Do you ever ask yourself the following questions: “If the Gospel is true and I have come into a relationship with God, why do I still struggle with the same sins?” or, “Why do I struggle with the same attitudes and addictions?” I have asked myself this question and many people have asked me about it as well. Ravi Zacharias says the following:
“I really think that today, as Christian apologists, that the biggest challenge to the faith is not an intellectual question. In fact, I have not heard an intellectual question to the faith that has disturbed me. I am more convinced than ever of the message of the Gospel. But the biggest challenge to the Christian faith is this: If the message that we have lays claim to a supernatural regeneration, then why is it that we do not see that regeneration more often? No other religion claims a supernatural regeneration. They may claim ethics and morality. Hinduism does. But we are the only ones who claim a new birth. Born of the Holy Spirit, our hungers have changed, our disciplines have changed, our behavior has changed. If it is a supernaturally engendered thing, why do we not see it more often? And if that is true of the common person in conversion, how much more true it must be of ones in leadership. So I believe character is essential, and without that, you cannot serve.” -Ravi Zacharias
I am sure Ravi knows the amazing contributions that Christians have made to the world. I know he must know the results from his own ministry offers us plenty of signs of “real” supernatural regeneration. So I don’t want to paint the picture as if there is little or no evidence of supernatural regeneration to be seen. Perhaps you don’t agree with Ravi’s comments. Maybe you think supernatural regeneration is not a rarity at all. Maybe you see it all around you. But his comments do lead to some thoughtful introspection. Sometimes I find myself wondering why we tend to not see as much transformation As expected in the lives of professing Christians. Here are a few thoughts:
In all the evangelism that I have done, I have noticed that I come across plenty of people who profess to be Christians but are not going forward in their faith. If I meet an individual who says they are a professed believer, I always ask them where they are in the discipleship process. Many times when I ask, “Are you becoming a disciple?” I usually get the response, “What’s a disciple?”
Many are oblivious to the importance of discipleship. Therefore, I find myself exhorting hundreds of people to get rooted in congregational/community life—get back to the basics (e.g., read the Bible, prayer). I always give these individuals contact information of local churches that they can attend. It saddens me to see what is happening in the transition from the point when someone makes a professed/salvation decision for Jesus and the overall discipleship/commitment aspect to our faith.
The Hebrew word for disciple is “talmid.” A talmid is a student of one of the sages of Israel. A disciple is a learner, or pupil. When we decide to repent and turn to our Lord for the forgiveness of sins, we have to realize we are now on a new journey. The Gospel is a message for the here and now- not just the future. We have to learn how to live out our faith in the world around us. A disciple (in the New Testament sense) is someone who is striving (by God’s grace) to be consistent follower of Jesus. The goal of the Christian is to imitate our Master.
Discipleship is not getting any easier in the world we live in. In an overly sensate culture, people need to be constantly stimulated and have a hard time focusing on something such as discipleship. And in a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is a tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people bail out.
Discipleship takes a commitment between the discipler and the one being discipled. And for those that say they don’t need discipleship I can only respond with the following: I pity you. Sorry to be so blunt. But without discipleship, you are destined for failure. There is no such thing as a Long Ranger Christian. Also, discipleship involves a teachable spirit. Discipleship is a life-long process. Who are you discipling? And who is discipling you?
Forgetting Sanctification and Glorification
Sometimes we forget that if we have come to know the Lord, we are now in the process of sanctification. That means we are not in a glorified state where we are free from sin and all the challenges of this world. Honestly, we sometimes treat Christians as if they should act as if they are in a glorified state. That means no sin, and perfect holiness. But the question is, how does God sanctify and transform us? I believe this chart is helpful.
God does transform us. But it involves our cooperation. If we are willing to yield to God, through his Word, and allow others to be involved in the process, we will change. Also, suffering and circumstances can be used to change us as well. The question is “How do we respond to God in this specific circumstance?” Note the chart mentions truth is what changes us. Truth comes though the Bible, others speaking truth to us, prayer, service, etc. But I truly believe the reason we don’t always see the transformation we want isn’t because of God. It is on us. He has given us His Spirit, the Word, community, plenty of resources (lectures, books, online resources), etc. In most cases, it is our stubborn will won’t budge. Now keep in mind, this isn’t about a formula. It is about us cooperating with God so that we might experience the change he wants for us so we can bring honor and glory to Him. I have to be the one who prioritizes reading the Bible, being in community, praying, and doing all I can to cooperate with God. Also, remember, even if you don’t see the transformation in your own life or in others, it doesn’t mean the Gospel is false. Jesus could still have died and risen 2,000 years ago. Our actions don’t determine the facts of history. So remember, we can be transformed. But we have to do our part.