I. THE DEFINITION OF TRANSFORMATION
A. Not Merely a Perceptible Change Outwardly in Behavior
Our transformation in the life of God is not merely a perceptible change outwardly in behavior. After a person is saved, he might think that he was a mess as a non-Christian, but now that he is going to church and is also carrying a Bible, he should change his behavior. Many Christians change their behavior this way, and their relatives praise them, saying, “It is good to be a Christian. See, my child has changed since he believed in Jesus.” The fact is that inwardly he has not changed; he has changed only outwardly. If after you believe in the Lord Jesus there is a change only in your outward condition, then this change is merely an outward, perceived change in behavior. This is not to be saved in God’s life. I lived in China when I was young, and I observed many disciples of Confucius. Sometimes their improvement in behavior was quite remarkable. What is the difference between the behavioral improvement of Confucius’ disciples and the transformation of Jesus’ believers? When I was young, I heard some missionaries, who were not clear concerning the truth, say that the teachings of the Bible are exactly the same as the teachings of Confucius. They did not realize that what the teachings of Confucius produced, at most, was an improvement in behavior and not a transformation.
B. Being a Metabolic Transformation Inwardly in Essence
Transformation is not merely a noticeable change outwardly in behavior; rather, it is a metabolic transformation inwardly in essence. Second Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image…even as from the Lord Spirit.” In this verse, the word changed is not used. In the New Testament the word transformed is used twice. It occurs once in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and another time in Romans 12:2. This term denotes an inward, metabolic change and not an outward change.
What is the difference between change and transformation? We may use the example of a person who has been ill and looks thin and pale. Because of this she puts cosmetics on her face to try to improve her appearance. After applying some powder and lipstick, she has some color and looks nice. This is not transformation but is altogether an outward change. It is just like a Chinese opera singer who may turn his face into a white face, a black face, or a red face. However, whether white, black, or red, it is not transformation; it is a performance. For a person to be transformed means that after he is sick, he nourishes himself properly; then after two months when people see him, they will say that he has good color and looks nice. That kind of healthy look is not something added outwardly. It is a manifestation of an inward physical metabolic transformation in essence.
II. THE STEPS OF TRANSFORMATION
God wants us to be transformed, but we cannot transform ourselves. There are steps in transformation. If we follow these steps, we will be transformed.
A. Washing—the Washing of Regeneration
The first step of transformation is that God has washed us, but this washing is not an outward washing by water. This washing is the washing of regeneration referred to in Titus 3:5. When we receive God into us as our life and we are thus regenerated, that is a great washing. At the time of our regeneration, we repented, condemned ourselves, and confessed our sins. Moreover, we confessed that we were sinners who deserve to die and that we were indeed dead and ought to be buried. Therefore, we needed to be baptized in water to declare that we died and have been buried. This is the reason that after we have believed, we must be baptized. To be baptized is to be buried; our old man, our dirty man, our dead man, needs to be buried. This burial is a big washing that buries our old man and our old history in the tomb.
We have been saved and also baptized into the Lord. We have been regenerated, and now we have God in us. Our old man was also buried through baptism. The Lord Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). To be born of water is to confess that we are sinners who are condemned, who suffered the penalty of death, and who are buried. Therefore, we now let the baptizing one bury our old man in baptism. Thus, regeneration is a washing. This matter is clearly mentioned in Romans 6.
(God's Salvation in Life, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)