Be Transformed

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

 18 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.

What does it look like to be transformed by God? A reader emailed this question, wanting specifics on how transformation applied to his life. I could only offer some of my personal experiences pertaining to the topic. He responded that my email to him “helped a lot”, so I am sharing it in hopes it might benefit others as well.

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Dear ____,

Not knowing you, I’m unable to personalize the transformative work of God to your life. But if you’re wondering about general things, maybe my experiences will be helpful to you.

I had to understand that God wants me to be the core person He made me to be, not who I’d unknowingly become over my lifetime. I realized that some of “me” has been constant my whole life; some of “me” didn’t really bother me, but it didn’t feel fully comfortable to me either; and some of” me” I thought was wrong, so I trumped her with being intentionally different than I was.

For example, I thought I was required to be nice to everybody, especially the most difficult people to please. Somehow that niceness ended up with a hefty dose of passivity included. It allowed selfish manipulators to capitalize on it. I didn’t know when or how it started, and it never occurred to me that it needed to change. I’d expected God to address my irritability as a problem, not “niceness”!

In the process of transforming that habitual behavior, God challenged me to NOT automatically default to “nice”. Instead, I should trust in my instincts and attend to the Holy Spirit, facing situations as those two things led me. I did that, and found myself handling difficult people with increasing wisdom, confidence, and firmness. Some people didn’t like the change and said so. It took loads of faith to follow Him in this area of transformation. But after a few years of practice, I realized I was able to better interact with all people, even aggressors and manipulators. I’m not often treated like a doormat anymore. I learned my old idea of nice was a complication, not a solution.

Here’s another example: I used to measure myself by others’ reactions to me. Now I know they have to answer for themselves, just as I have to answer for myself. I am who I am, not who people determine me to be. They’re often wrong in their judgment, anyway.

Another example is my adoption of Christian teachings. I picked up the unspoken expectations and spoken rules of churches. I wanted to be pliable and open-minded, so I trusted and complied. I assumed they knew best. Often, they didn’t. I should have let God transform me instead of letting people do that.

Over ten years ago, God started “cleansing my palate” of the flavors I took on from two churches, in particular, that I’d attended. He expressed his disapproval of many of the beliefs and rules that had been imposed on me, including much self-righteousness integrated into their practices. Once God revealed His opinions, I developed a strong aversion to what He disliked. Eventually, I saw how a few assertive people within those churches had changed who I was. They had made me timid and scared of breaking their rules. My compliance with their self-righteousness forced me into a self-righteous plane, inconsistent with my own heart. Complying with people’s rules instead of God’s leading, resulted in isolating me from people with different beliefs.

I also was living superficially, morphing to the external factors of rules and expectations of others. God taught me to value internal factors also, including my own thoughts and characteristics. I learned to listen to others’ beliefs, actively process the ideas before agreeing, and to always await God’s thoughts about it. With God’s guidance over a few years, I slowly learned to be driven from within: by the Holy Spirit and my own thoughts, beliefs, and intuition.

Once I had God’s point of view, and I realized He had never demanded my conformity to peoples’ beliefs and rules, I felt such relief. I was myself for the first time I could remember. It was like “me” being introduced to “me”! And the best thing? — God approved of me, which made self-acceptance much easier.

Like a potter, God had restructured the shape of what people had made me. He kept the clay I was created to be, and reshaped me as He wanted.

Jeremiah 18 (NIV)

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down tothe potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

This amazed me about God, my potter: He was never forceful; he did not smash my old clay pot to gain the new. He simply brought my attention to His opinions, and to overlooked qualities within me. I saw what I hadn’t before, only because He showed me. I changed the shape of my clay pot, not because he forced me to, but because he asked me to — I agreed with Him.

I hope those examples help. I don’t know your story. You may not have experienced much of your true, God-given identity yet. There may be talents, wisdom, or qualities within you that have yet to surface. Or maybe they have, but remained unnoticed — instead you mirrored what people expected of you. Maybe you have already expressed your transformed self, and it was met with disapproval by people.

Trust in what you hear from God about you. Look past those disapproving people at odds with truth, and don’t stop being you. If it is God directing your transformation, an abundance of people will ultimately approve you, too. Don’t forget you have the Holy Spirit’s help — you are not doing this alone.

Philippians 2: (NIV)

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Also, thank you for your kind words. I don’t always think with optimism and belief in people. But when God reveals His thoughts, I do love to share His attitude of restoration, possibilities and mercy. What a privilege to believe in a person and watch them become all that and more.

Acceptance

The following are the words of Dr. Eugene May, today, 8 February 2015:

I am often amazed at the opinions that so many of us have of ourselves. We have a tendency to see all of our “FAULTS” and “FLAWS” and, as a result, we find ourselves under “CONDEMNATION.” However, I made a decision many years ago to look at myself as God sees me.

Paul brought a tremendous revelation to us when he wrote, “… He made us ACCEPTED in the Beloved.” When I look at this verse from Ephesians and then read, “There is therefore now no CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus,” I see that God “ACCEPTED” and “LOVED” us with our “FAULTS” and “FLAWS.”

Does this mean that God is not concerned with our “FAULTS” and “FLAWS?” No! But it is God who is working in us to “CHANGE” us into the “IMAGE” of His Son, which is the goal of our lives. Paul also said, “… For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” It is the Holy Spirit that God uses to bring us to perfection.

Child of God, do not submit to “CONDEMNATION,” for you are “ACCEPTED” in Jesus Christ, even with your “FAULTS” and “FLAWS.” Is He working on you? Yes! The Holy Spirit is the One that brings “CONVICTION” and “CHANGE.” Now, walk in your “ACCEPTANCE” in Him.


