Tag Archives: Christian Spirituality

My Thoughts on the I-Cycle (Part 3)

The “God and I” Phase

This is a continuation of my series of post on Clyde Pilkington’s theory of the I-Cycle. Here are the links to Clyde’s video and my summary of the cycle:

Clyde Pilkington’s Video

My Summary

This post examines the “God and I” phase of the cycle. This is the phase where people decide to fully submit their lives to God. They decide to seek his guidance on all matters of life, and they commit to following His will instead of their own.

This is the phase which many Evangelicals hold as their paradigm. Often times, Christians enter this phase because they believe that, when following their own desires, they are getting into all sorts of trouble. Maybe they know what is right but cannot get themselves to follow through. Or maybe plans in life that sounded good at one time are going awry, causing continual frustration. Perhaps these Christians were involved in some truly noble endeavors, but lacked success in those pursuits and are growing weary, finding themselves in a quandary of guilt or self-questioning.

Thus, these people come to believe that the only way out of these predicaments is to follow God’s leading in all matters of life. Many Christians in this phase have a strong spiritual focus. For example, they may spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation. They place a lot of emphasis on following the Holy Spirit instead of their flesh or their minds. They believe that in order to live for God, they have to set aside their mental feelings and urges (which they consider to be corrupt and selfish) and instead follow their spiritual intuition, which they view as a deeper part of themselves that has the life of God.

Many Christians in this phase feel a sense of peace that they lacked before. Instead of simultaneously living for themselves but also trying to follow a set of religious rules, they feel free and empowered now that they can follow the Holy Spirit’s leading instead of trying to conform to fixed rules or ordinances that they never quite succeeded at. Furthermore, they perceive that their selfish tendencies are now being subdued since they are no longer tantalizing those tendencies with their own desires and ambitions of life.

I consider this to be the first phase of the “I”-Cycle that has a Biblical basis for fully living in it. For example, the Apostle James writes,

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15).

Also consider the following passage from the Apostle Paul,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect(Romans 12:1-2).

In this “God and I” phase of the I-Cycle, Christians often seem to be “on fire” for God. This is where being “separate from the world” really becomes a prominent part of one’s mentality. As opposed to the previous phase, where one’s faith is more of a private aspect of life, many Christians in the “God and I” phase take their faith public and engage in faith-related discussions with those around them.

Christians who have reached this phase often serve as “spiritual role models” for those who are in the earlier phases. Some Christians who reach this phase are comfortable living in it for the rest of their lives. However, there are others who develop tensions while living in this phase, which lead to further developments in their spiritual journey.

I want to describe some common characteristics in the journey to, through, and beyond this phase, based on many testimonies I have read.

Often times, Christians enter the “God and I” phase out of a sincere desire to know God’s will and have a deeper relationship with Him. They often have a healthy sense of humility and inward peace as they keep their focus on God rather than themselves. Their relationship with God is like a new world for them, and the spiritual distance between themselves and the rest of the world isn’t bearing upon their minds. However, there comes a point where they notice the distance.

When the distance grabs their attention, they observe that they are making a lot of sacrifices to keep God first in their lives, whereas other people are carelessly going about their own ways. At this point, they start becoming a bit self-righteous about their choice to follow God. They sense that they are striving to maintain their spiritual purity amid a world that’s going down the drain. They may eventually become overwhelmed and burned out.

At that point, some of these Christians step back into a mentality that resembles the previous phase of the I-Cycle, “I and God.” However, other Christians move forward into the next phase of the cycle, the “God” phase, which we will look at in the next post.

The “I” Cycle (Summary)

In my last post, I shared a link to the video where the writer Clyde Pilkington describes his theory called the “I” Cycle. I first heard about the “I” Cycle in 2013. I thought it was interesting, but it was not until here lately that I suddenly realized how powerful this model could be. I believe that this model for spiritual growth could profoundly address many of the debates facing believers today, in particular, the faith-works controversy.

Before I give my own thoughts on the “I” Cycle, I want to summarize Mr. Pilkington’s theory in case you didn’t have time to watch the whole video.

Phase 1: The old-creation “I”

This is where people begin life. Infants are only aware of their own needs. As they grow into early childhood, they gain awareness of the broader world but see the world as revolving around themselves, and feel entitled to have their desires met. Some people continue this self-centered mentality into adulthood.

Phase 2: “I and God”

At this phase, people decide to make God a part of their lives. They realize that there are situations in life in which they need His help. Although they may engage in church and prayer, they are primarily following their own pursuits and ambitions, even though they see God as being available when they need Him.

Phase 3: “God and I”

This is where people decide to put God first in their lives. They often realize that, left to themselves, they are creating a lot of trouble. So, they decide to surrender their lives to God and follow Him step by step.

Phase 4: “God”

At this phase, people put more emphasis on God’s sovereignty. They come to believe that God is not relying on their own obedience for His will to be fulfilled, even though He may choose to use them. People in this phase often reject the concept of free will.

