Transforming Grace

I’ve always been fascinated by before and after pictures. Recently we finished the basement of our house. The first thing I did was to clean all the junk from the basement. The second thing I did was to get my camera and take a whole bunch of pictures. When it was completed and all the furniture was moved in, the first thing I did – before we had a chance to mess it up – was to take some more pictures again. The differences were dramatic.

This past week we were looking at some of our old family pictures. We came across one picture of me that changed my life. I remember getting the film developed, and when I saw that one picture I said to myself, “I’m going to lose some weight.” And I did. After a few months, I lost quite a bit of weight and was able to see the results in other pictures. You’ve seen them yourself – before and after pictures are extraordinary. Businesses use them all the time to sell their products.

This morning I’d like to show you a spiritual before and after picture.

BEFORE – The Bible describes the before picture of every single one of us as this: dead, doomed forever, full of sin, under God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3); rotten through and through, full of lust and deception (Ephesians 4:22).

AFTER – The after picture the Bible paints for us is this: just like Jesus. “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29). God wants every believer to develop the character of Christ.

The minute that we’re saved by God’s grace, God reorients our desires and begins a lifelong process of transformation in our lives. And listen to the result:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10)

You were created to be a masterpiece for God. God didn’t set out to repair most of our brokenness. God wants to make you a new creature. He made you to know oneness with him and with other human beings. God made you to be co-regent with him – to rule over the earth with him. He is making us into masterpieces.

This morning we’re going to look at God’s transforming grace. We’re going to examine how God takes spiritually dead people and transforms them into masterpieces. We’re going to look at the ABC’s of how to be transformed by God’s grace – how you can become God’s masterpiece.


Romans 12:3 says, “As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.”

We need to begin talking about God’s transforming grace this morning by measuring our current condition right now. We need to do some self-evaluation. Why? Three reasons:

Because it’s easy to be self-deceived. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” It’s easy to be self-deceived. Do you ever notice how hard it is to evaluate yourself? You get a performance review, and you ask, “Are they talking about me?” You see a picture of yourself, and you ask, “Is that what I look like?” It’s no different spiritually. It’s easy to deceive ourselves about our current condition.

The other reason we need to evaluate ourselves spiritually is because spiritual growth is not automatic. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen when you’re saved. Churches are filled with people who have attended services for their entire lives, and yet they’re spiritual babes. Hebrews 5:12 says, “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food.” Millions of Christians have grown older without ever having grown up.

So we can come up with a spiritual action plan. Once we know where we are spiritually, we can come up with a plan to grow in certain areas. Philippians 2:12 says, “Continue to work out your salvation with deep reverence and fear.”

As you came in this morning, you were given a piece of paper called “Spiritual Health Assessment” (below). Please take it out. My challenge to you is to take it home and today – emphasis on today – complete it. It takes about 10 minutes to do. If you’re really ambitious, you can have your parents, spouse, or Christian friend fill out a copy of the form for you so you can get a more accurate result.

One word of warning: it’s futile to complete this assessment if you haven’t been born again yet. It’s no use measuring your spiritual life if you don’t have one! The good news is that you can receive that spiritual life by coming to Jesus and receiving God’s free gift of grace. It’s free for the taking. You can be made into a new creature. God can begin to make you into his masterpiece. Once you’ve done that, you can take this assessment.

The purpose of this spiritual health assessment isn’t to make you feel guilty. It’s nothing you have to turn in with your names on it. We won’t be marking it. It’s simply a self-evaluation quiz to see where you are spiritually right now. And no matter where you are right now, it’s a starting point. God isn’t finished with you yet. Claim God’s promise from Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.”

But here’s my question. What steps are you going to take so that you grow over the next month? What are you going to do to grow? Spiritual growth is not automatic. It doesn’t just happen. You need to take some steps to growth. Begin by assessing your spiritual health.


There’s a lot of confusing advice coming out now days on how God changes us. Some people say, “Just wait on the Lord” – a passive approach. Other people say, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” – an activist viewpoint.

What am I supposed to do in order to grow? Is it all me or is it all God or is it a combination?

Paul deals with this very issue. When it comes to your spiritual growth, the fact is God has a part and you have a part. Paul uses two phrases to explain this cooperation in Philippians 2:12:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Circle “work out” and “work in”. Work out is your part. Work in is God’s part. We are to work out what God is working in.

Paul doesn’t say, “Work for your salvation.” We’ve learned already that grace is a free gift from God. Paul is writing to Christians here. He’s saying, “Work out the implications. If you’re born again, start growing. Work it out.”

One of the best ways that we can work out our salvation is to use the tools that God uses to transform us. In a sense, we cooperate with God to complete the transformation. There are four tools that God uses to transform our lives:

1. He uses the Bible

2 Timothy 3:16 says,

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

The Bible changes our thoughts so it changes us. If you want to get serious about change, you need to get into this book. Read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, live it in your life. The more you get the Word of God in your life, the more you’re going to be changed.< /p>

Peter wrote to a group of believers and said:

You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation. Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. (1 Peter 2:2)

A baby can’t grow if a baby’s not fed. If you want to be transformed, it’s not going to happen unless you nourish yourself on God’s Word. Listen to what David said:

How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping it according to Your word. (Psalm 119:9)

Now, the problem is that God wants to transform us using his Word, but we’re not reading his Word enough for him to do this. We’re not giving God enough to work with. God can’t use the Scriptures to transform us if we’re not reading the Scriptures.

