Completely Transformed

 

Completely Transformed!

How God Wants to Change You and Me in Every Aspect of Our Life

Have You Been Transformed?

Richard Hollerman

Most people assume that “religion” consists of being a good church member and living a moral life. Sadly, they entirely miss the real significance of being a follower of the Lord Jesus. What is your own conception of Christianity?

God has revealed to us that following Jesus means that one will live an entirely different and transformed life, one that begins with a new spiritual birth of the Holy Spirit and continues with a love-relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures point out that when a person genuinely repents of his sins and comes to the Lord by faith, he enters life that is qualitatively different from his former life in the flesh and in the world. Such a person has Christ as his Lord and King, is indwelt by the Spirit of God, and is guided by the Word of the living God.

Read on to discover the many different ways a person becomes a “new creature” in Christ Jesus, and how he comes to have a new heart, a new worldview, a new lifestyle, and a new destiny!

–Richard Hollerman

Completely Transformed!

Many of us look back over a life that we think was wasted or at least misspent. We grieve over mistakes we’ve made, offenses against others we have committed, and harm we’ve inflicted on others.  This distress may continue for a lifetime.

While it may be true that most incidents and relationships of our past cannot be undone or rectified, God does offer us an opportunity to find a new life!  We are not speaking about regaining our youth and lost opportunities, but we can find a life that is “new” in many different ways. Although we may look the same, have the same DNA, be married to the same person, and have the same physical appearance or disabilities, we can change morally and spiritually. We can be transformed! Yes, we can be radically transformed from what we formerly were to what God wants us to be! Although many people are afraid of change and refuse to consider it, we can be sure that it is for our good since God Himself is the one who demands it!

The Scriptures speak of this transformation in clear and unmistakable terms. Paul the apostle puts it this way: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The phrase, “old things passed away” is aorist tense in the Greek, “indicating the decisive change salvation brings” (NASB Study Bible note). The next portion, “behold, new things have come,” is perfect tense in the Greek original, “indicating abiding results of the new life in Christ” (Ibid.).

This is good news to everyone who is dissatisfied with his present state before God and man and longs for something new and better! This is the kind of change that is wonderful and fulfilling!  Regardless of our past, we can leave it all behind, and we can then experience a new life in our relationship with God through Christ Jesus!

This new life in Jesus is further described in the verses prior to the passage we have noticed.  Here are Paul’s comments: “The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Notice what is being said here. When we come to Christ and become a new creature or new creation, Christ’s love “controls” us. Since Christ died for us and rose again for us, we have new life in Him and have a new motivation. Instead of living for ourselves—the way the usual person lives—we begin to live for Christ! We can see that this indeed is a new life, a transformed life!

This new life is further described at other places in Scripture. We become a “new creation” in the Lord Jesus (Galatians 6:15). Notice how the past is in the past but the future is altogether new:

In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Here we see that the “old self” that is dominated by sin and self is gone, whereas we have been renewed in the spirit of our mind. We put on the “new self” and what is this new person like?  We become a man or woman made “in the likeness of God” that is characterized by righteousness and holiness! God gives us a new life, a new nature, and a new relationship with God!

Similar to the Ephesian passage is another one in Colossians 3:

. . . you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (vv. 9b-10).

As in the Ephesian passage, Paul here says that our “old self” that is dominated by “evil practices” or sin has been laid aside. Instead, the “new self” has been put on and is in the process of being renewed. We are being renewed according to God’s “image” or likeness. We become like God Himself in moral likeness.

There are references to this sort of change scattered throughout the new covenant writings. For instance, Peter in his first letter, writes, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior” (1:14-15). In ignorance, they had once lived in lust, but now they seek to be like God and walk in holiness.

Later, Peter writes that his readers should “live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (4:2). He continues, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles” (v. 3a). Here again, the apostle contrasts the way they used to live (living in lust and unholy desires) and the way they now want to live—for the will of God. This is a change of a radical nature—and this same change is available for you and me!

One may reply that Peter was referring to a pagan and debauched society and we are living in a more sophisticated one. Yes and now. It is true that many of his readers had formerly bowed down to graven images and had involved themselves with cult prostitutes in the pagan temples, and it is true that we seldom see this today in the Western world. On the other hand, statistics do show that the majority of young people and those in their middle age have been involved in fornication and adultery (immoral sex inside and outside of marriage), been involved in gross pornography, and an increasing number have partaken of the perversion of homosexuality. They are idolaters of a different sort—“worshipping” the “gods” or “idols” of materialism, sports, TV, employment, music, computer games, education, and many others. Like Peter’s readers, we all need a radical change of life, perspective, lifestyle, and worldview!

How can this newness be our experience? Just as our first life or old life began at physical birth, our new life begins with birth—a spiritual one. This birth is a “second” birth, a “birth” of water and the Spirit, that enables us to see and enter God’s kingdom and family (John 3:3, 5, 7). By this dramatic means, we become new persons, new creatures, and thereby we are enabled to increasingly grow into the likeness and image of God. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Through the Holy Spirit’s power and enablement, we are transformed!

What areas of our life need to be transformed by the power of God, the grace of God, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God? God doesn’t allow us to remain uninformed about this matter, for He describes many aspects of our new life in Christ.

            1.         Heart

Much is said and written about the heart in today’s world. Often this is in the context of romance or boy-girl and man-woman relationships.  People say to a lover, “I love you with all my heart!” Some may even broaden the application and affirm, “I love ice cream with all my heart!” or “I love the Caribbean islands with all my heart!” or “I love collies with all my heart!”

However, the heart is more encompassing than this. It refers to a “man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). The heart (Greek, kardia) “covers the whole range of activities that go on within one’s inner self” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Scripture says that our basic heart nature and heart responses need to be transformed.

You may remember how the pre-flood people were described: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). An “evil heart” needs to be regenerated and transformed. Paul the apostle also described the pagan unbeliever of his day in this way: “Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:17-18; see also vv. 19-20). As Jesus said, “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” and other sins (Mark 7:21-23). The heart is corrupt and sinful, thus it needs to be transformed.

God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you. . .” (Ezekiel 36:26-27a). Peter referred to the conversion of Cornelius and his family, “He made no distinction between us [the Jews] and them [the Gentiles], cleansing their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). God wants to cleanse our heart and even give us a “new” heart through the Holy Spirit.

When we come to Christ, the heart is at the forefront of our response.  Scripture says that “with the heart a person believes” (Romans 10:10), and the believer “becomes obedient from the heart” to the gospel in the act of baptism (6:17).

Not only is our initial response to the good news of Christ one of faith and obedience from the heart, but our continued life in Him is one in which the heart is prominent, even central. Paul says that we are “obedient . . . in the sincerity of your heart” (Ephesians 6:5). We are to “sanctify [set apart] Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15) and are to “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).  In the so-called Beatitudes, Jesus affirmed, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). We are to fear God “in sincerity of heart” (Colossians 3:22) and are to “purify your hearts” to love (James 4:8). In fact, we are to be “tender-hearted” (Ephesians 4:32).

All of this should remind us that a person’s heart is changed, reoriented, and transformed by the Spirit of God. As Paul explains, the love of God has been “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). With the Spirit living and active in our hearts, we are able to respond with our hearts to the will and ways of God!

            2.         Mind

The mind also is radically transformed when one comes to Christ. Paul explains it this way: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Further, you are to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind” in Christ (Ephesians 4:23). With this renewed mind, we can love, obey, and serve the Lord in a new way, with new motivations and a new perspective. One of the blessings of the new covenant of Christ is mentioned by Jeremiah: “I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Hebrews 8:10).

As we continue through our life in Christ, the mind is fundamental. Paul says that “the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Can we see how vital the renewed mind is? Through this mind, indwelt by the Spirit of God, we have spiritual life and peace! Further, when one comes to God through Christ and has the Spirit within his mind and heart, Paul makes this astounding claim: “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Can we now see how important the mind is to our life in Him?

As we are in fellowship with others who have been renewed in mind, our own mind plays an essential role. Scripture says, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly” (Romans 12:16a). Paul urges believers that “you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Further, the apostle expresses his heart desire: “I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). He goes on to command, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2). He wants God to “grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5).

            3.         Spirit

Sometimes the Biblical writer uses a variety of words to communicate a similar meaning, but the spirit—our personal, human spirit—is also affected by the new birth of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes of the “spirit and soul and body” being preserved complete (1 Thessalonians 5:23). As believers, we are enabled to worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24), and are to be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:24). The spirit in us knows the thoughts within us, and if our spirit is renewed, even our thoughts are affected (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11).

The spirit figures into our initial change of heart and nature, which is generally called the new birth, the birth of the Spirit, or birth “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3, 5). Jesus explains it this way when he converses with Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Your inner person or spirit has been born again of the Holy Spirit if you have been genuinely saved. Presently, your inner human spirit has been transformed when you are saved, forgiven, and granted the Holy Spirit.  Paul explains, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). Has your spirit been given new life because of righteousness?

Some people tend to think that the mind is merely rational and of little importance in our life in Christ. They may accuse, “You are making decisions according to your mind instead of your heart!” By this, they mean that we give serious thought to our choices instead of allowing our emotions to control us. However, God says that our transformed mind is absolutely required to live the new life in Christ. You must love God with “all your mind” (Mark 12:31).

