By Michael Risley
Certainly one of the most dramatic stories of the transforming power of Christ is the life of the Apostle Paul. Before his conversion, it is fairly safe to say he was the most ardent oppressor of Christians in the world. In Acts 26:9-11, Paul says this: I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus . . . I caused many believers there (Jerusalem) to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
Then, as many of us know, he met the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus and his life began to transform in the most miraculous way. He went from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, from unforgiveness to forgiveness, from being enslaved by sin to experiencing true freedom by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!
Many of you who are reading this article have already experienced the transforming power of Christ when you were saved, like the Apostle Paul (though probably not as dramatically!). However, now you are saying “How can I see Christ’s ongoing transforming power in my life as a Christian?” In answer to this question, God’s Word says this in Romans 12:1-2:
And so dear brother and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Here are some critical truths from the above passage for helping us experience the transforming power of Christ day by day:
- Everyday surrender your life to God – Before we embraced Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we used our body for selfish and sinful pleasures and purposes. However, out of gratitude to God for forgiving our sins and giving us salvation, we now offer our body, not like a dead Old Testament animal sacrifice, but as a living sacrifice – dedicated to God for His glory! This means that daily we lay aside our own self-centered desires to follow Him and to do His will. One suggestion that has helped me to surrender has been to pray Galatians 2:20 to the Lord. Imagine as one of the first things you do each day to pray as sincerely as you can: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ 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. Or you could use Romans 12:1 or another passage as your prayer. Whatever Scripture prayer you use, this becomes a statement of dedication of your life to God – every morning; like a “pledge of allegiance.” I am pledging my allegiance to God and basically saying – Father, I am totally yours: my life, my family and friends, my possessions, my job, my hopes and dreams . . . I give it all to You! I worship and exalt You with all of me for Your glory! In the power of Your Holy Spirit, use me today! In Jesus’ name, amen. Bottom line: there is transforming power in surrendering your life to God and His will as you begin each day.
- Let God transform you by changing the way you think – For all of our lives, we will face the pressure to conform to our culture. However, the world’s value system is not our example to follow or imitate. One reason many of us don’t know what God wants us to do in this life is because we may be too contaminated with the world’s culture. Many times, this happens without us even realizing it. Therefore, we must make a choice: are we going to think like the world or are we going to think like God? This is one of the profound and consequential choices of our lives! Romans 8:6 teaches: So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Colossians 3:2-3 adds this: Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. So, assuming you choose to think like God, here’s the answer: you and I want to fill our minds with God’s truth! Letting the Holy Spirit control your mind and focusing on the things of God in prayer and in His Word should be our most prevalent thoughts. Let me give you some suggestions on how to do this:
- Pray and confess any sins (I John 1:9) and then ask the Holy Spirit to fill you (Ephesians 5:18) and speak to you before you read God’s Word. Also, a fundamental truth from God is that we should be praying all the time – in our hearts and also out loud for others. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, Never stop praying.
- Read God’s Word daily using a reading plan. I use the YouVersion Bible App as my resource for many good reading plans. Typically, year to year I read either the New Testament or Old Testament. However, sometimes I might read on a certain Bible topic, like peace or finances. You definitely will not get bored with all the reading plans available (you’ll probably be overwhelmed!!). Devotionals are good, too, like our Senior Living Ministries devotional! However, I think it is best to read both (maybe at different times of the day): A reading plan where you are reading longer Scripture passages plus a devotional where the reading is shorter.
- Meditate/memorize God’s Word regularly – Psalm 119:11 teaches, I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. And Joshua 1:8 tells God’s people regarding the Word: Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. My suggestion is to memorize/meditate on Scripture passages that mean the most to you or will help you in dealing with some problem or issue in your life. Previously I put Scripture passages on 3X5 cards, but now I pull them up on my cell phone using The Bible Memory App. I usually stay with the same verse or passage of Scripture for about two weeks – memorizing it, praying it, sharing it with others and seeking to apply it to my life. Though memorizing God’s Word is challenging, it does get easier and more enjoyable the more you do it. Also, I do it with a friend and that helps me stay consistent. Bottom line: there is transforming power in filling your mind with godly thoughts, especially God’s Word and prayer.
As I close, let me pray for you:
Heavenly Father, may the transforming power of your Son, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, radically change us from the inside out for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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