Holy Transformation: What it Takes for God to Make a Difference in You. By Chip Ingram. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2003. 263 pp. Cloth. $14.99.
Transformation—it’s what we long for as Christians. And it is with much concern for the church that Chip Ingram, President of Walk Thru the Bible, has written a book to facilitate maturity in those who wish to be transformed.
He begins with an illustration of a worm morphing into a butterfly. The process is not easy, but the worm struggles through it and at the end a ground-ridden slimy worm is transformed into a free graceful butterfly (pun intended). Ingram writes, “The transformation implied by the difference between ‘having life’ and ‘having it more abundantly’ requires morphing. The caterpillar and the butterfly share the same life, but the butterfly has reached the ‘more abundant’ experience of life” (p. 25).
His second chapter is entitled “Morphing Is for Everyone!” It is his firm belief that: “If you are ‘born from above,’ your life can change” (p. 35). In fact, “Holy transformation is not something we simply hope will happen some day. It is God’s clear desire for every believer” (p. 36). He believes that this growth only happens within the context of “deep, intentional, authentic relationships with other believers in some kind of small group…learning the Scriptures, sharing what God is teaching the participants, and with intentionally speaking the truth into one another’s lives…” (p. 41).
His third chapter gives three reasons we fail to morph: 1) Spiritual Ignorance (pp. 57-63); 2) Spiritual Isolation (pp. 63-67); and 3) Spiritual Myopia (pp. 67-69). It was refreshing to see that he spent a good percentage of this chapter talking about our need for the Scriptures. Passionately, he states, “We are living today in an age of biblical illiteracy, and we are paying the price for it with confused and shallow spiritual lives” (p. 58). It saddens me when I hear of sincere Christians who want to be transformed, but refuse to read God’s Word. Yet, I thank God for men like Ingram who call the church towards a higher calling. We should not be satisfied with biblical illiteracy for it is too high of a price to pay. He concludes this chapter by asserting, “Holy transformation requires biblical knowledge, authentic community, and a high view of God” (p. 70).
The next two chapters involve the key to morphing (pp. 71-86) and where the power to morph comes from (pp. 87-109). Much of the problem with morphing is that “people talk about wanting to change, but when a genuine opportunity comes along they often decide to wait” (p. 71). Ingram spends the next fifteen pages or so developing the key to morphing—dying with Christ. He reminds the reader that we have three opportunities to obtain the power to live transformed lives by: 1) Knowing the truth (pp. 91-97); 2) Acting on the truth (pp. 97-101); and 3) Receiving it as a gift and taking it on as a responsibility (pp. 101-108). For those that want to tap into this power, Ingram includes a prayer at the end: “Holy Father, I’m going to get into Your Word regularly and get connected to a Bible-teaching church at a deep level. I’m going to discover my spiritual gift and practice it. Today is my last day in passive Christianity—I’m going to live by faith, trusting in You to transform me into someone who looks and acts a lot like Jesus” (p. 108). If this was the prayer of every believer, imagine the impact this would have on our local churches!
Next Ingram gives a glimpse of the transformed life (pp. 111-21) by including a letter of a man in his church who was transformed. What began as an undisciplined man was transformed into a mature follower of Christ. Also, so that the reader can test their own maturity, Ingram offers four tests of spiritual maturity. Do you: 1) Handle the Scriptures and spot false teaching?; 2) Speak truth in love?; 3) Participate fully using your gift in the Body?; and 4) Have “an ever-expanding love for God and others”? These are great questions that we should constantly be asking ourselves.
In the last half of the book, Ingram packs in tons of practical information. The seventh chapter (pp. 123-41) exhorts believers to learn from their leaders, be a minister, and have ministries that develop mature followers of Christ. If every believer sought to be a minister and every ministry in the church sought to produce mature disciples, our churches would be transformed as well! The eighth chapter seems to repeat some earlier concepts in chapter six. It deals with “How to Know if You’re Really Morphing” (pp. 143-62). Chapters nine and ten deal with overcoming the grip sin and a bad lifestyle can have on our lives. Lastly, in chapters eleven and twelve, Ingram explains that “transformation is a matter of spiritual training as opposed to trying harder” (p. 262). He explains this by offering the statement: “Getting and staying in shape isn’t about trying; it’s about training” (p. 228). While I’m still not sure if I know how he differentiates the two, the training program he sets up would be helpful for Christians seeking maturity.
While overall Holy Transformation is a very helpful and insightful work, there are several bumps in the road in regards to his gospel presentation. He often uses language such as “surrender to Christ” (p. 30), “Christ became Lord of my life” (p. 38), “asked Christ to come into my life” (p. 96), “come to Him repentantly, and ask Him to forgive you” (p. 96), and “personally asked Him to be your Savior and Lord” (p. 101). Yet, he also says “receive Jesus as your Savior,” (p. 88), “trusting Christ,” and “my admission of faith in Christ” (p. 96).
Although the gospel portrayed is usually fuzzier than it is clear, he does understand that even Christians need to be transformed. That is one important distinction that he does understand: “Holy transformation is not something we simply hope will happen some day. It is God’s clear desire for every believer. Unfortunately, the great majority of Christians do not understand what this involves, how it works out in daily living, or why morphing is an essential aspect of the Christian life” (p. 36). As Paul exhorted his fellow workers in Rome, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:1-2). May we realize this truth of Scripture in our lives today.
Michael D. Makidon
Director of Publications
Grace Evangelical Society