BY DAVE STEEL
In his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg introduces us to a cranky old guy named Hank. Judgmental and joyless, complaining and contemptuous, he’s “the man who never changed.” “But even more troubling than his lack of change,” says Ortberg, “was the fact that nobody was surprised by it.” After all, Hank had spent his whole life in the church.
Some of us have grown so accustomed to the “Hanks” in the church—and our own lack of genuine transformation—that we’ve all but given up on seeing—much less experiencing—a transformed life.
But that’s a bit like enrolling in nursing school without expecting to become a nurse or securing an electrician apprenticeship without any hope of ever being an electrician. Jesus said,
“The student [disciple] is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (Luke 6:40; italics added)
Jesus’ goal in calling you to follow him is to train you to be like him. This has been God’s plan from the start. As the apostle Paul put it, “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Now if you’re anything like me, then becoming Christlike definitely qualifies as a transformation! And this is the point.
If you’re a disciple of Jesus, you’re destined for transformation.
It’s what we signed up for when we said yes to Jesus. But we have to want this transformation if we’re going to experience it in this life. Paul explains the choice before us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Our metamorphosis depends on our refusing the prevailing mindset of this world, while renewing our minds in the ways of Christ.
While the power for transformation clearly belongs to the Lord (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18), we have a responsibility in seeing it come to fruition. There’s no auto-pilot when it comes to discipleship. If we’re going to navigate a deformed world to our destination of a transformed life, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves. We have to want it enough to make a habit of saying no to the prevailing mindset of this world and yes to what God tells us through his Word and his Spirit.
The process of becoming Christlike may seem slow, but we can draw encouragement from the small victories along the way, like the one my wife pointed out recently. It was Saturday, the day before I was to deliver a sermon at a pastor friend’s church while he was away. I was sitting at the kitchen table trying to finish my message when our twelve-year-old son burst into the room noisily lamenting a computer malfunction that had just ruined his Minecraft video mid-recording, which he had intended to upload to YouTube. He was devastated and wanted me to do something about it. I had no idea how to help, and frankly I was irritated by the interruption. So, with some stern words, I told him he wasn’t handling the situation very well and sent him to his room. I let out a sigh and returned to preparing my sermon on how to live a transformed life. But within a couple minutes I heard myself say to my wife (who was sitting at the same table and heard the whole thing go down), “I guess I didn’t handle that very well either.” I got up and went to my son’s room. I apologized for being impatient with him, and we had a proper conversation about his computer issue.
I sensed something significant had just happened, but it was my wife who later suggested that I had just taken a small step in my own ongoing transformation.
She was right. I'm on my way.
 John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 29.