I am currently involved in what is called a “Life Transformation Group.” This is a concept developed by Neil Cole in his wonderful book, Cultivating a Life for God. Basically, you get together once each week with a couple other people to accomplish three major tasks: reading Scripture in community, confessing sins in accountability, and praying for the lost with intentionality. The LTG is a fabulously simple model of disciple-making that yields some incredibly tangible benefits. Your heart and mind are being immersed in the Word of God as you read and meditate. Your life is being shaped and molded toward holiness as you confess your sins in the context of accountable relationships. Your prayers are filled with purpose as you beg God to save those who are far from Him. This truly is a life-altering experience.
Our group began by reading through the book of Acts. There are many ways to go about this, but we chose to take it a bit slower so we could get as much from God’s Word as possible. So, we are reading the book in 4-chapter segments with the goal of at least four repetitions each week. That means that we each try to read a minimum of sixteen chapters each week. We don’t move on until we all complete the minimum reading in the same week. The great, hidden benefit here is that we actually hope that we don’t all finish the reading the first week. This way we get to take the same section of Scripture and read it multiple times for multiple weeks, allowing the full impact of the Word to infiltrate our heart, soul, and mind.
At this point, I have been struck by a few passages found in the first four chapters of Acts:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know–this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of men without the law and put Him to death, whom God raised up again, putting an end to the birth pains of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held by it.” -Acts 2:22-24 (NASB)
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.'” -Acts 2:38-39 (NASB)
“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” -Acts 4:27-28 (NASB)
As I have read and reread the first four chapters of Acts, I have become more acutely aware of the fact that we serve a very big God, a God who is sovereign over all creation. The events surrounding the death of the Son of God did not happen by chance. They were not the result of bad luck. They were not an example of evil being triumphant over good. They were part of the unfathomable, inscrutable plan of the God of the universe. Even those who responded to the gospel, as it was preached in that first sermon by the Apostle Peter, did so because of the work of the Holy Spirit of God within them.
Let us never be so naive to think that anything is ultimately just up to us to handle and that God is not involved. God created us. He gave us the very breath that we breathe. It would seem both logical and beneficial to live this life as indebted and surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. To live in this way is easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere.