This morning I was at the dentist. I was sitting in the waiting room and saw a father come in with his four-year-old son. The boy immediately ran to the bright red toy machine. A device where you put a coin in, turn the lever and then a toy falls into the tray at the bottom. Always exciting to see what rolls out next. A simple example of a transaction. You give a piece of money and you immediately get something nice in return. Children love that, but so do we as adults.
Our lives are made up of these kinds of transactions. It is the economy of life. You go to the supermarket, fill your shopping cart and pay at the cash register. You pay and they deliver the goods. The moment you insert your debit card into the device and enter your code, a transaction takes place. An exchange. Your money goes to the supermarket and the goods become yours. Clear, measurable and verifiable. And above all, easy and fast!
Even a wedding
This is the case with the rent of your house, the contract with your employer, the granting of a permit, the agreements with your children and even with a wedding. From a social point of view, a marriage is an audible ‘yes’ and the signing of a document. Then you are married. Transaction successful. But everyone knows that a marriage is more than this agreement. It is a growth process in which you work together to build your relationship with each other. A long, challenging and beautiful journey as husband and wife, in which you both change along the way. A lifelong transformation.
One size fits all
Transactional thinking in our society and in our thinking is so strong that we have even cast the message of Jesus in this paradigm. The gospel has sometimes become a kind of scientific formula. Pray this prayer so that… Keep a silent time for so long, because then… Put a coin in it and an answer will come out. This has made them systems that you can easily multiply. This is how we arrive at five principles of breakthrough, four laws of abundance and three steps to a miracle. If you believe, say or do this, you will receive blessing, help or an answer. One size fits all . Clear, measurable and verifiable. And above all, easy and fast!
But this is how we create business transactions with God, while life with God is one big adventure full of surprises, painful growing pains and great quests. It’s a relationship! The consequence of this transactional thinking is a superficial life of faith for many Christians.
When we go to church, we deeply expect that the sermon will touch and encourage us. We get out of bed on time, so we are actually entitled to a good story. We count on them to sing the songs that we love, that make us happy, or that apply to our situation. And if the sermon is disappointing or the songs are not our top performers, then it was a poor or even poor service. The transaction was not satisfactory and the supplier is then blamed. Exactly like when your online order is very disappointing and you return it without batting an eyelid. Preferably with a complaint.
The wind blows
I realize I’m exaggerating a bit. But if we do not face the superficial aspects of our spiritual life, then there will be no desire for change and deepening. Life with God does not consist so much of transactions, but of a lifelong path of transformation. The Spirit of God is not an assembly line worker, but an Artist. Every process is different, every growth step unique. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The work of the Spirit cannot be reduced to barter.
When Jesus is talking to the rich young man about eternal life, things come to a climax. Jesus asks him to sell all his wealth and give it to the poor. This assignment is similar to a transaction: Turn in your money and you will receive eternal life. But then we miss the point. Jesus asks this young man something more. “You lack one thing: go, sell all you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21). The real transformation is not in giving away the money, but in taking up the cross and following Jesus. That is where the process of renewing our thinking takes place. On that path we grow and change. Giving away the money was just creating space for a beautiful metamorphosis.
Death and resurrection
Transformation is hard work. Change, be open and embark on the adventure of trusting Jesus again and again. This process is always accompanied by death and resurrection. Death because it involves letting go of old patterns, views and prejudices. Humble yourself and ask forgiveness. And resurrection because they are exciting steps of faith that we never took before, because everything was so certain. Embrace the new, while the people around you confirm the old. Transformation is not easy. Just ask any butterfly. As difficult as transformation may seem, the result is too beautiful for words – resurrection! Each time you become more like Jesus, the Risen One.
The Helper helps!
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit has come precisely for us, to assist you in this. He is the great Helper, who supports and inspires you on the path of transformation. He is the engine of your relationship with Jesus and in that relationship the incredible takes place. What you can receive from God in a service or during a conference is beautiful, but the relationship with Himself always remains the most beautiful. Nothing can replace your friendship with Him. Renewal takes place in that relationship (such as in a marriage) and not in transactions. Invite the Holy Spirit more often to take control in difficult moments or when you long for change. Don’t wait for the next meeting to meet God. He is also and especially in your daily life. It is the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, so He can help you like no other to rise again and again into a new reality.
In what area of your life would you like to ask the Holy Spirit to embark on the adventure of transformation (death and resurrection) in your imitation of Jesus?