When you are spiritually born again (often called “regeneration”), your inner spirit (indwelt by the Spirit of God) responds to God and worships Him. As we continue through life, our spirit is central. Paul urges the Corinthian saints, “Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). This would say that any defilement or filth of the spirit must be cleansed that we might be holy before the Lord. Thus, we are to be “holy both in body and spirit” (1 Corinthians 7:34). Holiness pertains to both the inner person and the outer person.

Before coming to Christ, your spirit is guilty, defiled, condemned, deceived, polluted, and influenced by Satan (Ephesians 2:1-2). When you are saved, your spirit experiences forgiveness, cleansing, purification, forgiveness, and the Spirit takes His residence in you. The spirit is transformed by the Spirit of God.

            4.         Soul

The “soul” can refer to the person himself (1 Peter 3:20), the seat of will and purpose (Acts 4:32), the element that perceives, reflects, feels, and desires (Luke 1:46), the disembodied person (Revelation 6:9), the natural life of the body (Romans 8:9), and the inward man (1 Peter 2:11) (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). These are greatly affected by the Spirit’s work in our soul.

The New Testament is much more concerned about the heart than the soul. “In the NT, terms and concepts relating to the nature of man are equally imprecise. The general emphasis, like the OT, is upon man’s relationship to God through Jesus Christ as Lord of life” (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible). Probably 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 are often used to indicate a difference between the soul and the spirit, but generally the New Testament “does not make a clear distinction between [soul] and [spirit]. . . . It is probably more accurate to view the terms [soul] and [spirit] as synonyms” (Ibid.).

Like the spirit, the soul must be transformed by the Spirit of God.  The soul “may be simply the person in his totality” (Ibid.). The soul may be viewed as independent of the body or outer part of the human being. Jesus said, “No not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Here, the soul may be “destroyed” along with the body—in hell. Further, the Lord said, “Whoever wishes to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37).

Coming to Christ and being transformed by Him will affect the soul. One writer says that Mark 8:35 uses soul [psuche] in “two different senses.” “Whoever lives a self-centered life focused on this present world (i.e., would save his life) will not find eternal life with God (will lose it); whoever gives up his self-centered life of rebellion against God (loses his life) for the sake of Christ and the gospel will find everlasting communion with God (will save it; see v. 38)” (ESV Study Bible).

We may explain it somewhat differently:

This paradoxical saying reveals an important spiritual truth: those who pursue a life of ease, comfort, and acceptance by the world will not find eternal life. On the other hand, those who give up their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel will find it. Cf. John 12:25. Soul. The real person, who will live forever in heaven or hell. To have all that the world has to offer yet not have Christ is to be eternally bankrupt; all the world’s goods will not compensate for losing one’s soul eternally. (The MacArthur Study Bible).

Has your soul been transformed? Have you been willing to forsake your earthly life to gain eternal life in your soul?

            5.         New Life

We cannot overestimate the supreme importance of finding new life in Christ Jesus—now, during this life. This is a matter of eternity! This describes the difference between eternity with God and eternity without Him, an eternity in God’s Kingdom and an eternity in the lake of fire. Have you found new life in the Lord Jesus?  The Scriptures plainly say that Jesus is the center of this relationship and experience. “Christ . . . is our life” (Colossians 3:4).

The only way to experience eternal life is to find it in and through the Lord Jesus!  We read in God’s Word, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12). WE can’t find this new, spiritual, and eternal life through Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, or in any other way! “He who has the Son [of God] has the life” (1 John 5:11)!

When we come to Christ and find forgiveness of our sins, we also find life that is eternal! Jesus Himself said that we have “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Since He personally is our life (John 14:6), He should know how we may also experience life—true, abundant, and eternal life! He declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26). When we come to know Jesus, we have “passed out of death into life” (1 John 3:14). We can see that this aspect of our life-change is a dramatic one!

Before being saved from sin, we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13)—but Jesus gives us spiritual life in Him.  You may not realize this before you are forgiven, saved, and redeemed, for you think you continue as usual. You assume that everything continues as it always has and you may not have any idea of your spiritual deficiency and the eternal destruction that looms before you. Be assured that God says you are “dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). You are “excluded from the life of God” (4:18). However, after God gives you the new birth through the Spirit, you receive and experience the very life of God in your spirit.

            6.         New Kingdom

Kingdom (basileia) denotes “sovereignty, royal power, dominion” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). This may refer to “the sphere of God’s rule,” as well as “the sphere in which, at any given time, His rule is acknowledged” (Ibid.). Presently, it refers to God’s rule in the world and universe, and involves suffering and trials (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:5), and in the future it is associated with God’s reward (Matthew 25:34) and glory (Matthew 13:43). (Ibid.)

The one who has begun new life in Christ becomes part of God’s kingdom or Christ’s kingdom (cf. Ephesians 5:5). Paul wrote that God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). Christ Jesus declared, “My kingdom is not of this world . . . My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36). In regard to its future manifestation, only “he who does the will of [God the Father]” will “enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The unbelieving and disobedient will be refused (vv. 22-23).

Since the kingdom in the present and in the future is so utterly important, we can see why Jesus would say, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). When one is born again, he enters into Christ’s present kingdom and if he remains true to the Lord, he will enter God’s future eternal kingdom! “In this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:11). We can see why the obedient believer would make the kingdom of God his highest priority!

How about you? Are you focused day after day on this world and your own little “kingdom” or domain? Do you give little thought to the spiritual and eternal dimension of your earthly existence? The Lord, your Creator and Judge, wants to sweep away this earthly dominance and replace it with a life in Jesus where His kingdom and reign is central. If you don’t live in Christ’s kingdom now, you won’t receive God’s kingdom in the future!

            7.         Authority

The Lord Jesus said at the giving of His “great commission,” “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Since “the Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35), we can understand why it is of such vital importance that we submit to Him in everything! When we come to Christ and He graciously receives and forgives us, this will drastically change the way we look at Him, at His Word, at the world, and at our personal life!

One crucial passage that discusses this would be Romans 6. Here Paul speaks of dying to sin or renouncing sin and beginning to live under the authority of Christ. This passage says that we “died to sin” and “our old self was crucified with Him (6:2-6), with lasting results: “. . . in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (vv. 6-7).

This occurs when a person repents of his sin and self-life and is then baptized into Christ: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (vv. 3-4). In the past, we were “slaves of sin” but then were “freed from sin” and “became slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17-18). (See the entire chapter.) Living under the authority of Christ and not under the domain of sin, means that one becomes a “slave” of Christ (Romans 6:16), of righteousness (vv. 18, 19), and of God (v. 22).

When a person makes a decisive choice (by God’s grace) to turn away from sin and is given new life in Christ, he will be under His absolute authority. No longer will he make independent and self-centered decisions, but he will submit himself in humble obedience to the authority of God exercised through Christ and His Word. We can see that this reorientation will be dramatic and life-changing!

            8.         Attitude

Even our attitude of mind and heart is affected through the new birth of the Spirit. The attitude can refer to “a state of mind or a feeling; a disposition” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). When one comes to Christ, his whole attitude changes: his state of mind or feeling or disposition changes! He renounces his old attitude of hate, envy, jealousy, greed, anger, bitterness, covetousness, impurity, and foolishness, and this is replaced with an attitude of kindness, gentleness, love, purity, self-control, and all of the other fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23: Colossians 3:12-13; 1 Peter 3:8-9). A negative, resentful, and selfish attitude is replaced by an attitude of outgoing love and unselfishness.

Our attitudes toward our spouse, children, or parents will reflect our reorientation in life. Our attitudes toward a job, money, house, music, literature, computer, clothes, and our future will change. Have you experienced this change of attitude?

            9.         Personality

We know that some would say that the personality is fixed from a person’s early childhood, thus people should make the best with what they have. However, God can work wonders in a man or woman’s personality! One definition of personality would be: “The totality of qualities and traits, as of character or behavior, peculiar to a specific person” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). Here is another: “The pattern of collective character, behavior, temperamental, emotional, and mental traits of a person” (Ibid.).

Obviously, God can and does change the “totality of qualities and traits” as well as the “character or behavior” of a person.  In fact, if a person is genuinely saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God, we can see that the “character, behavior, temperamental, emotional” traits of a person are dramatically affected. We may not see this kind of change often since we are viewing people who haven’t been truly saved!  As Paul says, one in Christ is a “new creature” or “new creation” from the inside and outside (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)!

People should see a difference in the way we view things, the way we respond to men and women, circumstances, and the way we look at life.  They should be able to exclaim, “John (Bill, Tom, Laura, Cindy) is not the same as he (or she) used to be!” He is a new person!

            10.         Character

There is some overlap with the previous point—personality. Character is defined as “the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.” Also, “moral or ethical strength. . . . A description of a person’s attributes, traits, or abilities” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). When a person has an authentic transformation in his coming to Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can see that there is an inner difference in the person that is noticeable by the individual himself as well as by others. His attributes and traits are changed since he or she has been born again or born spiritually from above (John 3:3, 5, 7).

Paul writes of this transformation: “We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another,” but then God saved us and we are infilled by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-5). Now we are to be “careful to engage in good deeds” (v. 8; cf. v. 14). Our character is changed!

