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12 Aug '12

Pseudo or real spiritual transformation

Someone comes to Christ and we celebrate! As we should - Scripture says that parties occur in heaven when a new individual steps into the kingdom. Of course, this new believer comes with all the habits, behaviors and thinking of the newer nature and we desire to help them start to the journey toward spiritual maturity. At this point we face two choices and the choice we make will have a direct impact on the spiritual transformation or lack of it of this new believer.

Choice one is to quickly help this new believer understand what is acceptable and unacceptable as a Christ follower. What this generally includes are the grey areas of the Christian life where our brand of "Christianity" has made decisions about what is acceptable or not. I call this life or behavior modification. It is not based on an internal heart change but by the behavioral expectations of the group. The key component here is that we take personal responsibility to help them understand what is acceptable - or not.

The key problem is that behavior modification in itself has nothing to do with spiritual transformation and in fact may become a substitute for the transformation of the Holy Spirit in one's life. In fact, behavior modification can be nothing less than a legalistic way of looking at following Jesus: I do so by this set of rules.

Choice two is to quickly get this new believer into fellowship with other Christ followers, a good church where Jesus is proclaimed, and to encourage them to start reading God's word and applying it to their lives as they see application. Coupled with an active prayer life and the example and encouragement of other Christ followers who rather than playing the role of the Holy Spirit (this is what you need to do) encourage the new believer to see what God has to say on issues of life and make application from His convictions. 

In this case, there is also behavior change but not because it is what others suggest but because it is what God desires. It comes from the inside (the conviction of the Holy Spirit and a desire to follow Him) rather than the outside (what others believe they should do).

We often overestimate our responsibility with new believers and underestimate the Holy Spirit's ability to speak to them, convict them, encourage them, and transform their hearts. We can convince someone to transform their behavior but only the Holy Spirit can transform their hearts leading to authentic inside out change. 

When our focus with new believers is on behavior modification to fit our Christian group or even our own personal convictions we engage in a pseudo transformation. It may look good on the outside but it does not emanate from the Holy Spirit's work but rather from our own. It is no different than the pseudo transformation of the Pharisees.

When we focus on helping people embrace a followership of Jesus, based on what the Holy Spirit teaches and convicts them of, we are engaging in real transformation from the inside out. As we model that kind of lifestyle for them, we become an encouragement for them to follow. When we point them continually to the Scriptures and a life of prayer we point them to the One who is the source of their lives and the authority of their lives.

The first is all about us and the second is all about Him.