What happened to Christian transformation? You know – becoming more Christ-like? It used to be important. But now, does it mean anything more than switching to a church that we like better? One that supports our view of God, the way we created Him? That’s as opposed to a church that teaches and helps us to become more like Jesus. The Jesus Christ who’s the namesake of Christianity.
Before we get started.
I know this isn’t going to be popular with some readers. Some will think I’m writing this because of some deep conspiracy related to the current president. But it’s not. It’s not specific to President Trump either. I’ve written similar things before about Democratic politicians. Any regular reader knows that I think we need to be extremely careful about mixing politics and Christianity. After all, Jesus didn’t.
My concern here is really about the souls of any Christian who gets so deeply into political issues, mixes them with Christianity, and comes up with something that doesn’t line up with what Jesus said in response to the question about the greatest commandment. Hopefully you remember that passage.
22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31
Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So as you read this, please keep that in mind. I write out of love. Out of concern for anyone who gets so involved in politics that we lost track of how Jesus answered that question.
Maybe my concern comes out of the fact that I used to do exactly that myself. It was a shocking realization. It happens without our even recognizing what’s going on. We pull out verses related to one or two of our favorite political issues. Then we make them into our Greatest Commandments. But they weren’t the one Jesus gave. This begs a question. How can we ever grow in our faith, undergo that Christian transformation process, when we don’t even follow some of the basics of what Jesus taught?
When we lose track of love as being most important, we lose track of God. That’s not a good thing. You can check out what I mean by reading about the Letter Jesus sent to the loveless church in Ephesus, from the book of Revelation.
What is Christian transformation really about?
Just to be sure we’re all on the same page, I need to say something about what Christian transformation is / should be about. From a Christian point of view. Not from a personal, I feel like it’s this, point of view.
When I searched for an image to go with this topic, I just looked for “transformation”. There were a lot that had to do with change. But change could be something like a u-turn. Even switching from doing something to doing nothing is a change. So it seemed the common thoughts on transformation don’t line up with the concept of Christian transformation.
Christian transformation is very much about next steps. Moving along a path. The narrow path Jesus spoke of. Or at worst, returning to that narrow path when we stray from it. And so, I think it’s necessary to say something about Christian transformation. Let’s begin with something Paul wrote in Romans on the topic of being transformed by God, as opposed to being transformed by the world at large.
Ro 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Ro 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
There are so many things in this passage that I could compare and contrast with our current President. But let’s stick with verse 2.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
That’s what Christian transformation should look like, as opposed to us transforming Christ to look like us.
Let’s take a look at what’s happening here.
Ver. 2 And do not grow conformed to this world, this æon (αἰών), the course and state of things in this scene of sin and death; do not play “the worldling,” assuming a guise (σχῆμα) which in itself is fleeting, and which for you, members of Christ, must also be hollow; but grow transfigured, living out a lasting and genuine change of tone and conduct, in which the figure (μορφὴ) is only the congenial expression of the essence—by the renewal of your mind, by using as an implement in the holy process that divine light which has cleared your intelligence of the mists of self-love, and taught you to see as with new eyes “the splendour of the will of God”; so as that you test, discerning as by a spiritual touchstone, what is the will of God, the good, and acceptable, and perfect (will). Moule, H. (1975). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 327). Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade.
As all Christians should be aware, things of this world, this life, are temporary. As the saying goes, we cannot take them with us. However, one critically important thing from life in this world is whether or not we love Jesus. After all, in the next life we will get, in a way, what we long for in this world. If we don’t want anything to do with God, that’s what we’ll get. If we do want Him, that’s what we’ll get. Please see Our story will end well. (If we really want it to.) for more on that thought.
Assuming we truly are Christian, that we love Jesus, that we accept Him as our Lord and Savior (note the word Lord), we will be transformed into Jesus’ likeness. We will become more Christ-like. Christian transformation. That’s what Paul was writing about in Romans.
For a more complete picture of what that means, let’s turn to another letter from Paul, this time to the Colossian church.
Col 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Col 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Col 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
For a detailed look into the passage, I invite you to check out Christians – What are you wearing? Your Sunday best? Hint – it’s not really about clothing.
What else should we know about Christian Transformation?
Earlier, we looked at the beginning of Romans 12. Specifically, we examined part about be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The Greek word we read as “transformed” is used only three other times in the Bible. It very informative to read them. I won’t include the entire passage, just enough of the verses where the word is used to see who is being transformed. That’s enough to make the point.
