Thursday, April 5, 2018

Transformation


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (II Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

I have always enjoyed doing home projects, such putting in new toilets and faucets, painting rooms, anything that transforms my home to look better than it did before. But as my wife will attest, I can easily get frustrated in the midst of a project when things don’t go exactly as planned. Unlike some of the fixer-upper shows on television, my transformations are not accomplished in an hour. They take longer and the problems faced are not so easily solved.

After I surrendered my life to Jesus, these words of Paul were some of the first I committed to memory.  And like most new believers, I often took Scriptures too literally and out of context.  According to Paul, I was a transformed man, a new creation, and the old guy was gone.  But my experience was, in fact, he had yet to leave the building.  This was very frustrating and brought on a lot of guilt.  Was I truly a follower of Christ if I was not completely changed?  

As I matured, however, I began to realize there are two types of transformation.  One is what theologians call justification.  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the penalty for my sins has been paid. In choosing to submit my life to the Lord, I have been justified. In other words, it’s as if I am sinless in terms of eternal punishment.  Thus, I am a new creation with a new future.  Yet, I still live in the present and deal with that ever-present problem of sin.  

And this is where the second type of transformation comes in.  It is what theologians refer to as sanctification—the process of becoming more and more like what the Lord originally created us to be.  Paul refers to this earlier in his second letter to the Corinthians: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (3:18)  This is the slow, watching the grass grow, type.  

Sometimes, like house transformations, we can confuse the two types of spiritual transformation.  While justification is instantaneous, sanctification is a life-long process.  It can be frustratingly slow, but that is where we daily rely on the grace of the Lord to carry us.  

Today, though you may have once thought following Jesus meant instant transformation, recognize it is in reality a much slower process. Yes, you are a new creation, but the old guy is still in the building.  But don’t worry.  While he still may be hanging around, he’s no longer in charge and change is happening.  Slowly, yes, but it is happening nonetheless.    

© Jim Musser 2018

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