Does the gospel really transform us?
I have to be honest, I’ve been dealing with some doubts recently. Most of them center around the idea of gospel transformation. The Bible often talks about the “old self” versus the “new self” and how the Holy Spirit changes our hearts when we accept Jesus. There are countless stories of gang members and drug addicts who had their lives radically transformed when they accepted Jesus. But how does that apply to me? I’ve been a Christian ever since Kindergarden – I don’t see the “before and after” pictures.
At the same time, just because I don’t have a clear picture of my initial transformation when I accepted Christ doesn’t mean I shouldn’t see tangible spiritual growth. The Bible says that the God is still working in me. The Holy Spirit is still changing my heart, making me love what He loves and hate what He hates.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Because of this, it is discouraging when I stumble in my walk with Christ and see “good”, moral people who aren’t Christians. Is there truly a difference? If so, why do I still desire what is wrong? Why am I not bearing fruit? And why do some people who haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior seem so pure?
I was reading John 15 yesterday, and a parable jumped out at me. It’s the parable of the vine and the branches. Jesus says that He is the vine, and we are the branches. Every branch that doesn’t bear fruit He cuts off so that the branches that do bear fruit can be more fruitful. Then Jesus says this:
Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The answer is so clear! Whoever ABIDES in Jesus will bear fruit!
I don’t need to lean on my own strength to do good works and please God. All I need to do is abide in God. I need to open the door for Him to transform me by His power. It’s not by my own efforts. Apart from Jesus I cannot do anything.
The Holy Spirit is transforming me. Maybe all I needed to do was let Him – be nurtured by God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit change my heart.
To anyone out there who doesn’t feel like they have a good testimony, let me encourage you. God is changing you. Whether you see it or not, the Holy Spirit is working in you, changing you from the inside out and making you more like Him. You are a new person – you truly are!
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
As a side note, I also had a conversation with someone recently that was very encouraging. He said that one of the reasons the non-Christians around us seem so “good” is because of the influence of Christianity. During the days of the early church, there was a stark difference between the way Christians acted and the way their neighbors acted. Maybe the reason there isn’t a clear distincion between the behavior of believers and unbelievers in the US is because American culture has been saturated with Christianity. After all, this country was built on Christian principles!