What Bible Verses Transformed Your Life?

This Christmas, consider with thanksgiving the Bible verses that have significantly affected you. Think about them (Phil 4:8), meditate on them (Psalm 1:2) and share them if you wish, as I share the ones that have shaped and transformed me in Christ over the years (Mt 24:35; Mk 13:31; Lk 21:33).

YOU MUST NOT EAT (Gen 2:17). This “strange” verse was my conversion verse when I began 1:1 Bible study in 1980 with John Lee, a pediatrician who attends Lincoln Park UBF. I regard this as a “strange conversion verse” because I have not read of anyone else in history who was converted to Christ through this verse. Gen 2:17 caused me to cry tears of repentance for many hours. It convicted me of my life long sin of completely disregarding my Creator and living as though I am my own god, and yet God had not destroyed me, but loved me all my life to that day.

SEEK FIRST (Matt 6:33). After conversion I the word “first” in Matt 6:33 exposed my sin of never allowing God and the things of God to have first priority in my heart and life. “Things” always preceded God: girls, romantic/sexual fantasies, studying medicine, being a doctor, watching movies, watching sports, going jogging, hanging out, etc, was always “first.”

HOW FOOLISH! (1 Cor 15:36). 6 months after conversion, Samuel Lee, the founder of UBF, introduced me to my future bride. I was terrified of her because she seemed too domineering and powerful, and not at all the kind of woman I ever envisioned marrying. I knew she was a good, godly woman who loves Jesus, and I was foolish in my sinful sensual self for not wanting to marry such a woman. So, I married “by faith” by painfully acknowledging that my life and my marriage belong to God, not to me. After 30 years of an utterly sublime marriage, I joyfully and thankfully conclude that God knows me far better than I will ever know myself.

DENY YOURSELF (Luke 9:23). I know how sinful, worldly and selfish I was and still am. Without a doubt, I knew that I could not follow Jesus as I was. I absolutely needed to deny myself in order to follow Jesus. Though I fail daily, I always need to deny myself, especially as I get older.

HAVE FAITH (Mark 11:22). One of Samuel Lee’s great strength was his faith in God. By his faith, our gracious God used him greatly to convert Koreans to be world conquerors. Lee said and I agree that my weak point was my lack of faith. It still is. I need faith to challenge the impossible, which was my back pain and my visa status of being an illegal immigrant for 7 years. God helped me experience the victory of faith by no longer having back pain, and by becoming a US citizen after being an illegal alien for 7 years. Still, faith is my weak point and quite baffling to me.

I HAVE LOVED YOU WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE (Jer 31:3). In 2005, I was scammed of $1,000,000 because of greed, pride and a desire to retire ASAP. By this sin I totally dishonored my God, my church, my wife, my children, myself. I hated myself. But God spoke to me tenderly through Jer 31:3. I was newly amazed at the love of God that was indeed greater than all my sins.

GOD INTENDED IT FOR GOOD (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28). When I had conflicts with some friends in church, I felt disillusioned after 25 years in UBF. Though they are godly Christian friends and well intentioned, some of their decisions and words devastated me. Of course, this was my own sin of being affected by their actions. The only respite I found was in the absolute goodness of God (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28) that could not be thwarted by any man, regardless of what they say, do or decide. Is there a greater verse in the Bible that can help any Christian in any situation in life?

NO MORE FEARING MAN (Prov 29:25). To fear a man is to insult God who is above the man you fear. To cause others to fear man is to play God. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”

JESUS BECAME SIN FOR ME (2 Cor 5:21). Historically, 2 Cor 5:21 is known as the Great Exchange. I never ever quoted or referenced this verse in sermons and Bible studies for 30 years. Now I do so repeatedly with gratitude for what Jesus has done for this soul of mine.

THE OLD TESTAMENT IS ABOUT JESUS (John 5:39). I had studied the Bible as though it was mainly about me and about others. But Jesus said that the OT is about him (John 5:39; Luke 24:27,44), and that Moses also wrote about Jesus (John 5:46). So I asked and answered the question in this post: What is the point of Genesis?

MY UPWARD HEAVENLY CALLING IN CHRIST (Phil 3:13-14). How comforting it is that God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. Regardless of the circumstances of life, good or bad, this is a constant that never changes. Only in Christ can I forget what is behind, strain toward what is ahead, and press on toward my heavenly goal.

WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING (Phil 2:12-13). Practically, I pray to work out my salvation with fear and trembling and with humility and tears (Acts 20:19). I pray to know with absolute unwavering certainty that this is only the grace of Jesus that God is first working in me so as to enable me to work out my own salvation.

What are the Bible verses that have helped to transform you? To have a crystal clear direction in your life (Psalm 119:105)?


  1. Darren Gruett

    Thanks for the posts the last few days. It has been very encouraging. Some of the verses you listed have been meaningfully to me as well, especially 2Co 5:21. I love that one!
    I also love the episode of Jesus walking on the water, and Peter coming out to Him (Mt 14:22-31). I think that verse 31 in there is so meaningful to me, because it says, “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him.” Peter was almost to Jesus, so close in fact, that when he started to sink, Jesus was right there, within arms’ length to catch him. How far away I think I am sometimes, and yet, how close He really is!
    Another verse that has been extremely meaningful to me is Php 1:6. It always encourages me to remember that no matter how broken I am or how low I feel, God is not finished working on me.
    And of course, Jn 3:16 is an all-time favorite. When David Jeremiah was in town a couple of months ago, Charles Billingsley led the worship, and I heard this song for the first time (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEARV1iGzQk) based on that verse. Since then, I have loved it even more.

    • Thanks, Darren, for sharing. “How far away I think I am sometimes, and yet, how close He really is!” Amen. Php 1:6 is perhaps a most burden relieving verse. It takes away ALL my burdens because it is not up to me to finish the job, but up to the One who chose His elect and those He adopted as His own child by His grace alone.

  2. For the past 8 years, not many words of God moved my heart.  But this year, Scripture bursted into life, exploding in my heart, mind and soul almost daily: http://www.priestlynation.com/archives/708 (2011 was the “year of Scripture” to me!)

    The most potent was John 16:7  “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  

    For the first time, I realized the Holy Spirit is a person and the Trinity suddenly made sense.  And the Spirit is my Counselor and my Director. The chains of fear were broken by this verse. Then the unbinding of my conscience (which had been tightly bound to legalism and elitism) began as the Holy Spirit began teaching me many things. 

    • Brian,
      You and JohnY should talk. He has been incredibly moved by the Holy Spirit as well. 

    • Yes, we have talked :)

    • Hey Brian, I just read this quote:
      “When God planned the great work of saving sinners, he provided two gifts. He gave his Son and he gave his Spirit. In fact each person of the Trinity was involved in the great work of salvation. The love, grace and wisdom of the Father planned it; the love, grace and humility of the Son purchased it; and the love, grace and power of the Holy Spirit enabled sinners to believe and receive it.
      The first great truth in this work of salvation is that God sent his Son to take our nature on him and to suffer for us in it. The second great truth is that God gave his Spirit to bring sinners to faith in Christ and so be saved.”
      — John OwenThe Holy Spirit

  3. Cool topic!!!!!!
    GOD REALLY EXISTS. With this word i was invited to the church and Bible study. My life was totally meaningless, and this word gave me the hope to find the meaning of life in God.
    HEAVEN’S TREASURES or THE KINGDOM OF GOD. I’m not sure that it was exactly these words, but something like this made the New Testament very attractive to me and filled my life with real meaning to conquer it.
    SIN and HELL. That was my reality I found in the New Testament. The clear undestanding of my sinfulness and God’s wrath made my life as hell on earth.
    ERROR. I thought of my life as God’s error, as I wrastled with my sins without any success for 1,5 years.
    GOD IS LOVE or GOD HAS LOVE. God loves me inspite of my sins! i am not sure how but this gave me power to change myself, to get rids of my dirty sinful habbits. Sola Gratia!
    FAITH. God is love and it is true. But how I know it? How I am convinced of it?  I do not neccasary have to feel it, I need to believe in it and only to believe. Sola Fide!
    DRINK JESUS’ BLOOD, NEW AND LIVING WAY TO GOD.  When I once again found myself in the dirty sins I deeply realise the only way I have to God and to live – it’s Jesus blood. B/c of His Blood I’m accepted by God, and I really have no any doubts. Solus Christos!
    RELATIONS. God valued the relations with vineyard workers so high, that gave his faithful servants and even the only Son for suffering and the death. How can I neglect the relations with God’s people so easily, even they really require pain and sacrifice?
    KNOWING GOD THROUGH CHRIST IN THE WORD.  That’s the really great and th only true motivation for the Bible study, reading, ministering, living the life.
    BE HOLY. SANCTIFICATION BY THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT. That’s really great purpose of my practical life and my preaching in practice.
    THE DRIVER. I’m not the person who sits in the controller’s office and knows everything – why and what is happening in my life. I am not to seek the meaning in my life events, to tie everything to mission etc. I’m simlpy a driver who need to know how to react on the event on the road. I just need to know how to lbe a christian here and now and not dreaming much about God’s plans and purposes.

