Godly transformation vs works-righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NASB) 

Despite the fact that the unregenerate refuse to accept what I am about to say as being true, it does not change the fact that it is the truth. The true Christian walk is one of faith that results in faithfulness while the counterfeit or false Christian walk is one of works righteousness that results in a pragmatic form of religious works meant to counter failures of the flesh. The true Christian will be on a path of continual, progressive transformation unto personal holiness and Christlikeness that will result in God using him or her in doing His good works (Ephesians 2:10). On the other hand, the false Christian, not being regenerate, may still be fooled by their religiosity into believing that he or she is on that narrow path. They may even zealously do good works and call that a transformed life, but it is still nothing more than works righteousness. The enemy of men’s souls has produced a counterfeit version of Christian transformation, but it is totally different and only produces temporal fruit while genuine Christian transformation produces fruit that is eternal.

Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Here is that passage in Greek:

2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:2 (NA28)

Notice that it is impossible for a Christian to be both conformed to this world and to be in the process of being transformed by the renewal of his or her mind at the same time. The Greek word translated here as “conformed” is συσχηματίζεσθε, which means to “be fashioned together.” However, Paul preceded it in this passage with the word μὴ, which mean “not,” therefore, we are being told to not be fashioned or conformed to this world or αἰῶνι, which could also be translated as “age,” and I think that is good way to understand what Paul is talking about here. If a person is fashioned together with this present age then he or she is not of God. He or she is not regenerate. If professing Christians are more in love with this present age than they are with denying themselves, taking up their crosses and following Christ because of what He has done for them on the Cross then they have not been truly saved. The real Christian is regenerate and will love Christ. Yes, the flesh remains and the tug of this world, this present age, will still be there, but there will be a difference for him or her. There will be a power to deny self and turn from evil to present self to God as a living sacrifice. That battle will always be there, but the power to repent will be with the regenerate. The battle to mortify our sins is part of our sanctification.

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 (NASB) 

These living sacrifices present themselves to Christ and the process of mind renewal (v2). What is this? This is the actual process whereby the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation on Scripture (Psalm 119:11; cf. Philippians 4:8; Colossians 1:29; 3:10, 16). This is the mind that has become so saturated with the Word of God that the Mind of Christ has become sharp and full and in control. We see this in disciples that go through serious spiritual renewals where they go from self-centered religious people to Jesus-centered, humble, slaves of the most high after some considerable time in prayer and time in the Word of God. I am one of those.  It is 100% a work of God, not anything I have done nor could I have done.

This is what all Christians are called to become. It is sad that so few actually make it this far. Usually those that do are the ones God uses to be the watchmen and guides to those who are on the way to becoming living sacrifices living truly transformed lives. Tragically, our enemy has muddied the waters by taking this concept and counterfeiting it with a works righteousness based system that includes Transformative Learning, the Hegelian Dialectic processes, Spiritual Formation, Contemplative Prayer, and other forms of mysticism that are not in any way Christian. This is tragic and we are seeing entire denominations going head over heels after this sort of thing.

I am so tired of hearing Rick Warren talking about the thousands of “transformed lives” that have resulted from his ministry. The Purpose Driven paradigm is nothing but religious pragmatism and the transformation he is talking about is the result of these man-made processes of works righteousness not what we just looked at above. We know this because he boasts of how they are moved through his system as part of “his plan,” they are put to work, and this is the reason they are transformed. I do not see that anywhere in Sacred Scripture. What I see is God transforming people who humbly submit themselves to Him as living sacrifices and He develops the mind of Christ in them and uses them in the Kingdom. Also, they never boast of what “they have done,” but give God all the glory.

What is a truly transformed life in Christ? It is not one that is produced via a man devised program. It is one that is the fruit of becoming a living sacrifice in which God develops the mind of Christ via his plan of mind renewal. I know that any Christian maturity that I possess is the work of God, by His grace, according to His will. I am only a δοῦλος of the Κύριον ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστόν. Remember no one on their own path or the path of the enemy is on the path of true Biblical Transformation.

One last thing. I have learned to never take where God has taken me for granted and also to not become lax in my study of His Word and time in prayer. I still must spend time in prayer, confessing and asking God for the gift of repentance and to use the circumstances in my life to change me as He sees fit. I also ask daily for wisdom, discernment, personal holiness and Christlikeness. Be careful what you ask for in prayer.  God answers those who belong to Him. Those who are on the Narrow Path and are doing what I have described above will most likely find the path very narrow indeed, but also very straight and well defined.  Also, there will be circumstances that used to cause you to stumble and fall back into behavior that can only be described as “of the flesh.” Take this path, pray and obey, and you will find not only that your appetites will change, but there will be a strength to walk in repentance that was probably not as apparent before. I find this something to cause me to go to the Lord in prayer full of rejoicing and thankfulness. Again, I know  better than to take any of this for granted and to believe that this makes me invulnerable to the power of my flesh. I too long for the day when I will be free of it.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One thought on “Godly transformation vs works-righteousness

  1. Wonderful article Brother Mike ! keep on keeping on ! I want so much to fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith. Life is a daily battle so I must keep my eyes on Jesus, ( the author and finisher of our faith ) I know the ” visible church ” is on a downward spiral and I want to go to church but I just can’t sit under all the false teachings. It just turns my stomach.


Comments are closed.