Is there something about yourself you want to change? Maybe it’s an attitude or habit. Perhaps it has to do with trimming down or getting into shape. It could be an outward alteration or an inward revamp; something minor or major. Whatever it is, do you believe you can do it or that it can be done? Is true transformation possible?
That’s kind of a loaded question. Because if it is, then why aren’t we doing it? And if it isn’t, why bother self-assessing and trying to be better? For those who have received Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we know it can happen. We’ve seen it in us and others, or at least gotten glimpses of it. We quote verses like II Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV) And Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV) But are these truths evident in our day to day lives?
One thing I love about the Scriptures are the accounts of real people in real situations. If we ever wonder if true transformation is possible, we just have to look at Paul. The apostle who was personally commissioned by the risen Christ (Acts 9:1-18), pretty much evangelized the whole known world in the first century, and wrote much of the New Testament. We’re probably aware that he used to persecute Believers prior to his conversion but when was the last time you really took a look at who he was before he got saved?
This is what was said about him in Acts 8:3: But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. In case ravaging doesn’t give us a clear enough picture, here’s what the original Greek word means: to destroy, devastate, ravage, signifies the act of ferocious animals, such as bears, wolves, and the like, in seeking and devouring their prey. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary) Saul, or Paul as he later became known, was vicious. He went into people’s homes and dragged them to jail – both men and women. And what was their crime? Believing Jesus is the Son of God and committing their lives to Him.
When the gospel began to spread, so did Paul’s attack of the church (Acts 8:4-9:2). It wasn’t enough to destroy Christians in Jerusalem. He wanted to kill them all. This is what he said about himself: I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. …in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. … I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (Acts 22:4,19; 26:10-11 ESV)
Paul was such a powerful and venomous persecutor of the church that three years after his conversion, when he went to Jerusalem and attempted to join the disciples, they were still afraid of him (Acts 9:26, Gal 1:17-18). They didn’t believe he had really changed even though there was much evidence of it (Acts 9:19-22). But his encounter with the risen Lord caused a total transformation. One that can’t be explained through natural reasons or arguments. It was divine and complete. And it can be the same for us.
I’m not saying all our wrong thoughts, attitudes, desires, and the like automatically change or are forever gone when we get saved. We know that wasn’t true for Paul (Rom 7) and can personally attest to it in our lives. But Scripture makes it clear that we become a new creature at conversion (II Cor 5:17). One inhabited by the Spirit of God. So real and lasting change is possible and actually expected (Rom 6:1-14, 12:1-2, Gal 5:16-25). But it only happens as we consistently press in closer to Jesus, surrender more of ourselves, and allow Him to make and mold us into His image. So let’s stop wanting to change and instead do something about it. Because true transformation is possible.
Just something that’s convicting my heart along the way.