Thursday, March 30, 2006

Are you in the throes of TRANSITION?

"And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.
And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"
(1 Samuel 15:13-14)

Today’s Herescope post refers back to the March 9th post entitled “Are you in the throes of Transformation?” Herescope was asked by several readers to expound on the topic of Transition which leads to total Transformation.

People and churches do not typically become “transformed” to this new worldview overnight. Transformation is a process. There is a noticeable, and sometimes quite lengthy, Transition stage before full-blown Transformation. To recap Transition, on March 24th Herescope wrote:

“The Transition stage leading to Transformation works diligently to create emotive responses from people. Transition is like a snake oil salesman – it puts the words into your mind, “Yea, hath God said. . .” (Gen. 3:1). Transition is looking for your hot buttons, pet issues, senses, beliefs, opinions, desires, lusts – any place where you are vulnerable, any doubts or fears, any hook where you can be enticed into participation. Transition will even appeal to a higher cause, a greater good, a wonderful idea, an excellent effort. But. . . the process of Transition will cajole you to make a move towards CHANGE. And Transition is always a MIXTURE of truth and error.”

From the very second chapter in Genesis, the Bible is filled with stories of people who stepped outside the narrow way. To better understand the subtleties of this Transformational process from a solid biblical perspective, Herescope recommends a cassette tape by Dean Gotcher of the Institute for Authority Research entitled “The Dialectic Garden of Eden.” This tape is $5.00 from the Institute for Authority Research, PO Box 233, Herndon, KS 67739.

Nobody likes to think that they are in the Transition stage. But that is a terrible reality of our sinful human nature, as yesterday’s Herescope quotation from Solzhenitsyn so aptly described. Life is filled with choices, but it all boils down to two – 1) to stay on the narrow way or 2) to move out onto new ground.

He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4, 25-27)

The Evolutionary Nature of Transition

The process of Transition is actually quite easy to explain, but people don’t like to hear it. If the Bible says “don’t do something” and a person does it anyway, this is a sin. If the Bible says "do something" and the person ignores this command, it is sin. Either act of disobedience immediately puts a person in a transitional stage, moving away from the Truth of God’s Word. It is human nature to want to rationalize or justify our sin. But the Gospel is about Jesus Christ -- the Way, the Truth and the Life: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Because of the blood that Jesus shed for our sins on the cross, we can turn back (repent) to the Truth. “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5a).

The sad fact about human nature is that Transformation is accomplished when someone attains full-blown hardness of heart. Hardness of heart is a result of repeated indifference to, deception by, or acceptance of a pattern of sin in one’s life. A study in Strong's Concordance on the word heart is a profitable exercise and instructive lesson. Hebrews 3:12-13 warns: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” (Proverbs 3:7-8)

Social/Cultural TRANSITION
As the social mores and customs change with the degradation of culture around us, the standards of believers begin to deteriorate and crumble. Transition might be as simple as comparing what you believed and practiced thirty years ago to how you live now. If you live with more lax standards, less fundamental beliefs, more compromises with worldliness or ungodliness, and looser morals, this is an indication you have moved into Transition.

Many people in Transition seek to prop up the old way -- through church activities, mission projects, political activism, or charitable endeavors -- without experiencing the more difficult inner transformation (the real Romans 12:1-2 meaning) of the heart. Others in Transition seek to mollify the effects of prolonged sin in their lives by running to counselors, therapies, self-help books, and support groups. In contrast, the normative, biblical Traditional Christian life shows evidence of progressive sanctification -- living a holier life, walking closer to Jesus, evidencing a tender heart towards God, changing personal behaviors to conform to Scripture, shifting attitudes and beliefs to correspond to the Bible, and maturing through study of God’s Word.

"A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.
The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 29:5, 25; 30: 5-6)

Modern evangelicalism has been shaped by two important historical events: 1) As the new doctrines of the neoevangelicals rose to the forefront in the past 60 years, evangelicalism began to shift away from any last vestiges of fundamentalism; 2) As the new beliefs, philosophies and practices of New Age mysticism entered society at large, few stood in the gate to bar its entry into the Church. As a consequence, there have been observable alterations in Christian theology – soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, etc. The individual believer has gradually felt the effects of these various leavens as they permeated the church at-large. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rise of new vocabulary, language and terminologies. The presence of these new words in a believer’s lexicon is an indication of entering into the Transition phase. Worse, many false teachers use the old words, but give them deceptively new meanings.

“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.”
(Proverbs 28:9, 10, 13, 14)

Methodological TRANSITION
The Church Growth movement, the Mission agencies, the Self-Help psychology advocates, the mystics, and political activists have brought new methods of conducting “Christianity” into the Church. These entities use sophisticated psycho-social techniques which are designed to move believers away from Traditional Christianity into a Transitional phase. These techniques include marketing, assessment testing, statistical research, group consensus, facilitation, assorted therapeutic measures, coaching, mentoring, rites of initiation, occult spiritual exercises, etc. The justification given for bringing these new “tools” into the Church includes their purported effectiveness and efficiency: “the end justifies the means.” These tools and programs keep believers very busy at doing things that seem "spiritual." They claim to produce better "results." Or, worse, they promise that if one "buys into" a certain technique or tool, that the world (or the "kingdom") will become more "biblical."

“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.
A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
(Proverbs 16: 2, 6, 9, 17, 25)