I still remember my first sermon as a pastor. In a fit of homiletical hubris that every seminarian will recognize, I decided to impress my new congregation with my first sermon by unlocking the mysteries of the Minor Prophets. As I prepared that week, I became convinced that this could well be the most important sermon I would ever preach. If we were to grasp the holiness of God as presented by Hosea, our lives and our church would never be the same. I preached that message with passion and expectancy. But when I looked out over the congregation the next Sunday, we were pretty much the same crowd as the week before.
There isn't a preacher alive who isn't at once both energized and dismayed by the sermon's potential to effect change. Why aren't people more deeply transformed by their weekly encounters with God's Word? The deficiency can't be with the Scriptures, obviously. And most of us manage to communicate biblical truth with a measure of clarity, relevance, and conviction. So why don't we see more real, lasting change?
VIM, not just vigor
In his book Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard unpacks the dynamics of personal transformation. He begins by informing us that "we live from our heart." The heart, according to Scripture, is the control center of human personality. It's the deep, inner place where the mind, emotions, and will intersect, and where decisions are made. Our hearts have been malformed by our fallen world, and they need to be re-formed by the Spirit of God. This renovation of the heart, according to Willard, follows a predictable pattern involving vision, intention, and means—what he calls "VIM."
In the vision phase, we come to believe that a particular change is both possible and preferable. But desire ...