In the pursuit of advancing their personal faith, most Christians engage in spiritual disciplines. Bible reading, devotionals, fasting, attending church, and quiet times are common. A not-so-common result is what God calls us to do in Romans 12:2; to be transformed not conformed to this world. This is because being informed is not being transformed.
Our Christian culture works very hard to be informed. But does all the information in itself satisfy the urge God built into us to become more Christ-like? God’s objective for our pursuit of faith is to mold each of us to inwardly reflect the character of His Son as described in Romans 8:29. Therefore our spiritual activities have a purpose defined by God. While reading the Bible is a blessing, the object of that endeavor should always include advancing the growth of Jesus’ character in you.
The law of the Spirit of Life in Romans 8:6 explains that we are to respond to the urgings of the Spirit in a way that gratifies the Spirit while putting to death the urges of the flesh. What better time to sense the urges of the Spirit than when we’re studying the Word, involved in worship or hearing a sermon? From God’s perspective, the “urge” from the Holy Spirit is His conviction; our gratifying “response” is repentance.
So the “formula” for spiritual growth is; Information + Conviction + Repentance = Transformation. We have helped many people advance through this process, commonly identifying forgiveness as a foundational characteristic of Christ that needs attention. The parable of the unmerciful servant “urges” us to forgive, and tells us that God will allow torment into our heart if we don’t. Until we respond to that Kingdom principle, we will not advance in our spiritual development.
It works like this: as people authentically open their minds to the Truth about forgiveness, they come under conviction that they have someone they need to forgive. The carnal nature resists forgiveness and tempts us with rationalizations to hang on to the bitterness that robs us of our joy and keeps us stalled in our relationship with God. Our act of repentance is a heartfelt apology to God for withholding forgiveness. This needs to be followed by forgiving the offender. In this transaction, we have died to the urging of the flesh and thus gratified the Spirit.
Now our heart has less unforgiveness and incrementally reflects more of the heart of Christ than before. The Lord responds by removing the torment and “rewiring” our heart to have greater peace and a deeper relationship with Him. Information was the beginning, but transformation resulted from repentance and forgiveness.
As you take part in the activities of your church or engage in spiritual disciplines, remember that participation is not the objective. The goal is transformation, which comes only after a response. So be listening for the Agent of Change. He speaks with conviction and provides the grace to respond.