Does God want to change my sinful behavior into behavior that glorifies God? You bet. However, you must be careful that you do not make behavior modification the goal of discipleship. God desires transformation in His followers.

“When morphing [transformation] happens, I don’t just do the things Jesus would have done; I find myself wanting to do them. They appeal to me. They make sense. I don’t go around just trying to do the right things; I become the right sort of person.”[1]

People will come to your church to know more about God [in fact, this was the number one survey reason why teens come to FUEL]. People are curious how God fits into their life. They take the bits and pieces they like or pick and choose the ideas they are convinced will change their situation. However, viewing God like this is no different that believing He is a psychologist, medical antidote, or genie-in-a-bottle.

Changing the outside of a man doesn’t mean his insides are changed [cf. Matthew 23:25-26]. In other words, asking an unbeliever to be like Christ is similar to asking an alcoholic to quit drinking cold turkey. The alcoholic may go to AA, find community, and successfully quit his/her drinking addiction, but often trade addictions [i.e. begin smoking] because they are not encouraged to deal with the root issue of their addiction. Encouraging a non-follower to change attitudes and actions without the heart motivation doesn’t lead to lasting or permanent change. They will eventually fail because they do not have a relationship with Christ or true connection to the community of Christ [His church].

If we teach change before teach about Christ we are setting our disciplees up for disaster. Changing behavior to be like Christ without having a relationship with Christ can feed pride, give false assurance, and create an I-am-all-right-with-this-now attitude. Behavior on the outside might appear Christ-like, but on the inside they have a twisted and wicked heart. Whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over the person’s life and behavior.[2] I am reminded often that God is solely after obedient hearts.

“These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.”[3]

Don’t piecemeal God into your life; He wants to break you so that you give Him everything. I want to encourage those I am discipling to or in Christ to stop fitting God into their plans and start fitting their life into God’s plan. I want to help them count the cost of commitment to Christ. Help facilitate change of the heart first and foremost to see God bring about transformodification [and yes, I did make the word up].

[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1997. 23.

[2] Paul Tripp, Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2002, 68.

[3] Isaiah 29:13

transformation: more than meets the eye

As a kid I love to play with transformers. There is something about having a car that can instantly transform into a android. Transform is another word for change. When it comes to spiritual change transformation is key. Do you find some of your students have a wealth of biblical information but a lack transformation? Here are great tips to cultivate spiritual transformation in students you are discipling:

Acknowledge that the Holy Spirit who teaches you and leads you into truth, is the same Holy Spirit who teaches and ministers to the students. Watch and hear what He wants to teach the students on any given weekly session or small group.

Make sure the meat of the session actually searches the Scripture and is spent in examining God’s Word and is not just a discussion of students’ and leaders’ opinions or beliefs. It is only by having hands on God’s Word that your students will discover real truth and be transformed.

Be careful not to answer your own questions. Give students time to think when you pose a question. Let them know that the quietness that follows your question is not awkward. It will also help settle your own uneasiness when a vacuum of silence follows your question. When we answer our own questions, we teach students that they do not have to respond and their answer was not important.

Work toward using activities that lead students to discover what we already know or found out during our personal devotion and preparation. When we lead students to discover truths out of God’s Word for themselves instead of telling them what we know, we allow opportunity for the Spirit to do His work.

Watch for those times that the Holy Spirit makes Himself known within the session. Those times, very frequently, take place as students share within small groups. Be ready to help students make connections with God and His Word during those times.

Prepare your heart for worship to take place during the Bible study session. Real worship takes place any time we come face to face with God and leave His presence transformed or changed. So actually, worship should take place in our Bible studies, messages, discipleship or small groups. Sometimes when students share in small group, students will say things that are totally profound, let your students know that you just had worshiped God.

Make sure that your students are given an opportunity to measure their own lives up against the Biblical Truth you have discussed. When students take the time to examine their lives, compare themselves to a Holy God, realize that they fall short, and make a commitment to Him and His truth…then true worship takes place.