Spiritual Transformation

In my last blog post titled, A Higher Purpose,” I mentioned that I started a 40-day sugar fast on February 1st after being inspired to try it from a book titled, The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation,” by Wendy Speake. Detoxing from sugar has been no fun–headaches, lethargy, irritability, mood swings, cravings–see this article titled, What is a Sugar Detox? Effects and How to Avoid Sugar,” for a list of symptoms at this link.

I am now at the half way point of the 40-day sugar fast, and I happy to announce that I’m through the detox phase, which lasted for up to two weeks in my case, and once I got through it, I started to immediately feel better again (all of the detox symptoms disappeared), and I could feel a big difference that cutting out refined sugar made on me physically, mentally, and emotionally, too. In fact, one of the things I have discovered is that I don’t think about food as much as I did before the fast began. Well, I don’t think about particular foods, like those I shouldn’t be eating anyway as they are often loaded with too much sugar and fat.

Now that I’m through the physical detox phase of the sugar fast, I still have the second half of the fast to get through (and no, once the fast is over that does not mean I’m going back to eating refined sugar because that defeats the purpose, and it is bad for my health, too). However, the emphasis of the book is not only on the physical fast from sugar, but also on our spiritual transformation throughout the book starting from Day 1. This will be a harder part of the fast to try to describe as I tend to believe that a person’s spiritual transformation is a highly personal thing not necessarily to be described in words. Genuine transformation is not displayed so much in words, but rather in actions and heart attitudes.

The apostle Paul’s conversion in the New Testament is an example of spiritual transformation. He literally went from hating and killing Christians one day (as a Pharisee named Saul–his name later became Paul) to becoming a Christian after his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. The transformation was a 180 degree turn from his previous life as a Pharisee. GotQuestions.org describes Paul’s encounter as follows:

The events that happened on the road to Damascus relate not only to the apostle Paul, whose dramatic conversion occurred there, but they also provide a clear picture of the conversion of all people. While some have an extraordinarily dramatic conversion known as a “Damascus Road experience,” the conversion of all believers follows a similar pattern of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, described in Paul’s own words in Acts 9:1–9Acts 22:6–11; and Acts 26:9–20.

Putting the three accounts together, the details of this amazing experience come together. Paul, who went by the name of Saul at that time, was on his way to Damascus with a letter from the high priest of the temple in Jerusalem giving him authority to arrest any who belonged to “the Way,” meaning those who followed Christ. So intent was he on “opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9) that in “raging fury,” he breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Here was a man who truly hated Christ and all who were associated with Him.

Suddenly a bright light shone on Saul, causing his entire party to fall to the ground. Then Jesus spoke to Saul, asking him, “Why are you persecuting me?” in a voice understood only by him. Saul recognized that this was a deity of some sort because he called Him “Lord” and asked who He was. When Jesus identified Himself as the very One Saul had been persecuting, one can only imagine the terror that filled Saul’s heart. Saul was speechless, no doubt thinking to himself, “I’m a dead man.” The Acts 22 version of the story indicates that Saul’s response was to ask what Jesus wanted him to do. The Acts 9 and Acts 22 retellings of the story have Saul saying Jesus told him to rise and go to Damascus where he would be told what to do.

In the Acts 26 story, which is longer and more detailed, Saul describes Jesus’ commission of him as His messenger to the Gentiles (which must have amazed Saul, the ultimate Gentile-hating Pharisee), to turn many from darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God. His message of forgiveness of sins and “a place among those who are sanctified by faith” must have also astonished Saul because the Jews were convinced they alone had the place of honor in God’s eyes.

There is no discrepancy or contradiction among these three accounts. Even though Saul received his commission from Jesus on the road, he still had to go into Damascus and be told what to do—meet with Ananias who laid hands on him, receive the Holy Spirit, be baptized, and be received by the disciples there (Acts 9:15–161922:12–16). At Damascus, he also went for three days without eating or drinking, and then received his sight, which had been taken from him on the road.

The phrase “Damascus Road experience” is used to describe a conversion which is dramatic and startling. Many people receive Christ in a life-changing, instantaneous experience, although many others describe their conversion as more of a gradual understanding of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But both types of experiences have several things in common. First, salvation is of the Lord, by His will and according to His plan and purpose (Acts 22:14). As He does one way or another to each of us, Jesus made it clear to Saul that he had gone his own way for long enough. Now he was to become an instrument in the hands of the Master to do His will as He had foreordained it.

Second, the response of both Saul and all those who are redeemed by Christ is the same: “What do you want me to do?” Like Saul, we do not bargain, negotiate, question, or come halfway. The response of the redeemed is obedience. When God truly touches our hearts, our only response can be, “Lord, may your will be done and may you use me to do it.” Such was the experience of Saul on the Damascus Road.

Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was the beginning of an incredible journey. And while not all conversions are as startling as Saul’s, each of us is commissioned by Jesus to live in obedience to Him (John 14:15), love one another in His name (1 John 2:23), “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10), and tell the world of the wonderful riches in Christ. (Quote source here.)

So what does the Bible say about spiritual transformation? GotQuestions.org states:

In the Bible transformation means “change or renewal from a life that no longer conforms to the ways of the world to one that pleases God” (Romans 12:2). This is accomplished by the renewing of our minds, an inward spiritual transformation that will manifest itself in outward actions. The Bible presents the transformed life in Christ as demonstrated through our “bearing fruit in every good work [and] growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). Transformation involves those who were once far from God being “drawn near” to Him through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).

Moreover, evidence of transformation within us is seen in the way we increasingly reflect the likeness and glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). For as the apostle Paul said, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). To be considered as children of God, we must be led by the Spirit of God. And it is through the power of God’s Spirit that Christ lives within us. The transformed life mirrors the attitude of the apostle Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

This power of transformation comes from one source. Paul said, “For the message of the cross [the gospel] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). In speaking of Jesus, the apostle Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, boldly declared this truth: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Transformed lives begin with the gospel message of Christ, for in it is the power of God. It is the gospel that brings us salvation: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).

Through the gospel message of Christ, we learn “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).

Just before he died, the apostle Peter provided us specific instructions on how we are to live out our transformed lives: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness… for if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11). (Quote source here.)

Spiritual transformation changes a person from the inside out. I’ll end this post with Paul’s words regarding spiritual transformation found in Romans 12:1-2 (NIV): Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…

His good . . .

Pleasing and . . .

Perfect will . . . .

YouTube Video: “You Raise Me Up” by Selah:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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