Self-Change vs Transformation

Happy New Year! I hope you and yours have had a joyous holiday season, filled with meaningful experiences with family and celebrating the Coming of our Lord.

As we turn into the new year, I find that January 1st is a natural “reset button,” giving us the opportunity of making our lives better than before. We hear it in the slogan: “Out with the old and in with the new!” We mark it by making New Year’s resolutions; our determination to improve our lives by losing weight or getting rid of bad habits or following a better course. There’s something inside of us that wants our lives to “change” for the better, and that’s a good thing.

However, if you’re like me “self-change” is hard and illusive. For instance, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to lose weight. I’ve joined Weight Watchers a half dozen times over the decades. I’ve tried fad diets. I’ve started exercise programs (and for some strange reason, I keep my gym membership active – although I can count how many times I’ve been to the gym over the past couple years with the fingers on one hand!) But no matter how hard I try, no matter how good my intentions, and no matter how many New Year’s resolutions I’ve made, I don’t see much progress of change in that area of my life.

My motivation is not enough. I lack the inner power to sustain change. My conviction wanes over time. And it leaves me wondering if I could ever really change myself for the good?

Can you relate?

Over the years, I’ve discovered there is a better way than self-change. It’s called “transformation.” In our culture, transformation is an overused and misunderstood term. Our culture’s definition of transformation is often limited, external in nature and “surfacy.” But transformation, as the Bible defines it, is deep, profound and lasting.

The process of Biblical transformation can be seen in Romans 12:1-2, the cornerstone verses to WholeLifeWorship:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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 key difference between Biblical transformation and self-change is the power source. The power source of self-change is “me”; my will-power, my self-discipline and my determination. However, the power source of Biblical transformation is God. As we see in verse two, you and I cannot transform ourselves, we must “be transformed” by the power of God.

Several weeks ago my friend, Pastor Gary Keith, shared that the Greek word for transformation is metamorphoo, where we get the word “metamorphosis.” He gave a beautiful analogy of how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. The caterpillar positions itself for transformation by eating leaves and climbing to a limb, but it relies on God to do the actual transforming. (To read Pastor Gary’s devotional, click here).

While we cannot transform ourselves, Romans 12:1-2 gives us a good indication of what we can do to position ourselves to be transformed by God:

1. We start by viewing “the mercies of God.” By focusing on how God has acted on our behalf in the past, we position ourselves in a place of trust for Him to transform us in the future.

2. Out of our love response to God for His mercies, we surrender our whole lives to Him as a “living sacrifice.” This is the act of faith. We entrust God to do what He needs to do in our lives so as to transform us into Christ-like character.

3. We then choose to not be conformed by the world’s mold. We cannot say “yes” to God until we say “no” to all other influences that shape our lives by default.

4. We allow God to “renew” our minds. We recognize that the biggest obstacle that keeps us from trusting God to transform us is our mind. The “mind” is our default control center which tends toward being myopic and self-referenced.

If we position ourselves in this manner, God does the work of transforming us into the character of Christ. We become the best versions of ourselves. We become empowered by the Spirit to overcome obstacles that keep our lives enslaved to bad habits, sins, addictions and dark attitudes. We are then able to discern and do God’s will in our world – having been transformed to be an agent of transformation. 

This is so much more than we could ever do through trying to change ourselves with sheer will-power!

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look closer at each of the dynamics of Biblical, WholeLifeWorship transformation, and how we can apply them in practical ways.

For now, let’s reflect on these thoughts:

 – List one area in your life that needs transformation. It could be a bad habit, an area of weakness, a besetting sin, a poor attitude or a darkened perspective.

– Offer this area of your life to the Lord in prayer each day. Ask Him to move in your life and begin the process of transformation.

– Notice what happens as you do this: do you notice any change? Does it get easier? Harder? What are some thoughts that enter your mind?

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