            11.         Disposition

Perhaps this word is not often used as it should be but it does describe a person’s makeup that is touched by God through the Spirit.  The term refers to “one’s usual mood; temperament. . . . A habitual inclination; a tendency” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). When a person does come to Christ and is cleansed of his former sins, the person’s mood and temperament changes.  He has an “inclination” or “tendency” to have an attitude of love, kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, and patience with other people.  People don’t need to wonder whether a Christian will be outgoing and kind and loving one day and the next day he will be selfish, unkind, or cruel in his or her dealings. His disposition will be to do good and think good.

As an example of how God says one’s disposition can be revolutionized, consider this.  Glance over the day’s newspaper and notice the accounts of terrorism, greed, murder, slander, pride, and materialism. Then turn to Romans 12 and consider the kind of life we are to live and are prepared to live: We are to love without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil and cling to what is good (v. 9). We are to be devoted to one another in brotherly love and are to give preference to one another in honor (v. 10). We are to rejoice in hope, persevere in tribulation, and be devoted to prayer (v. 12). We are to contribute to the needs of other Christians and practice hospitality (v. 13). Amazingly, we are to bless those who persecute you and not curse them (v. 14). You are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (v. 15). You are to be of the same mind toward one another, not be prideful in mind, and be willing to associate with the lowly person (v. 16). We are never to pay back evil for evil and respect what is right in the sight of others (v. 18). We are not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good that we extend toward them (v. 21).

Compare what you read about in the newspaper with the kind of life God wants us to live—and equips us to live as we follow Jesus and His teachings. Can you see that our disposition undergoes a fundamental change of focus? When one is focused on God and loves other saints and even non-saints, the disposition is radically altered by the Holy Spirit.

            12.         Responses

Most of us can imagine how to define this point.  The term respond means “to make a reply; answer” or “to act in return or in answer” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). Response means “the act of responding. . . . A reply or an answer” (Ibid.). When a person comes to you—assuming you are a genuine Christian—they shouldn’t need to wonder whether you will reply or respond in a kind and gentle manner. 

People should assume that you will respond honestly, patiently, compassionately, and lovingly. You will not react toward others with anger, selfishness, dishonesty, bitterness, or harshness. Instead of reacting like those around us, we will respond thoughtfully and in a Christlike manner.

For instance, Scripture says, “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead” (1 Peter 3:9). People should know that this is the characteristic way that you respond to people around you or people who contact you. You will respond with “all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). You will “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important that yourselves,” and not merely looking “out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). You will “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12-13a). Our sincere responses reveal our inner attitude of love and kindness, an expression of God’s work in our heart.

Our verbal responses do manifest our heart: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Our mouth reveals our character (cf. Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:8-9), including our heart (Matthew 12:34-37), thus our responses toward others are important.    

            13.         Perspective

When we speak of a person’s perspective, we mean his “mental view or outlook,” a “subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). How you and I view the world around us tells much about our attitude and our heart. When you view people, do you see people for whom Christ died? When you view a sick or injured person, does your heart burn with compassion for the person? When you see people participating in evil and sinful behavior, do you have an inner sorrow (or righteous anger) for the person as well as a grief that the person is on his or her way to hell?

If you are a follower of Christ, you should not see things as the person in the world sees them. Scripture says that before the great flood of Noah’s day, “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). If you had been there, would you also have seen what God saw—the evil and sin of humanity?  The usual person sees one thing while God sees something different (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9), but we should increasingly see what God and the Lord Jesus see since “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16; cf. Philippians 2:5).

If you know the Lord Jesus and have been saved from sin, your perspective will be very different from your family members, your fellow-workers, and your neighbors. You will view the sin of society through the holy eyes of God, thus you will be filled with both grief and anger over such sins as fornication, adultery, sodomy, child sex abuse, child physical abuse, drugs, drunkenness, use of tobacco, greed, materialism, pride, boasting, envy, covetousness, ostentation, and a hundred other sins. Like Paul in Athens, your spirit will be “provoked” within you when you see a society filled with idolatry and wickedness, but you will have a feeling of gratefulness as you see acts of kindness and mercy by some. It’s all a matter of perspective.

            14.         Self

You may know that there is a popular woman’s magazine, sold at the checkout counter of various stores, titled Self. The world is filled with a focus on oneself! “Self” is the center and the circumference of life. Self is the chief consideration. Self is what really matters. This is a self-focused life, a self-directed life, a self-oriented life!

When you die to your sin and come to Christ, at that time you die to yourself! This change of view and life is reflected in Paul’s words: “The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We observe that when one comes to Christ and begins to live for Jesus, he has been rescued from an entirely different way of life. We are no longer to “live for ourselves”!

This is the common way that people live—for themselves, for what makes them happy, for what fulfills the heart, for what pleases them, for what satisfies them, for what fills their personal longings and desires and plans. But the apostle says that “self” has been crucified.  The “old self” is gone while the “new self” is what now lives (Ephesians 4:22-24). We have laid aside the “old self” and put on the “new self” (Colossians 3:9-10). Instead of living for self, we put God (Matthew 6:33) and Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15) first, and also focus on our love for others (Mark 12:28-31). This is a dramatic departure from the world’s way of living and acting, but it is utterly necessary in Christ.

            15.         Habits

All of us have many habits, from the way we put on our shoes in the morning, to the way we drink a glass of water, to the way we drive a car, to the way we write our name. Habit may be defined as “a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior acquired through frequent repetition. . . . An established disposition of mind or character. . . . Customary manner or practice” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). We see some overlap with other definitions we have noticed earlier, but this is important for every life, at every moment of the day. You and I are an accumulation of habits. But what habits do we nurture and seek?

The true Christian will habitually do right. He will habitually refrain from the wrong. He won’t do this because of some external regulation or outward restraint, but it will arise from his own renewed mind, heart, and soul. We read of this in Romans 8:12-13: “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Our “obligation” and our inner compulsion will not lead us to fleshly indulgence (whether it be sex, food, drugs, pleasure, or power) but will cause us to renounce the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit and enable us to live a holy and righteous life through Christ Jesus.

There are also good habits that the faithful child of God will cultivate. He will begin to read, study, and mediate on the Word of God. He will pray in the morning, at meals, and at bedtime–as well as other times during the day. He will engage in good deeds of kindness, generosity, and benevolence. He will speak kindly, truthfully, patiently, gently, and lovingly with his wife, his children, his parents, and his fellow believers. He will consistently exercise honesty and never consider stealing. His whole life will be one of  good deeds and righteous responses. He will be “ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1), will be “careful to engage in good deeds” (v. 8), and will be zealous for good deeds” (2:14; cf. 2:7; 3:14).

Mentally go through your daily life and relationships, then, with a pen and pad, analyze each habit you’ve developed. Are they pleasing to God—or pleasing to the flesh? Do they reflect a focus on Christ—or on self? Do they express a love for God and others—or a love of ease, pleasure, power, prestige, and material things?

            16.         Diet

Our clothes, our homes, our cars, our pastimes, our entertainment, and our food all reveal something about our inner life and motivations. Let’s chose just one of these—food—to see how our life changes when we come to Christ Jesus. It is true that the Mosaic restrictions no longer apply (cf. Leviticus 11; Mark 7:19; Romans 14:2-4, 13-23; Acts 10:10-16; Hebrews 13:9), but is this all that Scripture says about the body food?

Our diet has a direct bearing on our nutrition and physical health. Nearly everyone will acknowledge this—including the most rabid humanists and secularists. But the Christian has a different focus, the glory of God, and this gives an entirely different focus from that of the secularist. Paul says to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). Are you and I presenting our body as a living sacrifice to God? Or do we devote our body to self-indulgence of various kinds?

God’s Word also tells us, “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). If your body is for the Lord and the Lord is for your body, can you conscientiously abuse your body, misuse it, or treat it unwisely? Can you fill your body with harmful junk food or other foods that you know are destroying your body inwardly and will produce degenerative diseases over time? Further, Paul says, “Your bodies are members of Christ” (v. 15). Can you use your body in a disrespectful way with this knowledge? 

The apostle continues, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20a). He then concludes, “Therefore glorify God in your body” (v. 20b). Are you willing to deny yourself and deny your carnal appetites and glorify the Lord with your body? As Paul puts it, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31).

When you come to Christ and begin to live for Him, that is the time for you to change your eating habits. You should give up non-food “foods” that merely appeal to the physical appetites and fleshly lusts and then begin to live rationally, according to the best nutritional information you can obtain. Don’t allow the enticing tastes, aromas, and colors of contemporary merchandising to deceive you into leaving the natural and nutritious foods that are closer to what God has provided. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

            17.         Values

We hear and read much about values in our day.  We are told that we make decisions according to our “values”—what we deem to be important.  A value is “worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit.” Further, it is “a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). As you can notice, this definition has no definite standard of right or wrong. It simply refers to what a given person considers valuable.

A Chicago gang member may “value” selling or buying drugs, and this would be important to him.  A wealthy executive from New York may “value” a BMW, a Mercedes, or a Lexus automobile, thus he is willing to pay a premium price for his desire.  A proud and wealthy parent may send his son or daughter to an expensive Ivy League university, since this is what he values and desires.  A young person may spend time and money pursuing a sport since this is what he deems valuable. A thousand illustrations could be chosen to show what people of the world value and the kind of choices they make in this light.

