Lesson 1: Truths That Transform
Written by: Biblical Studies Foundation Posted on: 04/09/2003
Spiritual growth is a life-long, ongoing process. In this process of maturing, every believer
needs a thorough
grasp of what can be called ætruths that transform.Æ These are growth truths of Scripture
designed by God to
transform us into the image of Christ. These are the truths that enable us to live more and
more dependently on
the Lord in accordance with the principles of Scripture. This means faith in the power of
God rather than faith
in our own schemes for how to live the Christian life.
There is a propensity in all of us to try to live the Christian life in our own strength, ever
seeking to measure up
to what we or someone else thinks we ought to be. The principles found in this series of
lessons take believers
through the faith/growth truths of Scripture that, when understood and appropriated by faith,
enable them to
experience change from the inside out through the Spirit of God.
These lessons build on the basics covered in Part One: The Assured Life, and at the same
time prepare the
way for the studies in Part Three: The Multiplied Life.
Truths That Transform
Do you have one single goal in life that consumes you, something that has become the
primary force that
stimulates and motivates you daily in everything that you do? Or do you feel like someone in
a canoe whose
objective seems to change with the various hazards he finds around every bend in the raging
river as he is being
propelled along trying to navigate white water, logs, and rocks. Life can be like that. If we
are not careful, our
goals and objectives are set for us by the demands of the everyday forces of life.
Goals and objectives are tremendously important because they are dynamic and
determinative of what we do
with the life God has given us. It has been said, ôAim at nothing and you will hit it every
time,ö and ôPeople
donÆt plan to fail, they just fail to plan.ö Without defining goals and then the objectives
needed to accomplish
those goals, most people accomplish very little. Of course, we all have goals, even if we
havenÆt clearly defined
them, and these goals determine a great deal of what we do.
Again, let me ask the question, if you could reduce your life to one primary goal, what
would it be? On a
day-to-day basis, what are you actually focused on and seeking to accomplish? DonÆt
answer this question
with what you think the answer should be, like, ôMy chief aim in life is to glorify God and
enjoy Him forever!ö
Or, ôMy goal in life is to please the Lord in everything I do!ö Be honest. Think about what
was on your mind
every morning this week when you woke up or as you faced the varied circumstances of the
Were your thoughts on how you might change your spouse who doesnÆt treat you the way
you want to be
treated? Or how you might handle your boss who is a bully and unfair? Perhaps your focus
was on your car
which keeps breaking down, or on some home appliance that would make life easier.
Perhaps your objective
is to get through school with a 3.5 grade point average. Or maybe your goal is simply to
keep your head
above water in your job.
The world has a way of intruding like a thief into our lives to steal from us what should be
our focus or the
major objectives of life. These intrusions have a way of disturbing us, even though we may
not realize the
source, because in losing sight of GodÆs purpose or goal we fail to see the problems of life
in accord with
GodÆs overall purpose and consequent objectives.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast (being sustained),
because he trusts (continues to depend on) in you. (Isaiah 26:3) (NIV)
God doesnÆt expect us to be oblivious to the problems and needs of life, but when our goals
are GodÆs goals
we are better able to look through our problems to the Lord and His supply. When our focus
is the Lord,
something wonderful begins to happen in us: God begins to change us and make us like His
Son ôwho for the
joy set before Him (consuming goal) endured the cross, despising the shame, àö (Heb. 12:2).
Joy and Peace:
Consequences of GodÆs Purpose
Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he
trusts in Thee.
One of the consequences of having GodÆs purpose, as we see from Isaiah 26:3, is a life of
peace even in the
midst of trials. To prepare His disciples for His departure and absence, the Lord instructed
their purpose in the world (John 13-16). In the midst of this instruction, just a few hours
before the Lord Jesus
went to the cross to die that we might have peace with God and know the peace of God, He
made this very
illuminating statement: ôPeace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world
gives, do I give to
you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearfulö (John 14:27, emphasis mine).
