Our ultimate desire for those who are touched by the Kingdom should be that they become all that God designed them to be; that through a relationship with Jesus, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, they will take up their unique role in God’s Kingdom and become more and more like Jesus every day.
I think one of the biggest challenges for those of us who have been part of the Church for some time is trusting God with the transformation of new believers. Our tendency is to map out the development of novice followers of Jesus, projecting onto them what we think they should be, and setting agendas for their compliance with our understanding of the principles and expectations of the Kingdom. It is easy in this context to get ahead of God and start to meddle in the development of a new believer, missing what God is already doing in their life, and overriding his agenda for their spiritual development.
What we often overlook is that behaviors are generated from the heart. The Bible tells us that out of the heart comes all kinds of bad behavior. But only God can change the state of the heart; so when we try to address behaviors alone, we are only treating symptoms and not the cause. Symptomatic treatment of a heart condition will never bring about permanent healing and change.
Our calling is to love people, no matter what their behaviors, and share with them the principles and values of the Kingdom; and then leave it up to God to bring about heart and behavioral change.
Jesus was unpredictable and unconventional in his approach to those he encountered, often focusing on issues in a person’s life that didn’t at first appear to be the main issue that needed to be addressed. However, in his interaction with individuals or groups, Jesus consistently honed in on the very thing that was the key to their transformation, exposing through seemingly superficial conversation the core of a person’s worldview, and revealing to them the radical change that was necessary for them to follow him.
If we truly believe in the transformational power of Jesus, then we should be able to confidently hand people over to his care and trust him to mold and change them into who he wants them to be, following his timeline and sanctifying agenda.
I believe that the best we can do for fellow followers of Jesus—particularly new believers—is to nurture their relationship with Jesus, walking the journey with them rather than directing their spiritual development, spending time with them in prayer, talking to them about Jesus and his work in our own life and in the world, studying scripture with them and sharing what we are personally learning from God’s Word.
We need to steer away from the temptation to recreate people in our own image and let God have free reign in their lives; to recreate others into what he has designed them to be—unique and authentic representatives of Jesus.