You can imagine the shakeup that was occurring in the first century when Jesus led his followers into a new and living way to interact and live for God rather than the strict religious attempts of the law from the past. It changed the way people thought about God and also the practical way in which they lived.
Nestled in the book of Galatians is Paul’s side of the story when he confronted the great apostle Peter for living like a chameleon. Paul catches Peter eating with Gentile believers who had accepted Christ but were having nothing to do with the laws of Judaism and then entirely switching sides on the issue because “he was afraid of criticism” from other believers.
I see lots of people suffering from this condition that I’ll label Chameliosis.
This is a common condition among sincere and well-meaning people. It means that they change opinions on serious matters depending on who they are with, or they morph into another mindset after reading someone’s book. Let me explain why it’s important to notice this.
The absence of deep spirituality, a deeper communion with God, produces verbally sophisticated chameleons, both in doctrine and experience. Good, average well-meaning people adapt to the spiritual flavors of the day reflecting whatever religious ideas they’ve been around for the last few months and at least for a while glow with eerily similarity to the author’s ideas and concepts.
Deep, authentic Inward spiritual transformation never emerges because it’s never really experienced. However, if you listen to the person, they have the language of transformation and the current vocabulary of some new ideas. But the absence of deep and personal change leads to the deception of significant proportions in which the person thinks because he or she understands the vocabulary and concepts of the author or speaker, which he or she has suddenly acquired that truth or growth.
Did you ever have the experience of reading something in middle school and passing the test and realize the next day you didn’t learn anything you had just memorized the answers? This condition infects millions of undisciplined disciples, un-follower followers, and a new species of Christians who have no inward connection with Christ and seem lost when you ask them to tell you about how God has transformed their lives.
Chameliosis is the deception that one thinks they have changed because they have learned the vocabulary words. In other words, for the chameleon, there is such a theological and experiential buoyancy that they move with whatever current is flowing past them at the moment.
This condition can even happen to leaders and pastors who carry an impressive vocabulary that is entirely convincing to the ordinary follower but underneath, in their soul, nothing transformative is happening.
- We Must Remain Open
There’s no doubt that we all need to remain open to new ideas and read books for growth, but we should at some point begin to formulate some solid (doxastic) beliefs about what Jesus and his teachings mean to us personally.
Paul, who also wrote Romans says that we are not to be “conformed” to this world but “transformed” by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:1,2) We are to be shaped from the inside out with the source still being the Spirit’s personal, transforming work in our inner lives. This does happen through the Spirit, God’s Word and the faith community that surrounds us.
- We Are Looking for Real Change
It is one thing to be impacted by the words of an author who radiates intimacy with God and another thing to feel as if you also have intimacy with God because you read about it. So it may be possible to move from one book to the next, one author to the next, never really connecting at any deep level with God for oneself but being deceived by the feeling of growth because of this serious condition we call Chameliosis.
- We All Need Context
Perhaps we could say that what is largely missing in the contemporary church life is a sense of historical (orthodox) context. You are also part of God’s great plan for your family and your community. The only real power for effective kingdom living and witness any of us will ever have is the energy that emerges from our relationship with God through the Spirit.
- God Is Always At Work in You
God is continually working to shape and form you, but it happens through a deep and mystical process in the deepest parts of who you are. The walk with Christ is mystically sustained by the invisible personhood of the Spirit telling us internally that we are sons and daughters of God.
This spiritual journey includes, but must not be limited to, an intellectual assent to “this truth” and “this concept.” It very much includes you experiencing God moments along the way.
- Shallowed Understandings
Good and well-meaning people leave worship services shaded for the moment by the worship and message, but if that connection was with information, style, or personality rather than being mystically Spirit-transformed, it will morph several more times during the coming week to little change remains.
Martin Luther, said,
You do not command a stone which is lying in the sun to be warm. It will be warm all by itself. Should there not be such power and presence in each community of faith that a person who attends encounters the living God? Are we being warmed by His presence and mystically transformed by His perfect power?
Listen to this story of personal transformation during the renewal of the sixties.
A Catholic nun reveals:
For over 60 years of my religious life, I could not meditate. I tried every method; the sisters tried to teach me, but all in vain. The best I could do was to read little prayers and try to keep my mind on what I read. After receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I am living a new life. Christ has become real. He is alive. I feel his presence in me, around me. When I read Holy Scripture, it means something to me. Now I can see the meaning in the Bible stories; they apply to me; they are real. Christ talks to me; I talk to Him. Mediation is a real spiritual joy. Time goes fast; an hour slips by before I am finished talking with Him. After all these years, at the age of 84, I am beginning a new life. I have a new awareness of Christ’s presence in my life. Praise the Lord.
The Take Away:
- We must not lose the importance of allowing the Spirit to form the message of the gospel deep within us.
- This inner transformation keeps us from just being spiritual chameleons being shaded by the music, or denomination or personality on the stage.
- We are open to being shaped by all of these but understand that most of all I must be open to the deep inward work not just through my thoughts but my emotions and the deepest parts of me.
- Stay hungry for God and not just information and music about God.