Then, in Galatians 5:22, we are told that two character traits of the fruit of the Spirit are joy
and peace. These
verses teach us that when we are experiencing His life within ours (the Christ-exchanged
life) we are going to
experience joy and peace along with other Christlike qualities.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no
Many Christians, however, seem to have little joy or peace. One of the reasons is found in
statement regarding peace. We too often seek our joy and peace from that which the world
gives rather than
from the Savior who provides peace and joy in a very different way and from a very
I am not at all suggesting that the goal of the Christian life is to be a self-centered focus like
joy and peace. Joy
and peace, however, do constitute part of the fruit of a life that is experiencing God and the
transformation that He works within at the core of our being when He is truly the source of
our trust. Joy and
peace become barometers of how well we are resting all the various facets of our life on Him
(Isa. 26:3). ItÆs
like taking our temperature. As a fever is indicative of an illness, so the absence of the joy
and peace Christ
gives is an indication something is wrong and we need the prescribed remedy of GodÆs
Word and healing
touch of the Great Physician.
As illustrations compare the following passages:
Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he
trusts in Theeà
Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.
Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my
groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality
was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root
of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
Two key notes are sounded in the book of Philippians: ôJoyö is found seven times, and
ôpeaceö is found only
three times, but it is still a very important concept in the theme of the book (Phil. 4:6-7).
Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the
peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your
minds in Christ Jesus.
Two other books which were written in the same year as Philippians were Ephesians and
are companion or sister epistles and there is an interesting relationship that can be observed
three epistles that is pertinent to the issue of joy and peace, and the transformed life.
Ephesians gives us the truth statedùin Christ ascended, in the heavenlies, blessed with every
spiritual blessing. It declares the sublime truth of the believerÆs new position and identity in
believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the realm of the heavenlies in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has
blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Colossians gives us the truth guardedùin Christ complete, sufficient in Christ. It protects the
believerÆs new and glorious identity and what it should mean to his faith as the walk of
faith is confronted with
all sorts of religious systems claiming to be the answer for the spiritual life. Colossians
shows that, since
believers in Christ are complete in Him (2:10) in whom are hidden all the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge
(2:3), they need nothing more for transformed lives than Jesus Christ. He is our hope of
glory both for heaven
and for transformed living. We donÆt need the joy/peace killer of legalism nor the futility of
any of manÆs
religious or philosophical system. As we have received Christ alone by faith in the message
of the gospel
(1:4-5), so we are to continue to walk by means of His life by faith in the truth of GodÆs
Colossians 1:4-5 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you
have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you
previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel,
Colossians 2:3-10 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For
even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to
see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore
have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted
and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were
instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive
through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men,
according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
9 For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have
been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
Colossians warns us against accepting manÆs substitutes for either justification or for
living) because manÆs substitutes, or those of the world, are always faithless in our
complete position in Christ
and futile to our sinful condition.
Colossians 2:16-23 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or
drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath dayù 17 things which
are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let
no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the
worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause
by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body,
being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth
which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of
the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to
decrees, such as, 21 ôDo not handle, do not taste, do not touch!ö 22 which all refer
to things destined to perish with the usingù in accordance with the commandments
and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance
of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the
body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Philippians gives us the truth practicedùin Christ satisfied, joy and peace in Christ. In a
ways this epistle promotes the application of the messages of Ephesians (blessed with every
and Colossians (in Christ complete). Philippians shows us how to know joy and peace as we
walk down the
path of life with its many ups and downs, its blessings and afflictions, and its pleasures and
pain. Knowing we
have such a glorious identity in Christ is obviously a cause for great joy and the source of
true peace, but so
often Christians fail to experience true joy and peace. So enters the book of Philippians,
which has much to
say about joy and peace in Christ.
Philippians 1:4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,
Philippians 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth,
Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.
Philippians 1:25 And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with
you all for your progress and joy in the faith,
Philippians 2:28-29 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that
when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.
29 Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high
Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things
again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and
crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
Philippians 4:4,7-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! à 7 And
the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is
honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of
good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind
dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and
seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.
