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The first thing I think of when I hear the word "transformation" is
the sudden, radical change that happened in Saul of Tarsus' life when he
met the Risen Lord on the Road to Damascus. Perhaps it is the stark contrast
resulting from the encounter or maybe it is the relatively short time the
change took that grabs my attention, I'm not sure. But one thing I'm sure
of, not all transformations are like that.
Some are slow, tedious and gradual. Sometimes they are so slow, the
contrast is camouflaged by the repetitive tick of the clock. Have you ever
seen time-lapsed photography of a seed's germination process? With the
clock sped up, the roots extend, the small shoot emerges and a plant begins
to grow. But who would have the patience to watch the process without the
benefit of time lapse photography? The change is so gradual it will go
unnoticed to the naked eye.
But even when the change happens instantaneously, there is a process
involved. We often don't notice the process and only focus on "the moment
of change." It is all a matter of perspective. If you take a pencil and
hold it in front of your face, with the eraser on the left and the lead
to the right, you will see an object, about seven inches in length. But
you can rotate the pencil 90 degrees until all you can see is the eraser.
So, is the pencil a yellow object seven inches in length or is it a pink
object, about a quarter of an inch in diameter? From one perspective, it
appears as a pink object a quarter of an inch in diameter, but when it
is rotated to give a third dimension, it is easy to see that it is a yellow
object about seven inches in length.
Is the perceptive that Salvation is only a point in time inadequate?
Was Saul's salvation instantaneous? Well, yes. The encounter on the Road
to Damascus was a defining moment. But before you miss the pencil for the
eraser, consider the Lord's words to Ananias in Acts 9:15. "Go! This man
is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their
kings and before the people of Israel. (NIV)
What time frame does the phrase "chosen instrument" suggest? Did God's
act of "choosing" and the blinding light happen at the same time? The Apostle
Paul didn't view it that way. In Ephesians 1:4, he wrote, "According as
he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should
be holy and without blame before him in love." (NIV)
Before God created the world, He looked through eternity into time and
chose Saul of Tarsus to become a witness to the Gentiles, and their kings
and the people of Israel. There is a sense in which Saul's transformation
began before he was even born. It began in the heart of God in eternity.
But another pertinent question is, did Saul's transformation end on
the Road to Damascus? Or did it continue the rest of his life?
Saul followed the Lord's instructions and went to see Ananias and Ananias
followed the Lord's instructions and met with Saul. Both actions were an
exercise of faith. Saul blindly following the word of the Lord, literally.
And Ananias following the word of the Lord with his eyes wide open.
I'm not sure which is harder.
Imagine how you would react if the Lord asked you to go and speak to
someone who had a reputation for killing Christians? Would you be excited
about that visitation assignment?
I'm not sure how excited he was, but Ananias was obedient.
"Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on
Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the
road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and
be filled with the Holy Spirit.'  Immediately, something like scales
fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several
days with the disciples in Damascus." (Acts 9:17-19 NIV)
After meeting with Ananias, Saul was baptized. That act was an act of
obedience, but it was also the way Saul entered into the church. And in
doing so, he was submitting his soul to the care of the disciples, who
spent several days with Saul, teaching him the ways of the Lord.
So in a sense, Saul was saved, Saul is saved, and Saul will be saved.
Transformation has past, present and future ramifications.
Theologians often explain the three tenses of salvation with the words
justified, sanctified and glorified. They use the word "justification"
to explain "the point in time" someone is saved, "sanctification" as the
process of growing in the Christian faith, and "glorification" to describe
the future state of the believer as they enter into the presence of God
Another way to put this process is to say that in "justification" we
are freed from the penalty of sin, in "sanctification" we are freed from
the power of sin and in "glorification" we are freed from the presence
These are helpful distinctions, and make for a neat theological package,
but they do not fully explain the three tenses of transformation as the
Apostle Paul saw them. Did you know that in the Book of Romans, Paul uses
the word "justify" to refer to all three tenses of Salvation?
In Romans 8:30, justification is something that occurred in the past.
He wrote, "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and
whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he
also glorified." (KJV) Also notice that glorification, a word we use theologically
in the future tense is also in the past tense in this text.
Paul used justification in the present tense in Romans 5:1 when he wrote,
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ." (KJV) and in Romans 3:24 when he wrote: " Being justified
freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (KJV)
But Paul didn't limit justification to what happens in the past and
present tense, he also saw it as something God does in the future. In Romans
3:30, Paul wrote, "Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision
by faith, and uncircumcision through faith."
How can that be? How can transformation be rooted in the past, active
in the present and secure in the future?
I like the way Frances Havergal, the rector at St Nicholas, in Worcester
put it in his 19th Century hymn, "Like a River Glorious." He
wrote, "Perfect, yet if floweth fuller every day; Perfect, yet it groweth
deeper all the way."
I have a feeling the Apostle Paul would approve of Havergal's theology.
At the "point in time" of our conversion, we are perfectly transformed,
yet every day our faith and our transformation is fuller and grows deeper.
Like every relationship, our relationship with the Lord grows as we
walk with him. And we become more like he wants us to be.
Not only is transformation a process once it begins, sometimes the beginning
point is a process. At least it was for Roy.
Roy regularly attended church as a child, but was raised in a bazaar,
legalistic church family. At church, his dad was a pillar, active in the
church and even served as a deacon, but at home he was an abusive monster.
As soon as he could, Roy bolted from the church and wanted nothing to
do with it. He was a crude, rude man who looked out for number one. He
didn't pretend to be one thing at church, while he was something else at
home, he didn't pretend at all. Roy was a scoundrel and a cheat, and he
didn't care who knew it.
When he turned 60, Roy started coming to church again. He'd walk in
late, sit on the back row and listen for a while, but would always leave
before the service ended. Bro. Scott would try to witness to Roy, but he
wouldn't have anything to do with the gospel or those hypocrites down at
But he kept coming to church. Listening and watching, but mostly watching
the people. Within a couple of years, God got a hold of him, and changed
Roy's life. "The people loved him to Christ." Bro. Scott said, "today he
is a sweet loving man."
(Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Roy's transformation took sixty years. It doesn't always happen in
an instant, sometimes it takes time.