Points Covered: Seven characteristics of real transformation in a man who comes to the Lord Jesus Christ. Changes that come to a person when he accepts Jesus Christ.
Everybody in this world is looking for a need to change. We believe that men must be transformed for a better future. The fact is, the world cannot really bring about real transformation. Anything the world does in terms of change is superficial. The only way real transformation can happen is through Jesus Christ.
When Jesus was on the earth, He was committed to the ministry of real transformation. He was not interested in starting outside reformations. For all of the things that He saw, there may have been political solutions, there may have been economic solutions, there may have been some very just revolutions, but He led none and yet Jesus Himself did more to change the world and men than any man who ever lived. He did more to bring love, peace, joy, justice and equity into a world than anybody who ever lived. And He did it by never doing anything to society structurally, but by only changing the hearts of individual men.
Now Paul spoke about his transformation in Ephesians 2:1-3 1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. That’s a pretty bleak picture.
Ephesians 2:4-5 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
And the transformation is complete in Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
That’s the real transformation that the Bible offers to men. Now this transformation occurred in the life of the man Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9. Incidentally, we know only very little about him before his real transformation, but from the little know about him before his real transformation, he was a horrible character. He was cruel, he was hostile, he was strong-willed, he was zealous for his own opinion and if you didn’t agree with his opinion, he would just kill people. He was self-sufficient, independent, inflexible, angry, persistent, crusading, unloving, etc., etc. He was everything that a very bad individual would be. But on the Damascus Road something drastic, something divine happened to this man.
Real transformation occurred when he met Jesus Christ face-to-face. In a split second on the Damascus Road, he became exact opposite of what he was. It is absolutely beyond our imagination apart from an understanding of the divine miracle of salvation. Everything completely changed. That’s how real transformation operates.
Christianity is a transformation of your life. Once heard a man say, you know, being a Christian is like putting a new suit of clothes on a man. That is not right. It’s like putting a new man in a suit of clothes. It’s not superficial. Christianity is not a repair job. It’s a real transformation. And that’s what happened to Saul.
Now this chapter records the real transformation and it gives to us the pattern for the transformed life.
Seven features of real transformation.
1. Faith in the Savior.
When a man puts his faith in Christ at that moment he is totally transformed. He is a new creation. However, that is his positional transformation before God. From there you have six other things that take place in the practice of real transformation that follows the positional one.
It’s like a child who’s born in an instant and when you look at a baby, you don’t say well the baby will be all right in a few years because he’ll grow an arm and he’ll grow a leg and he’ll grow an ear. No. When the baby’s born, all the parts are there. It’s a total creation. It’s only a matter of growth within the framework of what it already is.
And so you see, the first one was the creation. It is a perfect creation: Colossians 2:10 Ye are complete in him. Saul was created a new, whole creation. But then there was a process of growing and developing from the moment of salvation and yet salvation is complete.
2. Fervor in supplication.
The real transformation was apparent in the life of Saul because he began immediately to pray fervently.
3. Faithful in Service.
The third thing we saw about the transformed life was faithfulness in service. Like Saul every Christian is saved to serve God. No Christian is ever saved to go to a monastery and lock himself in. We are called to serve.
4. Filling of the Spirit.
Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ananias was God’s messenger, and he came to tell Saul that he would not only receive his sight, but that he would receive the filling of the Holy Spirit. This then is the next step in the transformed life, the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
The filling of the Holy Spirit is a part of the transformed life. To be filled in the Spirit is to have the experience of the Holy Spirit where you are anointed with the gift to speak in tongues, to be controlled by the Spirit, have the power of the Spirit, and to produce the fruit of the Spirit. It is a complete package.
The filling of the Spirit always empowers for some kind of activity. And in every case where individuals were filled with the Spirit they’d begun to do something.
Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. This is receive the gift of tongues.
Acts 10:44-46 44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Acts 19:6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
See the change that happens since:
Acts 2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:
Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them:
Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
So the filling of the Spirit always results in power for service. Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
So another sign of real transformation is the filling of the Holy Spirit.
5. Formation of behavior.
When a person is transformed by the power of God, there is a formation of Christian behavior. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! There are some things the Holy Spirit sorts out to be retained. There are some things about you that are good enough to retain. There are other things that are worthless and He just removes them altogether. So the process real transformation is the process first of refining what’s useful and eliminating what isn’t.
A. God refined Saul’s behavior.
To begin with, let’s look at Saul. God refined certain things that he already had.
Paul was a leader. Some people are leaders. People followed him. He led people everywhere he went. He had a whole bunch of people trailing him around on this crusade. He had a natural instinct, a natural active motivation that made people follow him. He was a leader. He would have been a great leader if he’d have never been a Christian.
When God transformed him, God realized that’s something to hang on to. So the Holy Spirit had the work of not eliminating leadership, but of refining it. You see the Spirit is in the business of redirecting the strengths that are already there within us as well as adding new things.
Paul had strong will power.
Paul could discipline himself to do something and his will couldn’t be changed. God looked at him and saw his will power and said that’s to be retained. And it was turned toward Jesus Christ and there was never anybody who pursued God and God’s will any more than that man either, because he had that kind of drive and discipline. Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Nothing stopped him when he set his mind to do something. He chased it down no matter what it cost him. I always think of the time when he was going to Jerusalem and everybody along the trail kept saying don’t go to Jerusalem, don’t go to Jerusalem, don’t go to Jerusalem. Where did he go? Jerusalem. It never slowed him down. He took off for Jerusalem.
And God turned that around and what did he say? Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Nothing stopped him, he was persistent.
Self-sufficiency and independent.
