As a young child I remember one of the biggest motivators that family, friends, and teachers used to instill into us all was that we were destined to change the world. This has become the motivational tactic of parents, teachers, and inspirational leaders in all disciplines. Last week I wrote about a lifestyle that won’t change the world (you can read that article by clicking here). However, we fail to ask ourselves, is changing the world a proper motivation? Should we as Christians be concerned about trying to change the world?
Let’s consider some things together first. When we talk about changing the world, what do we really mean? Most of us are not talking about a change to the literal world, but instead are talking about impacting others in such a way that makes a difference in their lives. Furthermore, the expectation is that they will be compelled to affect others in a similar way. We often call this making the world better. Here is the major issue with such a philosophy though. As a friend of mine, Kevin Laymon, points out, change is corruptible and can be undone. A mere change cannot be considered reliable because it is dependent upon a person’s motivations, desires, and attitudes. Simply put, the only way to create a lasting impact is not through change, but through transformation. While change may last a few weeks, transformation can last an eternity.
Paul writes of this in Romans 12:2, stating, “Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Transformation thus creates something lasting, yet the verse here indicates something more. Paul says, “be transformed,” choosing to use the passive verb form. Why does this matter? Because the significance is that the verse can be rendered more as “allow yourself to be transformed.” Transformation is not something you create in yourself or in others, but that God generates. In other words, while you may want to change the world, you can’t!
Our role is to glorify God. Our process of glorifying God comes through our obedience to God and in that obedience we share the gospel, we acts as models of Christlikeness, and we teach others about God’s truth and desires for our lives. Therefore in the process of glorifying God it is not unreasonable for us to expect that God will use us in the process of transformation, but the act of transformation is God’s alone.
In this way we can be very grateful that God has granted us the privilege to be part of this process. However, we cannot base our success in life on whether or not we transformed a life. Not only is the work God’s, but in some situations fruit may not be seen until years later, maybe even after we are out of that person’s life. Therefore our impact is sometimes unrealized by us and thus not measurable. What you can measure was your adherence to trying to glorify God in all circumstances with all people.
The reality is this: our life motivator is not to try and change the world. Changing the world is born out of a selfish motivation to glorify self. Instead our motivation should be to glorify God through our trust and obedience of His work both in/through our lives and the lives of others.