“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:6)
The man in the pulpit said something so simple I wondered how I, a grown man of 20 years, could have missed it so long. “The key to the successful Christian life,” he said, “is surrender and faith.” I hadn’t been at all sure I could make it spiritually or that God would enable me. But, sitting there on the plank bench in that tabernacle, the confidence began to surge that God would make me into a different person. And that’s the meaning of the word in 2 Corinthians 3:18 — metamorphosis, a transformation of nature. I began to believe it really could happen in me, I tightened the trust connection.
Once those inhibitors of growth are identified and removed — ignorance, unyieldedness, unbelief — the Spirit is free to move in transforming power. But He doesn’t do it to a passive individual. Romans 6:6 tells us; “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” He expects us to participate in the process through using the “tools” He provides: prayer, Scripture, church, adversity. Let me illustrate how each of these worked in changing me from a short-fused, shoot-from-the-lip person into something more like Jesus.
I was praying, reading my Bible, and attending church faithfully — had been doing those things all my life. But they weren’t focused on growth, especially growth out of my occasional outbursts of bad temper. Now that the turnaround was complete and I was “going for it,” those “tools” began to work.
- The Word enlightened me and gave me confidence of what could be.
- My daily prayer focused on a desperate cry for deliverance from my personal quagmire of spiritual failure. I didn’t say, “God, help me be good today;” I said,” Lord, I’ve got a big patience deficit. Help me win out today over my short fuse and loose tongue.”
- The church? The worship service enlightened and got me started, but at that point I didn’t know about small group accountability, and I didn’t have a spiritual “buddy.” My father, however, was “church” to me. I wouldn’t have made it on my own. He instructed me, was always gently available, and, above all, lived the life I longed for. That kind of close-up view will give a person assurance about the reality and possibility of a life of “victory”!
Those three tools became an indispensable part of my upward spiral, but to answer my prayer for mouth-control and a patient spirit, God used the circumstances of life, adversity. Fifty years and counting! They were God’s severe mercies, designed to make me like Jesus. Paul calls suffering a grace (Phil 1:29) — the same word used of salvation — an unearned gift for our welfare, a “means of grace.”
What is the Spirit of God up to? He will, if we let Him, make us into working models of Jesus to attract people to himself. How has he been doing that in your life? Look back at your own life. How have you changed from impatience toward inner tranquility, from lust toward purity, from gluttony toward self-control, from materialism toward contentment and generosity, from ego-centric thinking toward preoccupation with the concerns of others, from doubt toward confidence in God’s promises? Or maybe it’s been something else God has been working on. . .
Have you experienced a step forward in knowledge, yieldedness, or trust? Note how the Bible, prayer, the church or adversity participated in the change; the metamorphosis, a transformation of your nature!