I once attended a conference where the speaker began his talk by taking a clear glass of water, at room temperature, and pointing out to the audience that this was simply a “glass of water.” Then he dropped into this tepid glass of water a brand-new tea bag, fresh out of its wrapper.
He then continued to talk, about studying the Bible, and quickly turned our attention away from the glass of water with the tea bag in it. After talking for about 15 minutes, he then lifted up the glass of water, which had now become tea.
At the beginning of his talk, when he put the tea bag into the water, nothing happened at first, not like what happens when you drop a tea bag into a cup of piping hot, steaming water.
But over the course of those 15 minutes or so, the water had completely changed color, and, as the speaker noted, the “glass of water” had now become a “glass of tea.”
Over time, the character of the liquid in the glass had changed.
Now the speaker was attempting to make the point that the Word of God, the Bible, is designed to transform our lives and our character into what God wants it to be. But that is NOT what I got out of the beautiful object lesson he was demonstrating for us.
Yes, the Bible is designed to transform our lives, but what it showed me was that the transformation that occurs is a GRADUAL PROCESS. My Bible tells me that “…those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (See 2 Corinthians 5:17 – NLT)
When a person turns to Jesus, that eternal life that is his (eternally) begins right then and there, at the time and the place where he trusts Christ. But that does not mean that he is perfect like Christ is.
The point of an individual’s salvation is the starting point where Christ transforms, but the transformation is not complete – indeed, it never will be complete – until we see Jesus face to face! Living the Christian life is a PROCESS of becoming more and more like Christ each and every day. Some days we do pretty well. Other days we blow it royally!
But the goal is to be gaining more ground than we lose, and we do that by listening to His Word! Living the Christian life is also GRADUAL. That water did not become tea instantaneously.
And, even though we are possessors of eternal life immediately upon our confession of Christ, we are not like Christ immediately! It is a GRADUAL transformation that takes time!
One other thing: This gradual process is designed by God to be a mission of PROGRESS. I have been impressed by the fact that one of the key verses which deals with Jesus’ transition from childhood to adulthood is found in Luke 2:40: “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
Building on that example, the Apostle Peter challenges each of us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18).
In other words, the point of living the Christian life is to make progress in our relationship with Christ, to grow in our walk with Him. Reading Mark 4:25 drives home the point that there is no such thing as marking time in the spiritual realm.
Either we are making progress or we are sliding back. God wants us to know that the gradual process of becoming more like Christ each and every day is a growth process. You and I cannot just tread water spiritually.
We must move forward in our walk with Christ.
Therefore, the one quality of Christ’s that I need to have the most of is PATIENCE!
In this “modern” era, where we are not satisfied if our hamburger takes two minutes to cook or if a commercial interrupts our favorite television program for 30 seconds, our notion of Christ-likeness is just like a newborn infant crying for his bottle: “I want it – and I want it now!” (“Oh, and by the way, if I don’t get it, I’m gonna scream bloody murder!”)!
I am so glad God is very patient with me in this transformation process, aren’t you? I’m also very glad God is patient with YOU in the process too!
So the one question which should plaguing each one of us is not simply, “Am I a Christian?”, but even more, “Am I growing in Christ?”
Like the teabag in the glass of water, are you giving the Word of God the chance and opportunity to transform your life?
Are you drinking that “Transformation Tea”? I hope and pray that is indeed the case!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.