Living as a Transformed People
What does it mean to be a transformed person living in an age of conformity? Is conformity a bad thing? More specifically, what I want to address is this, what does it mean to be a transformed Christian living in light of being in Christ. I hope to address this question briefly. Just maybe, Lord willing, I can help guide readers along the thorny path that I myself am still traversing through. It is full of hot juicy theological debates, with pain and goodness, failure and hope, exposure and repentance. This process is the long highway called "sanctification," on the other side of this deep and dark forest there is an opening for all travelers and weary saints.
The Christian message says, "Christ died and rose again," and that through Jesus a person can be set right (justified) but is this justifying work something that nullifies the sanctifying work in the life of believer? In other words, what happens after someone is declared righteous? There have been many debates swirling around the church for many centuries on this topic, I will save the reader space and time. What I want to write instead is this, "Christ came to save every fiber of our being (literally)." In other words, we are not just souls awaiting death so we can simply go to heaven, let alone are we called to wait around just to be raptured out of this world. We are "the human beings," whom Christ wants to "transform" in the present and which will transition over into our final glorification (resurrection). In other words, the person you are becoming presently matters for all of eternity (which is a really long time).
This is why sanctification in the life of the believer is so vital, because the habits and patterns we form in our present existence are the patterns we carry over into our next life. This is why we are given the Holy Spirit in the first place, the Spirit's job in the life of the believer is to be producing righteous living, which consist of good behavior and wholesome living in the present (fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23). It's not enough to just simply call Jesus Lord (James has many important things to say on this matter). But the justifying work of Jesus saves us in order for us to reflect a "transformed" life back into the world (image bearers) which will consist of good works. C.S. Lewis once wrote,"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does mean we are perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption."
Paul exhorts the Christians living in Rome to have a transformed life," So, my dear family, this is my appeal to you by the mercies of God: offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and pleasing to God. Worship like this brings your minds into line with God's. What's more, don't let yourselves be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you can work out what God's will is - what is good, acceptable, and complete." The Roman house Churches had their fights and quarrels (Jews and Gentiles battling), they had their troubles, but after Paul lays out the grand narrative of Jesus and God being the Faithful covenant keepers, justifying sinful people, making sinners saints, Paul basically says to a troubled Christian people, "Hey, offer your whole lives as a service to God, Including how you think about God's will and purpose in each of your lives both corporately and individually."
This raises some good questions for our own Christian sub culture in America such as: what would Paul write to us Christians in America on living a holy, pleasing life to God? I think he would address many issues on our usual conformity to this age. He would probably address our lack of unity as a people, and host of many other things (sounds a little like Rome). How do we as American Christians live a transformed life that would reflect a true saving faith? The answer is this: we need to have our minds renewed so that we can test and discern the will of God both culturally and personally. We have to train our minds to think critically about every situation. It's a training process kind of like working out, but this does not happen apart from the Holy Spirit's work in our lives.
Transformation happens when the Spirit works in the life of the believer, you start to hate the things you once loved. Paul said in his letter to the crazy partying Corinthians, "Don't you know that the unjust will not inherit God's kingdom? Don't be deceived! Neither immoral people, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor practicing homosexuals of which ever sort, nor thieves, nor greedy people, nor drunkards, nor abusive talkers, nor robbers will inherit God's kingdom. That of course, is what some of you were! But you were washed clean; you were made holy; you were put back to rights - in the name of the Lord, King Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God." In other words, when a person is washed clean, justified (put back to rights) in the name of Jesus and in the Spirit of our God, your old former self has been eradicated by the trinitarian God at work in your life. Charles Spurgeon said, "The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul," does this mean a person in Christ has perfect habits? Of course not! but the Spirit is at work in our lives changing our former ways, because we have been baptized in Jesus' death and raised to new life through his resurrection. This is why Paul viewed his life as follows, "I am, however, alive - but it isn't me any longer; it's the Messiah who lives in me. And the life I do still live in the flesh, I live within the faithfulness of the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
We have now arrived at the end of the forest, there is a clearing, not made by us, but by Him wh died and was raised to life. We realize that all along on this path we have been following the foot steps of someone else's leading, namely the Spirit himself. "In Him we move and have our being," says Paul, and we now echo the same words realizing that the works done by us had been Him all along working through us despite us, carrying us forward. Ah, this is what happens when a person is placed in the right (justified), new life! and new birth!, I call it, "living as a transformed people."
- Casey Dayton