May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Every summer, millions of people try to achieve the perfect suntan. No one wants a sun burn. Those hurt. But there is a certain “science” to tanning. Obviously, one first puts on some protection in the form of sunscreen. And then one makes a deliberate effort to be in the sun, and to make sure that each part of their body gets the same amount of sun. This doesn’t usually happen in a day. People who go spend a week at the beach will eventually experience a “transformation” of the color of their skin. If you take a picture of the person who is tanning every half hour or hour, you won’t really notice much of a difference. Take a picture once per day and you’ll notice slight difference. Take a picture at the beginning of the week and at the end and you’ll see two different people. Remember again, that the process of getting a tan is gradual. No one “transforms” instantly. Transformation in anything is a process.
The goal of the Christian life is to attain salvation, to be given entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. The work of the Christian life is for one to become more and more Christ-like so that at the end of life, one is ready to meet Christ and to live in His Kingdom. Those who do not know Christ or who live lives that are not Christ-like are not going to be allowed into the Kingdom.
Becoming Christ like is a transformative process, just like getting a sun tan. In fact, if one needs to spend time in the sun to get a tan, one needs to spend time with the Son (of God) in order to become more like Him. Remember that in the process of getting a sun tan, it’s not just as simple as getting in the sun. One has to use sunscreen for protection. One has to turn over on a regular basis. It isn’t just about laying out, there actually is some “action”, some active participation to it.
In the Christian life, one first must have a desire to know Christ, to spend time with Him, to be with Him. This happens through prayer, Scripture reading, worship and in other ways. One also has to have a heart that is open to being transformed. For instance, if I go out in the sun but am covered from head to toe with clothes, I will never get a tan no matter how long I stand in the sun. Likewise, if I go to stand with the Son but I have a heart that is covered in sin and darkness, if I cover over my heart with things that make it hard, my heart will never be softened so that it can be transformed.
I recently had a conversation with someone who told me how over the years they have been transformed by the Divine Liturgy. They don’t see major strides each time they go to church but over years they have felt closer to God, they have become transformed because of their experience in Liturgy. When I asked why this person has been transformed by the Liturgy and others go for years and do not experience the same thing, the person said to me “I WANT to be transformed, and I think this is why it is happening for me.” That is a great point—there are lots of people who attend the Liturgy, or who might offer a few words of prayer but who aren’t actively seeking or thinking about transformation. To be transformed requires not only the work of the Holy Spirit, but a genuine desire on our part to be transformed.
And what does the word “transformed” really mean? It means to be changed, to be molded into something else. So, to be transformed in Christ means a desire to be remolded into someone who more clearly reflects Christ. It means a desire to be changed by Christ.
Today’s verse from Romans 15:13 reminds us to be filled with the joy and peace of God, to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we may abound in hope. It means to allow ourselves to be transformed with the joy and peace of God so that we will become people of hope and not people of despair, so that as the years of our lives fly by, we don’t grieve because the end is coming, but we rejoice because the Kingdom of God is coming closer. Being a Christian isn’t just about belonging, it’s about being transformed. So don’t pray or worship just to belong—do these things to be transformed.
Lord, thank You for Your many blessings. Thank You for all the things that I am. Help me to become the person You want me to become. Transform my life, shape my soul, mold my heart, so that my soul is light and my heart reflects the heart of a servant, one who loves You and one who serves others. Amen.
Open your heart to transformation! Let God mold you in some small way each day! Get some sun today. Spend some time with the Son today!