The Nature of a Truly Transformed Heart

by Mike Ratliff

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 2 Peter 1:10 (NASB) 

Some “evangelical leaders” in our time will tell you that transformation is actually part of the gospel and that the evidence of salvation is how busy a person is in “working in church ministry.” No where in God’s Word is transformation given as part of the Gospel. The Gospel is based in who Jesus Christ is and what He has done to be the propitiation for the elect. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, including the elect. No one is able to do any work of any kind to deserve or earn salvation, that is, justification. However in Ephesians 1:3-23; Ephesians 2:1-10, the Apostle Paul gives us God’s solution. Notice that nowhere in these passages is the transformed life mentioned as part of being justified. Yes, Paul mentioned in Ephesians 2 that Faith was a gift and that tells us that it is a product of regeneration, and that God saves us unto good works, but that is not the same thing. Paul tells us more about the transformed life in Romans 12:1-2. Notice that this is talking about spiritual growth after salvation and is not part of our justification at all, but is part of our sanctification process. Notice also who is in control of this process. Is it a local church or a ministry or is it God?

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 2 Peter 1:2-9 (NASB) 

Carefully read the passage above my brethren. Notice that those whom God regenerates become partakers of the divine nature. This does not make them “little gods” not does it give them a “divine spark.” It gives them the mind of Christ. This is the gift of knowing the truth of God because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and as one lives in, studies and knows the Word of God. Those who mature in Christ this way, that is, they become transformed, will have a life that will grow more and more to be characterized by the attributes Peters lists in the part of the passage above that is in bold. These are the qualities that characterize a life partaking of the divine nature. These are virtues that are listed elsewhere in the New Testament as well (Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 12:10-11). These qualities reflect the desires and features of a truly transformed heart. This desire is part of those truly regenerated by God. This is why we must suspect the profession of faith of people who have no desire for these things and see transformation as something else, such as “works righteousness.”

This is an exhortation so this transformation is something that happens as we cooperate with God working in us to live a new life which is grounded in the divine power and promises that is granted to all believers when they come to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Please notice again, this is not talking about our salvation. This is our sanctification which is what makes us holy after our justification, which is our salvation where we come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Here are vv5-7 (the part in bold) from the Greek New Testament.

5 Καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο δὲ σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντες ἐπιχορηγήσατε ἐν τῇ πίστει ὑμῶν τὴν ἀρετήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἀρετῇ τὴν γνῶσιν, 6 ἐν δὲ τῇ γνώσει τὴν ἐγκράτειαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἐγκρατείᾳ τὴν ὑπομονήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ὑπομονῇ τὴν εὐσέβειαν, 7 ἐν δὲ τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ τὴν φιλαδελφίαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ τὴν ἀγάπην. 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NA28)

Here is my translation of vv5-7 from Koine Greek to English.

5 And, for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply virtue, and in your virtue, knowledge, 6 and your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, endurance, and in your endurance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly love, and in your brotherly love, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The key to this actually is in v5 where Peter is telling all Christians to, as the NASB says, applying all diligence, in your faith. We are not to merely confess faith in Christ, but actually live it. Real living faith must take concrete form in our lives. These virtues are the fruit of this lived out in reality.

Real Christian transformation is not getting busy in church work, but is living one’s life growing in faith and Christlikeness as we have seen here. It is God directed and, in most cases, it involves a great deal of tests and trials of faith. I pray you see the difference.

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “The Nature of a Truly Transformed Heart

  1. So many instructions to those who have been born from above to diligently pursue after Christ, never once are we told to “let go and let God” or to take for granted YHWH will do His work in us if we are in continual rebellion against Him.

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  2. Re: Manfred, I think there are also far too many who are deceived and believe they can be in continual rebellion against the Lord, and still be saved (1 John 3:4-10), and there are plenty of preachers and teachers out there who will reinforce that false teaching.

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  3. I think God works it in us to want it,incl the washing of the word,like a new born wants milk I don’t see it as we co-operate with God…what He starts He finishes.

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  4. Reblogged this on Rainbow Trout and commented:
    Thanks Mike. I probably over repost your work. But you do articulate well the points that if I were a better witness I would make. And it makes for thoughtful reflection and dialogue. I only wish I could persuade others to follow.

    We all fall short of what Peter encourages. It’s a common Strawman argument today to ignore doctrine and focus on one aspect of the Bible’s teaching. It’s rare and hardwork to pursue all it’s teachings.

    Some four thousand years ago we read about that in Judges.

    “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)

    But it didn’t begin there. But we have to try…

    Jesus said:

    “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:20)

    A more complete knowledge and understanding is critical.

    2Pe 1:5  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
    2Pe 1:6  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
    2Pe 1:7  And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

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