Is Christianity supposed to help us as we go along or is it meant to change us altogether? Both are true; as we go through the Christian life, God is there to help us. He desires that we tell Him of our troubles. Also, upon salvation, Christ will send the Holy Spirit to dwell inside the believer creating in us a new creature (John 14:15-27; Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 6:16, 5:17).
There appears to be a trend within American Christianity that focuses on the former and leaves to naught the latter. Whenever there is a need or a difficult situation God is sought out to fix it all, but there is little or no emphasis on the change God can work in our heart. It’s like God is a genie in a bottle; we rub the bottle and make our wishes when we need something, but the genie has no right to interfere with who we are.
Let me explain.
Let’s say, Joe, a Christian is at church listening to the sermon and Ephesians 4:31 comes up, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:”
The Holy Spirit impresses upon Joe that he has a quick temper. He yells too much at his wife and children. Joe remembers how yesterday he was cleaning out the gutters when his 12-year-old asked him to play catch, and he yelled at him, “Can’t you see I’m doing something important! You need to learn you just can’t play all the time!” Joe thinks of a half dozen other ways he could have handled that situation better. Joe also knows down in his heart this was not an isolated incident; it’s just one of hundreds, no thousands, of times he has done something similar.
What is happening here is the Holy Spirit of God is working on Joe’s heart. God is not just informing Joe he handled his son poorly yesterday; He is telling Joe there is something wrong within his heart that needs to change. Joe needs to be more tenderhearted, caring, sympathetic with the needs of others, long-suffering and just plain loving.
Joe is sitting there, and he knows the Holy Spirit is working on his heart.
Several thoughts may run through Joe’s mind.
Joe may center in on the event with his son and not think about the overall picture. “I didn’t do anything wrong. The boy should have seen that I was working and not even have asked. He deserved to be yelled at.”
Joe may recognize the overall picture and admit that his heart is not what it should be, but give excuses on why his temper cannot change into a more temperant, long-suffering spirit. Joe may have thoughts similar to the following –
“I’ve always been this way. I don’t see how I could ever change.”
“I’m under a lot of pressure. My job is demanding, the wife is a little more high maintenance than she should be, we’re overextended financially after buying the new house last year. Then there are the kids. No one can blame me for going off the handle once in awhile.”
“I’m a good guy. I’ve never cheated on my wife. I bring home a good paycheck and provide for everyone in my family. Yeah, I’m not perfect, but who is? If getting mad a little quicker than I should is the worst thing I do; nobody has the right to complain.”
Or Joe could realize there is a change needed and God is the only one that can help him – “Ok, Lord, I know I am wrong. I have sinned. I have a spirit within me that doesn’t show kindness. I get mad at the drop of a hat, and I know you don’t want me to be this way. Please, Lord, allow the Holy Spirit to change me. If I try this on my own, I will only fail. I need your help.”
What Joe is asking for is a permanent change in who he is (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Is your Christianity a patchwork Christianity? Do you go to God only when a bill needs paid, a sickness healed, or to fix whatever the immediate situation is? Or, is your Christianity a Christianity where you not only go to God with the situation at hand, but you also seek God to change your heart in lasting way?