Finding the Key to Real Transformation

bf6While the UBF conversations continue here, we would like to begin some new dialogues about Christianity in general. We have a few articles that have been submitted on topics that go beyond the UBF context. We hope this will expand our minds and hearts, and infuse our dialogues with some outside input. The first article is from a virtual friend Brian met (via phone, blogs and Facebook) last year, Joe Machuta. Joe has been on an amazing journey of transformation. He calls it a Christian “paradigm-shift”. Joe has nothing to do with UBF and has never even heard of UBF until he met Brian. Please take some time to listen to Joe’s words and share your reactions.

True righteousness and holiness

Look at what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. Eph 4:22-24 “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Notice the phrase true righteousness and holiness. In order for Paul to speak of true righteousness and holiness… he must have been aware of false righteousness and holiness.

If there is anything lacking in Christianity today, it is real… true… transformation. Real, true transformation is genuine spiritual transformation brought about by a deep abiding faith in redemption. Current evangelical doctrine causes this transformation to be still born before it can ever take a hold. The reason is that most evangelical assemblies demand “read and do” obedience. “Read and do” obedience is fleshly obedience. The current way that evangelicals are taught about transformation motivates fleshly reformation rather than spiritual transformation. Look at the two words and compare and contrast them. Reformation is the act of one reforming themselves and is primarily a fleshly endeavor. Transformation happens as the result of an outside force. In the disciple of Christ, the outside transforming force, is the radical love of God manifested in the gospel of grace. The gospel is the only thing that will bring about true transformation.

When Paul penned the words “and be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” what did he mean? Renew the mind to what? The answer… renew the mind to the gospel! Renew the mind to the mercies of God. How then does this work? How is it transformative? Well, quite frankly it is simple when you think about it. When one focuses on God’s mercy, love and grace… especially in view of humanities great need… it actually causes one to love God very deeply. It produces peace from the realization and experience of forgiveness. This love and peace operates to cause us to feel closer to God. We acknowledge our connection to God via the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is precisely the way that we begin to participate in the divine nature. Participation in the divine nature is the source of transformation… real transformation.

Unfortunately, far too many saints are caught up in reformation… trying desperately to meet the standards set up by other saints and their particular denomination and leaders. This effort is 99% fleshly and this causes spiritual burn out and anger. It seems to me that so many saints end up being judgmental and very angry. They lack the life of Jesus in their day to day demeanor. Again, the reason is that they can only be *truly transformed* by their faith in the gospel. It never changes. We cannot outgrow this. It is not a one time thing. We did not get saved spiritually and then begin to reform ourselves by self effort after reading the scripture over and over again. Instead, we must realize God’s mercy and grace… really experience it over and over to have love consistently produced in us. God’s love for us is the transformer. It transforms us into loving people.

Here is where the body of Christ becomes important. When we meet it should be to reinforce the knowledge of God’s love and grace. That’s why Paul was determined to not do anything except preach the gospel. Yes, “Jesus Christ and him crucified” is another way of Paul saying I determine to teach and preach nothing but the gospel. We will look deeper into this transformation process over the next few posts.

Exploring the righteousness of God

Take another look at Ephesians 4:22-24 “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Notice the phrase true righteousness and holiness. In order for Paul to speak of true righteousness and holiness… he must have been aware of false righteousness and holiness.

True righteousness is the righteousness of God or, more accurately stated, it is imputed or accredited righteousness. One of the interpretative rules for understanding the scripture is called the rule of first mention. This rule is especially instructive with the term righteousness. The first mention of the word righteousness in the bible is found in Gen 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Here we see that God accredits, accounts, imputes righteousness to people who believe what he tells them. God made a promise to Abraham. Abraham believed God’s promise. God then, accredited righteousness to Abraham based upon his faith in God. Imputed righteousness is very important in true transformation and true holiness. Imputed righteousness is the foundation of our trust in God.

Paul said this about Israel; Romans 10:1-4 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (2) For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Israel was ignorant of the way God declared Abraham righteous. Being ignorant of God’s righteousness is in reality, not understanding imputed righteousness. Seeking to establish one’s own righteousness is practicing self-righteousness.

