What Is Transformation in the Bible?

Did you know the Bible speaks of something called transformation? It’s found in these two verses in the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 3:18: But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.

Romans 12:2: And do not be fashioned according to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect.

So what does it mean for us as believers to be transformed? And how can we experience transformation in our Christian life?

The definition of transformation

The word “transformation,” according to Merriam-Webster, means “a complete or major change in someone or something’s appearance, form, etc.” This gives us a basic definition of transformation as a kind of change.

But what does transformation mean for us as Christians? Does it mean we clean up our act, change our behavior to be more Christ-like, or live by a new set of rules and regulations? When we look more closely at the verses mentioned above, we find that in the Bible, transformation actually means something different from all of these things.

In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word used for transformation is metamorphosis. The biological definition for metamorphosis, again according to Merriam-Webster, is “a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.”

Although an outward change in appearance or form takes place, the change comes from within the life of the organism. A caterpillar is born with the life that causes it to become a butterfly. It doesn’t put on a butterfly costume or strive to act like a butterfly. As long as it eats, its metabolism takes the nutrients it consumes, assimilates them into the caterpillar, and causes it to grow, so that eventually, the caterpillar changes and becomes a real, genuine butterfly.

A caterpillar changing into a butterfly is an excellent picture of what the Bible speaks of concerning the transforming of the believers into the image of Christ.

The transformation in our Christian life

When we prayed to receive Christ as our Savior, we were regenerated, or reborn, with God’s life to become children of God. We were reborn with the divine life of God within. This life transforms us into the image of Christ.

But, like the caterpillar, we have to stay in the process of transformation by eating. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall by no means hunger, and he who believes into Me shall by no means ever thirst.” The Lord wants us to take Him as our spiritual food. If we want to grow and change, we need to eat Him every day.

Some caterpillars eat only one kind of leaf for their whole lives. In the same way, as believers, we also are meant to eat only one kind of spiritual food throughout our entire lives—Christ. When we eat and drink of Him, we’re supplied with His life for our Christian life and we grow with that life. As we grow, we’re in the process mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:18, being transformed from one degree of glory to another, little by little, into the image of Christ.

By taking in Christ as our food, more of His element is added to us and assimilated by us. We undergo a transformation that’s not merely an outward change, but one that comes from our being spiritually nourished and the life of God operating in us.

What transformation is not

Transformation is not a change brought about by simply doing good or improving our behavior. Imagine a person who is undernourished, sickly, and pale, but who puts on makeup to improve their appearance. They may look healthier, but the makeup is only cosmetic, something externally applied. What they really need is a genuine change that results from a life process within.

If that same undernourished, pale person were to eat healthy, nourishing food, a noticeable change would begin to occur. Their color would improve and their body would be strengthened. Eventually, their appearance would become healthy not because of something they did outwardly, but because of something that changed inwardly.

Adjusting our behavior to look more like Christ is like applying that external makeup. Our inward condition remains the same, but we try to cover it by doing good things or improving our conduct. As a result, what people see is not really Christ Himself lived out of us and expressed in our lives, but spiritually undernourished people striving to imitate Christ’s life the best they can.

Genuine transformation is different. An inward change takes place in our being as we take Christ in as our spiritual food and drink. As we eat, the divine life within us is allowed to operate, and our “appearance” gradually improves until we spontaneously begin to express Christ more in our daily lives.

People might remark, “That person’s different than he was before. What happened to him?” The difference comes from being transformed by the life of God through our eating Christ and assimilating Him into our being until we express Him more and more.

How we cooperate to be transformed

We can’t transform ourselves, but we can “be transformed,” that is, we can cooperate with the Lord for this process of transformation to take place in us. To be transformed, we need to take Christ in as our food and our drink. We can do this in many ways, such as:

  • By calling on His name throughout the day, saying, “Oh, Lord Jesus,” or “Lord Jesus, I love You.”
  • By singing with our spirit to the Lord.
  • By praying with our spirit.
  • By praying over what we read in the Bible.
  • By giving thanks to God.
  • By praising God.
  • By preaching the gospel or speaking about Christ to others.

All of these are ways to eat Christ as the living bread and to drink Him as the living water.

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