How do we experience transformation? The last few months of year signal a time of evaluation. November causes us to look back at our lives in gratitude. December and January invite us to plan how we want to live next year differently. In a moment of reflection, you and I could make the list of changes we would like to see in our lives over the next few months.

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Consider your list of changes or ask someone about their list. Many times those lists include such things as:
I want to lose weight.
I want to pray more.
I want to engage scripture.
I want to spend more time with my spouse and family.
I want to become a better friend.
I want to start a budget.
I want to manage my schedule more efficiently.

True transformation goes beyond our actions and behaviors understand our hearts. When we just deal with behaviors, we deal with the surface and symptoms. Searching our hearts brings us to ask the “why?’ behind our behaviors and to identify the reason the deeper desire to change.

Jesus in Matthew 23:25-26 illustrates this point. He speaks of cleaning a cup. You can clean the outside of a cup, but if the inside could still have filth and stains. When you clean the inside of the cup, you cannot help but thoroughly deal with clean the inside and outside. Dallas Willard in Divine Conspiracy make this comment about Jesus’ parable and transformation:

Actions do not emerge from nothing. They faithfully reveal what is in the heart, and we can know what is in the heart that they depend upon. Indeed, everyone does know. That is a part of what it is to be a mentally competent human being. The heart is not a mystery at the level of ordinary human interactions. We discern one another quite well…

It is the inner life of the soul that we must aim to transform, and then behavior will naturally and easily follow. But not the reverse… (pg. 144)

Jesus calls us to the Gospel in experiencing transformation. The Gospel starts with our hearts. Because of Christ’s redemption, reconciliation, and resurrection, transformation starts with our inner life moving to our behaviors. Understanding the Gospel not only helps recognize our deep motivations but invites the Holy Spirit to change our hearts.

What does this look like? Take, for example, you want to lose weight. Let’s say you successfully deal with your behaviors. You start exercising and dieting. The weight comes off, and your health increases. Soon you start looking at others with mild judgments of what they eat and their lack of exercise. You begin to compare yourself, and you have a level of pride. We can make the right behavior changes without actually experiencing transformation.

On the other hand, your hope to lose weight and you ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart. It might lead to asking about how you have used food as a source of comfort and security. Not exercising might be a result of fearing people watching you. When you recognize the heart issues, you can begin to see how others can support you. In the end, the transformation of your heart affects your behaviors. Then the grace you have experienced changes how you relate to others.

Jesus Christ invites us to experience a full life of transformation. Understanding the Gospel causes His grace to bring transformation starting with our hearts and moving then to our behaviors.

What transformation would you like experience in your life in the next few months? What might heart issues might the Holy Spirit reveal to you, where you can experience Christ’s grace?

Photo credit by Jakub Sejkora.