A small tortoiseshell butterfly (picture by Uwe H Friese)
“Transformation” – Sounds like a nice $3.00 word, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it sound uplifting, progressive and liberating? And, no wonder! The online dictionary Wiktionary gives as its second definition (the first one being the usual bland “act of… or the state of…” type of reference) of transformation as, “A marked change in appearance or character, especially one for the better.”
There is a lot packed into that one word that, in reality, means nothing more and nothing less than “change”. Think about it! What does the word really mean other than to change from one thing to another? A computer hacker can transform into an IT security specialist. However, we also know that local policemen can be transformed into drug dealers, pimps or agents of harassment. Therefore, we must ask ourselves: What is the beginning and what is the ending? IOW, what is being transformed into what? Is it really a good change? Is it even going the right direction?
So, pictures of beautiful butterflies, which have transformed from “ugly” larvae into magnificent winged creatures, all aside, we need to be engaging our brains and our intellect and not get swept up into emotion when it comes to change. In fact, the very word “transformation” very often is a tip-off to someone attempting to sway your opinion about some sort of change by evoking positive images like butterflies and what-not.
There are good changes, and there are bad changes. In the Christian walk, staying the same is not an option, so we must daily choose which path we will take.
Life is all about changes. If nothing else, we change from young to old, and we change from nonexistent to alive to dead. We may view them as good or bad, but the fact remains that they are. This leaves open a large selection of possibilities. Some may be good, and some may be bad. Some may be good in some situations but not in others. The possibilities are, on a practical level at least, limitless.
As a Christian, you are expected to change. The process of this change is called “conversion”, which in itself means the changing of the state from one thing to another. Conversion is the process of being converted.
con·vert [v. kuhn-vurt; n. kon-vurt] Show IPA
verb (used with object)
1. to change (something) into a different form or properties; transmute; transform.
2. to cause to adopt a different religion, political doctrine, opinion,etc.: to convert the heathen.
3. to turn to another or a particular use or purpose; divert from the original or intended use: They converted the study into a nursery for the baby.
4. to modify (something) so as to serve a different function: to convert an automobile factory to the manufacture of tanks.
5. to obtain an equivalent value for in an exchange or calculation,as money or units of measurement: to convert bank notes into gold; to convert yards into meters.
~ “convert”, Dictionary.com
#5 can obviously be ruled out as inapplicable to our discussion. In fact, the act of spiritual conversion is definitely not the act of a one-to-one exchange of like value! Instead, it is an exchange of the inferior for the superior in every way!
#4 should point out that our ultimate destinies are not necessarily defined by our occupations in this life. I think we sometimes overlook this important matter. We are here to build character, no matter our occupations, hobbies or specialties. We do not know the specifics of what we will do in the Millennium and beyond, but we can be sure it will involve authority and teaching (Rev 1:6; 5:10).
#3 might be debatable, depending upon your point of view. What is the “original” purpose? Well, in actuality, we all were diverted from God’s purpose in the Garden of Eden. In fact, spiritual conversion is more about returning to God’s original plan than about turning to it when you look at the larger picture.
#2 is probably the most obvious of all, although “religion” is often more of a means of show than it is of substance. If you ask me, true religion should be the outward manifestation of our inner conversion than the other way around (s. Jas 1:26-27 ).
#1 is probably the most interesting definition of all, and it more than the other definitions really defines the ultimate goal of spiritual conversion. Not only are our hearts and minds to be converted, but our very substance. Our flesh will be transformed into spirit! However, to get there, we must first be converted in our hearts and minds, to be filled with godly love and keep His commandments and way of life no matter what!
Conversion, then, is a process that does not end when we die! The ultimate transformation is found in a resurrection to life!
A Different Transformation
What of those who are not converted now? They will get their opportunity in a resurrection to judgment. Notice I said “judgment”, not condemnation! Like a trial, or more like a trial period, they will have their eyes opened and learn how to walk in God’s ways.
What if they choose not to? Then, there is another type of conversion: the second death.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
When all is said and done, the unrepentant, those who refuse to change for the better, will have a different change to death forced upon them. Most likely, those who reach that point will not care anyhow, as a universe filled with God’s way of life will never appeal to them and make them miserable anyhow.
Transformation of Politics
Along the way, we will face all sorts of transformations, or at least attempted transformations.
President Barak Obama ran on the promise to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” How has that worked so far?
