We are looking at six aspects of transformation as part of the Christian walk with Christ. Our fourth component requires out patience, endurance and Spirit-led determination. For while Christ’s work is once and for all, it is worked out in us throughout our lives. Transformation is, by definition, a process. It is a faith journey, a growing, reaching, and pressing on. Wes Willmer writes, “The Christian life begins at the moment of faith, but it does not end there. It involves a steady march of spiritual growth and change. A person’s eternal destination is settled at the moment of faith, but building a life pleasing to God takes the rest of his or her life.”[i]
Transformation requires a daily decision to venture on and enter into the continual life-changing work of the Holy Spirit. It does not happen automatically or instantaneously. It has to be entered into and pursued.
We must be wary of stewardship books or sermons that separate stewardship from discipleship. In fact they are one and the same. If we accept this treatise on the transformation of the godly steward then we are left to conclude that disciples are stewards, and stewards are disciples. These words describe two foci of one transforming work of grace in us. When we hear Jesus’ command to “take up your cross and follow me” do we not also hear his words to “sell all you have, give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me?” When Jesus calls us to “love the Lord your God and serve him only” is he not also telling us that “you cannot serve two masters, either you will love the one and hate the other or hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”?
Scripture is replete with calls to discipleship and holistic stewardship to the point that we must cease separating the two. They are one and the same calling, one and the same vocation. Douglas John Hall writes,
“Stewardship is no longer concerned with matters – including religious matters – on the periphery of existence; it belongs to the essence of things. It is for us today very close to what the prophets and apostles meant by the Word of God. For the call to responsible stewardship encounters us precisely at the heart of our present-day dilemma and impasse.”[ii]
Transformation is a calling and a work that is never fully finished, yet we do not undertake it with an anxiety or franticness. For this calling is motivated by grace and therefore it is a calling of pure, joyous response. Only as response does the ongoing process of transformation cease from devolving into mundane ritual, rigid legalism or divisive ideology. As Richard Foster reminds us, “Giving brings authenticity and vitality to our devotional experience.”[iii] It is God’s process at work in us as we freely and enthusiastically answer the call to obedience and surrender that leads to ultimate freedom and life. David Young sees this initial act of our submission to the transforming work of God in us in Jesus’ act of washing the feet of his disciples. He concludes, “Transformation originates from the One who transforms. As leaders, we never do the changing. We never have the total power of insight. We never carry the power on our own shoulders. We can merely enter the drama, the first part of which is allowing our feet to be washed.”[iv]
This is the paradox lost on the Humanist. It is only in submission and sacrifice that you can attain true liberation and fulfillment. It is in the process of losing our life that we find true life, and that process is our transformation.
This blog is excerpted from the upcoming book, The Calling to Christian Leadership: Foundations and Practices, Edited by John S. (Jack) Burns, John R. Shoup, and Donald C. Simmons, Jr. Submitted for publication in 2014.
[i] Wes Willmer, God and Your Stuff, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), p. 23.
[ii] Douglas John Hall, The Steward, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), p. 95.
[iii] Richard Foster, The Challenge of the Disciplined Life, (HarperCollins: San Francisco, 1985)p. 43.
[iv] David Young, Servant Leadership for Church Renewal, (Scottsdale: Herald Press, 1999), p. 137.