Real transformation does not allow for compartmentalization of our lives where we choose whether or not we will allow God to infuse that compartment or keep it for ourselves. Studies that show that the lifestyle and priorities of those who label themselves as evangelicals are almost no different than those who don’t claim to be Christ followers would indicate that there is a great deal of compartmentalization taking place.
This is a pseudo transformation where Justification (my sins have been forgiven) has not been followed by serious sanctification (my life has been and is being changed). While salvation may well have occurred, the process of my becoming all that God created me to be is circumvented when we compartmentalize those areas where we allow God access to our lives.
Real transformation starts with our hearts. This may seem obvious since it is clear that giving our heart to Christ is the key to an eternal relationship with Him. As Jesus Himself put it, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only son” (John 3:16-18).
This new life in Christ comes to us not because of something we have done but on the basis of God’s grace, freely extended to us. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
It is God who transforms our heart in response to our faith. It is all about His grace in our lives. Not only do we enter His kingdom by grace but we live out our daily lives in His grace and it is the living in grace that is perhaps our most difficult challenge.
Grace is unmerited favor. None of us merit the favor of God “but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). When we were still in rebellion He moved toward us, became one of us in the incarnation and died for our sin!
So if God has transformed our hearts through His grace, bringing us into His family, forgiving our sin, giving us an eternal destiny, why do we speak further of the need for transformation of our hearts? I believe the challenge is not in accepting that His grace has forgiven our sin and reconciled us to Him. The challenge is in understanding how His grace impacts my daily life with Him.
Many of us struggle with a deep feeling of unworthiness in our relationship with God and frankly many of us spend our lives trying to make ourselves worthy to Him even after we have accepted His gift of salvation. In our struggle with sin we find ourselves doubting our worthiness. That often leads us to work harder to please Him, thinking that the more we do for Him the more we are worthy of Him.
But here is the catch: There is nothing we can do to cause God to love us more and there is nothing we can do to cause God to love us less. We live and exist in His pure, unrelenting, and infinite grace. That means we can relax in our relationship with Him. We are worthy of Him because He has made us worthy. We are called his friends and his brothers because He has made us family. When we come to understand His grace we can stop striving for His love and acceptance because through His grace we live in his love and acceptance all the time.
The Christian world is full of Christ followers who are still trying to earn God’s love instead of simply living in His wonderful grace. If we know that we don’t need to earn His love (it is not possible), we are then able to serve Him with grateful, thankful, hearts, without fear, knowing that we exist in His grace every moment and that our failures are all covered by that grace. The more we understand grace, the more we relax in our relationship with Jesus and the more confidence we have in our personal walk with Him.
Transformation of the heart is therefore crucial. First for salvation and entrance into His family and second, for living every day with confidence, not in ourselves, but in His limitless grace that encompasses all that we are. We will never be the us He created us to be until we understand what it means to live daily in His grace. Transformation starts in our hearts and continues in our hearts as we seek to understand the full implications of the grace we have entered into.