I paraphrase Henry Scougal's definition of religion to read, 'religion is that process by which we are conformed and transformed into the image of Christ by the inward dwelling of the nature of God.' This 'transformational process' occurs when we take the intentional steps to reach upward, inward, and outward. The Apostle Peter sums it up nicely in his second letter: "We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God's own power, when we learned that he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness. God made great and marvelous promises, so that his nature would become part of us. Then we could escape our evil desires and the corrupt influences of this world. Do your best to improve your faith. You can do this by adding goodness, understanding, self-control, patience, devotion to God, concern for others, and love. If you keep growing in this way, it will show that what you know about our Lord Jesus Christ has made your lives useful and meaningful. But if you don't grow, you are like someone who is nearsighted or blind, and you have forgotten that your past sins are forgiven. My friends, you must do all you can to show that God has really chosen and selected you. If you keep on doing this, you won't stumble and fall. Then our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will give you a glorious welcome into his kingdom that will last forever." (2 Peter 2:3-10, CEV)
The upward reach is described in verse 3, "It was all given to us by God's own power, when we learned that he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness." The 'reaching up' we do is an act of faith, like a child reaching out to hold the hand of a parent when the light suddenly goes out. The child does not question the availability or the desire of the parent to guide and protect. He or she knows instinctively the parent is available, and desires to guide and protect as much as the child desires guidance and protection; it's a natural course of nature. From the time Adam chose to walk in the darkness of disobedience, God hand has been extended to guide and protect those who would seek Him. Not only that, but He entered into this dominion of darkness, the Light of the world, so that we might not walk in the darkness, but in the light!
This is where the 'reaching inward' comes into play, "God made great and marvelous promises, so that his nature would become part of us. Then we could escape our evil desires and the corrupt influences of this world." Imagine an operating room complete with the finest surgical staff, the best facilities, the latest technology and equipment, but no light. Would you choose to have surgery in such an environment? His Light exposes darkness. Living in darkness, our souls become marred and blemished. His light exposes the injuries we have wrought on ourselves, the blemishes and imperfections that scar us and cause us to fall short of His perfect nature. As we allow His light to penetrate, we are able to 'see' our hidden faults, the first step toward being healed of them. His light is perfect, revealing the truth, leaving nothing to the imagination. It causes us to see oursleves as we really are, forcing us to face the ugliness and deformity of our souls. But He doesn't leave us in this state! He is the Healer, the Great Physician, the Restorer. As we choose to walk daily in His light, His nature gradually changes us and into the beautiful creation He meant us to be, "Do your best to improve your faith. You can do this by adding goodness, understanding, self-control, patience, devotion to God, concern for others, and love." We walk in His light by allowing His Word of Truth to frame our thoughts and our actions. We take the time daily to read, meditate, and pray through Scripture, surrendering our lives to His gentle nudges as we come to recognize and know His voice.
At this point it we naturally begin 'reaching outward'! "If you keep growing in this way, it will show that what you know about our Lord Jesus Christ has made your lives useful and meaningful." The Holy Spirit is a gentleman - He never forces. He is not a demanding taskmaster who manipulates and controls until He gets His way. He invites and beacons us to "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) As we walk in the Light, our healing and restoration draws other to the Father by His very nature residing in us! We become a 'pleasing aroma', that casts His glow on those around us, inviting them to join in His goodness; and so the process of reaching upward, inward, and outward multiplies itself over and over again. It is a cycle that manifests the glory of God on this earth. And we are the vehicles He chooses to use for this process, if we will just surrender to Him. How awesome is that?!