When we think of transfiguration, what comes to mind? Perhaps Jesus, standing with Peter, James, and John atop a high mountain, with Christ’s face and clothing “shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them” (Mark 9:3)?
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. (Matt. 17:1-8)
What if I told you we can be transfigured as well – indeed, we must be transfigured?
There are four instances in the New Testament of the Greek word translated transfigured in Matthew 17 and Mark 9. (By the way, it’s also the word from which we get our metamorphosis.)
The first two instances are in the transfiguration accounts – in Matthew 17 and Mark 9. (Interestingly, this transfigurational appearance of Christ bears a striking resemblance to that in Revelation 1:13-17, and brings about exactly the same response from John, a second time: immediate worship.)
The fourth instance is in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The third instance, however, is found in Romans 12:2.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom. 12:2)
The word translated transformed in this verse is the exact same Greek word translated transfigured in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created Eden and its mountaintop garden (Ezek. 28:13-14), and placed man in the garden to tend and keep it. But this First Adam tripped and fell. God came walking in the garden, and with His voice issued judgment (Gen. 3:8-9ff.). Adam was consequently given a mark: sweat upon his face, denoting his human-ness and the necessity for cursedly-difficult labor simply to get by in life (Gen. 3:19). He was also given raiment, from God: animal skins, denoting his falling from righteousness into beastiness (Gen. 3:21). Lastly, Adam was unceremoniously given the boot (Gen. 3:23-24).
However, Jesus Christ, the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) and the Son of God, was come to fulfill all righteousness. Thus, when He ascended the mountain with His three disciples, received not sweat but a brilliant glow on His face, had raiment “exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them” (Mark 9:3), and had the very voice of God on the mountain pronounce judgment of approval on Him, Jesus Christ was visually and graphically communicating that He was the New and Last Adam, come to reconcile Creation with its Maker, restore paradise, and have dominion over Creation as the Son of God. This Adam wouldn’t trip.
But how are we to be transfigured?
Paul gives us two answers: In Romans 12:2, he writes that we’re to be transfigured “by the renewing of [our] mind,” which we’ll look at in more detail in the next chapter. But in 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul writes,
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Paul writes that the mechanism of transfiguration is the Spirit of the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord, by His grace, transfigures our fallen selves “into the same image from glory to glory.” We are transformed ethically from a fallen son or daughter of Adam, cursed and working with great toil in a groaning Creation, to a redeemed and restored son or daughter of Christ, blessed and empowered by the Spirit and working in a redeemed and growing Creation, bringing Heaven to Earth (Matt. 6:10).
Let’s say we have a room in our home that is a complete disaster. Not only is the hardwood floor covered in trash, clutter, and boxes of junk, but the furniture is ugly and broken, the walls are dirty and have a hole or two in the drywall, and you can tell that mice have settled down.
What would you do?
If you were me, you would go in, throw out the trash (everything in the room), sweep, refinish the hardwood floors, scrub the floors and walls, fix the drywall, re-paint the walls, and kill the mice. But would you stop there and say, “This room is a beautiful room”? No, it would be an empty room. You would go purchase new, quality furniture, wall decorations, bookshelves, and whatever else is needed to make the room truly new.
Did you burn the place down and build an entirely new room? No. You re-newed it. Why? For a purpose.
This is what we are to do with our minds.
Paul is exhorting us not only to not be conformed (or sanctified) to the ungodly world’s system of living, but to be transfigured into the image of Christ. How? By the renewing of our minds through the power of the Holy Spirit.
How do we renew our minds? Well, there are a few ways.
First, you must continue to inform yourself more and more about things of the Lord and how to live faithfully for Him, applying His Word to situations in life. This means reading God’s Word. Set aside time once a day – perhaps only 10-15 minutes – and spend it just reading Scripture. Pick a book of the Bible, start with chapter one, and read. If it’s short, you can read it in one sitting; most books will require many sittings. I can read through the book of Amos (9 chapters) in about 45 minutes. Don’t fret over whether or not you’re understanding every last detail. Your goal is to create an atmosphere centered around the Word.
Second, we do so through meditation and prayer.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psa. 1:1-2)
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Phil. 4:8)
We are to consciously think or meditate on God’s Word throughout the day. Meditation isn’t some Eastern mysticism; it just means to dwell and focus on something, observing and thinking about it. “Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it.” We would add, as we’ll look at in the next few chapters, that such Christian meditation has action as it’s goal, meaning faithful living.
Set aside time once a day – again, perhaps only 10-15 minutes – and spend it in meditation and prayer. Read a passage, perhaps in the Psalms or Proverbs, the Law, or the Epistles – or perhaps even the passage you read in the previous exercise – and ask yourself, “What does God require of me in terms of this?” Chew on the words. Think about them. Turn them over inside your brain. Pray that God will help you understand the passage, and show you how to apply it to your own life. Find practical ways to apply it, so you “may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).
Third, we renew our minds through study on specific subjects. What are areas of your life that you’re struggling with? Relationships? Covetousness? Lust? Anger? Budgeting? Or are you simply curious what the Bible says about a particular area of life?
As you need to, do basic studies on questions you have. Use tools like BlueLetterBible.org to help in your word studies. Get counsel from trusted advisors on specific points. Remember, your goal is understanding and ethical change – you want to renew your mind and be transfigured into the image of Christ.
Our minds are part of our bodies, and “bought with a price. Therefore we should glorify God in our body, and in our spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:10, paraphrased). Let us be pray that the Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 6:13), and let us be diligent to renew our minds, that we may become like Christ.
This transformation or transfiguration must start in us, as we saw in Romans 12:2. Just as Christ’s atonement flows “far as the curse is found,” it must start in my heart, and in your heart. We must continue to be conformed not to the world, but to the image of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, starting with our minds and hearts and flowing forth into our families, our brethren, our communities, our businesses, and our world.