Phase 5: The new-creation “I”

Here, at the completion of the cycle, people come to fully see themselves as new creations in Christ. In contrast to the “God and I” phase, people are no longer focused on “submitting” themselves to Christ. Instead, they see the life of Christ as inherently expressed through their lives. At the same time, in contrast to the “God” phase, people do not let their comprehension of God’s sovereignty inhibit them from getting into action or acknowledging their own accomplishments. They no longer think that God has to swoop in and do something with them in order for His plans to be fulfilled. Instead, seeing themselves as new creations, they are free to act without having to worry about some part of them interfering with God’s plans. Life is no longer about overcoming one’s natural state to conform to a “correct” state. Instead, as new creations, people are free to be who they are.

Here is the link to Mr. Pilkington’s video where he discusses the “I” Cycle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w53DgB9Fks

In my next post, I will share my own thoughts on each of these phases and how I see them reflected in the Bible, and the lives of believers. I also want to show ways in which this model could address debates in the church today.

A Believer’s Body as the Holy Spirit’s Temple

In this audio, I discuss the principle of a believer’s body being the Holy Spirit’s temple. I talk about why I believe the principle has been misapplied to create unnecessary guilt and legalism. This audio also examines how Jesus drew a distinction between good health practices and matters of obedience to God.

 

 

Demystifying Spirituality – Part 3

A concern among many Christians is that people will fail to take the initiative to do what is right and instead sit around waiting for God to get them to do something through a dramatic experience. The often-repeated warning is that God will not force us to do anything, and that He is waiting for us to take action. The idea is that God works in us only when we are also taking action; it is viewed as a cooperative process between us and Him.

So, then, considering my own writings on this blog, am I suggesting that we cannot do anything until God drives us into action? Well, I’m not suggesting that, and in this article, I want to explain why.

I do not believe that we need some sort of “push” or dramatic experience with the Holy Spirit to do something. Rather, I think that what we need is a reorientation of our minds and physiological responses. I am going to cover several more spiritual phrases in this article, such as “surrendering one’s self to God, being “separate from the world,” and being “free from Law.”

I’ll describe an experience that has been true for me, and I think it is true for most people in general. As soon as we wake up in the morning, thoughts enter our minds, which in turn cause feelings based on our physiological make-up as discussed in Part 1 of this series. These feelings influence our actions. Now, at times throughout the day, we may try to bypass these feelings by telling ourselves to act contrary to them. However, success may be limited because, even though we are trying to deny those feelings, we live with perceptions of reality that promote those feelings. Thus, we are denying them and promoting them at the same time, which yields little success.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

I think this passage refers to the way we interpret what we see with our eyes – the things we tell ourselves based upon our vision.

Thus, I believe that “surrendering ourselves to God” can be seen as becoming willing to see our lives with new vision and to see the world with new vision. This reorientation of our vision is something that we can pray for and believe for. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:18, as part of a prayer for the church, “with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he [God] has called you.”

When we see ourselves and our environment with new eyes, our nerves and impulses can be controlled. Anxieties, temptations, and irrational urges do not go away altogether, but believers have the Spirit of God inside of them which can enable them to control these negative feelings and thoughts so that they do not rule one’s life (Gal. 5:22-23). But a readjustment of one’s vision may be necessary to act upon this inward spiritual power. The Spirit works in us so that we have the ability to act on our own initiative if our vision is oriented correctly. I believe this principle also helps explain the results of being “born again.” Through the new birth, God has given us an opportunity to go through a lifelong reorientation of our consciousness through the Spirit.

Another point I want to mention is being “separate from the world.” Christians have a lot of debate over how different from the secular world we are required to be. There are a list of ways in which I am different from many non-Christians of my demographic. However, I do not use these differences to justify myself. One reason is that, some of these difference are due to traits that I was probably born with. But the other reason is that, I myself am not completely sure what a lifestyle apart from the world entails.

Thus, my outward activity (in contrast to non-Christians) is a secondary factor. For me, being separate from the world is primarily about the perspectives and attitudes that I live with. All of the things I write about on this blog are things that I think about as I go about my daily life. I trust that, by focusing on these things, my lifestyle will adjust if there are any areas where it needs to be adjusted.

The last spiritual concept I want to discuss is being “free from law.” I think that, for many people, understanding freedom from law can be essential to experiencing the reorientation of one’s vision needed to solve problems in life.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:4-5, “You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

I believe the idea of law is that there are rules which you must measure yourself against to determine whether you can be at peace in your life. Paul also wrote that one’s conscience can serve as the law for one’s self (Rom. 2:14-15). The law demands full conformity (ever heard that “the law is the law?”).

How can law prevent us from reorienting our vision? Well, one reason is that law can keep us from seeing the big picture. Under law, we are condemned by any imperfection that we are conscious of. Thus, under law, our attention is fixated with that imperfection, and we neglect opportunities to “bear fruit” in our lives. Why bother to do good deeds in other areas of life when a single imperfection is going to condemn us anyway?

