“We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
WHEN WE OBEY THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST, GOD’S FORGIVENESS OPENS THE DOOR TO OUR TRANSFORMATION. Not only does God want to forgive us of our sins; He wants to repair sin’s damage and rebuild our character, transforming us into creatures who can enjoy a perfect relationship with Him in eternity. The great importance of forgiveness is that it leads to this transformation. Our being molded, shaped, and conformed to God’s character is the main goal of all that He has done (and is doing) in Jesus Christ.
A gradual process. When we are baptized into Christ, we rejoice in the forgiveness of God — but we dare not underestimate the work that remains to be done. The sins of our past, which God has now forgiven, were produced by character traits that must be gotten rid of. These must be replaced by the virtues of God’s character (2 Peter 1:3–11) or else we will continue to live as we used to live. Such a drastic rebuilding of our character does not happen overnight. It takes time. But while there is a need for patience, we also need to be diligent. Our transformation will not take place automatically, by divine decree. We have to embrace the process actively and wholeheartedly, submitting to God’s training for however long it takes.
A painful process. Most kinds of growth in this world require discipline, and we should not expect our spiritual growth to be any different. When we need chastening, that is exactly what God will provide. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10,11).
A glorious process. The gradual, and often painful, process of being transformed into godly creatures is one that we submit to because of its goal: we are on our way to becoming the sons and daughters of God, in the very highest sense. He created us in the first place, and through the gospel He is now re-creating us in the glorious image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Only God could do this, and if we persevere, one day we will see His face (Revelation 22:4). Sin will have been destroyed, and we will have forever to rejoice.
“Thus we enter through our heart into the heart of God, who embraces all of history with his eternally creative and recreative love” (Henri J. M. Nouwen).