We can make the mistake in thinking that transforming people entails hitting them bluntly with scriptures and the laws laid down in the Bible, all in the hopes that they will get some sense knocked into them. But the way God brings transformation involves no form of human effort whatsoever and a whole dose of Jesus’ love and transforming grace.

If you’ve ever had the privilege and responsibility of following someone up by discipling, counselling or ministering to them, you will know how difficult it is sometimes to see the results we hope to see. We do everything we can to teach, direct, rebuke and sometimes even reprimand and discipline people in the hopes that they will change their ways.

Sadly, sometimes all our teaching and rebuking turns into the loveless bashing of people with Bible verses, sometimes even used in terribly wrong contexts. God never meant for the Word of God to be used as a microscope to probe the lives of others, but as a mirror for self-reflection.  In other words, do we teach ourselves as we teach others?

And while these things are important and do have their place, is it truly human guidance and rebuke that changes people? 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us, “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.”

No matter how hard we rebuke and teach people, if the power of Christ manifested through the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of people is not acknowledged, we simply change behaviours while the heart remains the same. And if there’s one thing that the Bible teaches is that the heart is what matters most.

1 Samuel 16:7b says, “…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

The heart is the wellspring of all that we do, so when we change behaviour without changing the heart, there is no true and genuine change at all. This is the kind of change that the Pharisees would often focus on: change of external behaviours without changing the heart.

True spiritual transformation can only come through a revelation of Christ and a heartfelt desire to respond to the love He showed. In Acts 2:37, the first converts of the Christian faith were “cut to the heart” not by a revelation of law or a revelation of moral codes, but a revelation of Jesus Christ – His death on the cross and resurrection for the redemption of our sin – through Peter’s preaching. And while rebuke and correction are powerful tools to help train people into godliness, to do so without the power and revelation of Jesus Christ and His empowering and justifying grace will result in a fruitless endeavour.   Actions and rituals that are holy but cold, without any real love for Jesus or others at their heart.

What has and what will always bring true and lasting transformation is the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ finished work enabling us to say not so sin (Titus 2:11-12) and to say yes to godliness in all that we do.  Not because it makes us righteous, but because in doing so we want to love and honor Jesus and the people He sends our way.

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