Mt 17:1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
In this case, the Greek word is translated as “transfigured”. And the one being transfigured in Jesus.
Mk 9:2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Yes, it’s the same incident, this time as recorded by Mark.
2Co 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
So we see there’s a reason why the Greek word is translated as transfigured when the subject is Jesus, but only transformed when the subject is us. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory. We are but a pale reflection of the glory of God. However, as we grow in our faith, we are continually transformed, becoming ever more Christ-like. True, we won’t become totally like Jesus. But we will / should get closer as we continue to walk in faith.
If we don’t, if we fail to be transformed, it’s a sign that we aren’t reflecting God’s glory. And that, for a Christian, is an issue to be dealt with. We must question whether we’re truly Christian, or if we just want to be called Christian while we continue to live an unChristian life.
But for today, let’s look at Trump, his change of religion, and whether what he’s “wearing” indicates any kind of Christian transformation. We’ll go back to the CT article for that analysis.
Trump told Religion News Service last week in a written interview mediated by spiritual advisor Paula White-Cain that he doesn’t consider himself to be Presbyterian. He was confirmed in the church and has called himself Presbyterian numerous times over the years. But no more.
“I now consider myself to be a non-denominational Christian,” Trump said in the statement. “Melania and I have gotten to visit some amazing churches and meet with great faith leaders from around the world. During the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, I tuned into several virtual church services and know that millions of Americans did the same.”
First off, note: has called himself Presbyterian numerous times over the years. The problem with that, as I’ve often written and as we should all know, there can be a huge difference between claiming to be Christian versus truly being a follower of Christ. We need go no further than when Jesus healed the ten lepers to realize that. Please see Grown-again Christian for a deeper look at the concept.
Lk 17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
Lk 17:14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
Lk 17:15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Lk 17:17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus healed ten people. Only one gave credit to God. Ten people claimed to know that Jesus had the ability to heal them. And He did. But of the ten, only one had his soul saved. Today’s equivalent of ten so-called Christian – but only one true Christian who acknowledged Jesus. It’s a way of showing that only one of the ten went through a Christian Transformation.
For a more direct statement, check out the sheep and the goats. (Not the Greatest Of All Time)
Mt 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Mt 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
Mt 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Mt 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
Mt 25:44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
Mt 25:45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Mt 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Please check out Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God? for a detailed description of that passage.
Here’s the thing though. Is there evidence of a Christian transformation in what Trump says or does? Or is there evidence of something else when he says, he know(s)that millions of Americans did the same? My fear, and belief, is that this conversion of faith isn’t a transformation. Rather, it’s yet another instance of Trump using Christians to gain votes.
Whose Gospel does Trump follow?
Ues, I really am asking whose Gospel Trump follows. It’s a legitimate question. One that was even brought up by Paul in the early church! Check out the passage below.
1Co 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas’”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Yes – Christians should, must, follow the Gospel of Jesus as recorded in the Bible. If not, we aren’t truly following Jesus! Here’s a bit about who Trump follows.
Since moving to the White House, however, he has visited many different churches, mostly evangelical and Pentecostal. He has met with numerous ministers, been prayed over, and sought the advice of spiritual counselors like White-Cain, a Florida televangelist often associated with the prosperity gospel, who took a position as the Trump administration’s faith outreach coordinator last year. City of Destiny, the church White-Cain founded in Florida, is nondenominational.
In spite of what some people believe, the prosperity “gospel” isn’t what Jesus taught. It’s a mixture of Old and New Testament thoughts. Given that it’s part Old Covenant and part New Covenant, it ends up actually being neither covenant. It’s not for us to modify any covenant that God put forward for us. After all, He’s God. We aren’t.
When we try to merge the two covenants into one, no Christian Transformation is possible. That’s because Christi Himself isn’t correctly shown in that resultant third covenant we created. A covenant not from God. Nor approved by God.
Ultimately, I feel the very real likelihood that Trump isn’t truly a Christian must be brought up and considered. Why? Because we look to him, or honestly to any politician, as the source of our Christian foundational beliefs, we aren’t truly Christian either. You hopefully remember, Paul wrote about that scenario as well. It’s in a section in the NIV with a slightly different name than the one we just read.
It’s a bit long, but please bear with me and check it out.
1Co 3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
This is just two chapters after what we read a moment ago. Pauls’ back to the topic of following different people and having disagreements because of that. He says they are like children in their faith.
1Co 3:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Now Paul describes things using a planting analogy. But he’ll bring back the building in the next verses.
