This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (II Corinthians 5:17, NLT)
Several years ago, one of my Sunday school students had it all backwards. Before she began attending church with her parents, she had become involve in some things she knew were wrong. Bad habits and past actions weighed her down. I truly believe she wanted to serve God but, in her mind, she felt she needed to straighten out all her problems before she would be “good enough” to be saved. Somehow, I just never got her to understand that it was her job to submit and God’s job to transform. If she handed it over to the Lord, He would straighten out the tangled mess of her life.
What is transformation? Dictionary.com defines it as a “change in form, appearance, nature, or character.” According to II Corinthians 5:17, when we come to the Lord, we become “a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (KJV). Our old nature and character disappear. We take on God’s nature and character. This means we act different, talk different, and think different. We hold different values, different desires, and different goals. When being filled with God’s Spirit causes this transformation, others notice.
I became friends with a waitress at a restaurant I frequented and often invited her to attend church with me. Although she respected my Christian walk, she only knew the transformed me. Then a friend of hers became a new creature in Christ. She knew how he had once lived, and she saw an amazing change in his life. Seeing his complete transformation made a greater impact on her than just hearing my words. She knew how he once lived, and that person no longer existed.
Romans 12:2 in the New Living Translation describes God’s transforming power this way:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
The above words were written by the apostle Paul, a man who experienced one of the greatest transformations recorded in the Bible. The “old Paul” in his own words “was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (I Timothy 1:13}. We know he consented to the murder of Stephen (Acts 8) and did all he could to destroy the early church. Had we met Saul, the zealous persecutor, we would have had difficulty in picturing his transformation into Paul, the missionary evangelist. He was a new man with a new name.
Sometimes we label a person as too sinful to be saved. But God can reach into the lowest depths to pull them up, fill them with His Spirit, and make them into a new creation. The most depraved sinner can repent, be baptized in the lovely name of Jesus, and be filled with God’s Spirit. He delights in such transformations.
Is your past life is holding you back from serving the Lord? Be assured, God is still in the business of transforming lives. We need never fear not being “good enough” for God to save us. Unlike what my Sunday school student believed, you don’t have to “fix yourself” before coming to Him for salvation. Allow the Lord to transform you into a completely new creation in Him.