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Home > Issues > 2012 > Summer > How to Spot a Transformed Christian

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What are the signs that transformation is happening? Over time I built a list. Here goes:

I fully expect that every person who works in spiritual direction and discipleship will second guess every line I write. But I'd be a happy man if I knew that a few Christian leaders hammered on these answers and improved on them. That shouldn't be hard.

I arbitrarily limited myself to 12 bullets. Not to do so would have led to list-creep as I included everything I see in the Bible about so-called godly people.

As I built my list, I had to alter my vocabulary. The markers were of Christians being transformed, not already transformed. People-in-process, not finished products. See the change in tense? Actually, I don't think any of us is ever fully transformed or mature until (Philippians says this) Jesus completely changes us on that great ultimate day of transformation. This is our great hope.

But until then, what are the signs that transformation is happening? Here goes.

A transformed Christian …

1. Has an undiluted devotion to Jesus. Personally, I am drawn to the word devotion rather than love for Jesus. It is difficult to escape the sentimental flavoring in the word love. And I do not find sentimental love in that follow-me relationship Jesus initiated with his disciples.

For me, devotion suggests something more deliberate, even calculated.

It's not absent emotion but not defined by it either. Devotion infers a determination that one will organize his/her life around Jesus: his quality of character, his summons to know God as Jesus knows him, his unique grace and forgiveness for sins.

I, for one, believe that a transforming Christian renews his intention to be faithful to Jesus' influence on a regular basis, not because he is unsure but because he doesn't want to lose that "edge" of proactive commitment.

As the years of my own Christian life have passed, I've become more diligent in doing this, just as I have become more intentional about re-marrying (in spirit) my wife, Gail, again each day. I know she and I possess a piece of paper that says we were married a long time ago. But my heart says, Why not re-declare your desire to marry her again today? She'll love you for it. I have come to feel the same way about my devotion to Jesus as my Savior and rabbi-leader as I retool my life around what I see and hear of him.

2. Pursues a biblically informed view of the world. This means aiming to know the Bible well: its content and its imperatives.

There seems to be a universal concern in the Christian movement concerning biblical illiteracy. Blame it on busyness, technology, too many translations, the demise of Sunday school, or something else. But one thing is sure: we seem to be losing a working knowledge of our sacred literature. We think it okay to outsource Bible knowledge to preachers, writers, and instructors.

The transforming Christ-follower understands that he cannot simply live off the monologues of a favorite preacher. He must—to reflect the Psalmist—hide God's Word in his own heart so that it becomes a lamp to his feet, a light to his path.

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Gordon MacDonald is chancellor of Denver Seminary and editor-at-large for Leadership Journal. He is author of numerous books, including Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence.

From Issue:Transformation, Summer 2012 | Posted: August 20, 2012

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Displaying 2–6 of 25 comments

Daniel from Argentina

January 15, 2013  7:01am

Another list of what a Christian should be, and a very good one. I have followed MacDonald through most of his books and in a conference. Good contribution. Only something to mention, in times as we live the less use of current army/war terminology (specially coming from the US) is the better.

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Mart Griesel

January 02, 2013  11:34am

We will only be able to spot a transformed Christian if we have removed the wood out of our own eye, and have swept before our own door. The closer we are ourselves to Jesus, the better we will know His qualities and the easier it will be to recognize them in others.

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Noel Anderson

December 05, 2012  11:38am

While I love this kind of article, the list still runs the risk of spiritual self-absorption--all about "me and my healthy Christianity"--resulting in what could be a systematized discipleship still prone to one-upsman Pharisaism. Wouldn't a better system for identifying a Christian simply focus on the eternal virtues and gifts of the Spirit: faith, hope, love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control,etc.? A redeemed life is not a super-soldier Christian, but a self uninterested in self eager only to channel Christ. The list is a good one, and some of the items are certainly indispensable, but I can still imagine self-interested and self-important Christian narcissists coming off the assembly line.

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David Grant

September 03, 2012  11:53pm

I was really attracted to the title of this Topic, but nearly turned away with the comments of #1 regarding the word "devotion" rather than "love." I teach on the subject of God's Agape Love and it is hard for people to distinguish between Bod's Love and human love and God's Agape Love is the unique ingredient of the Christian faith. Let me say what I thnk needs to be said by quoting from a song that I have made into a prayer. 'SHOW ME HOW TO LOVE" 'SHOW ME HOW TO LOVE IN THE TRUE MEANING OF THE WORD. TEACH ME TO SACRIFICE, EXPECTING NOTHING IN RETURN. I WANT TO GIVE MY LIFE AWAY, BECOMING MORE LIKE YOU EACH AND EVERY DAY. MY WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH--SHOW ME HOW TO LOVE. I SAW A BRUISED AND BATTERED WOMAN WITH HER HUNGRY CHILDREN ON THE STREET. THEN I HEARD YOU ASK IN THAT STILL SMALL VOICE,"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR THE OF THESE?" LORD CONSUME WIYH AN A BURNING FIRE THAT MELTS AWAY MY COMPLACENCY. lET ME BE MOVED WIH LOVE AND COMPASSION, THEN SOMEONE WILL FIND THE WAY IN ME.

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Dave C.

September 03, 2012  12:22pm

As long as American Christianity is numbers oriented in terms of defining what successful ministries look like, I doubt that long-term discipleship and growing in one's respective faith tradition will have much credence. Essentially, many forms of Christainity today are a simple "Get Out of Hell Free" card sort of faith that one pulls out of their wallet when they smell the grim reaper knocking at the door.

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