Spiritual Transformation – 3 Basics for Every Believer

Becoming a follower of Jesus should bring spiritual transformation: we are born from above; we acquire his character; and we imitate his works.

spiritual transformation

Life in Christ is constant transformation. Because we follow an infinite Lord, our possibilities are infinite as well. Becoming a follower of Jesus should bring spiritual transformation: we are born from above; we acquire his character; and we imitate his works. Most believers North America have some grasp on the first, a hope of the second, and almost no concept of the third.

The gospel stories reveal a ragtag group of Jesus-followers beset with infighting and petty pride. Yet as Jesus prepared to leave he charged these struggling men with the impossible:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14: 12-14)

The first disciples demonstrated they were up to the task—not because they had their act together, but because the life of Jesus had been planted in them as an imperishable seed. Spiritual transformation would grow within them in at least three ways.

Spiritual Transformation – 3 Basics for Every Believer

1). The first disciples found themselves transformed by the new birth.

They really were a new creationHeaven’s DNA had altered their very being. Formerly timid, self-absorbed, working- class men threatened the Roman Empire just as their Master had done. If we have the family DNA, where is the family resemblance? So many modern Christians are troubled by their past, troubled by their sin, and troubled by their future. They’ve experienced little or no change. But if the power of God can assure our eternal destiny, shouldn’t it be able to impact our thoughts and actions here and now? That was the record of the early church.

2). The first disciples found themselves transformed in character.

They demonstrated the character of Christ to a degree not possible by their own good intentions or human effort. In our day, we are tempted to think we should “act better” because we are Christians. It’s a trap: we will only “act better” as long as our will power holds up–just ask anyone who has every started a diet! Eventually our mere willpower will fail us even as it failed the disciples the night Jesus was arrested. True character change flows from the new birth the way spring water flows from the source. The transformation of new birth finds its way into our character by the hunger and thirst for the stuff of heaven. A newborn child without hunger or thirst is desperately ill: why should it be any different in our life with Christ?

3). The first disciples found themselves transformed by power for ministry.

The first followers of Jesus were startlingly like Jesus, in thought, word and deed. Ordinary people declared the message of the Kingdom of God (as Jesus had done) and demonstrated the coming of that Kingdom with powerful actions–just as Jesus had done. By the Holy Spirit the first believers discovered a transformation from the impossibilities of the flesh to the possibilities of heaven. What does it mean to do the works of Jesus? How we answer the question reveals our understanding of what it means to live “in Christ.” In his day, Jesus had a high view of his followers. He believed in them more than they believed in themselves. It’s still his day if we will let him have his way.

The first disciples were up to the task. In the intervening centuries the people of God have sometimes lived up to the charge left by our Lord, and sometimes have exchanged heavenly tasks into something attainable by human effort. Every generation must wrestle with the challenge of spiritual transformation Jesus left us. The first disciples were up to the task. The question is whether we are up to the task as well.


This article on spiritual transformation originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

Ray Hollenbach helps pastors and churches navigate change. He's the founder of DEEPER Seminars, weekend leadership retreats focused on discipleship in the local church. His devotional book "Deeper Grace" is available at Amazon.com He currently lives in central Kentucky. He's also the author of of "The Impossible Mentor", a deep dive into the foundations of discipleship.