1Co 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
The true foundation is none other than Jesus. When we build on something else, for instance the prosperity gospel, we are not laying a foundation based on Jesus.
12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Further, when we build with anything other than what Jesus taught, we are building with wood, hay or straw. Things that will be destroyed by God. And while we may still be saved, what about those who followed the teachings built with wood, hay or straw? How can they truly follow Jesus, when they don’t know Him?
1Co 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
This part is scary. When we build with wood, hay or straw, aren’t we in essence destroying God’s temple? Won’t we therefore be destroyed as well? At least the men Paul wrote about were teaching the essence of what Jesus taught. There were differences, but not about the important things, like Jesus dying on the cross for our salvation.
But when we get too far astray, will we even be saved? Or will we fail to escape the fire? And where does Trump fit in with all this? I think we need to pay close attention to that. Because if we base our lives on his interpretation of Christianity, if we claim to be doing God’s will be following Trump, are we building something that will survive the fire? I fear not.
1Co 3:18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
We must pay careful attention, so that we aren’t deceived. If we truly want to undergo a Christian transformation, we must pay attention. We must follow Jesus’ teachings. And we cannot do that if we’re deceived.
Speaking of not being deceived …
Speaking of not being deceived, let’s look at one more excerpt from the article.
Most Americans don’t think Trump has strong religious beliefs, according to the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute poll. Roughly 40 percent say the president “is mostly using religion for political purposes.” White evangelicals who vote Republican see things differently: Fifty-nine percent say Trump has strong religious beliefs.
In some ways, Trump’s decision to disassociate with a mainline denomination is also part of a larger cultural trend. Many Americans have done the same. In 1975, nearly a third of Americans identified with a mainline denomination. Today, that has dropped to a little more than 10 percent.
Once again, the question must arise. Is Trump switching to a non-denominational church because of a faith-changing event? Or is it merely because lots of other people, and especially Evangelical Christian voters have already done so?
I know. It’s a cynical view. And yet, it also appears to be a realistic view.
Conclusion – What happened to Christian transformation – becoming more Christ-like?
Ultimately, I think we need to look at why we do the things we do. Are they to bring glory to God? Or to a person? Are we being a good witness for Jesus? Or are we acting in a manner that’s not in line with His teaching? And by the way, the character of the person we support is important, because people do look things like that.
As I Christian, I look at it, and quite honestly, I cannot understand why Christians have such strong support for Trump. I know, abortion is a key issue. And yet, I have to ask a few questions about that as the single most important thing when we vote.
Do Christians believe that God can’t save the soul of that aborted child? He can! But then, what about the child who’s born to a mother that can’t handle it? Do Christians help with that child? For the most part, no! Do Christians help support the mother, after the child is born? Again, for the most part, no! Do Christians care about the souls of the child and the mother? Once more, it appears that for the most part the answer is no!
Tell me, as Jesus’ representatives on earth, are we following His teachings, His wishes, when we only care about the legal issues? Or should we instead be more concerned with the souls of the people involved? After all, Jesus will, and does, forgive the mothers who have an abortion, if they ask. Jesus will forgive the mothers who have a baby they cannot support, if they ask. But do we, as Christians forgive?
Are we not taking things that should belong to God and giving them to Caesar? Worse yet, aren’t we then saying, well done good and faithful servant? But all we’ve really done is, well, nothing. We saved no one’s soul. The truth is, we haven’t even prevented the abortion, since Jesus tells us very clearly that the act of thinking about it is just as bad as doing it.
So yes – we may very well prevent some abortions by voting for Trump. But have we saved any souls if those involved come to hate us? I urge you to check out How do I justify Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ stance on abortion? for more on that thought, including an alternative to voting in laws that does match how Jesus instructs us to behave. BTW, I don’t justify the Democratic approach. However, I do believe it leaves us the opportunity to act in a Christian manner, rather than just turn the matter of people’s souls over to the government.
Have we really turned people into Christians by passing laws? Or have we turned them away, and in so doing condemned their souls to Hell? And all the while, we ignore the fact that Jesus told His disciples, including is, that if people don’t want to hear His message, we just walk away.
All of this makes me concerned about the souls of the prospective mothers, the souls of the babied who are actually born, as well as the souls of those who turn people away from Christianity by being so unlike Christ is our actions.
Please, Please, pray about the passage below.
18:1-5 pp — Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48
Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Mt 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Mt 18:7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
|↑1||Moule, H. (1975). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 327). Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade.|