Metamorphosis

The following piece is an excerpt from my book Walking the Walk by Faith. Enjoy and be blessed.

by Mike Ratliff

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

I’m not a huge movie buff, but I really like movies or stories where the main character starts out really messed up or not very nice, but as the story progresses he or she changes for the better. I don’t know why that gets my interest, but it does.

The movie “Groundhog Day” is a good example. Bill Murray’s character in that movie is obnoxious, self-centered and bitter at the beginning of the movie. Interestingly, he knows it. He is a TV weatherman. He is also in love with his producer played by Andie MacDowell. They go to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the Punxsutawney Phil ceremony on Groundhog Day. They cover it, but are stuck in town because of weather problems. For some very weird reason, Bill Murray wakes up the next day and its Groundhog Day again. No matter what he does he’s stuck in this cycle. By the end of the movie he has gone through this hundreds of times. He pursues Andie MacDowell all the way through the movie, but no matter how hard he tries to impress her it never works.

At some point in the movie he realizes there is no way out so he makes the most of by going on a self-designed self-improvement regimen. By the end of the movie he has changed so much he is nearly unrecognizable. He is nice. He is charming. He is well-educated and can play the piano. He cares deeply for the needs of everyone around him and everyone loves him. In the end he wins Andie MacDowell. The next day he wakes up and it’s the day after Groundhog Day. They never say what phenomenon allowed this to happen.

The movie “Groundhog Day” is fiction. However, I think, it portrays the deep-seeded desire in all of us to become more than we are. Everyone knows it’s better to be noble in character than it is to be obnoxious. However, some feel they will never be able to change so, in true Soul-led behavior, they make up down and down up. They go after negative glory. They try to make being obnoxious cool. You know as well as I they know its better not to be obnoxious, sarcastic or mean.

If you peruse any bookstore, online or storefront, you will find hundreds of books which claim to show the way to some form of self-improvement. Some will claim to have the healthiest or safest diet for the overweight. Some will claim to have the secret of getting rich. Some will claim to give you the techniques to become smarter, healthier, wealthier, more religious, or less religious or how to simply know more about computers or the internet. You name it, the self-help or self-improvement book is out there.

As believers, we should be more concerned about our walk before the Lord than anything else. The Spirit-led believer understands this. The Soul-led is still clinging to the mistaken idea this present world is what is most important. God is in the business of changing those in Christ from Soul-led to Spirit-led Christ-likeness. How does he do it?

Over the last few chapters we have looked at how to become Spirit-led. As a believer abides in Christ as God takes them through tests and trials, their faith will be built up and their Christ-likeness will increase. We saw where this is a process. God designs the process exclusively for each believer. We are all unique. Each test or trial will be designed by God to prune away what keeps us from complete devotion to Him.

Not all tests and trials are bad things. Sometimes, we are called to exercise our faith as we serve Him in capacities which are impossible for us to accomplish without His strength, grace and power. When we obediently do the tasks He has placed before us then our faith is built up and we definitely grow in Christ. However, before God will call us to this level of obedience He will often take us through numerous tests and trials which are meant to prepare us to trust Him no matter what.

Let’s look at the first scripture passage which I placed at the beginning of this chapter. I am sure you have noticed I have referred to Romans 12:1-2 throughout this book. Understanding and applying this passage is a key to spiritual growth. We also included truths from v1 in our “Steps to the Walk by Faith.” Now let’s look at what comes after step six. For review, here is the list again:

Steps to the Walk by Faith (first six steps)

1) Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

2) Come to Jesus (Matthew 22:28)

3) Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 22:29)

4) Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 22:29)

5) Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)

6) Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

 

We saw where these are the first six steps for abiding in Christ. The Walk by Faith is accomplished by abiding in Christ. God will change us through each cycle of this process. In Romans 12:2 we will see how that change takes place and its outcome. Here is the entire passage again:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV)

 

Verse 2 starts with “…and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” It comes after the call to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God by His mercy.

What does it mean to “not” be conformed to this world? The word translated as “conformed” means “to fashion” or “after a fashion.” If this was a positive statement the writer would have meant, “Pattern you life after whatever this world is all about.” Since it is a negative command to “not” be conformed to the world we should read it as saying, “Do not pattern your values after the values of this present world. What’s wrong with a believer having the same values as the world? Jesus, the Son of God, came to Earth as a man to live a perfect life then die in agony on the cross to pay the price for the sins of those who believe. He came to save those who will believe on Him as their Lord and Savior from this world’s coming judgment.

