I have no idea how I got my learner’s permit.
In theory, it should have been pretty straightforward. I enrolled in a series of driver’s education video classes to prepare. However, they were so boring, I just stopped watching. Somehow, the little bit I did complete was enough for me to pass the written test and qualify for a learner’s permit.
Then, in the parking lot of the DMV, my mom handed me the keys. “Here. Why don’t you drive home?”
You might think I would point out that I had absolutely zero experience or training for this, but no. With all the confidence and accumulated life wisdom of a 16-year-old, I hopped behind the wheel and started the engine. Only then did I turn to her and said, “Ok, so what exactly do I do NOW?”
In case you’re wondering, I did NOT drive home on the Dallas freeway that day.
That was the same year I became a child of God. I was radically changed by my new Birth. I had an increasing hunger for Him that nothing else could satisfy. The Word of God opened up to me in a personal way I never imagined possible.
However, soon after the honeymoon stage of my salvation, I realized that something was wrong.
My salvation was undeniably real, but I still struggled with selfishness, with my desire to be right, with lying, and much more.
Why? Wasn’t that part of my old life? Christians shouldn’t act this way! I simply couldn’t figure it out. I searched many years trying to find the button to push, the quick fix, that would make me act like the new creation the Word said I was. (1 Corinthians 5:17)
The Principle and the P
Why am I sharing these two stories? The root problem was the same.
In the first case, my mom assumed that someone with a license should be able to use it. As a possessor of a Texas driver’s license, it was indeed legal. However, I couldn’t function very well! I needed the process of learning to be able to utilize what I had.
The Bible says the same thing is true of us as believers. At the moment of my salvation, I instantaneously became the possessor of ALL Christ provides. (Righteousness, holiness, etc.) That’s the first spiritual principle.
But there is a second, concurrent principle as well which I didn’t understand. Although believers possess so much through Jesus, we still need a process for it to become absolute reality in our daily lives.
That’s what I was missing: process.
Already…But Not Yet
Salvation is the act of a moment, but there is a lifetime of process that I just didn’t grasp. As a believer, many things are difficult to understand. One of the biggest is this: some parts of our lives are both already true AND not yet true. It is confusing, even seems like a paradox, but it is a great spiritual reality.
Ephesians 2:6 is a perfect example. Paul says we are ALREADY seated with Christ in heaven. This statement is glorious truth. It is a spiritual reality. But it is also not yet true. Obviously, we are still here on earth. It is a physical reality, a fact of life. One day the verse will become both a spiritual and practical reality for us. But for now, it is already …but not yet.
It is the same with my spiritual character. God has declared that I am righteous. I am holy. I am a new creation; but He has also ordained that I must process what I already possess.
The Tick of Transformation
This process is called transformation. It is beautifully spelled out in 2 Corinthians 3:18: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
Although we are fully saved and forgiven in an instant, we do not have instant and full maturity in our spiritual life. Our Wise Father chose to use the process of transformation as a key part of our growing relationship with Him here on earth.
We must live it out one second at a time, like a clock ticking. One degree of glory after another, and then another, …and another. I am continually, progressively being transformed into His image.
It Takes Two
No matter how shiny my new license might have been, it was useless (and even dangerous) without training and putting what I learned into practice. Furthermore, the more time I spent in the driver’s seat, the easier it got.
It’s a similar process with the vehicle of transformation. It takes time, a lifetime to be exact. Hebrews 10:14 underscores these truths: With one sacrifice Christ made his people perfect forever. They are the ones who are being made holy.
Already … but not yet.
Tick. Tick. Tick.