He was a terrifically independent guy. He would just march off and evangelize in unknown territory all alone and just have a great time doing it, very independent. In Acts 17, when he arrives in Athens. He busts out in the middle of town and he starts having public debates on the street.
When the Jews wanted to kill him in Jerusalem, the disciples packed him up and hauled him off to Caesarea just to get him out of there. But they dumped him off there and they put him on a boat and sent him to Tarsus. You know what he did? He founded churches all over Tarsus, Cilicia. He went everywhere founding churches all by himself, just took off. Completely independent. Completely self-sufficient. Had a little hassle with the guy who came along with him. John Mark, didn’t like him, sent him home. Very independent. And so God simply refined and polished that characteristic.
He would just say anything to anybody. In the face of the Christ-hating Jews, God used that ability. God polished off his boldness in Acts 22. He went into the face of those Christ-hating Jews and he started preaching at them right in Jerusalem and it got so hot that they started a riot. He was so bold. He defended himself boldly before Tertullus, Agrippa, and Felix and probably before Nero.
Self-Motivated. God wants motivated people. You want to read what motivated him? Earlier before his transformation, the law motivated him. After his transformation, In 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 we see it was the love of Christ motivated him. The second-coming of Christ motivated. The rewards of souls motivated him. The love of the cross motivated him. He was self-motivated.
Before transformation, Paul was involved in debate after debate as a Pharisee. I am glad God did not stop this gift, the Spirit just refined it a little bit. In Ephesus, he preached all the time.
Acts 20:7-11 7On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. (But listen do you think this is going to deter Paul? He’s only on point two and there’s four.) When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.
B. God eliminated some behavior.
You know, there are some things in our lives that are absolutely worthless and God eliminates them. God eliminated some bad things from Paul’s character.
God replaced his cruel hatred with love.
He had been a hostile, angry, bitter persecutor and his whole temperament put together doesn’t spell love. He seemed indifferent and cold. But all of a sudden you find that there’s warmth in the man, there is a lot of love in the man. You find him saying how much I love you to all these people that he writes to in all of his Epistles. God completely took away the hate that was in his heart and replaces it with love.
God replaced his restless aggressive spirit with peace.
Paul became a calm man. Look what he said to the Philippians. Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Paul found peace.
God replaced his roughness with gentleness. Paul was rash and rough but look what he said to the Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 7Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8so we cared for you.
To the Philippians he said: Philippians 4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all.
God replaced his pride with the grace of humility.
He became the humblest man. When Paul went into Lystra and they started proclaiming that he and Barnabas were gods. So they started tearing their clothes in revulsion. No, we’re not. We are just men. 2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.
When a person is transformed, not only is there refining, but there’s some elimination.
6. Fellowship with the saints.
Salvation means a new fellowship. It means you no longer walk in the council of the ungodly. It means you no longer are unequally yoked with unbelievers. It means that you move in the fellowship of light. 1 John 1:3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And you see when God saved you; He saved you to create a fellowship, fellowship with God and his church.
Somebody said to me that they are a Christian, but had no desire to come to church. It is very hard for me to believe that somebody can really know Jesus Christ and not long with all his heart to be in the fellowship of others who love Him. 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.
As the writer of Hebrews said: Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Saul had to turn in his contacts and friends. The people that he formerly hated became his buddies and the people he formerly worked for became the enemies. Everything switched.
What a sweet fellowship it is to come to Christ and enter into this new relationship. David said in Psalm 119:63 I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.
Acts 9:23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him. These are the same Jews that used to take council to give Saul papers to go kill Christians. All of a sudden everything’s changed. He’s in a new fellowship.
And you know something, he lived in that fellowship and yet he moved in the world of unbelief. And he proclaimed his message and fearlessly preached Jesus Christ in the face of those Jews in Chapter 13, 14, 17, 21, but he always retreated back to the fellowship of the believers because that was his love. You see if you’ve really come to Jesus Christ, it demands a new fellowship.
7. Forgiveness Rendered.
Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Brother Saul. This guy’s got papers here to kill the church in Damascus but the leader is calling Saul brother. But that’s the real transformation.
This is a classic illustration of Christian forgiveness. I don’t care what you’ve done to Christ or Christians before you come to Christ, the moment you come to Christ you belong with us and we’ll love you as fully as we love any other believer. What you’ve done in your past is immaterial and irrelevant. Forget the things that are behind. Now you’re on a new team. It’s a new world. You’ve been born into a new family. We forgive you unconditionally. So forgiveness is a true mark of real transformation.
Conclusion: Acts 9:18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. He all of a sudden could see. He received his sight. He arose and was,” what, “baptized.” And what is baptism? It’s a public confession of your faith in Christ. It’s saying to the whole world I’m uniting visibly with the believers. Baptism is so important people. Baptism it’s a public confession of your identification with the body of believers. He entered a new fellowship and he wasn’t afraid to stand up and take notice and give notice to the world that I belong to this group.
Acts 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. Do you know one quality of the Christians, they feed you. They give you meat.
See the real transformation that happened:
- Faith in the Savior.
- Fervor in supplication.
- Faithful in Service.
- Filling of the Spirit.
- Formation of behavior.
- Fellowship with the saints.
- Forgiveness Rendered.
Everything is new. The new creation has come. Paul has a new life. Paul has a new master. Paul has a new family. Paul has new mission. Paul has new message. Paul has a new power. Paul has a new enemy.
Well, I hope the Spirit of God has given you some insights into the transformed life this morning. Two things to remember as we close. To begin with the transformed life is a question of coming to Christ in faith. That’s the positional transformation. The key to the practical transformation is to let the Spirit of God and give yourself to Christ daily every day.