Last Sunday we began a new series titled “Sacred Rhythms,” inspired by Ruth Haley Barton’s book of the same title and my own personal experience with the spiritual formation program at the Transforming Center. This week we will share brief reflections from Ruth and the Transforming Center on the biblical and theological foundations of spiritual transformation. These reflections are available at www.transformingcenter.org. For a deeper look into this topic, I recommend the Transforming Center’s short study guide titled, “Spiritual Transformation: A Biblical and Theological Perspective.” I hope you enjoy these reflections! – Alex
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” – John 16:12-13a
Spiritual transformation is something of a paradox in that it is quite natural for Christ followers to grow and to change just as it is natural for human beings to grow from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood. The seed of the Christ life (“everything we need for life and godliness”) is planted within us at salvation and if the conditions are right, that seed will grow and flourish. However, the process of transformation is also supernatural in that it is something only God can accomplish in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity has been given as our advocate, teacher and counselor to lead us into truth as we are able to bear it (John 15 and 16) and to communicate the depths of God. (I Corinthians 2:9-16) We can find ways to open to this process of transformation as it is guided by the Spirit, but we cannot control it or make it happen ourselves. The wind of the Spirit blows where it will. (John 3:8)
Paul alludes to the paradox of the natural and the supernatural by using two metaphors. The first is the process by which an embryo is formed in its mother’s womb: I am in labor until Christ be formed (morphoo) in you. Even though human beings have their part to play in conceiving and giving birth to children–and even though we think we understand certain facts about it–there is something that remains a mystery. No matter how much we think we understand it, the process of conception and birth is always a miracle. It is something God does. Every single time.
It is the same with the process of metamorphosis, to which Paul refers in Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewing of your mind. The Greek work metamorphoo refers to the process by which a caterpillar enters into the darkness of the cocoon in order to emerge, eventually, changed almost beyond recognition. Through the process of metamorphosis, the caterpillar transcends its previous existence to take on a completely different form with a completely different set of capacities. The caterpillar’s transformation seems to have little to do with cognitive understanding about the process of metamorphosis; something more primal and God-ordained is at work.