Don't Mess With My Theology, God!

by Lyn Packer

Handling theological or other changes

Change - embrace it or resist it? When it comes to our theology we hold onto our beliefs with a grip that is so fierce that sometimes even God must tremble to suggest change!

In fact our attitude towards change is critical, especially when it comes to our theology. It will determine whether we stagnate, just survive, or come out of it growing from strength to strength!

Our beliefs shape our life and what we believe about God and His Word shapes our Christianity. And yet it is all too easy for wrong beliefs to take root and begin to colour how we see things, until we end up believing something that is quite different from what the Word actually says or who God is.

A while ago I wrote a blog post honouring some people whom God has used to challenge my theology over the past few years. You can read the post here. I've noticed over the past couple of years that I am not alone in this, that it is happening for a lot of people - God is challenging our theology.

At present God is challenging Christians worldwide, correcting wrong beliefs and thinking regarding Himself and the Christian life we live. Sandi Freed says "The church is in a time where they are embracing a freedom from legalism, or the law and are seeking current truth." I would definitely agree with her on that.

That term "current truth" can be a challenge in itself, as some people will take it to mean that we should chuck-out old 'already-revealed' truth. Yet God has been re-revealing truths that the church lost for centuries, and usually it is those things that are termed new or current truth. And sometimes that does mean that some old things we believed need to be changed. The Bible calls that repentance – yes repentance. To repent simply means "to change your mind"[1]. It does not mean wailing and gnashing of teeth (although that can sometimes happen). Repentance is a transformational change of our thinking.

So don't be surprised if you find yourself questioning or even doubting some of what you've been taught. To be honest, that's a healthy place to be if you handle it right. 

So how do we handle theology challenges and changes?

Recognize that change is normal

Change is normal and to be expected. The Bible tells us we are being changed from glory to glory, transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) For this to happen God will have to challenge our beliefs and there will be changes. We don't know everything, so changes to our beliefs are inevitable as we grow.

Be willing to allow change to come

Be willing to follow God into the unknown. All through scripture we read of God bringing challenges and changes to peoples' beliefs and calling them into the unknown; it is not a new thing. Don't resist change. It's very easy to want to do so, but resisting God-instigated change will bring about a tiredness of soul and you'll end up in stagnation.

Depend on and trust in God to lead you. Abraham is a great example of this. God said to him "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).

Realize that God does and will prune us – and that doesn't just apply to behavior, it applies to beliefs as well. Jesus said in John 15:2 that every branch in Him that bears fruit, He prunes so that it can bear more fruit. If a tree is not pruned, it will grow in a way that results in an inability to produce much fruit.

Recognize the stages of change

Change can sometimes bring instability into our world and, depending on the size of the change, we sometimes go through stages just like when someone dies. Those stages may be more or less recognizable but that doesn't mean they aren't happening.

Those change stages are "shock", "denial", "guilt", "anger", "acceptance" and then "moving on".

So when our theology is challenged, shock and denial can be normal. Our theological world is shaken and we can choose to deny that things need changing or we can accept that challenge and look at things.

We can feel guilty, either because we believed something that wasn't accurate, or in the case of teachers, we taught something that wasn't accurate. Deal with guilt otherwise you will get stuck there. Recognize that you are on a journey, and you don't know everything. We all live out of our present theological understanding but that can and should change as more light and truth is given to us. If need be do what you can to rectify any things that need rectifying - don't be afraid to admit you were wrong.

Anger can and does happen in the theology change process – "Why was I taught this if it's wrong?" is a common question. Recognize that God is in the process of restoring and revealing truth to the church and He is also building on previously restored truth as well. Don't let your anger dictate how you relate to people or to the church in general. Give grace and understand that we are all learning.

Be flexible

Change requires flexibility. Jesus taught us about old and new wineskins. A new wineskin is flexible but the old is rigid (Mark 2:22).

Many times in the past God initiated changes but man then built structures around those changes, camped in the new structures and then became inflexible in them. Many revival historians believe that inflexibility is one of the contributors to the termination of many revivals.

Be positive

Attitude is key and keeping a positive attitude can help you deal with the uncertainties of change.

Conquering enemies

Yes there is an element of warfare when it comes to change because we are not just dealing with things on a physical level. The enemy does not want you to become more like Jesus so you may need to stand in your place of authority and use it if he does try to come against you. Remember that you are crucified with Christ and you have a new nature. If the enemy tries to convince you to act contrary to that just remind him and yourself that your old nature is crucified with Christ and that is no longer who you are.

Remain Childlike

Trust God. He knows what He's doing. Holy Spirit will lead you and guide you into all truth, not deception. Jesus said in Matthew 18:3,4 that in order to enter the Kingdom we must come as a child. Changes can bring a measure of insecurity. Don't try and "take control" just rest and trust.

Stay in Faith

Change times are an opportunity to stretch our faith. God will lead you and guide you. He will give you increased knowledge, counsel, wisdom and revelation.

Both faith and love are tested in times of change. You may encounter love tests when people do not agree with the new growth you are experiencing. Stay in the place of love and honour when it comes to dealing with people during those times.

Prayer and Worship

Prayer is important during times of change because it is out of that place of trusting relationship with God that we grow best. Worship opens us to receive revelation. Also the honouring of God in our worship releases Him to be 'Who He Is' and we need God to be who He is.

Prayer releases faith to work. Jesus taught us, "All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you." As you go into times of change, prayer helps faith birth the substance of what the Lord is offering you. In prayer and intercession don't just plead with God but see from God's perspective and decree into Earth from that place of seated authority.

Stay in the Word

Do your homework, dig into the Word. Ask yourself "Does this new revelation line up with Scripture as a whole?" God can and will do things outside the box of your personal preference and understanding. We see this right through the Word as time and time again God went outside the box of peoples' understanding to get their attention and reveal things about Himself eg, at Pentecost, and also Peter's trance and vision of the sheet. Remember, what God is showing you will not violate His Word, His character or His heart for mankind.

Recognise that change is transformational

Allow it to transform you - don't just give mental assent to what God is wanting to do in you. Times of change are a great time to do a stock-take.

We can ask God to show us our hearts, eg "How am I responding? Am I resisting God? Is my pride bowed before Him?" etc

After study and prayer, if you need to change do so, repent, change your mind and let it be transformed. Embrace the new truth and let it change you.

Maintain your current friends and contacts

Don't automatically ditch your friends and acquaintances just because they don't believe what you now believe. Maintain your friendship with them as much as it is possible to do so. Give them grace; remember just a little while ago you didn't believe what you now do. Like you were, they are just a revelation away from change.

See the big picture

What is God doing? Is He doing this on a big scale or is it just a personal adjustment that was needed. Talk to others concerning your new revelation. Let them speak into your life, in case you are not hearing clearly.

Knowing that you are not alone and that others are going through the same thing can be very comforting.

Well, these are some things that will hopefully help in your times of change. God is challenging so much at the moment and we are in an epic change era in the church. I think it's exciting as it means we are being changed from glory to glory, becoming more like Jesus in the process.

Enjoy your time of change!

[1] – Strongs Concordance, Thayers Greek Definitions.