Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Internal Change

Following God needs to be a transformation that takes place from the inside out (Romans 12:1,2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:16). Now an important aspect of this is the realization that the transformation that takes place in our lives is a result of God working in us (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). But there is also another aspect that might be missed. There are different words used for “conform” or “transform” in Scripture. One refers to what something actually is on the inside. It is used in Philippians 2:6 in reference to Christ being in the form of God (being in fact deity). It is where we get the English word “metamorphosis” from. You start with a caterpillar and it goes into a cocoon and is transformed from the inside out into a butterfly. This is the word that is used to describe the change God wants to work in the life of believers (Romans 12:2; 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:10). There is another word which means to put on a disguise; it is the word from which we get the word “scheme”. It is used of Satan transforming himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). It is also used of Christians becoming conformed to the world. Now too frequently there is a tendency for us to see Christianity as external conformity to a standard. But is this what God really wants?   

The problem with external conformity based on a set of rules is that God wants people who worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24), who do things based on the love for God inside them (1 John 4:19). In fact, God has some very stern words for those who simply go through the motions of following Him (Malachi 1:10; Isaiah 66:3; Matthew 23:23-27). Now these are obviously speaking against blatant cases. I do not want to lay a legalistic burden on anyone, and I know how easy it is to go on a guilt trip by putting our motivations up to a microscope. But I do believe we need to honestly ask, are we just trying to outwardly conform to an external standard rather than letting God transform us from the inside? Another approach that people can accept is that of internal conformity. This is based not on obedience to a standard but on our relationship with other Christians. Now I do not want to teach individualism or minimize the importance of genuine Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:24,25). But it is a mistake to put yourself in the position of doing good things in order to please men (Matthew 6:1-18; Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25). Rather, we need to base our Christian life on a deep understanding of God and His truth (Jeremiah 9:23-24; Hebrews 5:12-14; 2 Timothy 2:15). For if we focus on being and producing people who are firmly grounded in God’s truth from the inside out, then we will truly be and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

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