The Christian also has values that determine his choices and lifestyle.  He values truthfulness (not lying or dishonesty), godliness (not wickedness), morality (and not the various forms of immorality), Christian fellowship (and not worldly associations), and reading the Bible (not watching TV or reading novels). What do you value? The Christian receives and nurtures his values by reading God’s revealed will and truth found on the pages of the Bible. By examining what God has revealed for our learning in Scripture, the child of God will chose one thing instead of another thing. He will value many pursuits that differ from his friends, family, fellow-workers, relatives, and most church people. What do you value?

            18.         The World

Our relationship with the world is another basic change that must happen when we come to Christ for salvation. Jesus said that we are “in the world” (John 17:11), but in another respect, we must be kept from the world.  Jesus, in prayer to God the Father, said, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 14).

So should we seek to escape from the world by finding a place in the desert or in a forest? Jesus addresses this when He prays, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (v. 15). He continues, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 16). What then do we do with the world? “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (v. 18).

To review, we are not to indulge in the sins and evils of the world where Satan holds sway, but we are to be kept from the devil, the “evil one,” who entices us in his evil domain of the world (cf. Luke 4:5-6). While dwelling here, we are to influence those who belong to this fallen world and are captivated by the world’s deceptive system.

But beware—for the world will hate us and reject us since we are not like them. The Lord warned, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Expect it, plan for it, and be prepared—the world (those in the world) will reject you if they find that you refuse to accept the worldly ways that dominate their lives.

Much could be said about the world.  Scripture says that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). We also read that Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). If we become friends with the world, we cannot be friends of God (James 4:4). If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15-17). We are to keep ourselves from being stained by the world (James 1:27b) and are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2).

When we come to God through Christ, we leave the world. This doesn’t mean that we escape the earth and go to heaven, but it means that we renounce the world’s evil ways, the world’s philosophies, the world’s entertainment and fashions, the world’s perspective and the world’s lifestyle. You may want to make a list on the left of a sheet of paper on which you enumerate the world’s ways of your past, then make another list to the right where you enumerate the changes that you have made and will make. As you do this, remember that you are to now live for the Lord Jesus under the power of the Holy Spirit. You now live in God and according to His holy Word. The world is behind you and the Lord and His righteous ways are before you!

            19.         Worldview

Directly related to our point above, this is one of the most important perspectives that we can have. Everyone has a worldview, of course, but it may be totally wrong. A worldview is “the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. . . . A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or group” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). It may be defined as “the philosophical or theological spectacles through which we view the world and all reality; the framework within which we interpret the data of the world and of life” (Dictionary of Theological Terms, Alan Cairns, p. 446).

How do we view the world and all reality? Do we have remnants of worldly thinking? Or do we view all things increasingly as God does? Cairns goes on to clearly state:

A Christian worldview uses the Biblical revelation as the foundation for a proper understanding of the nature and purpose of our existence. That revelation establishes divine truth about God, man, sin, salvation, purpose, and our destiny. Thus both our belief and our behavior are governed, not by changeable theories, but by God’s immutable truth. (Ibid)

When we have a Christian worldview and increasingly understand and accept it, we will renounce evolutionism, relativism, pluralism, hedonism, religion, scientism, materialism, agnosticism, atheism, and a host of other false philosophies. If we accept the revealed Word of God as our foundation in life, our thinking will dramatically change and it will become increasingly filled with the thoughts, will, and purposes of God.

            20.         Lifestyle

Why does one person live in a certain way, while another person lives in an entirely different way? Why can one person dress, eat, drive, and act in a certain way, while another is the very opposite? Why does one person use his time in a certain way and have a certain job, while another person spends his time in a very different way and has a job that is in conflict with the other? There are enormous differences between people!

Lifestyle is defined as “a way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). We have already examined the fact that when one comes to Christ, his attitudes and values change. In fact, nearly everything in his or her life changes—to reflect the way of God found in the Word of God. If one comes to Christ and is inwardly transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, he will have a different way of life or style of living. It will be one that manifests his new values and the way he sees God and His will.

In a very practical way, the person’s speech will change from vulgar or questionable speech to godly and truthful speech. The way he uses his time will change, to reflect eternal values and not the values of the world. The job that he has may very well need to change, as he turns from all compromising employment and seeks work that will be in harmony with the ways of God. He may choose to move from his house, if he concludes that his present dwelling is too expensive, too luxurious, and too oriented to this passing earthly life. His (or her) clothes will change as he turns from all immodest, extravagant, and worldly styles and adopts a means of dressing that reflects godly and modest values. His entertainment may change as he turns from questionable forms—such as TV, worldly music, computer games, dubious computer sites, sports, and much more. But he will find fulfillment in many different spiritual and worthwhile quests.

Lifestyle is important and this will be reflected in all that we do, say, and think. It will be seen in where we go, how we use our time, and so much more. When your lifestyle changes radically, other people will notice and probably comment. Many (or most) may denounce your lifestyle changes and accuse you of being Pharisaical, Puritanical, self-righteous, or too radical and unconventional. There may be a few who admire and respect your courage and faith, expressed in your outward behavior and words.

The Past and the Future

We’ve noticed many of the areas that require radical changes in life. We’ve seen that the heart, the mind, the speech, the perspectives, the worldview, and the lifestyle must all experience a fundamental change. As we read through Scripture, this change is evident again and again.

This is clearly shown in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. First, the apostle says that “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God,” and he lists many different kinds of sins and expressions of immorality (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). But then he writes these significant words: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). This shows that even those who had been guilty of such sins as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, covetousness, and drunkenness could change! They were sinners but they were “washed” from the defilement of their sins, they were “sanctified” or set apart from those sins to God, and they were “justified” or declared righteous before God. If the Corinthians could change, so can we!

Ephesians has a lot to say about the change that occurs when one comes to Christ. Paul writes that in the past, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). He says that they “formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). But not only were the Gentiles living under this guilt and condemnation, Paul and his fellow-Jews also did: “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (v. 3).

The apostle then describes how God in his mercy, love, and grace gave Christ to deal with the sin (vv. 4ff). He could rejoice to say that these readers had been made “alive together with Christ,” had been saved, and were raised up with Christ and even spiritually were seated with Christ in the heavenly places (vv. 5-6). They had experienced a fundamental change in their state, their position, and their relationship with God.

As Paul continues his argument, he again refers to his reader’s past life as contrasted with their present state in Christ. “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh . . . remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:11-13). There is a clear distinction between the Ephesians’ former life of separation from God and their present acceptance through Christ and His sacrificial death (see also vv. 14-22).

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul again refers to the distinction between the past and the present: “. . . for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” This same kind of distinction should be found in our life as well. The same kind of description is found at 4:17-32.

One passage that should not be overlooked would be Romans 6:19-22, for Paul says that they “were slaves of sin” in the past, “but now, having been freed from sin and enslaved to God,” they were to live vastly different lives.

Other passages also show this contrast between the “before” and “after” or “former” life and “present” life in Christ. For instance, Paul lists a number of sins that his Colossian brothers had been practicing, but then he says, “. . . and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside. . .” (Colossians 3:7-8). He continues, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (vv. 9-10). We see “the old self” in the past and “the new self” in the present, and the latter is being made into the likeness or image of God. (See also 1:21-23.)

After Paul gives instruction on how Titus should instruct his hearers to live the Christian life (Titus 3:1-2), he goes on to say, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived. . .” (v. 3). We see a “before” and “after” here for he contrasts the way these Christians had been with what he expects of them now, after salvation.

Another clear passage would be 1 Peter 4, where Peter says, “. . . so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (v. 2). He then refers to their past that was filled with sin and depravity: “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality,” etc. (v. 3). Peter assumed that there was a plain distinction between their former life and the life they were to be living presently. He makes this contrast in 1:14-15: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” They had lived in lusts in “former” times (their pre-conversion period) but now they are to be obedient and holy.

Passages like these, scattered through the new covenant writings, supplement the points we have made elsewhere in our presentation. Our discussion is entitled “Completely Transformed,” and the “before” and “after” passages we have been examining show that these people indeed had been completely transformed from lives of sin, selfishness, idolatry, and paganism, to lives of purity, holiness, righteousness, and Christlikeness. Either the passages were describing the fact that they had changed in this way, or they were urging the readers to make this change definite and real in the present and future.

Have You Been Transformed?

We have seen that when a person comes to Christ, God radically changes that person and makes him or her into a new person. He is born again, spiritually, so that he is part of God’s family and partakes of God’s own characteristics. Scripture says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Instead of being “conformed to this world,” the person is “transformed by the renewing of [his] mind,” and is thereby able to “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Does this describe you? Have you been transformed in the way we have discussed earlier in this article? If you haven’t been changed or transformed, maybe you haven’t even come to Christ as revealed in Scripture! When one is born anew by the Spirit of God, his life should be revolutionized in a very practical way!

It is true that some people who haven’t been oriented toward God at all and have lived a very immoral and wicked life, may need to be drastically changed in almost every single aspect of living. Paul wrote of certain immoral, idolatrous, former-pagans, “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10).

Every idol needs to be forsaken—and Christ needs to be acknowledged as Lord over every aspect of life. “Not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8).

Others, who have been God-focused, Scripture-oriented, and moral all of their lives may not need as many practical changes. They may have certain lifestyles in common with true Christianity, even though there are probably still great changes that need to be made.

Whatever your state at present, you do need to change. It may be a huge change or

 

Completely Transformed!

How God Wants to Change You and Me in Every Aspect of Our Life

Have You Been Transformed?

