There is a missing element in the conversation regarding spiritual transformation in many evangelical circles. There is rightly a conversation taking place about the need to move from behavior modification where people modify behaviors to fit into their evangelical sub-culture (whatever it is) to true inner life transformation.
In the first case life change is at the behavioral level. In the second case it is from the inside out: Hearts that understand and live in grace, minds that seek to think like Jesus, lives that are brought in line with God’s priorities and relationships that reflect the love of Jesus. For too long the church has settled for behavior modification instead of inner transformation. This is a very important conversation.
There is, however, a second part of the transformation process that needs equal attention. It involves the purpose of transformation. Here is something to think about: when our focus on transformation is only personal and about us it is a selfish and incomplete transformation that diminishes God’s ultimate purpose for our lives.
Now I fully understand that heart transformation is the entrance into God’s kingdom and family and where we experience the forgiveness of sin and a new standing in God’s sight. This is the message of John 3:16. What this does not address is the purpose of that transformation: we are reconciled to God in Christ (giving us all the blessings of life in Jesus for eternity) in order to join God in His work of reconciliation in our world (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
Many of God’s people do not understand God’s Meta story! Our involvement in His Meta story is what brings our lives its greatest meaning!
That Meta story started in the garden where God created the world as He meant it to be: a creation at peace with itself and men and women in perfect relationship with God. That perfection was ruined by sin bringing with it the dehumanization of those made in His image. Into our world came sin, separation from God, relational disconnect, disease, death, sorrow, selfishness, war, injustice, fear, and all the results of sin.
From the moment of the fall, however, God put into place a divine rescue operation (Genesis 3:15) which culminated in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the inauguration of His Kingdom. His intent was and is to bring redemption to a broken world, redeeming what was made bad with the culmination coming at His return.
That redemption starts with hearts that are transformed but He then calls His people to join Him in His work of bringing His Kingdom to earth (Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – Matthew 6:10).
This includes feeding the hungry, caring for the marginalized, bringing justice where there is injustice (Isaiah 55, Micah 6:8), caring for the orphan and widow and alien (Deuteronomy), bringing His Kingdom values to all the places we inhabit and the people we know (Sermon on the Mount) to name just a few examples.
This is the outcome of our heart transformation: nothing less than the transformation of our communities, neighborhoods and workplaces as God uses us to bring His love, truth, values, practices and relationships to every corner of our lives.
Ephesians 2:8-10 sum this up very well. “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. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The regeneration of our hearts is a complete gift from God. But, don’t miss that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works – joining God in bringing His love, truth, values, practices and relationships to every corner of our lives. This is no individual pietistic vision but a vision of God’s family intentionally impacting everything and everyone around them. It is the gospel touching everything. It is transformation of hearts that results in transformation of our communities as we live out the life of Jesus.
The Meta story is about God’s plan to redeem what sin destroyed. We are redeemed to join Him in that redemption story.