“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)
God’s design and desire for us is to become a brand-new species of being, one that has never existed before. That’s what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17. But how does such a miraculous transformation occur? We must be born again of the Spirit of God; otherwise, we’ll not be enabled to see Jesus for who He is – Messiah, Savior, Lord of all creation. (John 3:3)
But what does this have to do with forgiveness and transformation? Everything!
Imagine waking up from a deep sleep. You don’t recognize your surroundings and it’s dark, very dark. You realize as you become more alert that you are in some kind of structure, but nothing is familiar. You feel your way along until you find what seems to be a door, so you open it only to be blinded by the brilliance of the light. You’ve just been born again!
The doorway to eternal life, is Jesus (John 10:9) and the “key” to opening that door is prayer, having a conversation with Him, receiving the gift of Himself that ushers us into a whole new way of thinking, learning, loving, and living. The key ingredient in that process is forgiveness of our sin.
Forgiveness isn’t simply getting a clean slate from God in order to stay in the darkness from which we’ve just come. Meeting Jesus is walking out of the darkness into the light of His life and love. The cleansing blood of Jesus washes our inner self, freeing us of guilt and shame and filling us with His Holy Spirit. We don’t walk in newness of life with Jesus in our own strength and resource. We’re given a “Helper,” an Advocate, an eternal and powerful Companion who not only empowers and enables us to do and be things we could have never done or been without Him, but He is also the agent of change, renewing and remaking us from the inside out.
We don’t progress in our faith apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit. His purifying presence allows us to overcome sin, defeat the power of the enemy in whatever form he may attack, and pursue holiness apart from which we’ll never see God (Hebrews 12:14). This transformation doesn’t begin until we’re forgiven and cleansed and made into a suitable dwelling place for our new best Friend, the Lord Jesus.
It also doesn’t continue in and of our own strength and effort. Yes, of course, we have a vital part to play in the process of becoming all the Lord Jesus died to enable us to become, but it’s never independent of the incalculable efforts of God’s Spirit working in, through, and on our behalf.
Forgiveness and transformation, while related, are different inasmuch as they have different purposes. Forgiveness is an ongoing process that is dependent upon our cooperation. There is no forgiveness without confession and repentance, which we addressed in yesterday’s post. But transformation is a gift from God that only He can give.
On some levels it’s like how our physical body works. We “fuel” our body by giving it food that becomes our source of energy, that allows a zillion other things our body does and allows for us to do. While we don’t “fuel” our own transformation, we do contribute to its growth by maintaining a quality and growing relationship with the Lord through the formation of godly disciplines, obedience to His directives, finding our place of corporate worship and service in and through His Body, the Church, and sharing His life and love with those who don’t yet know Him.
Trying to honor God and pursue transformation without first being forgiven is like serving guests food on dirty plates. If our goal is to honor our guests and serve them well, we’ll need to make sure we have clean plates on which to serve them.
We cannot honor the Lord unless and until we serve Him with clean, forgiven, and empowered lives, that ultimately lead to our becoming a whole new creation in Christ Jesus, putting our old, soiled self behind, freeing us to be all God created us to become.
Blessings, Ed 😊