You can take some steps to begin using God’s tool, the Word of God, so that you can be transformed. Get a good translation of the Bible that you can understand. Buy a good study Bible. Place verses around the house or in your car that you can memorize. Every time you come to a red light, glance at that Bible verse and meditate on it. Make the Word of God your delight.

People say, “I’m not growing spiritually.” I ask them, “Are you reading the Bible?” They say, “No.” What do they expect? The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” We need to begin with the tool that God uses to transform us – the Bible.

There’s another tool that God uses:

2. He uses the Holy Spirit

When we begin to follow Jesus, God puts His Spirit in us. This is where the power comes from to change. Romans 8:11 says: “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you.” God will bring power into your life. The Holy Spirit is God Himself. He’s in Spirit form. When you commit your life to God, he comes into your life. The same power that he used to raise Jesus from the dead will be available to transform you more and more like Jesus.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him [Jesus] and reflect his glory even more.” God’s number one purpose in your life is not to make you happy, but to make you like Jesus. Every day that the Spirit works in our lives, we become more like Jesus Christ.

In Genesis 1:27, when God first formed the world, he said, “Let us make man in our image” and he’s wanted to do that ever since. That is his ultimate goal – to change you to be like Jesus.

The only problem is, we can grieve the Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 reads, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” You can bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit by the way you live. If your life is filled with bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, and all types of malicious behavior, the Bible says that you’re bringing sorrow to the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18 tells us that we can be either controlled by the Spirit, or we can be controlled by other things such as wine. That’s why Galatians 5:25 tells us:

If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.

God’s ideal is to tell us how to change through his Word and give us the power to change through his Spirit. You read it and then the Spirit empowers you to do it. Unfortunately, we don’t always follow the ideal. So God has to use a third way to change us when we don’t respond to the Word or the Holy Spirit.

3. He uses the church

This week I heard about a study by the Department of Mental Health of California. They discovered that if you isolate yourself from other people, if all you have is acquaintances, no close friends, you have no intimate relationships with other believers, other people, you are three times more likely to die an early death, you are four times more likely to suffer emotional burnout, you are five times more likely to be clinically depressed and you are ten times more likely to be hospitalized for emotional or mental disorder. You were made for relationships.

The Bible says we’re supposed to help each other. We’re not supposed to go through life as Lone Rangers. You are supposed to have people that you depend on. Close friends. The Bible calls it fellowship.

In Ecclesiastes 4 the Bible says, “Two people are better than one because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up.” The next verse in that chapter says, “If you don’t have anybody to help you up when you’re all alone, pity on you.”

Fortunately God has designed a custom-made support network just for you. That is called the church. Church is not something you go to. Church is not an event you attend. Church is a family that God meant for you to be connected to, to be a part of. He wants you to have relationships and connections and fellowship in the body of Christ, in the family of God. God uses these relationships in the church to help you grow.

4. He uses circumstances

Problems, pressures, headaches, difficulties, stress always gets our attention. Romans 8:28 says:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.

There is nothing that could come into the life of a believer without God’s permission. He doesn’t say they are all good, but he will use them for good to fit into a pattern. There is a divine pattern.

Where are my problems coming from? Did I cause them? Are they from the devil? from God? It really doesn’t matter where the problems in your life come from. No matter what the source is God can use it in your life if you’ll let him. All things can fit into a pattern for good – to make me like Jesus.

If God is going to make me like Jesus, then He’s going to take me through some situations that Jesus went through. There were times when Jesus was lonely. There were times when Jesus was tempted. There were times when Jesus was tempted to be depressed or to get angry and blow up or to be impatient. And God allowed Jesus to go through those things. Do you think he’s going to spare you from those things? He’s more interested in your character than your comfort.

Hebrews 5:8 says, “Jesus learned obedience through suffering.” How do you think you’re going to learn it? Hebrews 2:10 says, “Jesus was made perfect through suffering.” How do you think you’re going to be made perfect?

For instance, God commands, “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2). I read that. I put it on my shaving mirror and in my car, and meditate on it. I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in making that real in my life. And then God begins to work to make me more humble. I receive the support of other Christian brothers and sisters in helping me.

But if I don’t read the Word of God, never ask the Holy Spirit for help in becoming humble, and don’t receive the support of my spiritual family, then God will likely humble me using circumstances. He has unlimited ways to do it, friends. You may read the Bible for an hour a day, and yet God has 24 hours a day to use circumstances to teach you. God can light a fire under us to get us moving. So use the tools that God has given you to be transformed – the Bible, his Spirit, and circumstances.

2 Peter 1:3 says:

As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!

God has given us everything we need. God’s power is enough. He can use the Bible, the Spirit, and even circumstances to cause you to grow.