    I think that it not all…

    • Thanks, David. Your reflections are profound, yet simple; heavenly, yet practical; theological, yet real. Thanks for sharing. Yes, I am sure that it is not all…

  4. Thanks, Brian, for the verses you shared on your blog. I’ve often quoted Isa 55:8-9 to remind me that God is above all of man’s thoughts and all of man’s ways, and that God’s word will always prevail above all of man’s thoughts and ways.
    A few months ago, I shared 1 Tim 4:12 in the Philippines to encourage our young Christians there to not be afraid of those who insist upon patriarchy, paternalism, and primogeniture. Sorry for being enamored by those 3 infrequently used words! But I’ve found them very useful in understanding that God does not follow man’s expectations based on those 3 “P” words, especially in choosing the younger over the older repeatedly through out the Bible.
    Thanks for linking my sermon on Jn 1:14 and the Dick Lucas imaginary conversation on your blog!
    I notice the Wikepedia Browser highlight you installed on this site and on your blog. I was wondering if you know why it picks up only so few words and phrases, such as CS Lewis.

  5. Gosh so many! My Favorite verse in the Bible has to be John 11:25-26 it is my hope and got me through my mother’s death.

    1peter 1:24-25 has always stuck in my mind and especially powerfully so when I visited ground zero in New York.

    1John 4:10 taught me the meaning of LOVE

    Isaiah 55 is one of my favorite chapters for a variety of reasons so is Romans 8 and Genesis 44-45 always makes me cry

  6. Wow, great post Dr. Toh. I feel like I know you so much more after reading this. 
    Hmm… the passages that transformed my life were the following:

    John 11:36 (Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”) – This passage really stuck with me when I first began to personally encounter God. I was amazed that God cried for one dead friend. It began soften my heart to the gospel. Within a matter of weeks I went from “all religions are true” to “every knee should bend and declare Jesus Christ is Lord!” The Holy Spirit was powerful in my life during that month. 

    Jeremiah 20:7 (You seduced me O Lord and I let myself be seduced) – This passage was running through my heart constantly when I first started grad school. I felt like there was so much work to do and felt like my faith was always under attack by my lab mates. It was one of the loneliest times in my academic career. I even sometimes blamed God for seducing me and making it hard to concentrate on my studies. I was both overwhelmed with work but overwhelmed with how much God had done for me. 

    Luke 22:19 (And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”) – During my second year in grad school, I began to finally take seriously the differences that divide Christians and ask myself where I stood. I debated faith+works, bible alone and many other points of contention and even though I found myself agreeing with the Catholic Church, I wasnt ready to go back. I remember posting on a Catholic forum my concerns about becoming Catholic. One of my concerns was, “but there are no potlucks after Mass.” I am not joking. Eventually, one anonymous member pointed out something that hit me like a lightning bolt: “The Catholic Church offers you the Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist. Nothing is above that.” Next thing you know, I am a Catholic revert. 

    Matthew 26:6 (“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’) – It is difficult to consider a passage verse that has defined my faith life as of yet. But I think Matthew 26:6 comes close. I have gone though so many changes in the last year. I got married, had my first baby and published some of my research. These things take much time in my life but each one reminds me of my responsibilities before God. My work reminds me that while I have certain duties in this life, they must not come above my duties to God. My wife reminds me of what it means to enter a marriage covenant with God and makes me appreciate how God is always calling me to recommit myself to him. My baby teaches me that I am responsible for making protecting the spiritual condition of another human being! This fact makes me consider how important it is that I prepare my own spirit to meet Jesus when he comes. I want to be like a beautiful bride for my husband. 

  7. Thanks for sharing Gerardo. Thank God for standing for and championing the cause of Christ as a grad student. It’s great to be “known.” Perhaps, relating to the previous post, you might find me extremely “religious” by your framework and definition of “religion.” But I would say this: I am ultraconservative in my orthodoxy, but ultra liberal in my orthopraxy.

  8. Don’t mean to ruin the party here, but I feel a little uneasy about what you said here, Mr. Toh:
    “One of Samuel Lee’s great strength was his faith in God. By his faith, our gracious God used him greatly to convert Koreans to be world conquerors.”
    How can we possibly know it was through Samuel Lee’s faith that God used him. Also, how do we even know God used him at all?
    Sure there are numerous chapters and members of UBF, but it’s really just a small organization. Who are you to say “God used him greatly”, and “God did this and that”. We don’t really know, do we?
    I have respect for Samuel Lee’s character and what he did, but I don’t think it’s wise to “glorify” him like this by saying God did great things because of Samuel Lee’s faith. Or say that “God used him greatly”. We mere humans don’t know or understand what God does exactly, and to say that we do is really arrogant, prideful, and foolish.
    I apologize if I’m offending you, but it bugs me when people just assume God did something. Earlier this year when I read the UBF website headline entitled, “2011 God chose Dr. Abraham T. Kim…” it disturbed me.

    Were we always this proud? God may not have chosen Dr.Abe, or he may have. But it is disrespectful to just assume he has, and just assume that God is on our side for everything we do. That is being proud, that’s what the Pharisees were like. The Pharisees probably thought they were always right, that God is always on their side..their pride obviously blinded them.

    The fact is, people had Dr. Abe elected as the new leader. PEOPLE..in UBF. That’s as much as we know, and that’s as much we can say! Let’s stop being arrogant, and be honest with ourselves, so that we can be free from unhealthy pride.

    • jae,

      You’re not ruining the party (but yes are touching on some subjects that have been taboo for over 50 years). In fact, you raise some very important questions that need to be asked and discussed openly, and most importantly, addressed in light of Scripture.

      Some of this discussion has taken place elsewhere: http://coveringandauthority.com/covering-and-apostolic-authority/difficult-questions-about-covering-and-authority/

      I hope we could all find some life-transformation from Scripture by discussing such things honestly and without people like me being labeled as “rebellious sinners who have demons”. Personal mediation of Scripture is necessary, but just as necessary is group discussion where differing opinions are allowed. 

    • “rebellious sinners who have demons!”: Brian, I am very, very sorry and inwardly quite distressed and angry whenever I hear of anyone being labeled and carricatured. It is childish, immature, spiritually blind, self-righteous and Pharisiacal. It is inexcusable! If we as Christians and as a church are ever to be Christ-like, I pray that such behavior may cease.

      Jesus extended love and grace even to a Gerasene demoniac, and do we say such things to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?!?

    • I should clarify a bit… “rebellious sinners who have demons” was said about others several years ago, not about me. I have been discussed, more precisely, as someone with an “evil spirit these days”.  I don’t mind and don’t hold this against the person who said this, but I want such attitudes and mindsets to end. May such things not happen in 2012 or after.

    • Hey Mr. Karcher, obviously those statements don’t help at all. who are they to judge people like that? Aren’t we supposed to love one another, support one another like Jesus instructed us? Why are they “so above” me that they can get away with this? See this is what I dread about UBF. There are some people who think they’re special and can dictate who has demons, who God hates, who God loves, etc.

  9. Thanks, Jae, and welcome to UBFriends, since I don’t think I remember you commenting before. I do not entirely disagree with you about Lee’s faith. It is not my intention to glorify him. Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8). No one can be proud if he has “great faith which God uses greatly,” since it is a gift of God’s grace. Those who are proud because of their great faith, then shame on them.
    I do also agree with you that Dr. Abraham Kim was chosen by the senior leaders of UBF months before the official formal public election. Nonetheless, that too is in the hand of God. As someone said, we all “elect” people into office and we “deserve” whom we elect, such as when Israel wanted a king like all the other nations of the world.

    • In regard to this, we should be a bit careful: “Dr. Abraham Kim was chosen by the senior leaders of UBF months before the official formal public election.”

      I would be willing to bet that less than 1% of UBF members understand the election process or are aware of the UBF by-laws and official hierarchy structure. And even as a director in UBF, I knew almost nothing about this.

