Many will describe the appeal of the Christian life as ‘transformation,’ as in, “If God can transform the life of Paul, who persecuted and killed believers, he can transform your life, too.”
But reports of changed lives can be greatly exaggerated. For instance, I recently heard a pastor talking about the work involved in preparing sermons. Comparing his efforts before the advent of computer programs and afterward, he remarked “The computer changed my life forever.”
When we talk like that, we invariably cheapen the idea of transformation. It becomes not so much like the radical reorientation of a man’s soul as is described in Scripture, as it resembles more a late-night promo for ShamWow®, Mighty Mendit™ or anything else promoted by Billy Mays, where we all anticipate the ubiquitous “But wait! If you act now…” and the amazing deals and life-changing properties of the Awesome Auger™.
We are surrounded by promises of things that will ‘change your life forever.’ Most of them fail to deliver. And, most of the time when we claim something has ‘changed my life forever,’ what we are usually saying is that it has improved my life, at least for now.
Is personal improvement the company in which we should place the gospel, which is the ‘power of God for salvation’? (Romans 1:16) Or do we think the gospel is the promise of a ‘better life now’? And, that if you call in the next 30 minutes, streets of gold and a mansion made of pearls is thrown in for free?
The Bible does speak of transformation. But it is not the slickly marketed idea of change that we can put on our credit card for three easy payments. It is no less than the conforming of our sinful image into the holy image of the Lord Jesus Christ. And to receive Biblical transformation, modifying our outward appearance and behavior won’t do, for as the Bible says, we don’t need ‘transformation’ as much as we need resurrection, because we are dead in our sins until God makes us alive together with Christ.
The real issue, then, is not what will transform a man’s life, but what will create life where there has been none.