When a person decides to follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit begins his work of renewal and transformation that person does not suddenly become an expert on how to deal with relationships, friendships, life and all the other daily challenges. Nothing about our abilities to function differently happens overnight. The transformation into Christlikeness is something that is nurtured and not something that is switched on.
New believers, and many long-standing Christians too, often struggle with this concept. There is the idea that because Christ by his Spirit lives in us then everything that comes out of us should be, and must be, Christlike. From this place, many mistakenly believe that Jesus has abandoned them because they may have sinned after conversion. They, ‘sense’ that the Holy Spirit has left them. They begin to live an emotionally based gospel relying on feeling and not faith in what God has promised in HIS Word.
We read in 2 Corinthians 3:18, ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’
I can remember the evening service in which I decided to follow Jesus. I can remember putting up my hand to say, ‘yes’ to God. I can also remember sinning throughout the following week and going back to church to raise my hand, again and again, each time I sinned. This I continued to do until someone took me aside and explained the nature of the Holy Spirit and the transforming work of God’s grace. That I didn’t have to constantly get saved time after time and again and again. I had decided to follow Jesus and although I was going to sin God had made a provision for that in confessing that sin and God forgiving me,
see 1 John1:9.
Another point that I find interesting is that we find it easier to receive God’s Grace than to demonstrate it to others. This is key to our spiritual growth. If someone offends us or falls into sin somehow, we tend to write them off. This not the purpose of God’s grace. The purpose of God’s grace is meant to lead us to repentance.
‘Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
The Greek word used here for repentance is, Metanoeō, which simply means to change, one’s thinking in order to change one’s behaviour. When we are in a position to show God’s grace we are in fact in a position to help someone change their thinking and consequent behaviour.
So, I hope you can see that God is a faithful and patient God who does not beat us into submission to produce perfection. Rather he is a God who by his Spirit gently nurtures our nature to be conformed, fashioned to that of His son Jesus.
Steve Howell: born in Birmingham, (ever so long ago), now in Weston super Mare. Walked with God 46 years.