God’s goal in saving us is total transformation. He is not interested in incremental improvement, changing a few habits, or smoothing off a few rough edges. God’s plan for us is the destruction of our fallen nature and restoration of body, mind, and spirit to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.
The world values self-improvement – think of the billions of dollars that are generated by the sales of self-help books and programs. Each one promises our life will improve if we faithfully utilize the methods and materials presented. Self-help is a faulty premise – if I am the source of my issue, problem, or pain, how then can I also be the solution?
God wants to transform our nature completely and permanently by changing what we believe and how we think (Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. . . Romans 12:2). God does the work in us we cannot do for ourselves by the power of His Holy Spirit and promises to finish what He has begun.
1 Thessalonians 5:23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6: And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:13: for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
God illustrates this work of transformation in several ways. In Isaiah 64:8 (But now O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your Hand) He is the potter and we are the clay. The potter selects the design and purpose of the vessel He is creating and works to shape the clay. The transformation from formless lump to useful vessel takes time. The clay must stay in His hands and be moldable to achieve the desired results.
In another illustration, we are the precious metal and God is the metalsmith. To refine the ore, the metalsmith uses heat to bring any impurities to the surface. He then removes the impurities until the metal is so pure that, like a mirror, it perfectly reflects his face. To sanctify His disciples, God uses the adverse situations, circumstances, and problems we encounter in this life (heat) to reveal hidden flaws in our character. He changes us from the inside out by removing our flaws until we are finally revealed as perfect images of His Son. (And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. Zechariah 13:9; Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10) In both illustrations, a close relationship is maintained between the One doing the work and the one being worked on.
One of the best illustrations of transformation is metamorphosis. Insects in the genus Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) undergo a complete physical transformation during their life cycle. They start out as eggs and grow into caterpillars that crawl on trees, flowers, and bushes. In this stage, they are land bound leaf eaters. During the next stage, they find a protected place, spin a cocoon, and become pupae. Inside the cocoon an amazing thing happens – the caterpillar disappears completely. The old cell structure breaks down and becomes “green goo.” This green goo develops into a totally new creature – the adult butterfly or moth that emerges from the cocoon as an aerial nectar feeder. Our sin nature is of the earth, our righteous nature is of the Spirit!
Our “work” is to love and trust God enough that we submit to His process of transformation:
- We agree to stay in the Potter’s hands and remain moldable and teachable
- We submit to being shaped into the vessel of His choosing
- We allow God to identify and remove flaws in our character and replace our negative beliefs with the truth, so our behavior reflects the righteousness of His Son
- We submit to the process of complete change, so our sin nature is destroyed, and we emerge as sons and daughters of Almighty God.
The great news is that transformation is permanent – the process of becoming Christlike may be challenging but the changes in our outlook, behavior, and character are permanent. For we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the LORD, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the LORD who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18