Transformation takes time

This past week, I met with a young man who had recently devoted his life to Christ.  Over the past few months, I’ve begun to transition out of counseling the new believers at our church myself, leaving that in the capable hands of other counselors, so that I can better serve in the area of coordinating these counseling efforts.  On this particular occasion, though, this one was mine.  I look back and realize that God had every intention of it being me who spoke to the young man because I had a story that can relate to his.

As I spoke with him regarding the usual Scriptures I share on salvation and encouraging him, I realized that his thoughts were very preoccupied with life-change.  When I asked him about his history, he shared that he had actually prayed a prayer before to receive Jesus, but he had never really done anything to change his life afterwards.  I think his concern was less with whether or not he was saved but more with whether or not he was living it out.  It was like looking in a mirror.

I know the feeling!  When I was a teenager, I repeated a prayer that someone said would bring Jesus into my heart and I never changed in any way after that day.  I was the same person, not some “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).  I struggled after that with knowing what God wanted from me.  I had no idea how to quit bad things or which things in my life were even bad.

A few years later, I felt God calling me towards Him and I turned my life over to Him in surrender.  Suddenly, it became more clear to me what God expected from me because the Holy Spirit was working in me.  My desires were beginning to change.  Before I had felt like I was supposed to read the Bible out of obligation.  Now I wanted to read the Bible more often because it appealed to me.  Before I tried to quit some of my behaviors because I figured they must be wrong, not really so much because I wanted to quit them.  Now, I felt the freedom to quit those behaviors because I just didn’t feel drawn to them anymore.  God was doing a work in me.

But, transformation didn’t happen overnight.  He wasn’t done working on me yet (He’s still not done!), but I didn’t always realize that.  The moment I would slip up, I would get so mad at myself and wonder how I could call myself a Christian when I couldn’t get a handle on sin.  I wish someone would have told me what I told the young man on Sunday.  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)  You’re being transformed a little bit at a time.  Don’t get mad when you mess up, because it doesn’t mean you’re beyond God’s forgiveness and it doesn’t mean that you’re not saved.  He’s yours and you’re His.  He’s working on you.

As I’ve matured, I’ve come to understand some other biblical verses that are a little deeper and take a little more spiritual practice to discern.  The one that immediately comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  I wouldn’t have understood that verse early on, so I didn’t share it with this young believer, but today I hold this close to me and remind myself all the time of its truth.  Each and every day, though every victory and every struggle, God is working on me to make me more like His Son.  Sometimes I’ll fall, sometimes I’ll struggle to succeed, but through it all, God is with me.  I’m so glad I got to share this truth with the young man I counseled on Sunday.  The Lord made sure that I was the person who talked to him because I have been in his shoes.

How about you?  Is there someone in your life that God has placed there because you can relate to them on their terms?