But there is another reason why law can hold us down; law causes anxiety that can lead to more missteps. Suppose that you have a habit of cussing and your conscience bothers you about it. You get self-absorbed with trying to fix your speech, thinking that you’ll be punished if you don’t, and a lot of tension builds up inside of you. Eventually, you can’t contain yourself anymore so you lose your tempter (without cussing) when somebody ticks you off. In this case, your law-driven obsession with not cussing led to a fruit of the flesh rather than a fruit of the Spirit. If you quit worrying about cussing so much, you could have a better temperament overall.

Yet another reason why we need to understand our freedom from law is that, law gets us hung up on sins in and of themselves, instead of looking at what inward problem caused the sins in the first place. The result is that we feel good about ourselves before we sin (because we’re fine according to the law), but we feel bad about ourselves after the sin occurs. This cycle of feeling good then feeling bad keeps us focused on our own faults rather than focusing on our freedom from sin. If our conscience bothers us about a certain habit in our lives, but we have not yet engaged in the habit today, our current abstinence should not be a reason to feel good about ourselves because it’s only a matter of time until we yield to temptation. To break the habit, we need to see our lives, and the habit itself, with new insights.

Demystifying Spirituality – Part 1

I want to start a series of posts in which we look at highly spiritual terminology in the Bible, particular phrases such as “dying to sin,” being “born again,” having a “renewed mind,” and being “separate from the world.”

Now, might be thinking, “This is going to be heavy and serious.” Well, I don’t think it has to be. In fact, I think it will be an enjoyable series because I will show how you can relate these phrases to your everyday life. If you are not someone who says these phrases a lot, you may think that Christians who frequently use them are somehow more “holy” or devout than you are. However, I don’t believe we have to think of people that way. In past times, I separated this spiritual terminology from my day to day, secular activities. However, that changed about a year ago as my personal life evolved and I started looking at certain Scriptures more closely. Now, I can relax and think about “dying to sin” while playing games. I am going to share with you how I do this, and you can decide for yourself if it is right to think similarly.

Romans 6:5-7: “For if we have been united with him [Christ] in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin.”

All right, let’s think about this. First, consider what it means to be “alive” to something, versus being “dead” to something. Here’s an example: Some people have food allergies. A certain food will prompt a specific part of a particular person’s immune system to overreact, causing adverse activity in that person’s body. When I was young, I was allergic to eggs. My immune system was “alive” to eggs. Eggs would provoke, or “tempt,” my immune system. Then, my immune system would “sin” by reacting adversely, causing a rash. However, by the age of 9, my immune system “died” to eggs. I was no longer allergic.

Now, let’s look at our own lives. If we sin, it is because something provokes us and we fail to react appropriately; either we get agitated and do something bad, or we get intimidated and freeze, failing to do the things we should. Suppose you’re someone who hates the sound of nails on chalkboard. Somebody does that just to annoy you, and it makes you lose your temper.

You lose your temper as a reflex of sorts because your nerves are “alive” to the sound of nails on chalkboard, and your vocal chords become “slaves” to your nerves. But now, suppose a physiologist claims he can fix your reflex to that noise. He gives you a potion that makes you completely unconscious for three days. During that time, people set up a chalkboard next to you and scratch their nails on it day in and day out to see if they can make you lose your temper. But you never do. You have died to that reflex, or to that “sin”. Your brain is not listening to it; your nervous system is not reacting to it; your vocal chords are not reacting to it. The whole “body of sin” that used to trigger that reflex has been deactivated. While you are unconscious, the potion is working on your brain and nervous system. When you return to consciousness, you still don’t like to hear nails on chalkboard, but you can choose to control your temper because the potion adjusted the internal workings inside of you.

I find it significant that Paul used the phrase “body of sin.” I believe that, in many cases, the cause of sin is not our intellect, but rather, it is in our physiological systems. I think that factors such as the nervous system, brain chemicals, hormones, and reflexes, respond to what we see and hear in a way that leads to sin. This is why motivational tactics to change our behavior often fail; the problem is not rooted in the part of our brain where we motivate ourselves. The problem is rooted in our physiological systems that produce sensations in response to what our consciousness perceives. Thus, overcoming sin requires a physiological adjustment, not just mental motivation. And this physiological adjustment is something that happens through the Spirit. Look at Romans 8:11:

“He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

Notice that the Spirit injects life into your body. I believe that living according to the Spirit, or being filled with the Spirit, involves the Spirit working in your physiology so that you respond to situations differently.

So, how do we actually experience this transformation in our own lives? Many of us are still dealing with physiological problems that cause sinful reactions. The deliverance from these problems described in Romans is something that has to be accepted in faith, given that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). So, how can we have faith in this reorientation of our bodies and minds when we see and feel things to the contrary in our day-to-day lives? The next few post will examine that.