The word “transformation” occurs twice in Scripture with reference to Christians (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18).
Every believer tries to be reformed, but very few apprehend the great moral difference between reformation and transformation.
As a rule believers rejoice that they are saved, and aim to be up to the language of Micah 6:8, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
There are increasing numbers who have accepted the truth that by the grace of God they have been transferred from Adam to Christ, and that they are clear of the old man in God’s sight; yet they have no true understanding of what it is to be “transformed.” Reformation is improvement, and refers to what already exists; but transformation means a change of being. This, it is feared, is little known.
In Romans 12:2, we are exhorted not to be “conformed to this world,” but to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This means a new mind, something altogether new; so that you are not to walk before men according to this world, but according to the mind of Christ, your life (1 Cor 2:16; Col 3:4). Hence, at the end of this exhortation, the Apostle says, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom 13:14).
It is not a question as to whether the order of the world is good or not, but you are not to be conformed to it any more: you are to be “transformed” according to and new mind, and thus be able to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Everyone who knows anything of his own heart must know that he has tastes and desires connected with this earthly scene, and the more they are gratified the stronger they become. But as he walks in the Spirit he finds that what he likes most in the natural order of things is the very thing he must avoid; “No man . . . having drunk old wine straightway desireth new; for he saith, the old is better.” Very slowly do we learn to be altogether non-conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind.
As to the transforming of 2 Corinthians 3:18, the blessedness of it is that it is by beholding the Lord Jesus’ glory with unveiled face that we are transformed into the same image; that is, we are brought into moral correspondence with Himself. It is not merely a new course outside and apart from the world as in Romans, but here we are in conscious union with the risen Lord Jesus Christ in glory.
It is true that every convert does not enjoy the light of His glory, because many are dwelling more upon the work than upon the Person who did the work. The fact is, the nearer you are to Him in glory the more assured you are of being in the righteousness of God, and that you are there without a cloud; and it is as you behold the Lord Jesus there, you are gradually transformed into moral correspondence to Himself. Many have been misled by thinking that just by reading the Bible you become like Christ—transformed; but you will find diligent students of the Word, who my never say anything incorrect in doctrine, yet who never seem to grow in grace and walk in spiritual reality.
When we learn that we are united to Him who is in glory, we can come forth in the new man to manifest His beauty and grace here on earth. This transformation is of the highest order. The Lord lead our hearts to apprehend the great contrast between the old man, however reformed by law, and the new man growing by grace into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.