Right in the middle of the book (Philippians 3) is an extended passage which points us to the
heart of the issue
being discussed hereùexperiencing ChristÆs joy and peace. Biblically, joy and peace are
related to the pursuit
of the right goal, one that is to become the all-consuming goal of a ChristianÆs life. Please
note especially verses
Philippians 3:8-15 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the
surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the
loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and
may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law,
but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on
the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and
the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I
may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it,
or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that
for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard
myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and
reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of
the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect,
have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that
also to you;
WhatÆs the thrust of this passage? Notice verse 14. Paul says, ôI press toward the goal for
the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus.ö This focuses us on the ultimate goal of the
pursuing GodÆs goal for oneÆs life. That goal is an upward, heavenward call. Included in
that call is spiritual
transformation through knowing Christ intimately and the power of His resurrection that we
might be made like
Him being conformed to or perhaps even, by His deathùpassing through death into new life,
and at last to
capture the coveted prize, being in ChristÆs presence at the Judgment Seat, or Bema, to
receive the awards
that will be given on that day (see 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Paul was living not to gain heaven by his
works, but to
receive the prize of knowing the power of ChristÆs life in his daily life with a view to the
eternal rewards that
would follow. The goal of the apostle was to live daily in view of the resurrection (literally,
ôthe out resurrection
from among the deadö) as mentioned in 3:11. Speaking of this same hope, John wrote,
ôEveryone who has this
hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pureö (1 John 3:3, NIV).
Pressing Toward the Goal (Phil. 3:14)
Explanation of the Text
ôI pressö is the Greek word, dioko, meaning ôto pursue, chase, to press on.ö It is used
figuratively of one who
runs swiftly in a race to reach the goal in order to obtain the prize. The verb is a present of
which shows this pursuit is to be the pattern of the believerÆs life on a daily basis.
ôGoalö is the Greek, skopos, which refers to an observer, a watchman, or the distant mark on
which to fix the
eye, the goal or end one has in view. In this context it is defined as ôthe prize.ö For
emphasis, the text literally
has, ôToward the goal, I press onö which highlights the concept of fixing oneÆs eyes on the
ôPrizeö is the Greek, brabeion, which refers to ôthe award given to the victor in the ancient
Greek games.ö In
this context, may I suggest that it refers to two things: (1) primarily, PaulÆs focus is on the
return of Christ for
the church because that will mean (a) glorification and translation into heaven either by
believers who have died, or transfiguration of those believers who are alive at that time (1
Thess. 4:13-18), (b)
examination before the Bema for eternal rewards (1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10), and (c)
the bestowal of the rewards that await believers for faithful service. ôThe upward call of God
in Christ Jesusö
further defines the goal which is also the prize. But I believe this upward call also includes
(2) the heavenly
reward of Christlike character, transformed lives. In other words, living in anticipation of the
or with this as the focus of life, should have a transforming impact on the way we live
moment by moment (see
also 1 Cor. 9:24-27).
This takes us back to the thought of verses 10 and 11, resurrection life, dying and rising with
transformed living by the power of God through faith (cf. vs. 9 for the faith emphasis).
While there is some disagreement about the meaning of the words, ôresurrection from the
dead,ö in 3:11, Paul
probably has in mind his hope in the imminent return of Christ with all that event will mean
for believers as
mentioned above. This is supported in the context with 3:20-21, and by the factor of the
doubt and uncertainty
expressed in this verse. For instance, the NASB has ôin order that I may attain,ö but in the
margin, it has the
more literal translation, ôif some howö in place of ôin order that.ö The KJV has ôIf by any
means.ö The Greek
text has ei pws (ôif by any meansö). This construction is found in only three other places in
the NT (Rom. 1:10;
11:14; Acts 27:12), and in each case an element of doubt is expressed. This idea of
uncertainty is further
supported by the use of the subjunctive mood which expresses contingency, potentiality,
anticipation, but not
certainty, an element reserved more for the indicative mood in Greek.
