Transform means to make a thorough change. Not a modification or comfortable tweak. We often hear about how much God loves us. But how much do we hear about the high cost of being a Christian? Or the demand that we “deny” ourselves and “die” to ourselves? Or that we turn over our lives in favor of one that promises humility, hardship, and the rigors of thoroughly changing from the inside out?
Romans 12:1–2 states: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Christians have gotten quite good at devising ways to conform to the pattern of this world so as to appear compatible with the Bible: comfortable lifestyles with abundant material possessions, money spent on self, and avoidance of risk-taking for the Kingdom of God. Even the way I mention these things may sound judgmental, because we’re so used to thinking in our own cultural patterns rather than in biblical patterns.
“Be transformed” is passive. We don’t transform ourselves. God does it in us—but with our cooperation. If we choose to remain as we were before, or to continually resist, doubt, or harden our hearts, God will let us. He might just say, “Here, let me harden you more.” Remember ole’ Pharaoh trying to keep the Israelites from leaving Egypt?
God is in the business of renewing minds. He will literally take our wounded or misguided minds and renew them into new ways of thinking and feeling.
If we truly connect with eternal reality, it should be natural that we would not stay the same as before—that we would be, as the Bible says, transformed.
A lot of people in churches sit through years of singing and preaching and potluck suppers without being transformed. And they never quite get the “being like Jesus” thing. It’s no wonder that many outside of Christian faith often view Christians with skepticism.
But I’ll be fair. Following Jesus is hard. If I blame anyone for anything, it’s for pretending that Christianity is easy, or that it’s generally compatible with our cultural values and lifestyles. Jesus calls us to do things like leave our families, sometimes our jobs, to love people who hate us, to be persecuted, to care for the poor and oppressed, to forgive people we’d rather hate, to change society not through laws but through sacrificial love. That’s hard—and why we need God’s grace.
Transformation is a life-long process, a journey of the soul that never ends until we reach heaven’s gate.
As we are transformed, or as our minds are being renewed, that verse from Romans says we will able to know and live in God’s will. This transformation stuff may seem harsh, but when we consider the misery people create for themselves and others when they’re not transformed, being transformed is less costly and infinitely better than not being transformed.