Richard Hollerman

Most people assume that “religion” consists of being a good church member and living a moral life. Sadly, they entirely miss the real significance of being a follower of the Lord Jesus. What is your own conception of Christianity?

God has revealed to us that following Jesus means that one will live an entirely different and transformed life, one that begins with a new spiritual birth of the Holy Spirit and continues with a love-relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures point out that when a person genuinely repents of his sins and comes to the Lord by faith, he enters life that is qualitatively different from his former life in the flesh and in the world. Such a person has Christ as his Lord and King, is indwelt by the Spirit of God, and is guided by the Word of the living God.

Read on to discover the many different ways a person becomes a “new creature” in Christ Jesus, and how he comes to have a new heart, a new worldview, a new lifestyle, and a new destiny!

–Richard Hollerman

Completely Transformed!

Many of us look back over a life that we think was wasted or at least misspent. We grieve over mistakes we’ve made, offenses against others we have committed, and harm we’ve inflicted on others.  This distress may continue for a lifetime.

While it may be true that most incidents and relationships of our past cannot be undone or rectified, God does offer us an opportunity to find a new life!  We are not speaking about regaining our youth and lost opportunities, but we can find a life that is “new” in many different ways. Although we may look the same, have the same DNA, be married to the same person, and have the same physical appearance or disabilities, we can change morally and spiritually. We can be transformed! Yes, we can be radically transformed from what we formerly were to what God wants us to be! Although many people are afraid of change and refuse to consider it, we can be sure that it is for our good since God Himself is the one who demands it!

The Scriptures speak of this transformation in clear and unmistakable terms. Paul the apostle puts it this way: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The phrase, “old things passed away” is aorist tense in the Greek, “indicating the decisive change salvation brings” (NASB Study Bible note). The next portion, “behold, new things have come,” is perfect tense in the Greek original, “indicating abiding results of the new life in Christ” (Ibid.).

This is good news to everyone who is dissatisfied with his present state before God and man and longs for something new and better! This is the kind of change that is wonderful and fulfilling!  Regardless of our past, we can leave it all behind, and we can then experience a new life in our relationship with God through Christ Jesus!

This new life in Jesus is further described in the verses prior to the passage we have noticed.  Here are Paul’s comments: “The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Notice what is being said here. When we come to Christ and become a new creature or new creation, Christ’s love “controls” us. Since Christ died for us and rose again for us, we have new life in Him and have a new motivation. Instead of living for ourselves—the way the usual person lives—we begin to live for Christ! We can see that this indeed is a new life, a transformed life!

This new life is further described at other places in Scripture. We become a “new creation” in the Lord Jesus (Galatians 6:15). Notice how the past is in the past but the future is altogether new:

In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Here we see that the “old self” that is dominated by sin and self is gone, whereas we have been renewed in the spirit of our mind. We put on the “new self” and what is this new person like?  We become a man or woman made “in the likeness of God” that is characterized by righteousness and holiness! God gives us a new life, a new nature, and a new relationship with God!

Similar to the Ephesian passage is another one in Colossians 3:

. . . you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (vv. 9b-10).

As in the Ephesian passage, Paul here says that our “old self” that is dominated by “evil practices” or sin has been laid aside. Instead, the “new self” has been put on and is in the process of being renewed. We are being renewed according to God’s “image” or likeness. We become like God Himself in moral likeness.

There are references to this sort of change scattered throughout the new covenant writings. For instance, Peter in his first letter, writes, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior” (1:14-15). In ignorance, they had once lived in lust, but now they seek to be like God and walk in holiness.

Later, Peter writes that his readers should “live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (4:2). He continues, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles” (v. 3a). Here again, the apostle contrasts the way they used to live (living in lust and unholy desires) and the way they now want to live—for the will of God. This is a change of a radical nature—and this same change is available for you and me!

One may reply that Peter was referring to a pagan and debauched society and we are living in a more sophisticated one. Yes and now. It is true that many of his readers had formerly bowed down to graven images and had involved themselves with cult prostitutes in the pagan temples, and it is true that we seldom see this today in the Western world. On the other hand, statistics do show that the majority of young people and those in their middle age have been involved in fornication and adultery (immoral sex inside and outside of marriage), been involved in gross pornography, and an increasing number have partaken of the perversion of homosexuality. They are idolaters of a different sort—“worshipping” the “gods” or “idols” of materialism, sports, TV, employment, music, computer games, education, and many others. Like Peter’s readers, we all need a radical change of life, perspective, lifestyle, and worldview!

How can this newness be our experience? Just as our first life or old life began at physical birth, our new life begins with birth—a spiritual one. This birth is a “second” birth, a “birth” of water and the Spirit, that enables us to see and enter God’s kingdom and family (John 3:3, 5, 7). By this dramatic means, we become new persons, new creatures, and thereby we are enabled to increasingly grow into the likeness and image of God. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Through the Holy Spirit’s power and enablement, we are transformed!

What areas of our life need to be transformed by the power of God, the grace of God, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God? God doesn’t allow us to remain uninformed about this matter, for He describes many aspects of our new life in Christ.

            1.         Heart

Much is said and written about the heart in today’s world. Often this is in the context of romance or boy-girl and man-woman relationships.  People say to a lover, “I love you with all my heart!” Some may even broaden the application and affirm, “I love ice cream with all my heart!” or “I love the Caribbean islands with all my heart!” or “I love collies with all my heart!”

However, the heart is more encompassing than this. It refers to a “man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). The heart (Greek, kardia) “covers the whole range of activities that go on within one’s inner self” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Scripture says that our basic heart nature and heart responses need to be transformed.

You may remember how the pre-flood people were described: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). An “evil heart” needs to be regenerated and transformed. Paul the apostle also described the pagan unbeliever of his day in this way: “Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:17-18; see also vv. 19-20). As Jesus said, “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” and other sins (Mark 7:21-23). The heart is corrupt and sinful, thus it needs to be transformed.

God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you. . .” (Ezekiel 36:26-27a). Peter referred to the conversion of Cornelius and his family, “He made no distinction between us [the Jews] and them [the Gentiles], cleansing their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). God wants to cleanse our heart and even give us a “new” heart through the Holy Spirit.

When we come to Christ, the heart is at the forefront of our response.  Scripture says that “with the heart a person believes” (Romans 10:10), and the believer “becomes obedient from the heart” to the gospel in the act of baptism (6:17).

Not only is our initial response to the good news of Christ one of faith and obedience from the heart, but our continued life in Him is one in which the heart is prominent, even central. Paul says that we are “obedient . . . in the sincerity of your heart” (Ephesians 6:5). We are to “sanctify [set apart] Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15) and are to “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).  In the so-called Beatitudes, Jesus affirmed, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). We are to fear God “in sincerity of heart” (Colossians 3:22) and are to “purify your hearts” to love (James 4:8). In fact, we are to be “tender-hearted” (Ephesians 4:32).

All of this should remind us that a person’s heart is changed, reoriented, and transformed by the Spirit of God. As Paul explains, the love of God has been “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). With the Spirit living and active in our hearts, we are able to respond with our hearts to the will and ways of God!

            2.         Mind

The mind also is radically transformed when one comes to Christ. Paul explains it this way: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Further, you are to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind” in Christ (Ephesians 4:23). With this renewed mind, we can love, obey, and serve the Lord in a new way, with new motivations and a new perspective. One of the blessings of the new covenant of Christ is mentioned by Jeremiah: “I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Hebrews 8:10).

As we continue through our life in Christ, the mind is fundamental. Paul says that “the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Can we see how vital the renewed mind is? Through this mind, indwelt by the Spirit of God, we have spiritual life and peace! Further, when one comes to God through Christ and has the Spirit within his mind and heart, Paul makes this astounding claim: “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Can we now see how important the mind is to our life in Him?

As we are in fellowship with others who have been renewed in mind, our own mind plays an essential role. Scripture says, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly” (Romans 12:16a). Paul urges believers that “you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Further, the apostle expresses his heart desire: “I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). He goes on to command, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2). He wants God to “grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5).

            3.         Spirit

Sometimes the Biblical writer uses a variety of words to communicate a similar meaning, but the spirit—our personal, human spirit—is also affected by the new birth of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes of the “spirit and soul and body” being preserved complete (1 Thessalonians 5:23). As believers, we are enabled to worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24), and are to be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:24). The spirit in us knows the thoughts within us, and if our spirit is renewed, even our thoughts are affected (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11).

The spirit figures into our initial change of heart and nature, which is generally called the new birth, the birth of the Spirit, or birth “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3, 5). Jesus explains it this way when he converses with Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Your inner person or spirit has been born again of the Holy Spirit if you have been genuinely saved. Presently, your inner human spirit has been transformed when you are saved, forgiven, and granted the Holy Spirit.  Paul explains, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). Has your spirit been given new life because of righteousness?

Some people tend to think that the mind is merely rational and of little importance in our life in Christ. They may accuse, “You are making decisions according to your mind instead of your heart!” By this, they mean that we give serious thought to our choices instead of allowing our emotions to control us. However, God says that our transformed mind is absolutely required to live the new life in Christ. You must love God with “all your mind” (Mark 12:31).

When you are spiritually born again (often called “regeneration”), your inner spirit (indwelt by the Spirit of God) responds to God and worships Him. As we continue through life, our spirit is central. Paul urges the Corinthian saints, “Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). This would say that any defilement or filth of the spirit must be cleansed that we might be holy before the Lord. Thus, we are to be “holy both in body and spirit” (1 Corinthians 7:34). Holiness pertains to both the inner person and the outer person.

