come about as a result of heart change in your life?