All too often, I have seen on a sign outside a church with the words “Come as you are!” Yet when you walk inside everyone is dressed the same. Years ago, during the hippy generation, I was attending a well-known evangelical conservative church. A man in the congregation was developing a street ministry specifically with the hippies in mind. Most in the congregation thought this was a good idea. That is until this one Sunday, he brought about six of “them” into the Sunday service; and they came in as they were. People were shocked. There were audible gasps in the audience. There was much rustling as people turned in their seats. They said “come as you are” but they did not really mean that. Those six never came back. What they believed was not transformational to their lives.
And that problem still exists today [the extreme of that would be Westboro Church]. Religion is not transformational. Encountering Jesus and doing life together with Him is the stuff that makes us change. Becoming more like Jesus means that we have to intentionally listen and then do what He tells us.
That is our part. But there is another side to this transformation. It is only a work of God. Only God is capable of transformation of the heart. It is the game-changer that changes us from doing religion as we think it should be done [read self-improvement] to becoming the person that God created us to be. Doing life with Jesus is not some sort of pressure to conform but a call to live in the Image of God just as Jesus modeled for us.
God wants us to join Him in His redemptive work in the lives of people. It is God’s agenda, not what we think God’s agenda might be. God never says be “conformed” but he does say be transformed. And the only way I know of being transformed is not by group collective actions but by being in close connection with God. Jesus never defines us by someone else.
Being transformed means that I have to be willing to release what I think is scared and allow space for God and His grace to help me learn to live “with God.” Jesus is not interested in my trying harder to change something in my life so that I am more pleasing to Him. That is the sure road to failure. All He wants is for me to learn to be and practice continually to be, in conversational relationship no matter what I am facing.