Mark Shaw

National Transformation Month

September 24, 2013

National Transformation Month
Mark Shaw

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Mark Shaw

National Transformation Month

“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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

September has traditionally been recognized in the US as “National Recovery Month.” While I like the word recovery, I really love the biblical word transformation instead because God offers real hope and help for the person struggling with an addiction. God wants more for us than just recovery, though recovery is a good word.

If you were to have surgery tomorrow, you would be wheeled into one of two rooms following the procedure: the recovery room or the morgue. The room of choice for most of us is the recovery room because recovery after surgery is a good thing. (Of course, we understand as Christians that to be with Christ is gain according to Philippians 1:21 but that is a blog post for another day!)

My point is that while recovery is a good word, it does not best capture a biblical goal and motivation for addicts. Is recovery the best word to depict God’s goal for us? I believe the better word is found in the verse above and in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Right Eternal Goals

Some wonder why I would split hairs over such an issue especially when both words are good. But here’s why: using the word transformation instead of recovery sets the bar higher which is where God sets it. The original language of the biblical word transformation is similar to our English word metamorphosis, and so it has an eternal component that is lacking in the word recovery.

Recovery is usually more focused upon self (i.e. how is this change going to help me?) and the things we can have in this life while transformation is more centered upon Christ and our service to Him (how can this change in me glorify God and advance His Kingdom?).

For the Christian, Romans 8:28-29 and 1 Corinthians 10:31 tell us that transformation will result in being conformed to the image of God’s Son and all our life will be lived ultimately for the glory of God. When we lower the standards that God has set, we miss out on opportunities to acknowledge our own sinfulness before God, ask forgiveness through Jesus, and receive the majestic grace of God which lovingly atones for those sins through Christ’s righteousness alone. That is the Gospel and I don’t want us to miss opportunities to share it with those who are going through addictive struggles. Transformation is a word that points to Christ and presents the power of the Gospel.

I train counselors to teach their counselees this simple illustration to get them to aim higher: teach them to be butterflies and not just caterpillars with rarely used wings. How ludicrous it would be to see a beautiful butterfly with huge wings wandering around the garden mile after mile on his 6 short legs!

I love the picture that the Bible gives us of being a new creation in Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:17. I am concerned that some Christians are missing the opportunity to proclaim this new position in Christ and new identity in Christ whereby the power to be transformed is possible. We have been transformed from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light (salvation) and we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another (progressive sanctification). Too many Christian counselees in “recovery” from addictions are now in fact butterflies but are being trained to act like caterpillars taught to aim for lower goals than those found in Scripture. By the power of the Holy Spirit, just as the wind carries the butterfly along, they can fly!

Now, let’s pause a moment and recall the most recent butterfly you have observed in flight. Often their flight path may appear disjointed, a little difficult to track, and frankly a little scary to watch, but God does not promise that the flight will be smooth. His will is to be glorified and have the counselee continually being conformed to the likeness of Christ. What a glorious and hope-filled promise for all who trust in Christ for salvation!

Right Godly Motivation for Change

One key element of using the right word for the right goal involves our motivation. Those struggling with addictions of all types must focus upon the put-on of Ephesians 4:24 or they will rarely be motivated to change. Most addicts I counsel are not motivated by the put-off (never drink or drug again).

Rather, they are motivated by the new relationships they can possess with Christ and others. They are motivated by the promises of God and His grace. They are motivated by the fruit of the Spirit God produces in and through them (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the things that come from a right goal of transformation which focuses upon serving Christ through obedience to His Word and Spirit.


Again, the Christian recovery movement has good goals. One of them is to be a better me. I am all for being a better Mark, but only in light of becoming a better ambassador of Christ. That is a new, rightly motivated goal that has me focused upon Someone bigger than myself.

Transformational goals are possible through Christ and His power and we must be motivated by the desire to be pleasing to Him and make that our goal (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 remind us that God wants to transform our minds by making us more Christ-like. His plan is fantastic and is more than just staying clean and sober.

So can biblical counselors campaign to rename this month? How does “National Transformation Month” sound to you? In reality, every month of the entire year for every believer is national transformation month because God is still actively involved in the business of transforming lives for His own glory!

Join the Conversation

  1. What other biblical words reflect biblical constructs that conflict with worldly words and ideas? Give examples.
  2. How can you promote Christ as the answer to all types of addiction?

13 thoughts on “National Transformation Month

  1. Mark, thanks for posting such important truth! I am struck by how many people are satisfied with “recovery.” I can only imagine it is because they don’t know how truly sick they are. They don’t understand that sin is not something a person can recover from and it can never be redeemed through good behavior or working a 12 step program. I endeavor to show them something better than mere recovery, I show them Christ. Christ in all His transforming power and glory, who offers the addicted idolater life change as a result of heart change. I want people to know that only when the heart is transformed from death to life, and only when that life is surrendered to Christ for His glory is real change going to take place. The change that matters: becoming more and more like Christ, being changed into His image. Blessings Brother!

