Nothing thrills a pastor more than seeing real transformation happen in the lives of people. We want to see people grow up and become completely mature—completely like Jesus Christ. Another word for this is sanctification, and sanctification always begins as God's Spirit uses God's truth to change the mind, heart, and will of his follower.
Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17 (GW), "Use the truth to make them holy. Your Words are truth." Transformation is change, and change happens as we apply God's truth to every area of our lives. The first responsibility of pastors and shepherds is to preach God's truth, which transforms the lives of our hearers into the image of Jesus Christ.
One of the primary marks of spiritual immaturity is when other people can easily sway us away from the truth. Not knowing the truth of God's Word causes us to change our beliefs back and forth, repeatedly, which creates an unstable life. Paul said in Ephesians 4:14 (TLB) that when we are mature and know God's truth, "Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth."
As pastors, teachers and church leaders, it is our responsibility to instruct people in God's truth and to set the example for what it looks like to apply God's truth to every area of our lives. Solomon set the bar high in this area in Ecclesiastes 12:9-11, "In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd" (NASB, emphasis added).
When you present God's truth to God's people for the purpose of life-transformation, two things will happen.
First, they will be moved to act on what they've heard, to become doers and not just hearers. Solomon said the words of wise men are "like goads" that move the will of people to align with truth.
And secondly, they are like "well-driven nails." In other words, when God's truth is presented well, it finds a permanent place in the minds of its hearers.
As we lead our congregations forward spiritually, I believe there are several imperatives that will result in truly transformed lives.
1. Present the Good News of Jesus clearly and repeatedly.
Jesus is the point, and the Good News of his saving grace never gets old. We never go deeper than the gospel. We never move on past the truth of what it means to be saved.
2. Elevate God's Word in the eyes of the congregation.
One of the reasons I use so much Scripture in what I call verse-with-verse exposition is that it sends a message that Rick Warren isn't the authority; the Bible, God's Word, is the authority.
3. Center every message on God, His character and His truth.
The points of your messages will always have more impact when they are about God and not about you or the hearer apart from God.
4. Call people to act on what they hear.
Once truth saturates the mind and moves the emotions, it should result in actions of the will. This is why I use so many verbs in the points of my message. I don't believe that behavior modification should ever replace the role of God's grace in transforming us, but the evidence of real transformation will be behaviors that are modified by God's truth.
People are living today under the tyranny of self-defeating behaviors, and those self-defeating behaviors are always based on lies, which must be confronted and challenged by God's truth.
God's truth is far more powerful than my opinion or yours. God's Word teaches us the truth. It shows us the path to walk on. It shows us where we get off the path. It shows us how to get back on the path. And it shows us how to stay on the path.
If you want to see real transformation happen, always start with the truth of God's Word.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global internet community for pastors.
This article originally appeared at pastors.com.
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