And we all who... contemplate the Lord's glory are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Being transformed to become like the Lord Jesus is not a mysterious and impossible task. We focus on Jesus as our life's highest priority, we spend time getting to know him, and the Spirit transforms us to become like him. This progression is, in essence, what Jesus also promised his first disciples when he called them (Mark 1:17):
- Follow me.
- I will help you to become...
We make Jesus our consuming priority. We focus on his words and his example. The Holy Spirit transforms us. We grow to become more like Jesus each day.
How does the Spirit do this transformation?
Is there anything I need to be doing to participate in this transformation?
Paul talks about this transformation process as having the fruit of the Spirit "ripen" in our lives. We begin to take on the character and qualities of Jesus — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) — as we allow the Spirit to lead us (Galatians 5:18; Romans 8:1-4, 14). This growth in the Spirit is what I like to call a "Spirit-natural" process. When we are healthy spiritually, this transformative process happens through the power of the Holy Spirit, much like a healthy human body grows naturally.
One thing we must notice in Galatians 5:22 is that all nine character qualities of Jesus that the Spirit ripens in us are the fruit of the Spirit — not fruits plural, but fruit. For many of us, our basic personality may have several of these character qualities. However, where the Spirit is at work, all nine are growing as we become mature and more Christ-like. We want all of the qualities to ripen and for Christ to be fully formed in us (Colossians 1:28-29; Galatians 4:19). For all nine character qualities of Jesus to be formed in us, we must pursue Jesus and "keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).
Paul uses this language of dancing to help us understand our part in this process:
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).I envision our dance involving three moves as we keep in step with the Spirit's music and keep our focus on Jesus as he leads us in the dance of grace.
Step one involves placing ourselves where the Spirit is active and fills us. We go where the music of heaven is playing, and the Holy Spirit is active. Paul talks about the urgency of doing this (Ephesians 5:15-18) and describes five key areas of life where the Spirit fills us and is active (Ephesians 5:19-21):
- Speaking to one another in Spiritual songs.
- Making music from the heart.
- Giving thanks in the name of Jesus to the Father.
- Submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ.
- Praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Romans 6:26-27).
- Allowing the Spirit to use God's word to empower us to face the evil one and to work in our own hearts (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12-13).
Paul later adds two others:
When we approach all of life as worship asking to be filled with the Spirit (Luke 11:13), the Spirit fills us and begins the work of transformation in our dance of grace.
Step two is to seek godly character (2 Peter 1:3-4). We intentionally strive to grow. We make every effort to add several qualities to our lives in increasing measure (2 Peter 1:5-9):
- Mutual affection.
(See practical suggestions at the end.)
We long for the Lord to lead us in this dance of grace. We desire to follow the beat of the Spirit's music. We seek to add the virtues of God's righteous character and gracious compassion to the music of our lives.
Step three, we keep relinquishing the lead in our dance with grace. In this dance, we are the partner and the learner. We are not the star and certainly not the lead. We focus on Jesus. Our eyes are on him. Our heart beats for him and what he longs to do with us and through us. We offer each aspect of our lives to him because he has demonstrated his love for us (Romans 12:1-2). As Jesus leads, the Spirit then begins the work of transformation, producing those qualities that have the aroma of Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23).
This article is the third part of a 4 post series on Jesus' process of transformation. What follows the list of the 4 posts is a more detailed plan of growing in Jesus as I make Jesus my highest priority, I follow after him, and he helps me to become!
- The Journey with Jesus to Transformation.
- Keeping My Eyes on the Prize.
- Learning to Dance with the Spirit.
- Unleashing God's Holy Fire.
In last week's post, we emphasized the importance of reading every day from one of the gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — and asking for the Spirit's help in knowing what the Lord Jesus wants us to know from that reading, what he wants us to feel about what we've read, and what he wants us to do as a result of having read it. The qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-9 can be listed as part of this process. When we answer the question of what the Lord wants us to do, we can think about specific behaviors that help us grow in one of these eight virtues as we seek to participate in the divine nature of our Father in heaven. For example, we ask: "How does this passage teach me about what I need to do to grow in perseverance or call me to greater self-control? What do I need to do today as a specific way to grow in these areas? The goal of our Bible reading is not more Bible knowledge. God's goal for us is NOT to make us a spiritual thumb drive full of facts, but a person who reminds others of Jesus' character and compassion! This purpose also happens to be the goal of the Holy Spirit as well.