The ways of the world are not for the believer. The Soul-led cling to them though. Those who abide in Christ will produce godly fruit in their lives as they become more and more Christ-like. One of the fruits of abiding in Christ is Separation from the World. That means the more Christ-like a believer becomes, the less they will be conformed to this world. That means their values are becoming conformed to God’s values not the world’s values.

The concept of abiding being a process is enforced by the Greek grammar structure of the phrase, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Both “conformed” and “transformed” are verbs in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. Present imperative indicates a command to do something in the future which involves continuous or repeated action. The active voice indicates the reader or listener is to do it.

Let’s apply this concept to this phrase. We are to continue, as a way of life, to not conform our lives to the world. We are not to pattern our values after the world’s values as a way of life. This means not conforming to this world is part of abiding in Christ.

The second part of this phrase says, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” We saw where the verb “transformed” is in the same tense, mood and voice as “conformed” so we know we are being given a command to be transformed by a continuous or repeated action. What does this word mean? It is the Greek word which gives us our word “Metamorphosis.” It is the same word used to describe the Transfiguration of Christ.

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1-2 NKJV Emphasis Mine)

The word “transfigured” in v2 is the same word which is translated “transformed” in Romans 12:2. Jesus’ appearance changed from that of a normal person to one that revealed His future Glory. His face shown like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light.

The command for believers to be “transformed” is not a call to have our faces and clothes changed. However, there is a parallel here between these two passages. Jesus was showing His apostles His actual, but future Glory. The command for believers to be “transformed” is a call to be changed from our corrupt conformity to this world into pure, holy separation from this world. This change or transformation is akin to the process of a caterpillar going through the metamorphosis process to become a butterfly. It is changed from one type of creature to another. The process which transforms a believer from Soul-led conformity to the World to Spirit-led separation from the World is a metamorphosis unto Christ-likeness.

What causes this “metamorphosis?” Here is the phrase again, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” The transforming catalyst is “the renewing of our minds.” What does that mean? The Greek word translated “renewing” in this verse actually means to “renovate.” It speaks of changing something from one state to one which is qualitatively new. If you buy an old house which needs a lot of work to make it beautiful you will have to renovate it. Some rooms may just need paint. Others need a complete gut job. So what has that got to do with “renewing” our minds? This part of the process is our part and responsibility. Let’s paraphrase the whole phrase together. “Do not pattern your life after the ways of world, but become Christ-like and separate from the world by renovating your mind.” What this is saying is we are commanded to not be conformed to the world, as we naturally are, but be changed into one who is naturally separate from the World by the process of renovating our minds. The metamorphosis from worldliness to godliness requires the continuous, repeated action of mind renovation.

What is this mind renewal or renovation? In the Introduction to this book I gave you my testimony of how God changed me from being Soul-led, self-focused and powerless to being Spirit-led, God-focused and His Humble servant who has learned to abide in Christ. In the Introduction I gave you all of the things God “drew me” to do over several months. In every case I took on more and more knowledge of God and His ways. I did that by reading and studying godly books and the Bible. I spent more and more time in His presence (prayer and worship) and less and less time doing worldly things. I fasted from the things of this world and feasted on God and His ways. As He took me through multitudes of tests and trials which He used to prune me I became more and more Spirit-led and less and less Soul-led.

Eventually, I came to a point where I learned how to walk in Repentance with Joy. That is the process of monitoring what your Heart is directing itself to for fulfillment. As it moves away from God and towards fleshly things for fulfillment we are to stop it by capturing that thought and giving it to God as a sacrifice. He will then clean us up and fill us with joy and fulfillment.

Our list of steps has changed. We now have seven steps don’t we?

Steps to the Walk by Faith (first seven steps)

1) Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

2) Come to Jesus (Matthew 22:28)

3) Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 22:29)

4) Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 22:29)

5) Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)

6) Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

7) Renew our minds and become transformed unto Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2)

The last phrase in Romans 12:2 says, “…that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The grammar suggests this phrase gives us a benefit for becoming “transformed.”

When I was a brand-new believer in Tulsa in 1986 I desperately wanted to know what God’s will was. I didn’t want to do things which were not His will. I did want to do those things which were His will. I wanted to know what His will was for me in certain situations. I prayed to know His will. I read books about finding His will. I asked other believers how to know His will. It was like I was asking people to describe the color blue. I got very little help.

