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Almost every time God speaks to individuals, his first words are "Fear not!" (Luke 1:13, Luke 1:30, Luke 2:10, Luke 5:10) The reason seems to be that every time God speaks he is wanting to change us. And we just naturally fear change.

Children are weak and pliable and are therefore destined to be changed. Perhaps that is one reason why God wants us to be like children in our relationship with him. (Luke 18:16)

Jesus compared his teachings to 'new wine' which cannot be safely poured into the inflexible old wineskins of conservatism, because they crack whenever expansion threatens to change them. (Luke 5:37-38) He compared his followers to the soft, new wineskins, because they were willing to be changed by him.

It is foolish to set ourselves up as the final judge of every new teaching. Such an attitude forbids God to speak in any way that challenges our unchangeability.

Certainly not all change is good. With the unprecedented rate of change in every area of modern life, it is understandable that many are seeking refuge from chaos in the 'old ways'.

But fundamentalism is not the answer. Fundamentalism always tries to find God through laws... laws which draw stark lines around the 'good guys' and rigidly reject the 'bad guys'. Fundamentalist Hindus and fundamentalist Muslims kill each other in India. Fundamentalist Protestants and fundamentalist Catholics do the same in Northern Ireland.

The Pharisees were fundamentalists, and they were genuinely concerned that Jesus was doing and saying things that could jeopardise the foundations of their religion (John 11:49-50).

Many born-againers are genuinely concerned that communists, New-agers, or theologians with no faith in a personal God might destroy the foundations of Christianity. But this 'genuine concern' should not be confused with sincerity. True sincerity hands final authority over to God, to let him inscribe his decrees on our hard, inflexible hearts.

Paul was sincere when he persecuted Christians. And he was also a fundamentalist. The proof of his sincerity was his willingness to drop his old interpretations at a word from God. Of course it almost took a bolt of lightning to do it (Acts 9:3-9), and he later admitted to being the worst sort of sinner because of it. (1 Timothy 1:15) This was not false modesty. He knew that fundamentalists are the blindest of all sinners... because they don't allow God to exist outside the little theological boxes that they have built to put him in.

A "personal relationship with Christ" can only come when we are willing to let go of our religious hang-ups... the kind that kept the fundamentalist Nicodemus from ever being born again. Jesus says that when we pray for God's Spirit to possess us, we must be prepared to accept what he gives, assured that any change he brings will not be evil. (Luke 11:2-13)

(See also Faith and Sincerity.)

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