Before coming to Christ, your spirit is guilty, defiled, condemned, deceived, polluted, and influenced by Satan (Ephesians 2:1-2). When you are saved, your spirit experiences forgiveness, cleansing, purification, forgiveness, and the Spirit takes His residence in you. The spirit is transformed by the Spirit of God.

            4.         Soul

The “soul” can refer to the person himself (1 Peter 3:20), the seat of will and purpose (Acts 4:32), the element that perceives, reflects, feels, and desires (Luke 1:46), the disembodied person (Revelation 6:9), the natural life of the body (Romans 8:9), and the inward man (1 Peter 2:11) (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). These are greatly affected by the Spirit’s work in our soul.

The New Testament is much more concerned about the heart than the soul. “In the NT, terms and concepts relating to the nature of man are equally imprecise. The general emphasis, like the OT, is upon man’s relationship to God through Jesus Christ as Lord of life” (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible). Probably 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 are often used to indicate a difference between the soul and the spirit, but generally the New Testament “does not make a clear distinction between [soul] and [spirit]. . . . It is probably more accurate to view the terms [soul] and [spirit] as synonyms” (Ibid.).

Like the spirit, the soul must be transformed by the Spirit of God.  The soul “may be simply the person in his totality” (Ibid.). The soul may be viewed as independent of the body or outer part of the human being. Jesus said, “No not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Here, the soul may be “destroyed” along with the body—in hell. Further, the Lord said, “Whoever wishes to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37).

Coming to Christ and being transformed by Him will affect the soul. One writer says that Mark 8:35 uses soul [psuche] in “two different senses.” “Whoever lives a self-centered life focused on this present world (i.e., would save his life) will not find eternal life with God (will lose it); whoever gives up his self-centered life of rebellion against God (loses his life) for the sake of Christ and the gospel will find everlasting communion with God (will save it; see v. 38)” (ESV Study Bible).

We may explain it somewhat differently:

This paradoxical saying reveals an important spiritual truth: those who pursue a life of ease, comfort, and acceptance by the world will not find eternal life. On the other hand, those who give up their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel will find it. Cf. John 12:25. Soul. The real person, who will live forever in heaven or hell. To have all that the world has to offer yet not have Christ is to be eternally bankrupt; all the world’s goods will not compensate for losing one’s soul eternally. (The MacArthur Study Bible).

Has your soul been transformed? Have you been willing to forsake your earthly life to gain eternal life in your soul?

            5.         New Life

We cannot overestimate the supreme importance of finding new life in Christ Jesus—now, during this life. This is a matter of eternity! This describes the difference between eternity with God and eternity without Him, an eternity in God’s Kingdom and an eternity in the lake of fire. Have you found new life in the Lord Jesus?  The Scriptures plainly say that Jesus is the center of this relationship and experience. “Christ . . . is our life” (Colossians 3:4).

The only way to experience eternal life is to find it in and through the Lord Jesus!  We read in God’s Word, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12). WE can’t find this new, spiritual, and eternal life through Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, or in any other way! “He who has the Son [of God] has the life” (1 John 5:11)!

When we come to Christ and find forgiveness of our sins, we also find life that is eternal! Jesus Himself said that we have “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Since He personally is our life (John 14:6), He should know how we may also experience life—true, abundant, and eternal life! He declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26). When we come to know Jesus, we have “passed out of death into life” (1 John 3:14). We can see that this aspect of our life-change is a dramatic one!

Before being saved from sin, we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13)—but Jesus gives us spiritual life in Him.  You may not realize this before you are forgiven, saved, and redeemed, for you think you continue as usual. You assume that everything continues as it always has and you may not have any idea of your spiritual deficiency and the eternal destruction that looms before you. Be assured that God says you are “dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). You are “excluded from the life of God” (4:18). However, after God gives you the new birth through the Spirit, you receive and experience the very life of God in your spirit.

            6.         New Kingdom

Kingdom (basileia) denotes “sovereignty, royal power, dominion” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). This may refer to “the sphere of God’s rule,” as well as “the sphere in which, at any given time, His rule is acknowledged” (Ibid.). Presently, it refers to God’s rule in the world and universe, and involves suffering and trials (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:5), and in the future it is associated with God’s reward (Matthew 25:34) and glory (Matthew 13:43). (Ibid.)

The one who has begun new life in Christ becomes part of God’s kingdom or Christ’s kingdom (cf. Ephesians 5:5). Paul wrote that God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). Christ Jesus declared, “My kingdom is not of this world . . . My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36). In regard to its future manifestation, only “he who does the will of [God the Father]” will “enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The unbelieving and disobedient will be refused (vv. 22-23).

Since the kingdom in the present and in the future is so utterly important, we can see why Jesus would say, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). When one is born again, he enters into Christ’s present kingdom and if he remains true to the Lord, he will enter God’s future eternal kingdom! “In this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:11). We can see why the obedient believer would make the kingdom of God his highest priority!

How about you? Are you focused day after day on this world and your own little “kingdom” or domain? Do you give little thought to the spiritual and eternal dimension of your earthly existence? The Lord, your Creator and Judge, wants to sweep away this earthly dominance and replace it with a life in Jesus where His kingdom and reign is central. If you don’t live in Christ’s kingdom now, you won’t receive God’s kingdom in the future!

            7.         Authority

The Lord Jesus said at the giving of His “great commission,” “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Since “the Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35), we can understand why it is of such vital importance that we submit to Him in everything! When we come to Christ and He graciously receives and forgives us, this will drastically change the way we look at Him, at His Word, at the world, and at our personal life!

One crucial passage that discusses this would be Romans 6. Here Paul speaks of dying to sin or renouncing sin and beginning to live under the authority of Christ. This passage says that we “died to sin” and “our old self was crucified with Him (6:2-6), with lasting results: “. . . in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (vv. 6-7).

This occurs when a person repents of his sin and self-life and is then baptized into Christ: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (vv. 3-4). In the past, we were “slaves of sin” but then were “freed from sin” and “became slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17-18). (See the entire chapter.) Living under the authority of Christ and not under the domain of sin, means that one becomes a “slave” of Christ (Romans 6:16), of righteousness (vv. 18, 19), and of God (v. 22).

When a person makes a decisive choice (by God’s grace) to turn away from sin and is given new life in Christ, he will be under His absolute authority. No longer will he make independent and self-centered decisions, but he will submit himself in humble obedience to the authority of God exercised through Christ and His Word. We can see that this reorientation will be dramatic and life-changing!

            8.         Attitude

Even our attitude of mind and heart is affected through the new birth of the Spirit. The attitude can refer to “a state of mind or a feeling; a disposition” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). When one comes to Christ, his whole attitude changes: his state of mind or feeling or disposition changes! He renounces his old attitude of hate, envy, jealousy, greed, anger, bitterness, covetousness, impurity, and foolishness, and this is replaced with an attitude of kindness, gentleness, love, purity, self-control, and all of the other fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23: Colossians 3:12-13; 1 Peter 3:8-9). A negative, resentful, and selfish attitude is replaced by an attitude of outgoing love and unselfishness.

Our attitudes toward our spouse, children, or parents will reflect our reorientation in life. Our attitudes toward a job, money, house, music, literature, computer, clothes, and our future will change. Have you experienced this change of attitude?

            9.         Personality

We know that some would say that the personality is fixed from a person’s early childhood, thus people should make the best with what they have. However, God can work wonders in a man or woman’s personality! One definition of personality would be: “The totality of qualities and traits, as of character or behavior, peculiar to a specific person” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). Here is another: “The pattern of collective character, behavior, temperamental, emotional, and mental traits of a person” (Ibid.).

Obviously, God can and does change the “totality of qualities and traits” as well as the “character or behavior” of a person.  In fact, if a person is genuinely saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God, we can see that the “character, behavior, temperamental, emotional” traits of a person are dramatically affected. We may not see this kind of change often since we are viewing people who haven’t been truly saved!  As Paul says, one in Christ is a “new creature” or “new creation” from the inside and outside (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)!

People should see a difference in the way we view things, the way we respond to men and women, circumstances, and the way we look at life.  They should be able to exclaim, “John (Bill, Tom, Laura, Cindy) is not the same as he (or she) used to be!” He is a new person!

            10.         Character

There is some overlap with the previous point—personality. Character is defined as “the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.” Also, “moral or ethical strength. . . . A description of a person’s attributes, traits, or abilities” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). When a person has an authentic transformation in his coming to Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can see that there is an inner difference in the person that is noticeable by the individual himself as well as by others. His attributes and traits are changed since he or she has been born again or born spiritually from above (John 3:3, 5, 7).

Paul writes of this transformation: “We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another,” but then God saved us and we are infilled by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-5). Now we are to be “careful to engage in good deeds” (v. 8; cf. v. 14). Our character is changed!

            11.         Disposition

Perhaps this word is not often used as it should be but it does describe a person’s makeup that is touched by God through the Spirit.  The term refers to “one’s usual mood; temperament. . . . A habitual inclination; a tendency” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). When a person does come to Christ and is cleansed of his former sins, the person’s mood and temperament changes.  He has an “inclination” or “tendency” to have an attitude of love, kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, and patience with other people.  People don’t need to wonder whether a Christian will be outgoing and kind and loving one day and the next day he will be selfish, unkind, or cruel in his or her dealings. His disposition will be to do good and think good.