Over many years I learned much of God’s will is revealed in His Word. We also can learn it from listening to godly preaching and teaching. However, there is another level of knowing God which I was ignorant about until I learned to walk the Walk by Faith. When I learned to Practice the Presence of God by walking in Repentance with Joy I found I was able to draw near unto God and He would draw near unto me. It was, and still is, awesome. As I am in His presence He teaches me. Isn’t that one of our steps in our learning to walk the Walk by Faith? It’s step four. When we take up and put the Yoke of Christ He will teach us His will. He will teach us all about Himself. He will teach us His ways so we can walk in them. As we go through these steps we will emerge changed. We will be more Christ-like than we were before. We will also have learned the part of His will which He wants to reveal to us.

The word “prove” in the last phrase of v2 means to discern or distinguish. In the context of this phrase it means to see the value in submitting to the will of God. As we are transformed and become more Christ-like we will be able to have close intimate walk before our Lord and we will see His will up front and see it is perfect and best for us. As we submit to His will we fall in Love with Him even more because we see in submission to the Lordship of Christ is found purpose and fulfillment.

We now have eight steps in our process don’t we?

Steps to the Walk by Faith (first eight steps)

1) Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

2) Come to Jesus (Matthew 22:28)

3) Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 22:29)

4) Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 22:29)

5) Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)

6) Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

7) Renew our minds and become transformed unto Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2)

8) Discern God’s Will and submit to it (Romans 12:2)

 

Don’t get caught up in being dogmatic about these steps. Yes, they do take place and it is the process which brings us unto Christ-likeness, but I had no idea about these steps and God took me through them all many times. Our goal should be to become all God wants us to be, but not by doing. It comes by changing and being, not doing. As we change and become Spirit-led we will naturally do godly things. As we abide in Christ God will produce godly fruit through and in us for us to bear. We can’t do anything to produce godly fruit by trying real hard to produce it. It comes from our Lord as we become godly.

The biggest step for a believer is the move from being Soul-led to Spirit-led. This happens as we pursue God with our whole Heart. This means learning to walk in Repentance with Joy and strive with our whole being to stay in His presence by not allowing our Heart to stray back to the flesh for fulfillment. As we do this, the Lord will prune us by allowing distractions, problems, tests and trials into our lives. These tests and trials are designed to show us all of our problem areas which have not been surrendered to Him. As we turn to Christ and submit to His Lordship, He will teach us the Truth. In response to the Truth we submit our bodies as living sacrifices to God and get Him to help us remove our problem areas through surrender to His will by His mercy and grace. Also, by His mercy and grace, we keep His commandments. We should then go Hard after Him even more by prayer, worship and learning so we can have our minds renewed. This will make us more Christ-like. Then we will see God’s will is perfect and right no matter how painful our circumstances.

Walking the Walk by Faith

Copyright © 2005 by Johnny Michael Ratliff

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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8 thoughts on “Metamorphosis

  1. Hi Mike,
    I am finding more and more christians are trying to blend in with the world, when we should be living our lives apart from the world. I mean if we have a relationship with Jesus Christ that automatically sets us apart. If we are to live apart from the world then we should be walking in the Spirit of Christ.
    1 Peter 2:9 (King James Version) 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
    What does Peter say, “We are a Holy Nation”, then we should be striving to a walk that reflects Christ. God isn’t calling us to be perfect, but to be distinct from the world. It’s not an easy world to live in and I think the stronger your walk gets, the stronger trial come in your life. Satan doesn’t bother with the christian that is weak as much as he does with someone that is walking in the Spirit because they are more of a threat to his plan then a weak christian, not saying he doesn’t try to deceive them, he surely doesn’t want them to grow.

    I love the verse
    Lev. 11:44 For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy
    Lord please give me the strength to walk the narrow path and not falter off it.

    Cristina

  2. Cristina,

    Yes, God has called us to be separate as you said. Being separate also makes us different and adds a layer of vulnarability in this world. It apprears risky. We must be strong in the Lord in order live lives marked by Costly Grace and, of course, that is only by God’s Grace.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Deut 7:6 For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.

  4. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Yes, Mike, the life of faith. It began when we met Christ, until then we did not know what faith really meant. It will end with sight, the incomparable view of Him who is the Beginning and End of everything. And faith is not the concoction of our own worthless energy, it is the gift of God. What do we owe Him? Simply…everything!

  5. HOLY SPIRIT
    About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff were very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].
    Peace Be With You
    Michael

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