Was Paul questioning the fact of the resurrection? Of course not, and that is evident from 1
15:1-34. I believe Paul is speaking of not the fact, but the when. He had in mind something
experience in his lifetime, the rapture of the church, his translation and consequent reward.
Others believe that he is not speaking about the resurrection of the body or questioning it as
a fact for the
believer, but means he wants more and more to realize in his daily walk what it means to
co-identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. He has in mind experiencing the truth
of Romans 6:4-14
and Galatians 2:20. But ultimately, both concepts are in the apostleÆs view as part of the
goal with the imminent
hope of ChristÆs return being one of the motivations that constrained or controlled the life
Application of the Text
We Need the Right Goal in Life
Our goals not only say a great deal about us but they also, from a Christian perspective, have
everything to do
with spiritual change and with our experience of joy, peace, and other Christlike qualities.
Lying close to the
bottom of all we say and do are our basic aims, whether we are seeking to protect ourselves,
perceived needs or desired pleasures, or whether we are seeking to protect someone else. The
point is simply
that goals are dynamic and determinative. They will strongly affect how we live.
Goals Are Determined by Our Objects of Faith
This includes the concept of motives. Equally important with our goals is the question, why
do we have the
goals or objectives we pursue? The answer is, we all have certain goals because we believe
these goals will
somehow meet our perceived needs. We think they will give us joy and peace, security and
significance and meaning. Behind our pursuits are often a variety of motives.
Robert McGee writes:
Many of us tend to approach Christian living as a self-improvement program. We
may desire spiritual growth, or we may have one or more fairly serious problems
from which we desperately want to be delivered. While there is certainly nothing
wrong with spiritual growth or desiring to be rid of a besetting problem, what is our
motivation in wanting to achieve goals like these? Perhaps we desire success or the
approval of others. Perhaps we fear that God canÆt really accept us until we have
spiritually matured, or until ôour problemö is removed. Perhaps we just want to feel
better without having to struggle through the process of making major changes in
our attitudes and behavior.
Motivations such as these may be mixed with a genuine desire to honor the Lord,
but itÆs also possible that deep within us is a primary desire to glorify ourselves.
When self-improvement becomes the center of our focus, rather than Christ, our
focus is displaced.
It is important to understand that fruitfulness and growth are the results of focusing
on Christ and desiring to honor Him. When growth and change are our primary
goals, we tend to be preoccupied with ourselves instead of with Christ. Am I
growing? Am I getting any better? Am I more like Christ today? What am I
This inordinate preoccupation with self-improvement parallels our cultureÆs self-help
and personal enhancement movement in many ways. Personal development is
certainly not wrong, but it is misleading--and it can be very disappointing to make it
our preeminent goal. If it is our goal at all, it should be secondary. As we grasp the
unconditional love, grace, and power of God, then honoring Christ will increasingly
be our consuming passion. God wants us to have a healthy self-awareness and to
periodically analyze our lives, but He does not want us to be preoccupied with
ourselves. The only One worthy of our preoccupation is Christ, our sovereign Lord,
who told the Apostle Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in
weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).25
An Adequate Goal
The only adequate goal for the Christian is knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8-10) and Christlike
3:11-14). This means pursuing Christ which will result in growth in the experience of the
Christùhis love, grace, mercy, endurance, values, priorities, pursuits, etc.
Since growth and maturity are the subjects of this series of lessons, letÆs take a short
overview of what
Philippians 3 teaches about having the right goal.
(1) As to its Source: Having the goal of knowing Christ and Christlike maturity is a matter of
or knowledge of the surpassing value of Christ over anything man or the world has to offer.
Faith in Him is the
product of that insight (cf. Phil. 3:8-9). But the text reveals several elements that are critical
for a faith that has
Philippians 3:1-15 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same
things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs,
beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true
circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no
confidence in the flesh, 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.
If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised
the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of
Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to
the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were
gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than
that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but
rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a
righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in
Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may
know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from
the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect,
but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of
by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but
one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in
anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
We must repudi
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