I think that there is something inside each one of us that loves seeing things transformed for the good. The producers of many TV shows have latched onto that idea by creating shows that enable us to watch houses, bodies, brides and cooking ingredients be transformed into something radically different from the original.
When I was a boy I kept silkworms. I was initially fascinated by the fact that they ate green leaves and spun golden silk strands. But that paled in comparison to the fascination of watching them go into a cocoon, remain motionless for days and then emerge as a moth. What a transformation from the dull grey worm that moved so awkwardly on its many legs to a creature that could quite literally fly!
In Romans 12:2 God gives us this amazing command and promise: “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.”
The words ‘conform’ and ‘transform’ are in stark contrast to each other. To conform is to be squeezed and shaped by the patterns of this world. To transform means to be changed into something better…to improve…to trade in caterpillar legs for wings. God created us with the ability to change. But this doesn’t just happen automatically. If it did, God would not need to tell us to ‘be transformed.’ There is a part that God plays in our transformation, but there is also a part that we need to play!
Consider these aspects of spiritual transformation:
The end-product: God has a plan in His heart for us. He wants to make us more like His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:19). We could never do this by ourselves. We need divine help! God, by His Spirit, is at work in our lives, changing us to become more like Jesus. One of the measuring tools that we can use to measure spiritual transformation in our lives is this: How much have I progressed towards becoming more Christ-like in my thoughts and actions?
The process of transformation:
Ephesians 2:10 refers to us as masterpieces of God, casting Him as the Master Craftsman who shapes us according to His will.
A story goes that when the Pope first saw Michelangelo’s incredible sculpture of David, he asked the sculptor: “How do you know what to cut away?” Michelangelo replied: “It’s simple. I just remove everything that doesn’t look like David.”
While I’m not totally sure of the accuracy of the story, it gives us a good insight into God’s dealings with us – He is at work removing everything that doesn’t look like Christ. This is not an overnight process. It will take a lifetime.
Our attitude towards transformation:
Imagining that the block of marble destined to become David had a voice and a will, surely the appropriate response to the process of becoming the final work is to rejoice in the knowledge that a master craftsman is bringing forth the very best of your potential?
And yet, the process can be painful. It involves chiselling – a lot of chiselling. Large, small, flat, pointed and serrated, the only thing that the tools seem to have in common with each other is that they are designed to forcibly remove those pieces that do not form part of the final sculpture.
I think poor David would have been crying out in protest, begging the master to stop, to leave him as he was – after all, a block is a perfectly good shape to be.
Often, this is our response to God’s transformational work in our lives. It hurts. It takes a long time. It is a gruelling process, and we fear that by the end of it we will not recognise ourselves.
But our Master Sculptor has a final shape in mind for us – a better shape. He loves us too much to leave us as blocks, when He sees inside us the potential to be Davids.
Habits that aid spiritual transformation:
Rick Warren, in his Transformed series, teaches seven habits that will aid our spiritual transformation. If we are to become what God has in mind for us, these habits are not optional extras – they are the chisels that will shape us throughout our lives.
I must love Jesus supremely (Luke 14:26)
I must meet with Him daily (Proverbs 8:24)
I must study and do His Word (Psalm 1:1-3)
I must tithe my income (Malachi 3:10)
I must learn to love other believers (John 13:35)
I must serve others unselfishly (Mark 10:45)
I must pass on the good news (2 Timothy 2:2)
In the end, we are left with a choice: to squirm and cry out in protest, and run from the chisel, or to embrace the process, not knowing God’s plan, but trusting that it is better than what we see.