Well, according to The Blaze article, “Beck Ties Together Benghazi, IRS, & AP Scandals: ‘Fundamental Transformation’”, not too well. Benghazi, according to Glenn Beck, is “the transformation of the Middle East.” The IRS scandal is “about ‘transforming political consent’ and stifling the First Amendment.” The seizure of phone records of the Associated Press is “the final piece of transformation for the media.” By targeting these three areas, resistance to “progressive” ideas is knocked down, and even the whistleblowers of corruption are intimidated.
I sometimes balk at taking Beck’s words at face value, but I have a feeling he has a point here, and Obama has done numerous things that otherwise just don’t add up. Is President Obama arrogant enough to believe he can transform not only American politics but the entire world’s? Actually, he probably does! Witness what Catholic World News has to say about “US embassies push ‘gay pride’ celebrations in countries that outlaw homosexual acts” (emphasis mine):
Author Robert Reilly notes that in many countries, the American diplomatic pressure for recognition of homosexual partnerships could easily be seen as an attempt to influence internal political affairs [of host nations!]—traditionally a taboo in the world of diplomacy. The embassies are also risking the hostility of nations that regard the US as a corrosive cultural influence.
Dirty politics is nothing new, BTW. However, technology has allowed it to go to a new level. Technology makes everyone more productive, even criminals. The only difference between now and the days of Watergate is that it is much easier to snag electronic records than wiretap analog telephones.
This use of heavy-handed tactics is nothing new, either, but it took the involvement of the most feared arm of the government, the IRS, to bring out the outrage, it would seem. I have to ask, “What took so long?” Easy. Most people are more concerned with their pocketbooks than moral character.
More to the point, though, liberals have long sought transformation of politics, and it has never been strictly tied to our national borders. In fact, the very notion of being a “liberal” means to embrace change.
I want you to notice, however, one specific area of change: speech. If you can control speech, you can change the way a nation thinks. National character is reflected in how a nation speaks. Language is one of the hallmarks of any culture. If something becomes a derisive term, then that is reflected back upon the national character. Political correctness is the process by which words are given new meanings and insinuations that were not necessarily ever part of the intended meaning.
For example, the “R word”. The term “mental retardation” was a clinical term for a condition in which one could not progress beyond a specific point in intelligence. The fact that such a clinical term could ever become a matter of national debate in itself says something about a nation.
Don’t we have more important things to worry about? In reality, we do, but the true progressive does not care about those issues. They care more about recreating society in their own image.
I’m not saying that cultures don’t need to change sometimes. Slavery, for example, was wrong, and the way we used to practice it in this country was really wrong. Slaves in many, but not all, ancient cultures had it pretty easy in comparison. In ancient Rome toward the end of the empire, a highly positioned slave in an influential household almost had as many rights as a citizen. In our history, however, the very notion that slaves had any rights at all was practically unheard of.
However, when a land that proclaims to be “free” and says it believes in “free and open speech” but stifles that very speech with political correctness is, simply put, being hypocritical.
Transformation of Religion
Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. One of the things Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) had to struggle with was the fact that most of the Protestant theological terms bandied about were a far cry from their original meaning. By redefining words, they were able to manipulate (twist) Scripture to mean just the opposite of what it said.
Take, for example, what I’ve already pointed out: the second death. When you teach that everyone has an immortal soul, then there really is no such thing as death. After all, “immortal” is defined as not being able to die. So, “death” becomes “separation”. “Second death” becomes “second separation”. You are supposedly first separated from your body, and then you supposedly are separated from God. If that is really what the word meant, though, then why not just call it what it is? Why even have the word “death”?
Politics has its Newspeak, grounded in political “correctness”. Religion has its Godspeak, grounded in pagan theology. It just happens that the latter one has been around a lot longer.
Barak Obama, at least according to Beck, is trying to transform the world’s political landscape. It appears that the ends justify the means. Is the world of religion any different?
Perhaps you have heard of a book called Transformed by Truth? Was this an honest and straight-forward transformation? Or, was it a covert plot to take over a church from the inside?
Let’s be real. If Joseph Tkach really believed he had been wrong all that time and was truly “converted” in the end, then he would have done the honorable thing and stepped down. However, his refusal to do so but rather force his ideas upon others and force them out of the organization prove beyond a doubt that his intentions were anything but honorable, and instead he stabbed the back of a dead man. In fact, the only thing that would have made it any more disgraceful would have been to have literally dug up HWA and literally stabbed him in the back.
