Rom.12:2 - And be not transformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
The follower of Christ, the believer, is supposed to pursue and surrender to being changed and transformed by God’s power. Some of this is noticeable and perceptible, but much happens secretly inside the heart and mind of each of us. We sometimes tout the outward changes and neglect the realization of the accumulation of the many number of small, imperceptible changes occurring in our spirits that join as a symphony to transform us into the image of Christ. Many times we experience these changes with an air of victory and effervescence, but many times these changes come in the form of protracted sufferings, which if patiently endured, will bear the spiritual fruit in direct proportion to our surrendered faith and which ultimately will glorify Christ. This is the life and joy of the believer, to be clothed upon by His image and have our own flesh crucified by the transforming power of God’s Word and the working of the Spirit.
The business of transformation is one of the Spirit and cannot be accomplished by the will or works of man. I know there are seeming paradoxes and oxi-morons galore when we address the unseen things of the Spirit and well they should be. If we drag the Spirit into the pragmatic understandings of man’s strategies we have misrepresented His ministry and more dangerously will enter into a humanistic pragmatism whose obedience soothes the flesh but negates the Spirit. In that convoluted form of discipleship we can attain false contentment and become blind to greater callings of God’s Spirit.
Metaphorically speaking we can organize the feeding of the five thousand without seeing the miraculous multiplication. We can reserve the upper room without being part of its divine power. We can minister to little children without becoming one ourselves before the Lord. We can attend the marriage feast at Cana but are conspicuously absent in the Garden of Gethsemane. We can rejoice at the empty tomb without a visit to Golgotha. But in essence, the entire Christian journey is filled with victory and defeats that contain victories.
But there is another form of transformation, an involuntary transformation, that is clandestine in its approach and effective in its goal. It comes through the classroom of the senses and does it greatest work in the post graduate work of the mind. Oh yes, everyone has taken this course, thinking they were only auditing, only to realize they had taken it for credit and passed with flying colors. And having your record expunged is much more difficult than receiving the rewards of hours of study. You can look around the classroom and see students from all theological positions, all ages, all cultures, and every teacher has come up through the ranks, studied hard, and now proudly wears the professorial moniker. Many students seek to attain that status.
The transformation of which I speak comes through attempting to transform others. It can come through good intentions and it can operate in the classroom of self righteousness but it is counter productive at best. When we attempt to be the agent of change for others, with an emphasis on judgmentalism, we will be unknowingly transformed ourselves. I do not speak of judging the spirits or judging teachings against Scripture, but I do speak of judging people’s hearts. Seems simple, it is not. I believe even the most careful Christian who desires to discern Biblical truth flows in and out of unbiblical judgmentalism. It is a delicate proposition that gets little attention because of the clandestine nature of the process.
There is such a thing as Biblical judgment when it comes to truth and spiritual deception even though those things are quickly falling out of favor in the church. But spiritual judgment and carnal judgment live in the same neighborhood and even sometimes right next door, so it is entirely possible to exercise spiritual judgment and without realizing it have carnal judgmentalism climb aboard. Now true spiritual judgment transforms us for the better while judgmentalism affects us for the worse. But the delineation between the two judgments is so fine they often become one indistinguishable entity and with that unspiritual alliance our journey can become unproductive. If the truth is not spoken in love it is still truth but to no enhancement to the life of the speaker and most of all with no approval from the Author of truth.
But when we consider ourselves as the agents of someone else’s transformation then we ourselves enter an unseen process of transformation. We begin to be changed in subtle and not so subtle ways that do not glorify our Master. Frustration and impatience, evil thoughts and bitterness, pride and anger, and many other emotions and thoughts that carry carnal baggage not only keep us from progressing toward Christ, we begin to regress. And we begin to exhibit the same things that we may accuse others of, only in different manifestations.
The people, the preachers, or the teachers that we wish would change begin to change us purely by our own efforts to transform them. I have found myself being drawn into ungodly emotions sometimes when I speak in correction about some men and their teachings. And let us not attempt to deftly place them all under the canopy of “righteous indignation” because the emperor has no clothes on that one. As we discern error we must be vigilant about entering into it ourselves, God’s Spirit is actively desiring to transform us even when we are pointing out the error in others, so let us not only never forget that but let us embrace and be aware of it as well.
Humility and the constant awareness of our own spiritual shortcomings must be the platform from which we speak. As we rightly approach doctrine with certainty, so must we view our own failings and sin with the same certainty we apply to others. This is the finest of china in the Christian journey since it is so easy to see gross error in others and their teachings and mentally relegate our own small infractions as normal, common, and unremarkable to God in comparison. That is not the case and God is not on our side, we must seek to be on His. Pride is a chameleon and can covertly assimilate into our lives, find a quiet home, and disguise itself as a doctrinal companion against those with whom we have issues.
Some “discerners” have morphed and been transformed into a kind of acceptable “carte blanche” approach which means that if they are contending for the faith they have spiritual license to say anything they wish. They have forgotten that they themselves are no more than sinners saved by God’s grace, unprofitable servants whose only glory is the Most High God and not themselves. And even while being used as a mouthpiece we all must keep listening attentively to the personal correction of the Spirit both in our own lives and indeed as to how God would have us address these issues. If you have never had to repent because of your words, your attitudes, or even your mixed motives then perhaps you have not been hearing God. You see, if our purpose becomes to transform others then we ourselves are being transformed albeit without our realization. Do we desire to please Christ our Master, or are we on some other “mission”.
So how do we avoid this pitfall? There are no easy and pat answers, but the first and most substantial step is to be aware that this type of involuntary transformation can easily take place. Do not think the devil only deceives doctrinal backsliders, no, he has a design for all of us. If he cannot stop us from speaking the truth he will deceive us into thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. What you place before you changes you. When people of my age sat before the Beatles they changed their hair styles and were changed even when not setting out to be so. And so it is spiritually, what we place before us changes us. Maybe in small increments and sometimes rapidly but change occurs nonetheless.
So when we place sinners before our hearts and minds and view them as objects for us to change, we ourselves begin to change. And the active ingredient of this transformation is simply pride. Pride, that repulsive attribute of the fallen nature of Adam that has found a resting place within our very bosom. And yet, ever so quietly, it captures more and more mental territory inside us while ever claiming to stand for truth and to desire the best for these “objects” we judge. And pride even defines judging in ways that best fit its own interests. The transformation of how we think, how we feel, how we assess, how we hear, how we act, how we speak, and in essence every part of our being gains its momentum by how we view others. A spiritual conundrum about which the flesh is most satisfied to ignore.
And in the end,
if left to its own devices,
pride transforms us into the image of Pilate,
and not Christ.