As an example of how God says one’s disposition can be revolutionized, consider this.  Glance over the day’s newspaper and notice the accounts of terrorism, greed, murder, slander, pride, and materialism. Then turn to Romans 12 and consider the kind of life we are to live and are prepared to live: We are to love without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil and cling to what is good (v. 9). We are to be devoted to one another in brotherly love and are to give preference to one another in honor (v. 10). We are to rejoice in hope, persevere in tribulation, and be devoted to prayer (v. 12). We are to contribute to the needs of other Christians and practice hospitality (v. 13). Amazingly, we are to bless those who persecute you and not curse them (v. 14). You are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (v. 15). You are to be of the same mind toward one another, not be prideful in mind, and be willing to associate with the lowly person (v. 16). We are never to pay back evil for evil and respect what is right in the sight of others (v. 18). We are not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good that we extend toward them (v. 21).

Compare what you read about in the newspaper with the kind of life God wants us to live—and equips us to live as we follow Jesus and His teachings. Can you see that our disposition undergoes a fundamental change of focus? When one is focused on God and loves other saints and even non-saints, the disposition is radically altered by the Holy Spirit.

            12.         Responses

Most of us can imagine how to define this point.  The term respond means “to make a reply; answer” or “to act in return or in answer” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). Response means “the act of responding. . . . A reply or an answer” (Ibid.). When a person comes to you—assuming you are a genuine Christian—they shouldn’t need to wonder whether you will reply or respond in a kind and gentle manner. 

People should assume that you will respond honestly, patiently, compassionately, and lovingly. You will not react toward others with anger, selfishness, dishonesty, bitterness, or harshness. Instead of reacting like those around us, we will respond thoughtfully and in a Christlike manner.

For instance, Scripture says, “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead” (1 Peter 3:9). People should know that this is the characteristic way that you respond to people around you or people who contact you. You will respond with “all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). You will “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important that yourselves,” and not merely looking “out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). You will “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12-13a). Our sincere responses reveal our inner attitude of love and kindness, an expression of God’s work in our heart.

Our verbal responses do manifest our heart: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Our mouth reveals our character (cf. Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:8-9), including our heart (Matthew 12:34-37), thus our responses toward others are important.    

            13.         Perspective

When we speak of a person’s perspective, we mean his “mental view or outlook,” a “subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). How you and I view the world around us tells much about our attitude and our heart. When you view people, do you see people for whom Christ died? When you view a sick or injured person, does your heart burn with compassion for the person? When you see people participating in evil and sinful behavior, do you have an inner sorrow (or righteous anger) for the person as well as a grief that the person is on his or her way to hell?

If you are a follower of Christ, you should not see things as the person in the world sees them. Scripture says that before the great flood of Noah’s day, “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). If you had been there, would you also have seen what God saw—the evil and sin of humanity?  The usual person sees one thing while God sees something different (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9), but we should increasingly see what God and the Lord Jesus see since “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16; cf. Philippians 2:5).

If you know the Lord Jesus and have been saved from sin, your perspective will be very different from your family members, your fellow-workers, and your neighbors. You will view the sin of society through the holy eyes of God, thus you will be filled with both grief and anger over such sins as fornication, adultery, sodomy, child sex abuse, child physical abuse, drugs, drunkenness, use of tobacco, greed, materialism, pride, boasting, envy, covetousness, ostentation, and a hundred other sins. Like Paul in Athens, your spirit will be “provoked” within you when you see a society filled with idolatry and wickedness, but you will have a feeling of gratefulness as you see acts of kindness and mercy by some. It’s all a matter of perspective.

            14.         Self

You may know that there is a popular woman’s magazine, sold at the checkout counter of various stores, titled Self. The world is filled with a focus on oneself! “Self” is the center and the circumference of life. Self is the chief consideration. Self is what really matters. This is a self-focused life, a self-directed life, a self-oriented life!

When you die to your sin and come to Christ, at that time you die to yourself! This change of view and life is reflected in Paul’s words: “The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We observe that when one comes to Christ and begins to live for Jesus, he has been rescued from an entirely different way of life. We are no longer to “live for ourselves”!

This is the common way that people live—for themselves, for what makes them happy, for what fulfills the heart, for what pleases them, for what satisfies them, for what fills their personal longings and desires and plans. But the apostle says that “self” has been crucified.  The “old self” is gone while the “new self” is what now lives (Ephesians 4:22-24). We have laid aside the “old self” and put on the “new self” (Colossians 3:9-10). Instead of living for self, we put God (Matthew 6:33) and Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15) first, and also focus on our love for others (Mark 12:28-31). This is a dramatic departure from the world’s way of living and acting, but it is utterly necessary in Christ.

            15.         Habits

All of us have many habits, from the way we put on our shoes in the morning, to the way we drink a glass of water, to the way we drive a car, to the way we write our name. Habit may be defined as “a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior acquired through frequent repetition. . . . An established disposition of mind or character. . . . Customary manner or practice” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). We see some overlap with other definitions we have noticed earlier, but this is important for every life, at every moment of the day. You and I are an accumulation of habits. But what habits do we nurture and seek?

The true Christian will habitually do right. He will habitually refrain from the wrong. He won’t do this because of some external regulation or outward restraint, but it will arise from his own renewed mind, heart, and soul. We read of this in Romans 8:12-13: “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Our “obligation” and our inner compulsion will not lead us to fleshly indulgence (whether it be sex, food, drugs, pleasure, or power) but will cause us to renounce the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit and enable us to live a holy and righteous life through Christ Jesus.

There are also good habits that the faithful child of God will cultivate. He will begin to read, study, and mediate on the Word of God. He will pray in the morning, at meals, and at bedtime–as well as other times during the day. He will engage in good deeds of kindness, generosity, and benevolence. He will speak kindly, truthfully, patiently, gently, and lovingly with his wife, his children, his parents, and his fellow believers. He will consistently exercise honesty and never consider stealing. His whole life will be one of  good deeds and righteous responses. He will be “ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1), will be “careful to engage in good deeds” (v. 8), and will be zealous for good deeds” (2:14; cf. 2:7; 3:14).

Mentally go through your daily life and relationships, then, with a pen and pad, analyze each habit you’ve developed. Are they pleasing to God—or pleasing to the flesh? Do they reflect a focus on Christ—or on self? Do they express a love for God and others—or a love of ease, pleasure, power, prestige, and material things?

            16.         Diet

Our clothes, our homes, our cars, our pastimes, our entertainment, and our food all reveal something about our inner life and motivations. Let’s chose just one of these—food—to see how our life changes when we come to Christ Jesus. It is true that the Mosaic restrictions no longer apply (cf. Leviticus 11; Mark 7:19; Romans 14:2-4, 13-23; Acts 10:10-16; Hebrews 13:9), but is this all that Scripture says about the body food?

Our diet has a direct bearing on our nutrition and physical health. Nearly everyone will acknowledge this—including the most rabid humanists and secularists. But the Christian has a different focus, the glory of God, and this gives an entirely different focus from that of the secularist. Paul says to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). Are you and I presenting our body as a living sacrifice to God? Or do we devote our body to self-indulgence of various kinds?

God’s Word also tells us, “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). If your body is for the Lord and the Lord is for your body, can you conscientiously abuse your body, misuse it, or treat it unwisely? Can you fill your body with harmful junk food or other foods that you know are destroying your body inwardly and will produce degenerative diseases over time? Further, Paul says, “Your bodies are members of Christ” (v. 15). Can you use your body in a disrespectful way with this knowledge? 

The apostle continues, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20a). He then concludes, “Therefore glorify God in your body” (v. 20b). Are you willing to deny yourself and deny your carnal appetites and glorify the Lord with your body? As Paul puts it, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31).

When you come to Christ and begin to live for Him, that is the time for you to change your eating habits. You should give up non-food “foods” that merely appeal to the physical appetites and fleshly lusts and then begin to live rationally, according to the best nutritional information you can obtain. Don’t allow the enticing tastes, aromas, and colors of contemporary merchandising to deceive you into leaving the natural and nutritious foods that are closer to what God has provided. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

            17.         Values

We hear and read much about values in our day.  We are told that we make decisions according to our “values”—what we deem to be important.  A value is “worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit.” Further, it is “a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). As you can notice, this definition has no definite standard of right or wrong. It simply refers to what a given person considers valuable.

A Chicago gang member may “value” selling or buying drugs, and this would be important to him.  A wealthy executive from New York may “value” a BMW, a Mercedes, or a Lexus automobile, thus he is willing to pay a premium price for his desire.  A proud and wealthy parent may send his son or daughter to an expensive Ivy League university, since this is what he values and desires.  A young person may spend time and money pursuing a sport since this is what he deems valuable. A thousand illustrations could be chosen to show what people of the world value and the kind of choices they make in this light.

The Christian also has values that determine his choices and lifestyle.  He values truthfulness (not lying or dishonesty), godliness (not wickedness), morality (and not the various forms of immorality), Christian fellowship (and not worldly associations), and reading the Bible (not watching TV or reading novels). What do you value? The Christian receives and nurtures his values by reading God’s revealed will and truth found on the pages of the Bible. By examining what God has revealed for our learning in Scripture, the child of God will chose one thing instead of another thing. He will value many pursuits that differ from his friends, family, fellow-workers, relatives, and most church people. What do you value?