      Sorry for the tangential topic comment, but I don’t want to give our readers the impression that Dr. Kim’s election was the same as the election process in America. It was very different. I and 99% of UBF had zero say in the matter. 

    • Thank you for responding Mr. Toh, but I didn’t mention anything about Dr. Abe Kim’s being chosen before the formal election. Although that is a separate issue that needs to be addressed, I was originally questioning what you wrote here:
      “One of Samuel Lee’s great strength was his faith in God. By his faith, our gracious God used him greatly to convert Koreans to be world conquerors”
      You say, “…God used him…” as if that’s a fact. When honestly nobody can really say what God does for sure. 
      Here’s an extreme version of what I’m pointing out:

      “2011 God chose Dr. Abraham T. Kim as the new UBF General Director”
      Would a humble Christian group say this? Why can’t we just say “We elected a new director, Abraham T. Kim!”
      There’s no need to glorify UBF by saying things in such a manner. I don’t know about anyone else but it sounds very proud to me.
      That headline makes it hard

    • Darren Gruett

      Jae, I agree that sometimes those headlines come across as proud. In fact, I remember reading the headline on the election of Abraham Kim, and I thought that it sounded odd, just strange the way it was stated.
      However, I do question your statement that nobody can say what God does for sure. Is not the fruit of a person’s life the evidence as to whether or not he was used by God? And would we have trouble saying, “God used Moses” or “God used Paul”? Could we not also say God used Charles Spurgeon or Billy Graham?

    • Hi Jae, Darren, My thought is that the “strangeness” of things reported is because English is not the primary language of those who write and report. A simple practical solution is to let one who is fluent and proficent in English and communication to edit before it is published for the world to see.

    • Hi Darren, in the Bible I think we ought to believe that God chose his servants for sure. Not necessarily because of their “fruit”, but because scripture does indicate that God chose certain people. I don’t know anything about Charles Spurgeon, but Billy Graham..nobody knows for sure if God chose him. To just presume God did, just because he drew huge crowds and converted people to Christianity doesn’t mean God necessarily chose him. We should be more humble with ourselves and not glorify ourselves to the point where we’re saying God did this and that, which is very arrogant and to me is a serious issue.
      Also, Mr. Toh. I can assure you that the headline “God chose Dr. Abraham T Kim…” is not a language issue. Do you think native Korean reporters got lost in translation when writing that? Those are only a few words, and the message is very clear, it would be just as clear, and would be the exact same message if written in Korean.

  10. jae,

    Welcome to ubfriends. I am glad that you expressed something that disturbed you. I have become convinced that the things that disturb us or confuse us are opportunities for the Holy Spirit to teach us as we seek to clarify and learn.

    In fact, getting back to the topic of this thread, about Scripture that transforms us, we should not forget that it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us. I am convinced that we need both Spirit and Scripture to be truly transformed, if we are to look anything like Christ’s image.

  11. Hi Jae, I agree with you that “there is no need to glorify UBF.” Theologically, this is called “triumphalism,” or an “over-realized eschatology.” It is unhealthy because it distracts from Jesus and the glory of God, by emphasizing or high-lighting what a Christian or a Christian ministry/church is doing. UBF is not the first, and will not be the last church to do so.

    • Don’t think we’re on the same page yet. I’m not talking about too much emphasis on what a Christian or a ministry is doing, I’m talking about people claiming God is doing this and that (to “glorify” themselves)
      That’s my main issue here. Like I said, the headline “God chose Dr. Abraham Kim..” sounds really arrogant and it’s something we don’t know for sure. So if God is sacred to us and we revere Him, then we should be more responsible when using his holy name.

  12. What Bible verses transformed your life? I just have to share this. Scripture continues to transform my heart, my soul and my mind! The hardened crust around my heart has been breaking off, being shattered by the Spirit’s guidance through Scripture.

    I learned this week that Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. I’ve always picture Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, which is true because after His death and resurrection Jesus did indeed sit down, as an act of finishing the work on the cross (Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 12:2). But Jesus stood up to greet Stephen! I can’t fully express what God’s message is in this, but it is amazing to realize Jesus is not always sitting at God’s right hand. Jesus sometimes stands up. He is alive and is working and takes notice of His little ones. 

    I really don’t think it will be an angel or Peter we first meet at Heaven’s gate– it will be Jesus.

    Acts 7:55-56  “55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”