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Pointers along the way #246

Real transformation
- Jacob Ninan

The religious fashion of the day is to go for special experiences, and there are hundreds of preachers out there who have made themselves experts at manipulating the crowd and creating and promoting special feelings and action. Some years ago speaking in tongues was the major experience to be sought after. But now we have variety, ranging from the sober to the weird and wild! We can pick and choose the one we like best. Doctrinal checks seem to be no longer very relevant nowadays because people go for these experiences nevertheless.

God wants to transform our lives to conform to the image of Christ (Ro.8:29). What kind of image are we getting conformed to by shaking wildly, falling down, laughing uncontrollably, rolling on the ground, jumping up and down, etc.? I can grant that we might lose some inhibitions (perhaps good to an extent) and prudence (certainly not good) through this process, but I cannot relate that to the character of Jesus into which I long to be changed (2Co.3:18).

Real transformation requires changes in our mind and will. This implies changes in our understanding and judgment too. Mere change of behaviour is also not enough to change the person inside us. Inner transformation takes place when we understand what is right and good, and choose to give up the wrong and adopt the right. Change of behaviour will follow till it becomes natural for us to do what is right. Now we can see why real transformation has to start with our understanding. That is why God, when He taught us the way to be transformed into the image of Christ, talked about the transformation of our mind (Ro.12:2) according to the light of His word (2Co.3:18).

Is this what these preachers are aiming to achieve? Unfortunately no. Many of them are scheming and trying to build up an emotional high at the meeting and achieve a breakthrough in whatever form of behaviour they are promoting. They do it through emotionally moving songs and rhythms, getting the audience to participate by repeating words and doing little things like turning and speaking to the neighbour, etc., and getting people to loosen up (and let down their guard)!

Do we see the Old Testament prophets, Jesus and the apostles doing anything like this in the Bible? No. They spoke to the mind and heart, seeking to convince them about the truth, and encouraging and exhorting them to take appropriate action. Then there was transformation. What Paul prayed for the church was for the eyes of their heart to be enlightened so that they would know, and not for some moving experience (Ep.1:18).

Even when the aim is not emotionalism, much of present day preaching is aimed at mere tickling of ears - to impress the hearers rather than to bless them and to draw them closer to God (2Ti.4:3,4). Why do we listen to such, or be such?