“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
God’s Transforming Agent, by Randall D. Kittle

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In the Medieval Ages there were those called alchemists who practiced a strange combination of science, philosophy, and superstition. One of their areas of investigation was trying to change one type of substance into another. This was usually attempted by adding an agent of change (called the elixir of change) to something and then heating it, boiling it, or passing it through fire. In addition to this, the alchemist would often pronounce some “magical phrase” or “incantation” to help release the change. Amazingly enough, sometimes alchemists were actually successful in bringing about a substantial transformation. When this happened, it was generally because they had stumbled upon some underlying principle of chemistry. The heating or passing through fire was the energy needed to cause the chemical reaction, and the elixir of change supplied the other chemicals or the catalyst necessary to create the new substance.

One of the supreme quests of alchemy was to find a way to transmute lead into gold. Lead was heavy, metallic, and soft — very much like gold. They seemed quite similar, and many felt that such a transformation was possible if only the gold character hidden within the lead could somehow be released. Despite the efforts of many alchemists over a great number of years, they could never make gold out of lead.

Meant To Live For So Much More
Underneath it all, most of mankind is still like the alchemist. We are still trying to change lead into gold. Only now we are trying to transform the dull and common life of human existence into something far more brilliant and precious — something that seems hidden within.

It is true that hidden within every person there is much more than meets the eye. Because we were created in the very likeness of God, humanity still has the fingerprints of eternity and infinity stamped upon our hearts. Often people are troubled by thoughts that they are too small and inconsequential in the scheme of things. But that is not our real trouble — we are actually too big and too complex. Because God made us in His image, we are beyond being able to be satisfied with this little world that sin has given us! This is the reason humans are always trying to explore some new place … travel faster … do the impossible. The seed of our Creator still lies within us telling us that we were meant to live for so much more.

A. W. Tozer put it this way:
“Man is bored, because he is too big to be satisfied with what sin can offer him. God has made him too great; his potential is too mighty. People do not actually commit suicide because they are too little and insignificant, but because they are too big in a little world. God made man to be able to enjoy all of the vast expanses of His heaven, and they have been forced through sin to be satisfied with paying their taxes and mowing the lawn and fixing the car and keeping the kids out of jail and paying their debts — yes, and getting older every day! They are sick of it, actually sick of it! Their bodies are breaking down and their lives are too small for the spirit that dwells within.”

Transformation Is Possible
The reason alchemists could never change lead into gold is because they would have to remove protons from the nucleus of each atom, which no amount of chemical reaction or magical incantation can do. But, while alchemy never transformed lead into gold, the transmutation of lead into gold is not just theoretically possible — it has been achieved! In 1980 Nobel laureate Glenn Seaborg succeeded in transmuting a minute quantity of lead into gold. Unfortunately, because lead is stable, forcing it to release the three protons necessary to alter it into gold required a vast input of energy, such that the cost of transmuting it greatly surpassed the value of the resulting gold.

Similarly, despite all our efforts to alter our lives from their base existence into what we sense inside they were actually created to be, we find that we cannot do it. Like changing lead into gold, the very nucleus or essence of our lives would have to be changed, and like the process of changing lead into gold this would be too costly and take too much energy. But God has made a way to transform the base metal of our lives into the precious, priceless lives they were meant to be. It is very costly, for it cost the very life of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And it takes an enormous amount of energy, which only the “dunamis power” of the Holy Spirit can provide.

God’s Transforming Agent
It is the Holy Spirit who is God’s transforming agent for our lives. “But we all … are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we were born again, we were given a new spirit, but the Spirit of God was also deposited into our lives to help conform our souls to the new creation we have become.

In the first chapter of the book of Acts, Jesus commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then in Acts 1:8 He explained the reason for this:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” When Jesus commanded them to wait in Jerusalem to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, this was not so that they would be able to witness about Him, for they had already spent enough time with Him and knew Him well enough to tell His story. No, they had to wait for the Holy Spirit so they would have the power to become witnesses … so their very lives would be transformed to declare and display the character of Christ wherever they went!

At salvation the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to commune with us and to transform us. Look at what the Scriptures say He does in our lives. The Spirit of God gives us joy, grants us hope, imparts to us spiritual gifts, empowers us, comforts us, guides us, encourages us, strengthens us, teaches us, and pours out God’s love upon us. The powerful, ongoing work of the Holy Spirit is constantly and continually altering our lives and conforming them more into what they had originally been intended by God to be. Through the atoning work of the Son of God we have been given the right to become the children of God, and through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit of God our nature, our character, our very essence is transmuted from the base metal of fallen humanity into the precious, priceless likeness of our Heavenly Father.

Doing Our Part
But this is no passive process on our part. While we cannot make this change happen, we can prevent its progress, and therefore must learn to cooperate with it. The Word of God tells us that the Holy Spirit can be resisted, quenched, and grieved. The Bible says that there is one type of person who always resists the Holy Spirit. “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51). To be “stiff-necked” is to be haughty, stubborn, rebellious — not willing to accept the light burden of God’s yoke. Whenever we disobey the instruction of God, we are not only sinning against the Lord, we are resisting the Holy Spirit and therefore hindering His transforming work.

The Bible also warns us
“Don’t quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). To quench a fire is to cause it to be extinguished or allow it, by neglect, to be diminished. Quenching the Holy Spirit is not rebelliously resisting what the Holy Spirit is instructing; it is failing to pursue our relationship with God. Failure to wholeheartedly pursue our personal relationship with God will always diminish the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives — including the transformation He is laboring to bring about in us.

The third way we can offend the Holy Spirit is to grieve Him.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32). The word translated “grieve” here means: “grief-struck; saddened to the point of being unable to move forward.” The picture here is the Holy Spirit being so surprisingly sad at our actions and attitudes that His work in our lives is halted. We must put away every inclination towards evil in how we deal with others, and treat people as we have been treated — with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. This is not just being obedient to God; it maintains an unhindered relationship with the Holy Spirit so He can continue to change our lives into what they were created to be.

God has paid the price and made the way to take our fallen nature and transform it into His very likeness, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to continually labor to effect this change. Let us be careful not to offend the Spirit of God in any way. We must obey the Lord, pursue relationship with Him, and deal graciously with others — as the Lord has dealt with us. If we will cooperate with God, He will transform our little, earthly lives into the larger, eternal lives they were created to be, for He who has begun the good work in us will be faithful to complete it!


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