Are you really happy with the way you are? The way you look? Feel? Think? Are you satisfied with your relationships or do you wish they could be or better? Do you wish to change anything about your life? Most of us would reply, "Yes."
There is an ocean of advice in books, in magazines, on the Internet and in seminars claiming one panacea after another that will enable us to lose weight, improve relationships, be cured of disease, overcome sin and everything else we don't like about ourselves. In a recent year, $11 billion was spent in the United States on self-improvement books.
God created us with self-awareness and the built-in ability to change. This is not true of instinct-driven animals with no desire to be something different from what they are. It's we human beings who have the capacity to change from what we are to something else.
Change is not easy. Many won't change to what they know would help them look and feel better. And for those who do make an effort to change, the change is often through spurts of willpower, habit-forming techniques being often short-lived. For example, more than 90 percent of people who lose significant weight will gain it all back, much to their distress.
Our Creator has built into us the capacity for change and offers us help for much greater change leading to a higher level of existence. This comes through "conversion," a synonym for change, to a new way of life. And it is far more than just overcoming bad habits and feeling and looking better.
First call to action is for change—a complete turnaround
From the moment God created us, His intent was to move us from where we are to a higher level of conduct that, as we change our attitudes and behavior, is only the beginning of an eternal existence and relationship with Him. He offers us help through His Holy Spirit of power to overcome, another synonym for change. The greatest change is finally when God grants change from temporary existence to everlasting. This is actually the good news that Jesus Christ preached.
Jesus began His ministry with this keynote statement: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15, emphasis added throughout). Repentance, yet another synonym for change, was mentioned before belief and faith. So Christ's first call to action is to change—to make a complete turnaround from going against God to following Him.
The same was true on the day the New Testament Church started—on Pentecost in Jerusalem after Christ ascended to heaven.
After the apostle Peter's compelling sermon that day about Jesus, His life, mission, death and resurrection, those in the attentive crowd "were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38).
The first instruction of the New Testament Church was a call to change leading to baptism and a new way of life. Shortly afterward, Peter likewise proclaimed, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19).
Metamorphosis—a transformation in this life and after
The call here was for an awesome, far-reaching transformation. In fact, the apostle Paul later wrote to members of the Church in Rome: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). The word used here in the original Greek is a form of metamorphoo, from which we derive "metamorphosis." It means to change into another form. A vivid example of the magnitude of this kind of change is the transformation of a pupa into an adult butterfly.
The same word occurs in the description of one of the most spectacular visions of the Bible, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, where He appeared as a Being of dazzling light: "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured [metamorphosed] before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light" (Matthew 17:1-2; see Matthew 17:9).
The same Greek word is also used in 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [metamorphosed] into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
One who obeys this is truly a "convert," a changed person. This is conversion. It happens when we become convicted of the need to abandon our old ways of life and fill ourselves with thoughts and desires from the very mind of God. We want to change in a profound way.
This transformation is not an end in itself in our human existence but continues into the hereafter. The ultimate transformation will come when we are brought out of the grave and granted immortality.
Our hope is the same as that of Job, who asked an important question and then answered it: "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come" (Job 14:14, King James Version).
This is supported by Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
This is not a stretch of the word "change." It tells us the full story of the change process, which begins with a call to change through repentance and culminates in a complete transformation of our being at the resurrection. This indeed is good news.
Annual observances that teach the transformation process
God reveals a series of festivals that were meant not just for Israel but for all mankind, as they concern all people (see Leviticus 23 for a complete listing). The New Testament Church continued to observe them as we should today. In them is a systematic message of the metamorphosis process of man achieving the potential he was intended to fulfill. (To learn more, read our free Bible study aid booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for all Mankind.)
Now, early spring in the northern hemisphere, is the season for observing the first two of these annual festivals that teach us about the transformation process—Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The starting point is reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ as our Passover (see 1 Corinthians 5:7). We can't begin our spiritual journey until this event that we reconfirm annually.
Then the Days of Unleavened Bread follow. During these seven days we keep leavened bread out of our homes and eat unleavened bread—leaven being that which causes bread to rise during baking, such as yeast or baking soda, serving as a symbol of sin during these days.
The lesson of this is taught by Paul to the gentile Corinthian congregation in the mid-50s A.D.: "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). Eating unleavened bread represents our changed converted nature of being like Jesus Christ.
If you surrender to God and His way of life, He will bring many wonderful things into your life. Transformation produces a new man or a new woman with lasting character and integrity. Deep down you've always wanted that, but if you follow God's calling you can actually have the change you were created for. Transformation brings with it a new closeness to God and the benefits of sustained spiritual and physical life.
It starts with repentance. Are you ready to change?