The gospel is a transforming message! It is the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection that transforms the lives of those who receive it in faith and obedience. The person who turns from sin and trusts Jesus is changed from the inside out. This transformation is both instant and ongoing. Conversion is but the first step of a lifetime journey of discipleship. Old loves are replaced with new loves. Old habits give way to new habits. As we follow Jesus, God’s Spirit conforms us more and more into His image. What does this involve? There are five key areas of transformation.
To begin with, disciples have a transformed mind. They believe what Jesus believed. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Word of God washes and transforms our thinking. At conversion, we are given a new heart. What you love and think about and dwell upon will largely determine the direction of your life. For example, if money and possessions is what dominates your mind, it will be what you live for. Or, if being liked by others and admired is what you crave, popularity is what you will live for. The gospel transforms our minds.
Next, disciples have a transformed character. They live like Jesus lived. Because their minds and affections have been changed, their character is changed and their life resembles Christ’s life. I have discovered that it is all too easy to compare ourselves to each other. All of us have people whom we admire and desire to be like, and to an extent, this is a good thing. However, we must not lose sight of the goal of the Christian life–Christlikeness. Jesus is our ultimate example, and those who are believers desire to be like Him.
Third, disciples have transformed relationships. They love like Jesus loved. The person whose mind and heart has been transformed, who possesses the character of Christ, he or she will also have transformed relationships with other people. The love of God will be characteristic of the disciple’s life. Rather than seeing other people as obstacles, those who have been transformed will see other people as opportunities. Jesus said that love for our brothers and sisters is a distinguishing trait of His disciples. He said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In other words, the way that Christ’s followers love and relate to one another will be a witness of His grace to the world.
Fourth, disciples have a transformed service. They serve others like Jesus served. Jesus said that His purpose for coming into the world was not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. The person who has been transformed in their heart, in their character, and in the way that they view others, will also be transformed in the way that he or she selflessly serves others. All of this is extremely counter-cultural. Our day is one that is characterized by rampant selfishness and self-centeredness. A consumer mindset has slowly crept into the church, one in which people desire to be served rather than to serve, and to receive a product rather than give of themselves. The gospel confronts this type of attitude head on. The non-discipleship Christianity that is on display in much of the church today is shallow and superficial at best. It is not the sacrificial, kingdom advancing faith that we read about in Acts. Many have falsely assumed that they can be a Christian without becoming Christlike, and no such faith exists in the New Testament.
Last, disciples have a transformed influence. They lead like Jesus led. The person whose heart has been changed by the gospel, who possesses Christ’s character, who loves and serves others, will also embrace the mission of Jesus. Their life will impact those around them for the gospel’s sake. Jesus Christ will be on display through the life of His transformed disciple. Paul understood this when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Every single person who has been saved by God’s grace has also been given God’s mission. The gospel came to you because it was headed to someone else. Discipleship is a life of surrender to Christ and participation in His mission of proclaiming the gospel to others and making disciples. This is the fruit of transformation.
What about you–are you personally being transformed? Do you believe what Jesus believed, live like Jesus lived, love like Jesus loved, serve like Jesus served, and lead like Jesus led? The real test of the sincerity of our faith is not what we say. The real test is obedience and a life that has been transformed.