Transformation and the Fruit of the Holy Spirit
Transformation is a State of Being and Not a State of Doing
God wants to grant us transformation, but we can choose to hinder His work. He will not force us to receive His gift, we must choose to receive it. We can also willfully choose to participate and cooperate in the transformation process. Transformation is the goal of Transformation Prayer Ministry and is focused upon cooperating with what God is doing to bring it about. When we apply the TPM Process we are able to cooperate with what God is doing to expose the lies that we believe that hinders us from experiencing this transformation and the subsequent fruit of His Spirit. As we exchange our lie-based thinking with His truth, our minds are renewed and transformation follows. (Rom. 12:2)
As stated in other articles, the fruit of the Spirit is not a “To-Do” list that we seek to accomplish, but rather qualities we are granted because we possess Christ and He possesses us. We do not need to strive to produce spiritual fruit any more than a tree strives to produce the fruit it bears. Transformation is not performance; that is trying to be like Jesus by acting loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, etc. But rather, when we know the truth in our heart in faith, this same truth transforms us into His likeness. Now instead of TRYING to be loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, good, etc., we ARE loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, etc.
Most people would probably agree that the first three fruits listed, “Love, Joy and Peace” are clearly things which we cannot perform or produce on our own. We would all say that these three fruits all belong to God and are given by Him. We would all agree that it is the “Love of God,” the “Joy of the Lord,” and the “Peace of Christ.” But then we approach the other six as though they were tasks to be accomplished. We long and hope for the first three and bear down and work hard at trying to be like the other six. Do you see the inconsistency here. All nine are fruit of the Spirit. None are achievable tasks. We receive the bottom six in the same way we obtain the first three. They are His fruit and He must grant them.
Good works do not produce the fruit of the Spirit, but the fruit of the Holy Spirit will produce good works. The good works that God “prepared beforehand” are not works that we bring about through performance, but are the outcome of the work that God has done and continues to do in our hearts and minds.
There is an old idiom that says, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what we often try to do when it comes to transformation. There is an order to the transformation process that God works in the life of the believer. 1) God gives. 2) We receive. If we by-pass the first step, the second step cannot come about. If we approach being transformed as a task to accomplish, a goal to achieve, a struggle to overcome, we will find ourselves stuck in a perpetual cycle of performance. All self-sustained performance will eventually falter and end in failure.
Transformation is the expression of the fruit of God’s Spirit manifested in the life of the believer who has been given the truth. The fruit is God’s and God’s alone. If we try to produce it through our own effort or willpower, we have not only gotten our horse and cart out of order, we are trying to drive the horse uphill. If the horse stops pushing the cart will roll back where it started.
The Apostle Paul sheds light on the order of the process of transformation when he wrote, “…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light” (Col. 1:9-12 NIV).
Notice what comes first. God “fill[s] [us] with the knowledge of His will, through all wisdom and understanding THAT THE Spirit gives.” (Step one: God gives.) Once this occurs, transformation follows (Step two: We receive.) This transformation is made evident by our walk that is worthy and pleasing to the Lord. It is fruit-bearing, continually increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with His power, steadfast, patient, and filled with joy!
You will notice in this process that there is no mention of our doing anything to bring it about. No suggestion of self-effort, self-discipline, performance or trying to act like Jesus. This transformation is bestowed upon us by God filling us with the “…knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that [we] may… [be transformed, –that is,] “… live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Let me illustrate. Imagine a thirsty man holding up a cup toward God desperately desiring a drink. Imagine God immediately and graciously pouring water into his cup. However, as the water reaches the top of the cup it is deflected and splashes out with no portion going into the cup. As we examine more closely we see that the cup is already filled with a foul black gooey substance hindering the water from filling it. The man lacks the capacity in his cup to receive the water God has graciously supplied. The answer to this predicament is not try harder, ask with more earnestness, but rather, to empty out the black goo.
Truth and lies cannot fill the same space any more so than light and darkness. As long as we hold lies in our hearts we cannot know the truth in the same space. We can hold a lie in our heart and the truth in our intellect (CLICK HERE to read about double-mindedness), but we cannot believe a lie and believe the truth with our heart at the same time. For example, I cannot believe with my heart that I am hated by God and also believe with my heart that God loves me. However, I can believe that God hates me in my heart, and yet, still quote John 3:16 that I have intellectually memorized. However, believing with the heart is not the same as believing with my intellect.