            18.         The World

Our relationship with the world is another basic change that must happen when we come to Christ for salvation. Jesus said that we are “in the world” (John 17:11), but in another respect, we must be kept from the world.  Jesus, in prayer to God the Father, said, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 14).

So should we seek to escape from the world by finding a place in the desert or in a forest? Jesus addresses this when He prays, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (v. 15). He continues, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 16). What then do we do with the world? “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (v. 18).

To review, we are not to indulge in the sins and evils of the world where Satan holds sway, but we are to be kept from the devil, the “evil one,” who entices us in his evil domain of the world (cf. Luke 4:5-6). While dwelling here, we are to influence those who belong to this fallen world and are captivated by the world’s deceptive system.

But beware—for the world will hate us and reject us since we are not like them. The Lord warned, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Expect it, plan for it, and be prepared—the world (those in the world) will reject you if they find that you refuse to accept the worldly ways that dominate their lives.

Much could be said about the world.  Scripture says that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). We also read that Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). If we become friends with the world, we cannot be friends of God (James 4:4). If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15-17). We are to keep ourselves from being stained by the world (James 1:27b) and are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2).

When we come to God through Christ, we leave the world. This doesn’t mean that we escape the earth and go to heaven, but it means that we renounce the world’s evil ways, the world’s philosophies, the world’s entertainment and fashions, the world’s perspective and the world’s lifestyle. You may want to make a list on the left of a sheet of paper on which you enumerate the world’s ways of your past, then make another list to the right where you enumerate the changes that you have made and will make. As you do this, remember that you are to now live for the Lord Jesus under the power of the Holy Spirit. You now live in God and according to His holy Word. The world is behind you and the Lord and His righteous ways are before you!

            19.         Worldview

Directly related to our point above, this is one of the most important perspectives that we can have. Everyone has a worldview, of course, but it may be totally wrong. A worldview is “the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. . . . A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or group” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). It may be defined as “the philosophical or theological spectacles through which we view the world and all reality; the framework within which we interpret the data of the world and of life” (Dictionary of Theological Terms, Alan Cairns, p. 446).

How do we view the world and all reality? Do we have remnants of worldly thinking? Or do we view all things increasingly as God does? Cairns goes on to clearly state:

A Christian worldview uses the Biblical revelation as the foundation for a proper understanding of the nature and purpose of our existence. That revelation establishes divine truth about God, man, sin, salvation, purpose, and our destiny. Thus both our belief and our behavior are governed, not by changeable theories, but by God’s immutable truth. (Ibid)

When we have a Christian worldview and increasingly understand and accept it, we will renounce evolutionism, relativism, pluralism, hedonism, religion, scientism, materialism, agnosticism, atheism, and a host of other false philosophies. If we accept the revealed Word of God as our foundation in life, our thinking will dramatically change and it will become increasingly filled with the thoughts, will, and purposes of God.

            20.         Lifestyle

Why does one person live in a certain way, while another person lives in an entirely different way? Why can one person dress, eat, drive, and act in a certain way, while another is the very opposite? Why does one person use his time in a certain way and have a certain job, while another person spends his time in a very different way and has a job that is in conflict with the other? There are enormous differences between people!

Lifestyle is defined as “a way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). We have already examined the fact that when one comes to Christ, his attitudes and values change. In fact, nearly everything in his or her life changes—to reflect the way of God found in the Word of God. If one comes to Christ and is inwardly transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, he will have a different way of life or style of living. It will be one that manifests his new values and the way he sees God and His will.

In a very practical way, the person’s speech will change from vulgar or questionable speech to godly and truthful speech. The way he uses his time will change, to reflect eternal values and not the values of the world. The job that he has may very well need to change, as he turns from all compromising employment and seeks work that will be in harmony with the ways of God. He may choose to move from his house, if he concludes that his present dwelling is too expensive, too luxurious, and too oriented to this passing earthly life. His (or her) clothes will change as he turns from all immodest, extravagant, and worldly styles and adopts a means of dressing that reflects godly and modest values. His entertainment may change as he turns from questionable forms—such as TV, worldly music, computer games, dubious computer sites, sports, and much more. But he will find fulfillment in many different spiritual and worthwhile quests.

Lifestyle is important and this will be reflected in all that we do, say, and think. It will be seen in where we go, how we use our time, and so much more. When your lifestyle changes radically, other people will notice and probably comment. Many (or most) may denounce your lifestyle changes and accuse you of being Pharisaical, Puritanical, self-righteous, or too radical and unconventional. There may be a few who admire and respect your courage and faith, expressed in your outward behavior and words.

The Past and the Future

We’ve noticed many of the areas that require radical changes in life. We’ve seen that the heart, the mind, the speech, the perspectives, the worldview, and the lifestyle must all experience a fundamental change. As we read through Scripture, this change is evident again and again.

This is clearly shown in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. First, the apostle says that “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God,” and he lists many different kinds of sins and expressions of immorality (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). But then he writes these significant words: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). This shows that even those who had been guilty of such sins as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, covetousness, and drunkenness could change! They were sinners but they were “washed” from the defilement of their sins, they were “sanctified” or set apart from those sins to God, and they were “justified” or declared righteous before God. If the Corinthians could change, so can we!

Ephesians has a lot to say about the change that occurs when one comes to Christ. Paul writes that in the past, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). He says that they “formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). But not only were the Gentiles living under this guilt and condemnation, Paul and his fellow-Jews also did: “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (v. 3).

The apostle then describes how God in his mercy, love, and grace gave Christ to deal with the sin (vv. 4ff). He could rejoice to say that these readers had been made “alive together with Christ,” had been saved, and were raised up with Christ and even spiritually were seated with Christ in the heavenly places (vv. 5-6). They had experienced a fundamental change in their state, their position, and their relationship with God.

As Paul continues his argument, he again refers to his reader’s past life as contrasted with their present state in Christ. “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh . . . remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:11-13). There is a clear distinction between the Ephesians’ former life of separation from God and their present acceptance through Christ and His sacrificial death (see also vv. 14-22).

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul again refers to the distinction between the past and the present: “. . . for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” This same kind of distinction should be found in our life as well. The same kind of description is found at 4:17-32.

One passage that should not be overlooked would be Romans 6:19-22, for Paul says that they “were slaves of sin” in the past, “but now, having been freed from sin and enslaved to God,” they were to live vastly different lives.

Other passages also show this contrast between the “before” and “after” or “former” life and “present” life in Christ. For instance, Paul lists a number of sins that his Colossian brothers had been practicing, but then he says, “. . . and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside. . .” (Colossians 3:7-8). He continues, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (vv. 9-10). We see “the old self” in the past and “the new self” in the present, and the latter is being made into the likeness or image of God. (See also 1:21-23.)

After Paul gives instruction on how Titus should instruct his hearers to live the Christian life (Titus 3:1-2), he goes on to say, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived. . .” (v. 3). We see a “before” and “after” here for he contrasts the way these Christians had been with what he expects of them now, after salvation.

Another clear passage would be 1 Peter 4, where Peter says, “. . . so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (v. 2). He then refers to their past that was filled with sin and depravity: “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality,” etc. (v. 3). Peter assumed that there was a plain distinction between their former life and the life they were to be living presently. He makes this contrast in 1:14-15: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” They had lived in lusts in “former” times (their pre-conversion period) but now they are to be obedient and holy.

Passages like these, scattered through the new covenant writings, supplement the points we have made elsewhere in our presentation. Our discussion is entitled “Completely Transformed,” and the “before” and “after” passages we have been examining show that these people indeed had been completely transformed from lives of sin, selfishness, idolatry, and paganism, to lives of purity, holiness, righteousness, and Christlikeness. Either the passages were describing the fact that they had changed in this way, or they were urging the readers to make this change definite and real in the present and future.

Have You Been Transformed?

We have seen that when a person comes to Christ, God radically changes that person and makes him or her into a new person. He is born again, spiritually, so that he is part of God’s family and partakes of God’s own characteristics. Scripture says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Instead of being “conformed to this world,” the person is “transformed by the renewing of [his] mind,” and is thereby able to “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Does this describe you? Have you been transformed in the way we have discussed earlier in this article? If you haven’t been changed or transformed, maybe you haven’t even come to Christ as revealed in Scripture! When one is born anew by the Spirit of God, his life should be revolutionized in a very practical way!

It is true that some people who haven’t been oriented toward God at all and have lived a very immoral and wicked life, may need to be drastically changed in almost every single aspect of living. Paul wrote of certain immoral, idolatrous, former-pagans, “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10).

Every idol needs to be forsaken—and Christ needs to be acknowledged as Lord over every aspect of life. “Not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8).

Others, who have been God-focused, Scripture-oriented, and moral all of their lives may not need as many practical changes. They may have certain lifestyles in common with true Christianity, even though there are probably still great changes that need to be made.

Whatever your state at present, you do need to change. It may be a huge change or it may be a smaller change, but certainly there needs to be some change if, in fact, you have never come to Christ. We encourage you to check out articles like, “Are You Truly a Christian,” “The Deadly Peril of the World,” and “Life in Christ,” all of which will show you the basic truths regarding death to self, submitting to Christ, repentance and restitution, and faith in God through Christ. I encourage you to come to Christ now that you might be truly transformed by the power, grace, and Spirit of God.

 

Comments are closed.