The non-Christian world raises many intellectual and philosophical objections to Christianity, but much of the dialogue about our faith in our society centers on character issues. Many people perceive Christians as judgmental and condescending. Some point to the scandals and corruption that have plagued the church and assume these incidents are typical—that if you scratch the veneer of Christianity, you find the same flaws, lusts, greed, and self-centeredness at the core of every person’s life, whether they claim the name of Jesus or not. Many accuse church leaders of ulterior motives in maintaining a profitable business, an exclusive club, or a system of power. A popular quote often attributed to Gandhi makes this point: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”2 All of these objections come down to one common element: the lack of real change in Christians’ lives. The world can find plenty of evidence that many of us are not Christlike, and that evidence is magnified in the hands of those who reject our faith.
Think of the testimony we could have if those scandals, behavioral flaws, and mixed motives became rare exceptions rather than common observations and headlines. What impact would it have on our loved ones? Our society? Our governments, schools, media, and community organizations? What if Christians became widely known as desirable friends, employees, and volunteers because of our humility, servant-heartedness, integrity, and love? What if we presented a clear picture of Jesus and demonstrated the power of a transformed life in ways that only our most strident critics could deny? What if we radically changed the way people see Jesus and His followers? We might actually turn the world upside down (again), and God might draw many to faith through us.
As it stands right now, believers can be as materialistic and greedy—and as deeply in debt—as nonbelievers. Disturbing numbers of Christians are trapped in pornography and other addictive behaviors. The divorce rate among committed Christians is substantially lower than that among non-Christians, but it is still alarmingly high. Those who claim the name of Christ know how to develop destructive habits, sabotage their relationships, and misdirect their priorities as well as anybody. But all of that can change. Transformed lives are contagious. We can become catalysts of change not only for Christian culture but for society as a whole.
Committed, discipled, transformed Christians are not perfect. If you are on that path of transformation, you know very well that we face many of the same kinds of struggles that everyone else faces, and sometimes we stumble, stagger, or fall. But we continue to grow because we recognize that Jesus owns our priorities, our time, our money, our relationships, our families, and our own selves. We make it our goal to thrive in marriage or singleness, raise kids, serve others, seek purity, maintain integrity, and live His way rather than ours. We may not be perfect at it, but we are growing in that direction.
Wherever you are on that spectrum from casual Christian to frustrated Christian to growing and changing Christian, you can learn the principles and tools of greater transformation. The statistics, problems, and frustrations we’ve covered in this chapter do not have to be your story. We’ve introduced three hindrances to life-change—spiritual ignorance, spiritual isolation, and spiritual myopia—as common pitfalls for all of us. But it is important to know from the outset, without a doubt, that you are not stuck in any of them. Paul identified some profound, practical truths in the fourth chapter of Ephesians that can change your life. We will unpack them in ways that I think will be encouraging and empowering for you. Transformation really is possible, it is truly miraculous, and it is promised by the God who loves you and has designed you to reflect who He is.
Ingram, Chip. 2021. Yes! You Really Can Change: What to Do When You’re Spiritually Stuck. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Chip Ingram’s amazing book, You Really Can Change. These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
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