Change is a transformative process that involves replacing the old with the new. And the transformation we experience as Christ-followers where our hearts and minds become more like Christ’s – the sanctification process – is no different.

As humans, we have all inherited a sinful nature when our ancestors Adam and Eve made the decision to disobey God in the garden of Eden. And it is this sinful nature that creates a separation between us and our heavenly Father, cutting us off from the source of life himself. Thankfully, however, it is through Jesus that this separation can be bridged if we so choose to deny ourselves and accept him as our Lord and Savior.

Now, if you are a Christian, you should already know about the above details. However, if a Christian is to understand what our transformation in Christ consists of, we first must know why we need it in the first place. And the reason why we need it is that we are beings who have fallen, and who need the Son to bring us back to the Father so we can become restored in our nature and in our relationship with God.

So, really, the process of becoming more like Christ is a restoration process that involves the renewal of our minds and hearts and everything that extends from those things such as our desires, interests, behaviors, etc., while also being a process that restores our position in God’s family as his children. However, it is important to note that although the restoration process is a very good thing, it is not an easy process for it does come with hurdles, setbacks, and some hurt along the way. And, why is this the case? Well, because we still have our old nature, the fallen nature, grasping onto dear life and waging war with our mind and the Holy Spirit: the Spirit who dwells in us and whose job it is to change us from the inside out to be more like Jesus – if, of course, we are willing to cooperate with him by trusting in him rather than ourselves.

The difficulty that comes with our old, fallen nature clashing with the Holy Spirit – the great counselor – kind of reminds me of the relationship between a parent and a young child or a teacher and a defiant student. The child or defiant student being very naive, selfish, and thinking they know everything will usually resist much of what the parent or teacher tries to teach them, even when the parent or teacher reassures their pupil that they care for them and only want what’s best for them. Eventually, however, as time goes on the child or student usually becomes more receptive to these teaching authorities in their life as they grow to trust these authorities in their lives. This is why more mature Christians are more mature: they have grown to trust the Spirit more and, therefore, are more cooperative to open themselves up to the Spirit’s work in their lives.

This leads me to believe that the transformation process involves a lot of struggle (just like many things in life). It is a struggle or a battle between two opposing natures that is ongoing and will last until we return home to Heaven. With that said, it is a battle worth engaging in, and the best way and really the only way to fight it is to deny ourselves and trust the Spirit to do the fighting for us. (Remember, God doesn’t force us to do anything. It is out of his love that he gives us the freedom of choice to obey and follow him. This includes giving us the freedom to choose to surrender ourselves and to listen to the Holy Spirit.)

This is interesting because there’s a pattern here since to first accept Jesus we need to deny ourselves, and then to cooperate with the sanctification process to become more like Jesus we need to also deny ourselves, again and again, every day, by recognizing that the Christian life is lived by grace from start to … eternity. This tells me that the process of becoming more like Jesus requires an element of repeat surrender and trust because unless we continue to surrender ourselves to Jesus and trust him to live through us by the Holy Spirit, which becomes easier the more we know him, we will continue to live in the flesh (our sinful nature) and never enjoy or produce the fruit of the Spirit that is a description of how God wants to restores us to how he always intended us to be.

Furthermore, It’s also important to remind ourselves that to become a Christian and then live the Christian life not only causes much friction with our old nature, which hates humbling itself, but also causes friction with society, for society’s standard to achieve success in life will never be to deny and surrender yourself to anyone, let alone to deny and surrender yourself to God. (Isn’t it interesting how society is very similar to our old nature? I think it’s accurate to say that both our old nature and society are reflections of each other.)

Moreover, thinking of God’s way clashing with the way of the world reminds me of when Christians call God’s way the upside-down kingdom because everything God tells us to do usually seems backward from what the world tells us to do. However, if you adjust your orientation to a heavenly perspective (a practice we should always be doing), you’ll see that because God’s way is the right way, then the world’s way is the actual upside-down kingdom and that God’s way is the true right-side-up kingdom.

It’s amazing how we see things when we adjust our perspective to a heavenly lens.

So, the question is who are you going to listen to? The God of the universe who knows everything and who wants what’s best for you or your flawed self and/or the distraction-filled world that runs opposite to God? This question deserves to be pondered.

If there’s one thing to take away from this text, it is this: the process of becoming more like Jesus is a continual struggle. It’s a long hard-fought journey filled with battles as it involves seeing God take something that is old and ugly and turn it into something new and beautiful while having forces (our old nature and the world) try to interfere with the process. However, it can become less of a struggle if our trust in God grows and our trust in ourselves diminishes. And to allow our trust in God to grow we first, through humility, must come to understand that we need him in our lives to change us to be more like Jesus, followed by then surrendering ourselves repeatedly to his Spirit so we can be changed from the inside out.

And, yes, I did call our old nature ugly because that’s what happens to something when it is infected with sin. But, remember, God never intended us to be sinful; rather, he has destined us to become totally free from sin, be restored to the image of the Messiah, and be eternal heirs in his kingdom as his beloved Spirit-directed children.

Therefore, stay on the journey’s path of being continually transformed into the likeness of Christ, no matter how uncomfortable it gets, because your heavenly Father is turning you into a beautiful masterpiece – and trust me, even if you kick and scream like a defiant child, he still loves you.

You just have to trust him by yielding to the Spirit and obeying what he tells you, trusting that the Holy Spirit is giving you everything you need to fulfill God the Father’s destiny in your life, because that is really the only and right-side-up way to do it.

Photo Credit: Nandhu Kumar