What does your perfect morning devotional time look like? Maybe it involves your favorite chair, a warm cup of coffee, an open Bible, and – for you who are parents – sleeping kids! Whatever form your devotional time takes, the point is that you have set aside time expecting to meet with God.
But have you ever thought about your daily time in the Word from God’s perspective? What are God’s plans for you as you open His Word to read, study, and pray?
The answer is so simple it’s often overlooked: transformation. God intends His Word to transform you – to transform each of us – by the power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever we open our Bibles, we must remember God intends His Word to change the way we live, think, act, and feel. God expects His Word to transform us, not just inform us.
This is the principle of “Transformational Intent.” Every passage of Scripture is infused with divine purpose. This divine purpose – God’s intent – is to transform His people so that we might be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29).
WordPartners exists to encourage and equip pastors to teach God’s Word with God’s heart. This means approaching every passage of Scripture seeking God’s “transformational intent” – digging into God’s Word and then preaching with that same intent. Infused with God’s life-changing purpose, preaching becomes a living experience, three dimensional, and full of color. God uses the power and purpose of His Word to produce and nurture life, causing it to grow and flourish.
Consider these passages that describe the kind of transforming work God intends to accomplish in His people.
In Ephesians 2, Paul writes these wondrous words:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (2:4-7, ESV)
God’s transforming work began in us when He first saved us. That which was dead has now been made “alive together with Christ.” God’s Holy Spirit breathed into our cold, spiritually dead hearts and made us alive. What greater transformation could there be?
At the moment we first believed in Christ, God’s transforming work was on display. Without God’s grace and our subsequent faith in Christ, such transformation is not possible. This is true at the moment of salvation. It’s also true in the outworking of our salvation every day. Coming to God’s Word, we must seek more of Christ on every page of the Scriptures and be transformed by his Spirit in doing so.
God intends His Word to transform you . . .
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Romans 12, Paul describes God’s transforming work of our minds:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (12:2, ESV)
Spiritual renewal of our minds requires an understanding of who God is and how He relates to His people. Drawing near to God is about enjoying a relationship with Him, not passing a cosmic “final exam.” With renewed minds, we are able to discern more clearly His good, perfect, and acceptable will for us in Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul reveals another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s extraordinary, transforming work:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (3:18, ESV)
Christ has removed the veil for all Christians, allowing us to draw near to the Lord and behold His glory. The Spirit then transforms us into His same image as we grow and mature in Christ. “From one degree of glory to another’’ tells us that this transformation is ongoing and ever-deepening for the Christian.
These passages are but a few examples of God’s transforming work in the lives of His people. But they are enough to clearly establish an understanding of the biblical view of God’s transformational intent. God, working through His Word and the Holy Spirit, enables us to behold His divine glory in the face of Christ, reflecting it to others in this world (2 Corinthians 4:6).
In seeking to understand the transformational intent of any passage of Scripture, asking the right questions is crucial. The most powerful questions start with “why” and “how.” They help us understand the reasoning and intent of the text. Why did God say these words? Why did he address them to these people? Why did he deliver them at this time in history? How did God intend them to respond?
Let’s look at Ephesians. Chapter one, verses 13-14 contain some of the most densely packed theological material in the Bible. The depth of thought expressed in so short a space is dizzying.
Paul articulates five spiritual blessings we enjoy as believers:
These blessings come to us through our union with Christ. The phrase “in Christ” is found in verse 3, and similar expressions found throughout the passage lead to this conclusion.
But why, when we are called to enjoy these blessings in and through our relationship with Jesus, are most sermons on this passage nothing more than dry theological lectures? Is it possible that we have missed God’s transformational intent in the midst of extraordinary doctrine?
Consider the questions introduced earlier. Why is God, through the Apostle Paul, saying these words? To these people? At this time? Simply put, God wants the Ephesian church – and the church throughout the ages – to understand the extraordinary spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. Verse 3 is the key to understanding this passage: God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places belongs to us in Christ. Incredible, truly incredible!
Now, our second question: How are we to then respond to the revelation of these blessings in Christ?
Look at verse 3 – but the beginning of the verse this time. It contains the intent of this passage. Before articulating the blessings we have in Christ, Paul cries out, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul praises God! And he continues his praise of Him throughout the passage: Verse 6 – “to the praise of his glorious grace”; verse 12 – “to the praise of his glory”; and just in case we missed it, again in verse 14 – “to the praise of his glory.” God lavishes spiritual blessings upon His people, so Paul lavishes praise upon God.
By now, the transformational intent should be clear. Paul does not view these spiritual blessings as dry and dusty doctrine to be cataloged in our minds. Instead, he is caught up in exuberant praise, calling us to join him in worship. The transformational intent of this passage is to fill us with exuberant joy that moves our hearts to praise God for the richness of His blessings in Christ.
So, as we wake up each morning not knowing what the day ahead will hold, we can open up God’s Word confident that He intends to transform our lives. Each time we open His Word, God intends to transform our hearts, minds, and lives as we explore and apply the riches He has for us in Christ.
God’s Word is always applicable to our lives, calling us to change and transformation. It’s the way He intended it. But we will miss it if we are not looking for it. We can be certain that God never speaks simply to inform – but always to transform.
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