In every great story, from Epics to Hallmark movies, a satisfying ending needs to include some kind of transformation: he started out small and afraid and ended up a hero, she started out lonely and unfulfilled and realized she could become an entrepreneur and find love, etc. Without some transformation, we might get to the end and say, ‘Yeah…but so what?” However, in our own stories – our lives – we often do not travel down a path of transformation. Sure, we went to college and had our horizons expanded, or went on that awesome trip that made us more aware of the world, or we dropped a few pounds and learned some self-discipline, but are we daily working on transforming ourselves?
The Christian faith is all about transformation – every bit of it. The first transformation is when we ask ourselves ‘is this all there is to life?’ We transform from people concerned with the cares of this world to people seeking a deeper, spiritual life. When we encounter Jesus, He says, ‘Repent and follow me.’ When we decide to turn away from the world and accept His work on the cross, we are transformed from wretched sinners far from God into beloved sons and daughters, forgiven and accepted with a promise of eternal life! And that is really only the beginning of the story, or perhaps the end of Part One.
Part Two opens with us embarking on the journey of our lifetime of transformation. Our mission is summed up in three profound verses:
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
Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. -Ephesians 4:23-24
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. -2 Corinthians 3:18
If we had a ‘Jesus moment’ years ago but have never left behind the ‘baggage’ of this world and set out on the quest for holiness (sanctification), then we’ve missed the whole point! Jesus came to bring God’s Kingdom NEAR!
Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. -John 10:9-10
There are no thieves in Heaven, so this rich and satisfying life is not the next life, but THIS LIFE. Jesus came to earth and began His ministry with healing – healing diseases, healing deformities, healing from demon possession, healing from bad life choices, healing from death! If He were only concerned about the next life, why bother? Jesus wants to draw near, touch us and transform us in such a profound way that we will be moved to change our lives and go bring others for Jesus to transform.
We must become clay in the Potter’s hands (see Jeremiah 18:1-7) and allow the Holy Spirit to shape us and transform us into the person God created us to be. We all start off with character flaws, undeveloped talents, physical or mental challenges to overcome and, of course, our ‘idiosyn-crazies’. We should not kid ourselves into believing that God’s unconditional love means we never have to change. Yes, God loves you forever no matter what - but He loves you too much to leave you an unfinished masterpiece. Transformation and change can be hard and painful, but like pruning a tree, we have to trim away the dead branches to get new growth and fruitfulness. God knows what He’s created us to be, and He wants us to experience the joy of becoming that!
Marie Kondo’s book on de-cluttering has many of us regularly asking if the things in our life ‘spark joy.’ The concept is, if a particular item is useful, but it doesn’t ‘spark joy’, then out it goes. Many of us need to spark some joy in our spiritual lives. If our encounters with God are not filling us with ‘indescribable joy,’ then perhaps we have some transformative work to do. The closer we are to the person God created us to be, the image of Christ, the more joy and peace we will experience. Caterpillars, it’s time to cocoon ourselves in God’s Word, in praise and worship and meditation and get ready to transform into beautiful butterflies!