Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God [Romans 12:2].
Transformation requires surrender.
After studying more than a year on the topic of transformation, I’ve come to realize several things about its process and ultimate outcome. The process is lifelong and contrary to human nature. Resisting change is one of our natural tendencies. The ultimate outcome of transformation, as defined in Scripture, is for Christ-followers to become Christlike.
Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [Romans 8:29, bold text added].
The Process Outlined
This is an ongoing, lifelong process that occurs gradually. It is wholly proportional to our resistance or surrender to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It progresses as we yield ourselves to God. Conversely, we hinder the process by resisting, hesitating, or refusing. For this reason, God lovingly counsels, “Do not quench the Spirit” [1 Thessalonians 5:19]. In today’s lingo, that would be, “Get out of the way and allow the Holy Spirit to perform His supernatural work in your life.”
Some people confuse transformation with change. But they are not the same. For the most part, anyone can change something about him or herself. However, only God can transform. For example, I can add tea to water and change it, but it is substantially just flavored water. But when I boil water, the essence of the water is transformed into steam – liquid into vapor. So it is with God’s transforming process. Over time, He supernaturally conforms us into His image.
If we were to outline the progressive stages of the transformation process, it would look something like this:
Expectation – Alteration – Revelation – Transformation
A Resurrection Morning Example
The story of the Resurrection morning might help us visualize this concept. In Mark 16 we find the story of the women going to the tomb where Christ’s body had been buried. They had watched the horror of the crucifixion, then followed Joseph of Arimathea to see where he would entomb the body.
Early that Sunday morning, before the sunrise, Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of Joses), and Salome (the mother of James and John) hurried to the tomb. They brought spices to anoint Christ’s body. Also, they wondered how they would roll away the huge stone that sealed the entrance. No word is mentioned about them worrying about the armed guard or breaking Pilate’s seal. Their motivations were human logic and love for Jesus.
However, upon arriving, they found the stone rolled away and Jesus was gone. The angels stationed there told them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” [Luke 24:5-6]. What a transformational moment!
These ladies initially set out with a certain expectation. They wanted to properly anoint the hastily embalmed body of Jesus. It was the traditional, appropriate, and loving thing to do. However, God altered their plans. The angels challenged their expectations. They bought spices in disbelief of His promised resurrection. Then came the revelation – He has risen from the dead and alive forevermore! No need for spices or mourning. Now was the time for proclaiming the incredible news! Upon hearing this – and eventually seeing the risen Christ, their mindsets were forever transformed.
Stages of the Journey
By applying this process to our lives, we find applicable similarities.
- Stage 1: Expectation – we all have certain expectations from life (e.g., career, spouse, income, priorities, etc.). Like the women at the tomb, we often derive these expectations with little or no input from God. We simply pursue personal desires, worldly standards, or societal norms.
- Stage 2: Alteration – out of sheer love, God often interrupts the paths we’ve chosen. He sees the dangers ahead and knows the disbelief in our actions and decisions. As our Omniscient creator, He knows why we were created and uniquely purposed. Anything going against that invites His detours to get our attention. He sovereignly narrows our circumstances, forcing us to a decision point.
- Stage 3: Revelation – should we come to a realization of what God is going, He reveals the shortsightedness of our expectations and lovingly coaxes back to our intended paths. He reveals His truth hoping we will accept, apply, and surrender to it. Daily habits of studying His Word, praying, and applying what He reveals is a huge part of this step of the transformational process.
- Stage 4: Transformation – as we yield our wills, desires, and priorities to God, He performs something supernatural in us. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:6]. We are then free to walk in His newness of life [Romans 6:4].
A Personal Application
Based on Romans 12:2, this new transforming environment begins with a renewed mind. Our mindsets, perspectives, priorities, and outlooks become different. We gravitate away from this world and focus on the world to come. Transformed minds, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, have a renewed vision. We see ourselves through God’s eyes. That new vision affects behavior, choices, and decisions. Ultimately, entire lifestyles morph more and more into Christlikeness. We fade out; He fades in. We become transformed more and more each and every day.
But we all…beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. [2 Corinthians 3:18, bold text added].
We are hidden in Christ [Colossians 3:3]. By way of an analogy, our lives are like cups of water. Our supernatural transformation is similar to emptying them on the sun. They vanish into steam, but the sun remains. Even so, along our transformational process, we vanish but The Son remains. “He must increase, but I must decrease” [John 3:30].
God created us for this ongoing transformation. His Spirit stands willing to renovate us from within. But the willingness – the surrender – is entirely up to each person. To advance in the process, I first must identify my current stage. Then, I need to honestly determine my willingness to surrender to God’s incredible transformation to become the best version of myself. God knows what’s best – I can trust Him! And you can too!
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on natestevens.net.
Featured image by Ben White