Our goal is Transformation, not Conformation
Following High School, I left for basic training in the Air Force at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas. One of my responsibilities as a basic airman was that of being a barracks guard of our building which housed about eighty men. Once morning inspection was over, I had little to do until later in the day when the other airmen would return from their activities. In order to keep me busy (and aggravate me!) our sergeant would tear up all the beds and require me to remake the beds in the building. These were all cots which were to be made with such precision and tucked in so tightly that a quarter would literally bounce if dropped on the bed. I learned how to do this speedily and soon was able to finish all eighty beds in several hours time. If we were to fast forward six months from that time, I would be found in a dormitory in Seattle, WA, attending my first year in college. My side of the room was such a disaster that you would have had trouble finding the bed! It was rarely made, with clothes of various sorts all piled on it and, in fact, the whole room was a mess, necessitating a correctional visit from the Dean of Men at the college. Did I know how to make a bed? Most assuredly! Did I see the importance of making one’s bed? Assuredly not! Outside pressure had “conformed” my behavior, but there was no inner “transformation.”
Moving from the secular to the spiritual it is also common to see those who are conforming to spiritual activities and pursuits who have no real transformation. I recently heard of a young man who claimed to be an avid reader of the Bible. He related that he was trying to apply what he read. At age eighteen, however, he decided to stop reading and see if his life was any different without the exposure to the Bible. Not seeing any difference, he concluded that there was no value in his reading further and he abandoned any future interest in spiritual truth. There was outward conformity to a helpful spiritual discipline but without inward transformation. I also recall an elder of our church who years ago agreed to attend Memorize the Word at the insistence of others and completed the course of all seventy-two verses with daily review of his verses. A few weeks later I asked him about his continued review and his reply was “zero.” He said that he had agreed to take the course, but it was over and he had no intention of looking at those verses again! He had “conformed” to the expectations and requests of others; but there was no inward transformation.
Conformation comes from outward pressure and circumstances. Transformation comes from within. Conformation focuses on doing, transformation on being. Conformation has in mind only the conduct; whereas transformation sees character as necessary to the continuation of the conduct. Conformation looks only to the fruit, transformation sees also the root which is required for continued fruit.
How does this transformation occur? We are told in II Corinthians 3:18 that we are to have “unveiled faces.” This means to rid our lives of all pride and pretense. Having done this, we are to “behold” (KJV) or to “contemplate,” or “reflect” the Lord’s glory. As with “unveiled face,” I make my life available to the Scriptures, to other individuals who reflect the Lord’s glory or to the body of Christ (Church) in their reflection of the Lord’s glory, I will be transformed by the Holy Spirit. And what is the result of this transformation? We are told in II Corinthians 3:18 that it is “being transformed into His likeness.” Romans 12:2 also speaks to us about transformation and relates that it comes from a “renewing of your mind.” This renewal comes from the Lord as He states in I Corinthians 2:16, “But we have the mind of Christ.” The degree to which we are transformed is the degree to which Christ is made evident in our lives. Although incomplete this side of Glory, we have the Holy Spirit’s promise that it will be done “with ever increasing glory” (II Corinthians 3:18) and enable us “to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
In Christ, Richard Spann