There are two very important transitional words in this passage that express the progression of things. The phrase “so that” is a transitional phrase that simply means “what was just stated is a prerequisite to what follows. The first must occur before the second can come about. God does what He does “so that” we “…may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way…”
It is easy to hastily read over the first part, and then mistakenly interpret the second part as a command or expectation. We read the words “…live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way…” and immediately set out and try to do it. Much of the struggle and consequential defeat so often experienced by well meaning Christians is the inability to do that which is God’s to do. This passage does not say, “Go out and try to live a life that is worthy and pleasing to God.” Rather, it says, when you have been granted the “…knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” then your life will transform accordingly.
The familiar passage that says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” contains a “SO THAT” like the verses being discussed. Here again, the “so that” is saying that mind renewal and transformation comes first so that what follows can occur. The transformation comes before the doing. The doing is an outcome of the transformation. It says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
We cannot experience the transformation that God desires us to know apart from Him granting us with the knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Transformation is the expected outcome of knowing the truth experientially in our heart. Heart belief transforms us.
Paul basically prayed this same prayer for the church in Ephesus when he prayed, “[may the] God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, … give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, SO THAT you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:17-19).
Here again, unless God brings this about, we cannot know “… the hope of His calling,” “…the riches of the glory” or “…the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
When we attempt to conform our behavior to the truth, rather than allowing the truth to transform us, we are on a path of ultimate failure. This is the same approach that the people of God took before the cross and grace. Keeping the Law seemed right in principle, but no one ever succeeded. All who tried fell short. Controlling our behavior does not produce any measure of holiness nor does it transform us.
There is a major difference between controlling behavior and the fruit that the Spirit called self-control. Controlled behavior is self-accomplished. Self-control is what God does in us. All other religions throughout the world advocate self-abasement and spiritual performance as a means of attaining some measure of spiritual success. This is not transformation. Unfortunately, much of what we do as Christians, that we describe as spiritual, an unbeliever could also do if he just set his mind to it. Self-accomplished “fruit” is not spiritual. Transformation is solely a work of God.
Trying to perform the fruit of the Spirit (which is impossible to accomplish anyway) is at best, a continual struggle. The very fact that we find ourselves struggling to act like Jesus says that something is wrong. The Christ life is not a life of work and effort, but rather one of exchange. Paul said it succinctly when he declared, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Notice who is doing what in this passage.
First, we start with death. We are crucified with Christ; it is no longer we who are living the life, but an exchange has occurred. Christ is now living His life in and through us. The life that we are living in the flesh (that is, in our physical realm) we live by faith in Jesus.
Someone will surely say, “This all sounds well and good, but how do we do it?” Short answer: “We don’t.” We must go back to the earlier passage that says we need God, “… to fill [us] with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” This is the necessary component for transformation. When God “… fills [us] with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” this is the essence of mind renewal, and mind renewal brings about transformation. “Be transformed, by the renewing of your mind.” (Ro,. 12:2) Unless God brings this about, transformation will not occur. Trying to conform ourselves to the truth through self-effort and performance, or being transformed by it, are not the same.
We are not suggesting that TPM is the way to bring this about, but only a way that we can cooperate with God in what He is doing in refining our faith, renewing our minds and transforming our lives. However, what ever approach you take, whether TPM or not, should result in the effortless expression of the fruit of the Spirit. Evidence of the fruit is the litmus test of whether you are participating with God or not. Where God is at work the fruit abounds.
To the degree that we will take ownership for the lie-based belief that is exposed in us during our life difficulties, and look to the Lord for the “knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” we are positioned to receive. When we know His truth in our hearts in faith. transformation will follow.
In TPM we are seeking to participate with God in Him transforming our lives. We recognize that we can resist His handiwork, miss opportunities for faith refinement, refuse to take responsibility for our lie-based emotions, and blame the world around us for our emotional state. We can also choose to cooperate with the work that He is doing. The Lord desires to grant us the knowledge of His will, wisdom and understanding. He desires to open the eyes of our hearts so that we might be transformed by the light of His truth.
Th Apostle Paul prayed for the early church, but his prayer is for us as well. Read it again and allow the Spirit to move you in the direction of His filling. “…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Col. 1:9-12 NIV)