I could say what Paul said about his fellow Jews today about most of evangelical Christianity. I wish that they could be saved; I wish they could rest in God’s righteousness… His righteous provision. I wish that they would rest in the righteousness of God. If they would trust in imputed righteousness it would make them truly love God with an incredible, indescribable love. This love would then be spread abroad to others. Any obedience, any good works, any brotherly love would be the result of spiritual transformation brought about by believing in God’s love. The saint, resting in imputed righteousness is set free, given peace that translates into love works that are the result of faith.

The world needs to see Jesus

It is not that God does not desire transformation in his children. He most definitely does and, he has provided for that transformation in the gospel. One must believe the gospel no matter what…. no matter what one sees in fleshly behavior on any given day or at any give period of time. Transformation is a process that *will* happen over time if faith in the gospel remains all the time. Resting in and trusting in imputed righteousness is the foundation of transformation. If the world needs to see anything in these times it is the love of Jesus being manifested in transformed saints that exhibit true righteousness and holiness.

Check out Joe’s blog for many more insightful articles:


  1. Joe, your thoughts and insights here EXACTLY reflect the journey that God has been leading me through. For my whole Christian life, I have struggled with various life-dominating sins. I was so guilt-riddled and despairing because of these. I misunderstood verses like Gal 5:16 “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” to mean the more I refrain from fulfilling the lust of the flesh the more I’m walking in the Spirit. Of course, this is “flesh reformation” as you call it. The focus was on myself, whether I’m doing good or bad, whether I’m “struggling” enough, repenting enough, and in Scripture enough. Of course, it was never enough, I always fell short, and each time felt the sting of failure.

    These days, God is leading me on an amazing journey of rediscovering the gospel of grace, holiness, and righteousness. I realized the error in my understanding of the gospel, that it was me-focused and works-based. I am uncovering the all-encompassing love of God and grace and power of the cross. I am learning that the more secure I am in the love of God, the more prone I am to act in ways that bring honour to Him. So the focus isn’t on me, but on God’s love and grace through Jesus’ cross, i.e., the gospel. And grace upon grace, the real power of the gospel is being manifested and God is winning victories in my demeanor and thought-world that I could never achieve before.

    “Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all my sin!”

    • Ditto. I think I said these exact words to Joe: “Joe, your thoughts and insights here EXACTLY reflect the journey that God has been leading me through.”

      As I dialogue with more and more people around the world, I am finding a common theme: Christians who lived a fundamentalist-like cocoon for many years are suddenly coming alive like butterflies going through a transformation process.

      That’s why I’ve been saying the new symbol of Christianity in our generation is the butterfly.

      Another virtual friend who has been on this same journey is Robb Ryerse. His book Fundamorphosis is highly recommended reading material for all ex-members of ubf.

  2. Thanks, Joe, for sharing what many in “evangelical churches” need to hear. What Joshua shares is sadly often what churches, leaders and Bible teachers communicate: “You must repent. You must decide. You must overcome. You must obey. You must not date. You must wait before you can marry.” And this list can just go on and on and on. There is no Christ, righteousness or holiness in such skewed teachings. It simply produces either pride or despair, pride in those who think they are obeying and despair in those who cannot meet the expectation of their church/leader.

    The other ill result of such teaching is spiritual abuse, where the leader/teacher is the one who has to make sure that the member is making progress, usually arbitrarily based on the leader’s own subjective bias and legalistic assessment.

  3. Nice article. I think George Koch ( also brings out a similar point that this article also nicely articulates in his chapter on obedience and love.

    thanks for sharing

    • Latest well written post of Koch on essentials (unity), non-essentials (liberty), all things (charity), sanctification, etc, that helps to promote love and unity among Christians:

      “We (Christians) often defend vigorously those things about which we are less certain, or worse, those things that may not really be important in God’s eyes, but that someone else has loudly insisted is essential.” George Byron Koch, What We Believe and Why