Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Transformed?

On Sunday I began to a sermon series through the book of Colossians that I have entitled Becoming. The premise of the series is this: Becoming the people God created us to be is the result of God’s miracles and our choices. As we follow Jesus we are transformed into the people that God desires us to be.

The problem I ran into as I evaluated my sermon from Sunday is that this idea of becoming or being transformed into the people God created us to be is not an easy one to grasp. What does it mean? According to the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are new creations when we give our lives to Jesus. If I am a new creation why do I still feel so much like the old creation? Where is the change? If this is just about a spiritual reality then how can I know that it is real?

The desire to be changed, to be transformed, is a universal desire. It is seen in many different ways in our culture. John Ortberg points this out in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted:
“The desire for transformation lies deep in every human heart. This is why people enter therapy, join health clubs, get into recovery groups, read self-help books, attend motivational seminars, and make New Years resolutions. The possibility of transformation is the essence of hope.” (p. 20)


We can identify the desire to change, but how is the desire ultimately fulfilled? When will we be satisfied with the transformation? Remember what C. S. Lewis wrote about desire? He wrote; "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world" (Mere Christianity, p. 121). I think it is important to remember that our desire to be transformed will not be fully met until heaven when we will appear with Jesus in glory (Colossians 3:4), but I believe we should still be able to see evidence of this transformation in our lives today.

This is what I have been pondering about the last couple of days: How do I know I am being transformed? Allow me to share with you a few thoughts I have had.
  1. Transformation is seen in who I am, not what I accomplish. This process of being made new is about making us into the right kind of people, more than about doing the right things. Understand that a person can do the right things for all the wrong reasons. If we remember that God’s goal is to make us people fit for heaven, then it is more important that we have developed the right character then it is that we have done the right things. Why? When we have the right character we will do the right things. So transformation is about changing my character more than it is about changing my behavior.
  2. Transformation happens as we follow Jesus. Our character is changed as we faithfully live in obedience to Jesus Christ. If we are going to live the life God planned for us to live (Ephesians 2:10) then we have to choose to surrender our dreams, desires, and standards and pick up Jesus’ teachings, example, and commands as the way we live life. As Erwin McManus wrote in Stand Against the Wind; “You cannot follow Jesus and remain the same. The journey itself will change you forever—not only your priorities but your passions” (p. 26).
  3. Transformation isn’t about becoming the person I want to be, but about becoming the person God wants me to be. I think this is where many people lose their way when it comes to talk about changing and transformation. We have developed an image in our minds of who we want to be and what we would like to accomplish, and so we want God to change us into that person. Very often God has a different desire for our lives. We get frustrated with the process of transformation and give up because God isn’t fulfilling our dreams for life, but is working to re-create us into the person He wants us to be. By giving up we end the transformation process. If we are going to be transformed then we have to trust God and not insist that God do things our way.
  4. Transformation is about changing the way we think. In the classic New Testament passage on transformation the apostle Paul wrote: Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God's will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:2; ISV). The way we look at the world, what we put into our minds, and what we think about needs to change if we are going to be transformed. It is easy to be conformed to the patterns of this world if we allow ourselves to be immersed in what this world has to offer. To break free from the mold, to live differently, and to become the people God wants us to be requires we change what we feed our minds and our hearts. The way we live changes when we change our state of heart and mind, and that requires changing what we allow in.

I don’t know if I am an closer to a nice concise definition of what it means to be transformed or to become the people God wants us to be, but I know it happens. I see it in my life. Sure I still get frustrated because I know my failures and sin, but I also know that I am not that man I was a year ago, let alone five or ten years ago. God has been transforming me, and I think that is the point we have to remember. Transformation is a process in which faithful people are re-created, in Christ Jesus, to live the lives God planned for them live. The life God planned for me to live right now prepares me for the life that He has for me to live next year which prepares me for the eventual life He has for me to live in heaven.

  • Point to Ponder: God transforms the lives of faithful people.
  • Passage to Remember: Romans 12:2
  • Question to Consider: How has your life been transformed by God?

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