  2. Recovery is to get back something that was lost. I don’t know about you but I do not want my old self back. I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I love the way you explain that in your book “The Heart of Addiction” Dr Shaw. Thanks for another super article, especial the part about eternal goals. I find myself thinking alot about where my focus is. As Jesus said, “Where your heart is… so is your treasure”. Thanks again Sir. Have a Blessed day!

  3. Excellent Mark. Are you sure you are not a carpenter? After all, you hit the nail on the head. I personally like being a piece of clay that my Lord can mold and remold into the vessel he wants me to be. Each touch of His Word and Hand refines me and one day as with all of us believers, He will compete the work he has started in us and bring us to His perfection.

  4. Thanks Mark for your delineating the difference between recovery and transformation! If the goal in counseling is recovery it seems more self oriented. The recovery oriented person is concerned about living a better life for themselves. So life is better for them. The goal in biblical transformation is the Glory Of God, we are motivated by the reason for which God created us as Isaiah 43:7 states. There is Joy in Biblical Transformation-Metamorphosis! The Holy Spirit gives strength in the inner-man to wlk in the Spirit and deny the fleshly lusts of our hearts. Thanks for the great post!

  5. I fully agree with the distinction, as the word ‘recovery’ is used often by people in secular 12-step programs and sometimes in Christian ones. However, as a participant in Celebrate Recovery, I do see that Steps 10, 11, and 12, together with the emphasis on continual growth into who God wants me to become (as described in Scripture of course) by perseverance in the process (which can be favorably compared to transformation or progressive sanctification), indicate that the program, when rightly grasped, goes well beyond ‘recovery’. There is a tendency for people to bring their preconceived notions in the door with them, and it is always a challenge whether to, well, challenge them when these notions pop up. I believe it is essential to pursue the ‘putting on’ of a new life (see Step 12, for instance), and that the concept of a ‘second chance’ and similar ideas is not always helpful. Nor am I convinced that a hyperactive approach to self-examination and -counseling (as found in some people’s interpretation of this program, and in some self-training programs) is always a better approach than pausing to reflect on our thoughts, actions, and outcomes of the past day/week/etc. and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what needs to change next, and how. Similarly, I don’t know where the idea comes from that people are necessarily equipped to come up with the best possible application or action plan in a matter of minutes or less, without a certain amount of Help. (And if they have to do this carefully and reflectively, how much more so their partners in discipleship ?)

    The biggest obstacles to growth in change in an organization such as Celebrate Recovery are the same as in any prospering institution (not to mention the no-longer-prospering ones, which does not include CR by any means at this point): it is slow to change ideas and approaches because of its size and reach, and it is not eager to change what has already been “working”. So hopefully the community of biblical counselors will remain a happy collegial mix of contributors and never completely become an institution.

  6. Mark, keep on telling the truth that sets people free! John 8:32


    “If you’re using drugs, it’s a choice, not a disease! If you’re in recovery, it’s about you, not Him. If you are experiencing TRANSFORMATION, it’s about HIM, not you!” -The Drug Guy

  7. What a challenging and great Word for today! Definitely lots of room for improvement in me…and I need that “Transformation”…daily! Keep up the good work!

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  9. All I can say is, “it’s Biblical”. But, of course, you’re a Biblical Counselor! How can you go wrong with Biblical terms? Way to go Mark!

    Another term that is popular in today’s psychologized society is “Addiction”. I know many Biblical Counselors do not have a problem using this term. Here is the problem with using the psychological term. According to a post on the website “livescience”:

    “At its core, addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem
    or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in
    all these other areas,” said Dr. Michael Miller, past president of ASAM
    who oversaw the development of the new definition. “Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward

    So, one can easily see psychology’s definition of “addiction”. This person is a victim of a “mental disease” and they cannot help what they are doing. They are no longer in control. Instead, the disease is controlling them causing them to perform these acts. To put it in good ‘ole Arkansas language, “it ain’t Biblical”. As Biblical Counselors let’s stay Biblical and not psychological.

  10. I have been on both sides of this fence as a former addict myself (Biblically: transformed sinner.) When I went through the secular A.A. programs I was said to be a recovering alcoholic. The problem with this was just as Mark said, I had the put off part going but I never filled the void with anything to replace it and eventually went back to my idolatrous ways. When I was introduced to the Biblical model I then became transformed. Not only did I put all of the old stuff out of my life but the void was filled with Christ which left me yearning for nothing but Him and I never even thought about taking another drink or using more drugs again. My sincere put on of Christ now allows me the freedom to not look to my own problems but consider others as greater than myself and look to help them with their problems. Looking to others and taking eyes off of self is the most freeing and rewarding feeling I have ever experienced.

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