At the end of the day, though, we don’t know his eternal destiny or whether or not it has been fixed. It is obvious that Satan planted him in the Church, and it is obvious that God allowed it. However, it is proof that someone can say all the right words and do all the right things and outwardly look converted but not really be.
Is that not the rub? Remember what I said about religion? It is outward, and it is often for show. It can be a true reflection of our inner conversion. However, it can also be camouflage.
Satan is the master counterfeiter, though.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Could this happen again? It will! How? I’m not sure. However, as people raise up with “new understandings”, “new truths” and “new prophecies” (pagan or otherwise!), it is only a matter of time before there is not just further splintering but a general scale falling away of true believers. That is why when more traditional organizations like LCG and UCG start talking about such things, I begin to start questioning what they are really getting at. How far will they take these “new understandings”? Is this just the beginning of something larger? I don’t know, but I suggest members of those organizations to be on their guard!
Carnal Vs Spiritual
People become “converted” in one sense or another all the time. You can convert to Scientology, if you like. I don’t recommend it, but it is possible. You can convert to Catholicism. You can even convert to atheism!
It’s a lot like how drunks can be converted to recovering alcoholics. Someone experiences enough pain in their life that they decide upon a course of action and change their life. It is nothing less than a transformation, and a commendable one at that. Not many succeed at it, and the recovery rate for drug addicts and alcoholics is very low.
What matters to God, though, is a spiritual transformation. It doesn’t just happen suddenly or all at once, either. Baptism really is the beginning of that journey, not the end. Like a caterpillar that wraps itself in a cocoon, the real change is just beginning.
Still, there must be more.
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
One must have the Holy Spirit in order to be saved!
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
The Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are the same! It is the substance of God Himself!
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
God’s Spirit is the key! That’s why there is a special day, Pentecost, set aside to remind us of how important the gift of the Holy Spirit is.
There traditionally are two holy days which must involve extra watchfulness: Pentecost and Feast of Trumpets. Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks. It is the only holy day in which a counting of weeks or Sabbaths occurs. Seven Sabbaths are counted from the day following the Sabbath that occurs during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The first day of the week during the Days of Unleavened Bread was when the wave sheaf offering was offered up, which represented Jesus Christ presenting Himself to the Father after His death and resurrection, which fulfilled the first part of their master plan. Seven Sabbaths and one day later would be 50 days. Pentekoste is Greek, Strong’s G4005, for “the fiftieth day”.
When you consider that the selection of the first harvest is going on right now, and we don’t know when it will end, then it becomes obvious what the watchfulness must be all about. The Feast of Trumpets comes on the first day of the seventh month. If you get it calculated wrong, the entire calendar is thrown off! One must carefully calculate this day, as it is a new moon day. The stricter Jews still keep two days just to make sure!
While the fulfillment of both is tied up in Christ’s return, it is important that we realize that Christ’s return is an event, whereas the harvest takes place over time. Farmers don’t just wake up and harvest. They must not only work the fields all along, but harvesting is hard work and can take days to perform. The amount of time and the ending can shift on any number of factors.
Pentecost, then, is really just the beginning. As is written in the Life Hope & Truth article “God vs. Satan” (emphasis mine):
But God has not gone off to heaven and left this world under the complete control of this evil spirit being called Satan the devil. God has not been dethroned. It remains eternally true that “the LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). God is still king of the ages. It is simply a matter of understanding that the fullness of God’s Kingdom will not come about until this present evil age comes to an end.
We also need to understand that the Kingdom of God is not only future. Jesus Christ established a beachhead for the Kingdom of God through His Church, though this world remains largely the kingdom of Satan. The author of the book of Hebrews speaks of faithful people living during the time of the early New Testament Church who “have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4).
You and I can be a part of this beachhead, but we must have God’s Holy Spirit in order to do so!
It is important that we do indeed be “Spirit-filled”, that we use our “spiritual gifts” whenever we can and that the Church be “led by the Spirit”. However, we must be sure we understand what these mean first and not be led away by Godspeak!
I don’t know where some of these church organizations are going to wind up, and I don’t know the hearts of the men who are running them. However, I know that we must hang on to our crowns (Rev 3:11)!
I do wish you all a Spirit-filled Pentecost. Just make sure it is “Spirit”-filled and not “spirit”-filled!