5 Steps Toward Transformation: Balancing Effort and Openness

5 steps toward transformationI’m not a good person, because…
I’ve made worldly choices that I’ve kept secret. So…
I’ve worked at being a good Christian in order to gain God’s favor. But I wonder…
Have I done enough yet to receive forgiveness?
Can God love me?

If we’re taking selfies of life transformations, this was my before picture. Fortunately I have a more joyful after picture, assured of God’s love.

Do you have similar before-and-after pictures?

How does the before-to-after transformation occur?

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Romans 12:2a NRSV

The last post exposed the world’s blatant and subtle efforts to shape our values. We considered our ability to monitor our mind’s diet because we are what we eat. What we think is who we become.

We often fill our plate with the world and squeeze only a small portion of God at the edge because it’s good for us. We won’t become the person God created us to be on this diet. To grow into our best self, start with a heaping portion of the good stuff so that its juices soak the plate and flavor everything else.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable—if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8 NRSV

Transformation begins by renewing the mind.
But more than the mind is transformed.

Think about these things and transformation begins. The original Greek word is metamorphosis. Think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Its DNA remains, but nothing else is the same.

Likewise, renewal means renovation, a complete change for the better.

Transformation and renewal together transcend minor improvements. This isn’t a kitchen cabinet resurfacing kind of update. It’s demolition down to the studs and rebuilding.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:8-10 NRSV

An entirely new person emerges from transformation.

The transformed person isn’t merely filled with knowledge about God, though transformation begins by studying the Bible and learning about God’s character. Metamorphosis affects every aspect of a person. They no longer crawl and eat leaves but fly through the air and feast on sweet nectar. Imagine the sense of freedom! Everything changes from appearance and behavior to environment and associations.

The newly created person begins to see everything from God’s perspective.

The renewed mind sees the world in a new way. In every Bible story and in the world around them, they observe God’s love for people and begin to love like He loves. God created us for just this purpose – to be His love in the world. And by loving like Jesus, we discover the best version of ourselves.

Transformation requires our effort, but not to earn God’s love as I once thought. We can’t earn His love because He already loves us. Our effort is a response to God’s incredible love expressed in the sacrifice of Jesus. Let’s step back and look at the larger passage from Romans.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2 NRSV

Our work is to die, to set aside our old ways and our former values, to give up our own will in favor of God’s good and perfect will. It’s counter intuitive, but we sacrifice ourselves as an act of worship and emerge as new creations.

You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NRSV

Take these 5 steps for transformation:

  1. think critically about popular culture and actively reject world views that contradict God’s love, generosity, and unity amid diversity
  2. fill your minds with the good things of God
  3. receive His truth with an open heart and mind, willing to accept
  4. allow the Holy Spirit to teach you to think and behave like Jesus, holy and pleasing to God
  5. align your desires to God’s good, acceptable and perfect will for His creation

Then day by day through God’s mercy, our character will be transformed into His likeness as we become less and less conformed to this world. The old self will die and the new creation will rise with Jesus.

I was transformed by studying and discussing the Bible in a small groups. I recognized the truth of God’s word which included the truth of His love and forgiveness for me. I finally believed myself worthy and received God’s love. I rose to life as a new creation and fly as free as a butterfly, offering myself for His purposes.

Transformation is an ongoing process. Our behavior under pressure is a measure of our transformation from the old self to the new self. Transformation isn’t drudgery! There’s joy in the progress.

#SeedsofScripture #scripturestudy #readthebiblebetter #lovelikejesus #apostlepaul #betransformed #betransformedbytherenewingofyourmind#godstruth #godswillnotmine #obediencetoGod #godsloveforus #newcreationinchrist


  1. J.D> Wininger on August 31, 2023 at 7:00 AM

    All great points Ms. Cathy. For, although fully saved in 1975, I was not freed of myself until some 21 years later. While Christ’s sacrifice and His salvation by grace through faith was complete, I could not fully accept it or allow it to do its transformational work until I let go of everything I help onto so tightly. For me, my pride was the largest stumbling block. I believed I could, through strength of sheer willpower, live a righteous life. What I could not bring myself to consider is, “I can never meet God’s righteous standard as long as I fool myself into believing that I’m in control.” When that mindset changed, because of a heart reset, God could begin completing His work. Far from being done, He will continue helping me to grow closer to Him with each day I make that conscious decision to surrender to His will. Great post sweet sister.

    • CathyChung on September 1, 2023 at 12:51 PM

      I’m with you J.D. I believed long before I accepted His saving grace and forgiveness. I thought I had to make recompense for my actions but He’d already forgiven me. FINALLY, I accepted that I’m incapable of cleaning up my mess and accepted His love. What freedom!!!! Humility, admitting I’m not in control….. All of it.

  2. Connie Wohlford on August 31, 2023 at 7:21 AM

    Herein is excellent, practical advice for anyone who wants to follow Jesus and grow in faith.
    Thanks, Cathy, for this valuable post.

    • CathyChung on September 1, 2023 at 12:47 PM

      Thanks Connie. There is so much more to transformation but these are good initial steps. Thanks for engaging.

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