How Does the Holy Spirit Transform Us?

Have you ever wondered how the Holy Spirit transforms us? One incredible story of true transformation is that of John Newton, the writer of many hymns, the famous one being Amazing Grace, written in 1772. The words of the beloved song were borne from the Englishman’s heart, mind, and experiences. John Newton’s life and journey before writing the hymn will help us understand the transformational power that the Holy Spirit can bring into our lives.

John had a tough childhood, with his mother passing away when he was just six years old. He fought against authority for many years, to the point of trying to leave the Royal Navy in his youth. He was later abandoned by his crew in West Africa, forcing him to serve as a slave trader, but he was later rescued. On the return journey to England, a violent storm almost sank their ship, awakening Newton’s spirituality, and he cried out to God for salvation from the storm. Upon his arrival to England, however, Newton became a slave ship master, a profession where he served for years. He transported enslaved people from Africa to England. He even confessed to having treated the enslaved people harshly. 

In 1754, he became violently ill on a sea voyage, which made him abandon the slave trading life and wholeheartedly devote his life to serving God. He was later ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764. He became famous as a minister of God’s Word and a hymn author, writing about 280 hymns, among them the most famous “Amazing Grace.” Newton later fought, along with William Wilberforce, to abolish the slave trade in Africa. He lived to see the passing of the British Slave Trade Act 1807. 

Newton’s story is just one example. There are countless more people whom the Holy Spirit of God has transformed dramatically. Your story can be similar if you yield to the Holy Spirit. But how does this transformation happen? How does the Holy Spirit move one from being a slave trader to a slave defender, from a drug addict to a community influencer, from a thief to a well-known preacher?

Definition of Transformation

The word “transformation” refers to the process of being changed from one state to another. The English definition does not quite capture its nuances like the Greek definition. The word transformation in the Bible refers to either outward or inward change. The Greek word for outward change is ‘Metasche’, while the word for inward change is ‘Metarmophoo’. The English Bible uses the words transform, change, and masquerade to describe the same experience, making it difficult to infer the kind of transformation we are discussing. 

The Greek word for outward change has been used for false prophets, Satan, and the outward change we shall experience at the return of Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light and his servants as servants of righteousness. They put on masks; essentially, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. False teachers and preachers today have managed to sneak in among the flock and mislead them. Jesus said we shall know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). Eventually, at the final judgment, Christ will give them their true reward: eternal judgment (Matthew 7:21). 

Outward change has also been used to refer to the change we shall experience when Jesus returns. Christians shall be given glorified bodies like the one Christ resurrected with (Philippians 3:21). We can achieve so much with the help of the Holy Spirit while here on earth awaiting our glorification, which we shall receive at an appointed time. Once glorified, our bodies will not decay, and it is a joy to know that he who promised is faithful and will keep us for that day (2 Timothy 2:11-13). 

The final definition of transformation refers to inward change. This is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, which happens in every believer. The Greek word ‘metarmophoo’ is used in 2 Corinthians 3:18. The Bible says that we who have unveiled faces are being transformed into the likeness or image of Christ, being taken from one level of glory to another. The ones with unveiled faces refer to Christians, as the unbelievers are still veiled by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4). Metarmophoo is also used in Romans 12:1-2, where Christians are instructed not to conform to the worldly patterns but rather to be transformed by the renewal of their minds. In the following segment, we shall further discuss the transformation that Christians go through. 

Ways the Holy Spirit Transforms us

  1. He transforms us into the likeness of Jesus Christ: One primary transformation goal is becoming like Christ. The Bible says that our attitude should be like that of Christ (Philippians 2:5), that we are to serve like Christ (John 13:15), walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6), and be ready to face rejection as Jesus did (Matthew 10:25), and teach as Jesus taught (Luke 6:40), etc. God predestined from the beginning that we would be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). This work of transforming us into Christlikeness has been attributed to the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3:18. 
  2. He gives us the power to witness: Our transformation does not end with being like Christ. There is work for believers in God’s vineyard. In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to empower believers to be his witnesses to the entire world. He gives us the boldness to testify of the Lord Jesus Christ in situations where we would typically be fearful or timid. The Apostle Peter is an outstanding example. He moved from denying the Lord to being ready to die for him within weeks! Such change can only be attributed to the infilling of the Holy Spirit of God. Peter’s boldness made the Sanhedrin believe he must have been with Christ (Acts 4:13).
  3. He unites believers: Among the things that unite believers is the fact that we all have one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4). The Bible is clear that everyone led by the Holy Spirit of God is a child of God (Romans 8:14). Once we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us. He regenerates us and produces his fruit in us, the mark by which a Christian is known (Galatians 5:22). 
  4. He guides us into all truth: We can never be transformed apart from God’s truth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth who speaks to us what God has commanded him (John 16:13). As we walk by the truth, we are transformed and empowered to glorify God in our walk with him. He makes us love God and his people as we abide more in him.  

The Role of Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciplines are Christian practices that keep us in the presence of God, where the Holy Spirit can transform us into Christlikeness. The Christian disciplines, also called habits of grace, include prayer, listening to God’s voice in his Word, and joining with God’s people as the Church. All these create an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to work in us and make us what he wants us to be. This is also known as the spiritual food for Christians. As we continually engage in these habits, we become more mature. Our maturity is measured by how much we are like Christ. It is, therefore, unhealthy for a Christian to be prayerless, ignorant of the scriptures and avoid the fellowship of brethren. Christians in the early Church also practised these disciplines. Hence, they have stood the test of time, and the Bible affirms them everywhere. 

In conclusion, the Holy Spirit is at work, transforming all God’s people to be like Christ. How the Holy Spirit does his work in us will always be a mystery. Just like we never feel our bodies changing when we remain faithful to our eating habits, the same is true with spirituality. We may not feel anything happening as we keep faithful to daily devotions and develop the above habits in our lives, but in due time, our lives are being transformed. We grow to hate the sin we once loved. We begin to love the godly things we hated before and wholeheartedly enjoy walking with the God we once criticised. Knowing there is a helper in our spiritual journey should give us great rest, even when the hard times come, and they will. When you’re in the valley, trust in Jesus and surrender to the Holy Spirit. He will never leave you. 




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