How Do Christians Change?

I like what M. Craig Barnes says about that. He writes,

pastor as minor poet“The restoration of Christ, often referred to as conversion, does not make us into different people but converts us back to what God designed us to be from the beginning – specifically, creatures who bear the mark of holiness. This is a progressive process through which we are changed ‘from one degree of glory to another’ (2 Cor. 3:18). But our movement through this sanctification occurs not through our own efforts at developing piety. It is only as the Holy Spirit binds us into the life of Christ that we are able to take on his holiness. Thus, our spirituality is always vicarious, since it is through this union in Christ that are made holy. He is the image of God that we bear in our lives.

The significance of this for pastoral encounters is found in the unique way we invite people to make changes in their lives. We do not peddle images of the super-Christian and tell our parishioners to try harder to attain the goal. That’s just another false image. And it will leave us only with more judgment by tossing out the not-good-enough Christian into our heap of failures. The only way out of the judgement trap is for pastors to keep pointing to the true image of the God in whom ‘we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). This is the God revealed in Jesus Christ, ‘and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). So with poetic irony, pastors help people to change not by talking about them, but by talking about the God revealed in Christ.” (93)

This is so much in line with what I wrote a while back Why I Do Not Teach Christian Living Principles. Somehow, this idea exists that Christians mature by giving them a list of principles to measure up to and then pointing out how they are not measuring up. This only creates condemnation or self-righteousness. Rather, we are changed into the image of Christ through identification as the Holy Spirit does his work and we respond to that work, accordingly.

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