Now, in my home I have an impressive collection of tools. I have two toolboxes. I have a power drill. I have wrenches, pliers, saws, hammers, and screwdrivers. And I hardly use them. My wife is even glad about that. She’s seen what happens when I try.

God has given us tools so that we can be transformed. We just have to use them. You need to assess your spiritual health. You need to begin using God’s tools. Then:


Once you’ve assessed your spiritual health, and know the tools that God uses to transform your character, it’s time to take that next step. Where do you begin? You begin by looking at your spiritual assessment. God will want to address certain areas of your life and cause you to grow. There’s a next step that you need to take. You probably already know what it is.

For some of you, it’s getting connected with a church family. God never intended for us to live in isolation. You can’t grow when you’re not connected. You might have been waiting a long time to find the perfect church. You don’t need perfection; you just need a spiritual family. You need to take the next step and get connected. If that’s you, then do we have the class for you! You need to come to Class 101 to discover how you can become committed to God and to the Richview church family.

Maybe you’ve followed Christ but you’ve never been baptized. We’re planning a baptism. It’s a command of Christ. Baptism is going to be the next step for you.

Maybe you need to get a good Bible and begin reading it. There are some excellent Bibles out there. You might have been turned off reading the Bible because you couldn’t understand it. There are some excellent translations with study notes to help you as you begin to study. The tools are available.

Maybe you need to begin serving. We have the Network program running. You were never meant to just soak it all in. You were meant to share it with others. The Network program gives you an opportunity to express the gifts that God gave you.

Later on in the year, we’re going to offer classes on how to become grounded spiritually – how to grow in your spiritual life. You can even sign up for these in advance.

What next step would you like to take? In your bulletins, you can find a tear-off communication card. If you want a bigger one, they’re available on the Information Center. Would you take those out and write what next step you will take? There’s room there for you to indicate that you’re committing your life to Christ; that you want to be baptized; that you’re renewing your commitment to Christ; that you want to enroll in one of our classes. But this morning you need to take the next step.

Let’s pray.

Philippians 1:6 says, “I am sure that God who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ comes back again.”
God is at work in you. If you haven’t received God’s grace before, you can this morning. You can pray this prayer: “Father, today I receive your grace. I want you to transform my life. I want you to take away all that’s dead and rotten about my life, and in exchange give me your completeness and grace. Today I receive the free gift that Jesus came to give me.”
Today you can pray that God will continue to transform your life. You are God’s masterpiece. As the Spirit works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.
Pray with me, “Father, thank you for your transforming grace. As we step out today in your grace, we pray that you would impact our lives, touch our lives, be with us as we are being changed and transformed. Thank you for the metamorphosis taking place in our lives. Thanks for the day. Now take our lives and let them be completely consecrated to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Spiritual Health Assessment

1=Poor; 2=Fair; 3=Good; 4=Very Good; 5=Outstanding


I have discovered my spiritual S.H.A.P.E. (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience).

1 2 3 4 5

I am serving in a regular (monthly or better) ministry to the church body.

1 2 3 4 5

I am attending the ongoing ministry training and support gatherings for my ministry.

1 2 3 4 5

I am actively sharing group or team roles with those on my team.

1 2 3 4 5

I am discipling or praying for other another member to meet with regularly.

1 2 3 4 5

Service Total



I am faithfully attending corporate worship services on the weekends.

1 2 3 4 5

I worship God with other believers during the week in a small group or other context.

1 2 3 4 5

I am growing in my personal worship to God through music and praise.

1 2 3 4 5

I am maintaining my physical health through exercise and nutrition (Romans 12:1).

1 2 3 4 5

I am honoring God with my whole life balancing my priorities and the purposes in my life.

1 2 3 4 5

Worship Total



I am actively praying for and cultivating relationships with seeker friends and family.

1 2 3 4 5

I am inviting seekers to church and sharing my spiritual story.

1 2 3 4 5

I am participating in worldwide missions by praying for and experiencing cross-cultural missions.

1 2 3 4 5

I am praying and planning on where God can use me cross-culturally.

1 2 3 4 5

I am reproducing my life spiritually or praying for when this will happen.

1 2 3 4 5

Outreach Total



I am intentionally cultivating my relationships with Christian friends and spiritual mentors.

1 2 3 4 5

I am connected in Christian Community through a fellowship, congregation, or small group.

1 2 3 4 5

I am more loving, grace-giving, and forgiving to others.

1 2 3 4 5

I am authentically connecting with my immediate family relationships.

1 2 3 4 5

I am supporting the leadership of the church and resolving conflict Biblically.

1 2 3 4 5

Relationships Total



I am growing spiritually through regular quiet time in God’s Word and prayer (Habits).

1 2 3 4 5

I am facing and addressing the spiritual, emotional, relational, and maturity issues in my life.

1 2 3 4 5

I am sharing increased ownership in my group through shared roles and responsibilities.

1 2 3 4 5

I am deepening my walk with God by studying his Word in a maturity class or small group Bible study.

1 2 3 4 5

I am honoring God with my finances and my personal giving (budget) to God.

1 2 3 4 5

Discipleship Total










Very Good



Where am I strong and where do I need improvement?

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada