CROSSING OVER ♦ SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION
Welcome to the family of God! I am so happy that you have chosen Christ. You have awakened from spiritual death to eternal life. You have a joyful and rich journey ahead of you, one along which God is going to teach you much about him and yourself. And when you’ve come to the end of your earthly life, you have an inconceivably great future awaiting you in Heaven where you will live everlastingly in the service of God with Christ himself, the holy angels, and all who have ever chosen Jesus.
Moreover, this very moment the loving promises and mighty power of God belong to you through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who has entered your life to explain Jesus and to make his holy virtues your very own. This is something to be excited about! I encourage you to never look back to the life you once lived.
It is my responsibility now, however, to “par the course” for you. It wasn’t for a haphazard reason that you decided to choose Jesus. Plus, you were not capable of making this choice on your own. You needed the help of the Holy Spirit, to put it mildly. The Holy Spirit began softening your heart to godly things. He highlighted experiences in your past and caused things you had heard about God to make sense to you. He helped you to understand that he was present in your life all along. Or maybe you are the one for whom everything suddenly clicked.
Aligning Yourself with God’s Purpose for You
Why you said ‘Yes’ to God, however, in your mind, may be different from the real meaning of salvation and the need in your life. You may have thought that you needed to make a change of direction. You may have felt that you needed to get your life together. You may describe your recent actions as “turning over a new leaf.” Yet people undertake these endeavors without Christ all the time and are very successful.
But Jesus entering your life is altogether different. If we forget the nature of our souls—that we are very sinful—we will not understand why we chose Christ. In fact, when the Holy Spirit began showing you things, he revealed your sinful nature and how offensive it is to God and unbecoming of the person he created you to be. That’s never easy to deal with when we see it as God does.
Yet he didn’t leave you there to sulk in your pathetic condition. He also showed you that you were made for his joy and that your life could only find its highest expression in him. You needed more than getting your life together; you needed a radical change.
This is why you said ‘Yes’ to Jesus and committed to walk the other direction. You have heard it all your life and witnessed it in the lives of those you’ve admired the most, that Christ brings real transformation and lasting good in the heart. That transformation is the recovery of the fallen components of our souls.
Yes, following Christ makes us better people, but it exceeds that goal in purpose. We enter the life to come now, and it will change us and everything around us if we allow it. You certainly didn’t convert to become churchy, snobbish, or simply to avoid Hell. You did it because your burden was too big for you to carry any longer.
Transformation is the Key
So let transformation be your compass. With every step further in your Christian journey, more of the old you should fall away and more of Christ should come alive in you. This will certainly be your reality the more discipleship is part of your life, both as a new convert and when you are a mature Christian. Let’s be clear: Discipleship is essential to your growth. Good discipleship helps us to learn not only about our new life in Christ, but it also teaches us about our heritage, community of faith, spiritual gifts, and commission.
Discipleship is also crucial because our disconnection with sin is gradual. With God our status has changed and we are clean in his sight because Jesus’s righteousness has been given to us. Still, although we have been made spiritually new, we continue to struggle with sin. When you said ‘Yes’ to God, the circumstances in your life didn’t suddenly vanish, did they? More importantly, the sinful habits inside you, more than likely, didn’t suddenly die or die completely. I hope they did, but most of us have to replace those sinful habits with godly ones that uproot corruption within us. You need discipleship for that reason alone.
(Let’s pause for a moment and consider something. God has placed the finish line in this Christian race where we never expected it. It doesn’t await us in Heaven; it is right here on earth. You crossed that line when you chose Christ. It was a finish line to sin’s dominion over you and a starting line to eternal life. Though you will continue to deal with sin for now, you race toward no more ribbons but rather God himself, full with the life that only he gives—and you become holier the closer you get. You will be finished with sin entirely in Heaven, but you race now with Jesus in sight and no looking back.)
What Salvation Really Is
You probably had something in mind when I mentioned sinful habits. But what you really need to understand is that there is deeper imperfection within you. We don’t truly understand how sinful we are. I think it is going to take us being in the actual presence of the Holy One and looking back on our lives to grasp the depth of offense sin is to him. Because of our fallen condition, we don’t fully see how imperfect the many areas of our lives are: our will is bent, our minds are evil, our attitudes are sour, our souls are dysfunctional, and our passions are impure. We are tainted through-and-through with sin. With time and as we are diligent to pursue God, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal these areas to us. It doesn’t mean that God is angry with us or that we displease him. He is only refining us and now requires our improvement.
The excitement you felt when you first believed and that still makes you hot for Jesus is the glory of God. But he desires that same glory to work itself into every part of your heart and life. Salvation is God reconciling the components of your life to match the splendor that is his own. It is wholeness and that’s an awesome thing to ponder. But God refines us for another reason: his plan for us. Now his first purpose for you is that you grow into a strong Christian that creates new disciples for his kingdom. Then, there are specific tasks he has designed you to accomplish for him. None of them may be anything that makes you famous one day; they may be insignificant in the eyes of some. But he refines our lives to guarantee that he will always be our priority; to produce in us the right motivations; to fill us with his power to accomplish the task; and to help us bear the weight of it.
Living Your Life with Jesus
Now we touched on this earlier but let’s be clear about it. Your life will continue in the manner it always has. If you think that because you have chosen Christ everything will suddenly become easy, wonderful, and prosperous, I am now your bearer of bad news. Trust me, God is going to do some awesome things in your life and show you his presence in convincing ways. He is going to answer your prayers in imperceptible ways and in dramatic ways. He may even change everything about your life. But your comfort is not God’s plan for your salvation.
Life will continue to have its ups-and-downs, but now you face them with the mind of Christ and his resurrection power inside you. You have the backing of Heaven in every challenge, and you can be confident that God is at work in your crises turning them to your advantage. You now possess true happiness in God alone and own his promise to be faithful to you.
One more thing: Having Jesus in your life doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It does mean, however, that his life within you should cause your thinking, choices, actions, and overall personality to be better than many of the people you will daily encounter. But we can never value ourselves as Christians over a fellow Christian and certainly over no unbeliever, for we were ourselves sinners saved by the grace of God. What is in our lives is what we truly want to see formed in their lives.
So now that we understand that spiritual transformation is our lifelong goal, let’s move forward and explore our new identity in Christ.
God’s Purpose & Your Responsibility
God’s purpose for you is that you understand his intent to change everything about the way you think about yourself and life, including your principles, instincts, and responses. This is his ultimate goal: to get the best of you to get the best out of you for his purpose and your well-being. He wants to make you a blessing to others. Your responsibility is to open yourself to God’s involvement in your thoughts, decisions, and actions. You should invite the Holy Spirit’s counsel and ask him to reveal what is sinful about you and to empower you to change in ways that please him.
INPUT: Dwell on thoughts that envision inner transformation in your life. Prayerfully consider what needs to change in you. Imagine yourself the way God may want to refine you. OUTPUT: You will gain the ability to see more of your dysfunction and watch God rebuild and refashion you from the inside-out. Soon you will notice results!
Daily Bread: Transformation
Romans 12:2—“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Philippians 2:13—“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Proverbs 4:18; Jeremiah 29:11; John 6:44; Romans 1:18-32; 3:10-12; 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Ephesians 2:1-5; 2 Peter 1:3-11