Ephesians 1:6 – “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

Philippians 2:13 – “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Romans 8:21 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”


With gratitude to Dr. Eugene May for permission to share his writing.

Your Promotion

hhorse, fenced for blog

If there were a camera that could capture near and far views of your lifetime, you could zoom out and see the value of your life experiences. You could examine a time of your life that you were restricted, suffering, or failing, and see how that painful time produced qualities for success later.

We don’t recognize the value of frustration when we’re in it. The best we can do is trust that God has our best interests in mind. If we stay committed to letting God have our lives for his purposes, we can be sure that he will release us when the time is right.

I can imagine God’s hand holding us back despite our anxiety, impatience, and confusion. He does so to set us up for long-term success. But God doesn’t kill the heart and aspiration to eventually go forward — that drive is needed to surge ahead when he removes his restraining hand, and says “Now, the time is right. Go.”

Your release is ahead. You will see your life make sense when God places you in the position he is preparing for you. What is in your heart will not be snuffed out — it will be fanned into flames when the time is right.

When your position is ready, God will make sense of your life by promoting you to that position.

What frustrates you now, will make sense then.

What you view as failure now, will make sense later.

Until then, God is causing your character, abilities, and desires to develop and grow. Your heart will continue to fill with God-approved aspirations. When he removes his restraining hand and allows you to move forward without hindrance, your aspirations will direct you according to God’s intent.

“13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

You have within you the heart to do what God has planned for you to do.

You have within you the abilities to do what God has planned for you to do.

So don’t fret the frustrations. He hasn’t removed his restraining hand yet. When he takes his hand away, you will be free to burst forth in a spirited release of all that is within you.

 horse release for blog, cropped

“6 For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert.

But God is the judge; he puts down one and sets up another.”

 Psalm 75:6-7 (Jubilee Bible 2000, JUB) 

Dream Big

As I walked at a track today, a coach worked at one end of the adjacent field, his young son played on the other. The boy sprinted, head down, football tucked at his belly. Zig-zagging left and right, he reached the end zone, did a little leap, and raised the ball overhead.

“What’s the score?” I called out.

“Fourteen to nothing!”

“Who you playing?”

“The Cardinals! Game’s over. I won,” he answered.

“And you are … ?”

“Packers!”

His invisible coach told him to take a rest (those were his exact words), so I was the fortunate recipient of some football information: He didn’t play on a team yet; flag football starts in third grade, pads in sixth; he wants to try all the positions, but when he plays his first game in sixth grade he wants to be the quarterback.

That’s five years away, for a kid who hasn’t lived much longer than that.

“Are you going to play another game now?”

“Yep. Packers against the Cardinals.”

Again. I incorrectly guessed that those were his favorite pro teams.

“No, Packers was what my dad’s team was when he was in sixth grade.”

“Ah. What’s the score going to be? Forty-nine to nothing?”

“No. A hundred to nothing.”

“I like it!”

I went back to walking and the little guy went back to clobbering the Cardinals. I watched him facing the goalpost, turning every Packer possession into a touchdown. After a brief celebration, he changed field direction and morphed into a Cardinal. He never made it more than ten to twenty yards before an invisible Packer leveled him. Sometimes the poor Cardinal lay there awhile, curled on his side in the grass.

When I finished my last lap and passed near enough to be heard, I asked, “What’s the score now?”

“Twenty-one to nothing!”

“Are you going to play all the way to a hundred?”

“Yeah!”

From my bike, I looked back before the field was out of sight and sure enough, Packerman was scoring again.

I marveled at his vision to win (by no small margin) a game he knew he couldn’t play for many years. He had a great imagination. And big dreams. And patience. There was something so right about it.

football high school stadiumThere was an epic game playing out in his mind. From scoreless to the outcome he envisioned, he made that epic game happen on the field. One play at a time.

Packerman doesn’t know yet that life may make him modify his dreams. Reality may force him to expect differently. Right now, the world is his oyster. It’s the opportunity in which to live out his big dreams. As it should be. As I hope it remains for him. And for you.

As for me, I don’t think it’s possible on my own. I do believe it’s possible with God. Our dreams are not always easily or quickly achieved — God seems to spend a lot of time coaching us to improve our skills, strength, knowledge, tenacity, character, patience, confidence, and more. But the fulfillment of the dreams he puts in our hearts and minds is possible in time. If it’s from him, it’s doable. I need to commit to keeping the vision as big as when he gave it; to being coached; to follow and not lead; to apply myself to that big vision; to not settle or allow insecurities and fears to compromise it.

Packerman reminded me it’s simpler than it sounds. It boils down to what children know: When you get the dream, don’t shrink it. Let it do big things in your imagination. Then walk it out. Participate wholeheartedly in your epic game of life.

One play at a time.

Phillipians 2:13 (NIV) – For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Sustainable Dreams

Thus I learned one of the hard lessons of life: the best way to strip the allure and dreaminess from a lifelong dream is, very often, simply to have it come true.

David James Duncan, The Brothers K

Most of us have experienced it. We fully invested in a dream only to discover in its fulfillment, that is was much, much less than we imagined.

baseball image, black and white

In The Brothers K, Kincaid Chance and his siblings longed for the resurrection of their father’s pro baseball career. They spent most of their childhoods pining for it, imagining, playacting its manifestation, certain it was the answer to their family’s idiosyncrasies and dysfunctions. Once it happened, they discovered the glory of the dream quickly wore off.

To avoid wasting years nurturing unsustainable dreams, ask God to put his dreams within you. The dreams and ambitions that arise from him come from a source that is infinite, and cause you to take action toward sustainable purposes.

Philippians 2:13. For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.