Transformation or Controlled Behavior
A change in our behavior by own effort is not transformation. In fact, such attempts in spiritual performance often leads to legalism, pride, and inevitable failure. Just as self-effort has not worked in any other religion in the world, it falls short of accomplishing what God desires for His people. Only Christianity offers a relationship with, and requires a dependence upon its founder. Because we have this dependent relationship, genuine and lasting transformation is the outcome we expect. Transformation, just as salvation, is “not of works” so that no one has reason to boast (Rom. 8:28).
Living in the truth victoriously is no more accomplished by my self-effort and work than is my salvation. Both are complete and only wrought in me by the work of Christ. Paul said it succinctly when he said, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). In other words, in the same way that you started your journey in faith, you should continue your walk in faith. It was Christ in me who saved me and it is Christ in me who transforms me day by day. We may rightly declare and promote a salvation by faith, but then propagate a sanctification by works and effort. This was the very issue that the Apostle Paul was confronting in Galatians chapter three, where he wrote, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). The Galatians believed that they were justified by faith and then somehow sanctified through works. This was a lie.
Controlled behavior is the means that all other religions employ as they seek to attain what they believe is a higher level of spiritual consciousness. In our Christian community we use a different term —sanctification— but unfortunately we too often employ the same methods for arriving there. Working hard, self-effort, controlling behavior, trying to stop doing this and start doing that are all common approaches found in our midst. Sadly, none of these things can produce God’s fruit.
Transformation is a work of God that He alone brings about. As Peter the Apostle says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). Notice in this passage who it is that is doing all the work.
The Lord is committed to complete the work He began in us and He will bring it about. The task set before us is to get to the place where we stop trying to do it ourselves and can submit to His handiwork. Then the natural and expected outcome of the transformation that follows knowing the truth in our hearts can take place.