“We believe that each member of the human race is fallen, sinful and lost; that salvation is possible only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and is received on the basis of faith alone apart from works and is characterized by regeneration by the Holy Spirit.“
That is a statement taken out of Small Church Connections’ statement of faith. You will find a similar sentence in the Statement of Faith of almost every evangelical organization or church in Canada. It is an essential part of Christian theology.
Notice several things contained in this sentence.
First, “every members of the human race is fallen, sinful and lost.” There are no exceptions. It isn’t a case that every other person or every fifth person or everyone other than me is lost. If you are part of the human race you are fallen, sinful and lost.
Second, the only hope for dealing with the state that the human race is in is the saving work of Jesus on the cross. There isn’t anything that anyone can do to solve the sin problem other than have faith in what Jesus already has done.
Third, change only comes about through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. People can’t change themselves. The Holy Spirit indwells each Christian and part of what He does is transform those people whom He indwells.
If you are a Christian you probably have no problems with anything that I have written so far. Every single person is a sinner. Every single person needs to be saved. Every single person needs to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
This transformation process is part of a life-long journey that begins when a person puts her faith in Jesus Christ and ends when she stands before God in heaven. Personally I find that that journey is part of what makes Christianity so exciting. God is transforming me to become more like Jesus.
What is transformation?
I grew up with a spiritual checklist that I was to carry with me at all times and refer to often. I didn’t literally carry a clip board around with me but the list was firmly entrenched in my head. As a good Christian I didn’t swear, drink alcohol, smoke, or as the old poem says, go with girls who did. On the positive side I read my Bible, spent a few minutes in prayer and attended church at least once a week. If I checked off enough items on my checklist, I could consider myself a good Christian and God would be happy with me.
The problem with the checklist way of thinking is that we never discover the freedom that God wants us to experience in our walk with him. We are bound my rules and rules are not what Christian living is all about.
When he put me together God gave me the kind of mind for which numbers just make sense. One of the results of that particular bent is that I have had scores of times over the years in which store clerks have given me the wrong change. Often their mistake has meant that I’ve received too much money. Faced with that situation what does God want me to do?
A few years ago I read a statement in a book by N.T. Wright entitled After You Believe that changed my perspective on situations such as I’ve just described. He wrote this: For a start, it is a call, not to specific acts of behavior, but to a type of character (p. 17). Reading Wright’s book and in particular that statement was a life-changing experience for me. I realized an important truth about transformation.
In a situation such as I described above God doesn’t just want me to do the honest thing. H doesn’t just want me to give the money back. He doesn’t want me to look at my checklist to see if this situation is covered and when I see it there under honesty, return the money.
What God wants is to so transform my life that I am at the very core of my being an honest person who couldn’t react in any way other than to be honest. God wants to change my inner self so that I wouldn’t think of doing anything dishonest. In fact he wants me to become someone for whom dishonest behavior would be so contrary to who I am that I couldn’t be dishonest if I tried.
That is what transformation is all about. The Holy Spirit wants to make us into entirely new people at the depths of our inner being. He wants us to be people of integrity not because it is the right thing to do but because it is the only thing that we can do.
Discipleship is all about changed character
The church is called to make disciples. If a church takes that challenge seriously, it must be in the character building business. No one should ever be able to attend a church for an extended period of time and be basically the same person as she was when she first started to attend. The church should be filled with stories of how God has been changing people because that is what making disciples is all about.
In the midst of teaching a Bible class a few years ago, I asked a question that I don’t think anyone was expecting me to ask: What has God used to bring change into your life in the past couple of years?
People just stared at me with blank looks on their faces. They had no idea what I was asking.
The question really was quite simple. The Christian life is supposed to be about transformation. People are supposed to be experiencing change. We aren’t supposed to be the same people that we were a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. What has God used to implement that change is your life?
The church is made up of people who are fallen, sinners and lost. The only hope is found in the work of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit takes that fallen, lost sinner who has found salvation in Christ and transforms that person. If that is true then there is a tremendous need for character transformation in every person who calls herself a Christian.