CAIO, WHAT IS TRANSFORMATION?
Your answer to a question I made about the heart encouraged me to write you again. Talking to you feels like groping on holy ground, in view of your ministry experience and love for the Word of God. I’ll try to express myself even groping for the right words. If I succeed, I hope this will be the continuity of our exchanging e-mails for as long as you’re patient with me.
I’ve read some of your writings and I can note you speak with good judgment about God’s Grace as opposed to Law. In the Scripture, I notice some categories that simplify an outlook on the world through contrapositions such as light/darkness, believers/unbelievers, Jews/gentiles, grace/law, and so on.
My concern has to do with Grace itself in a particular aspect: “Transformation”, with Romans 12:1-2 as a reference.
Let me say something: As I see it, transformation isn’t faultlessness (never to sin again), since sin is rooted in our flesh, which only will be eliminated by the incorruptible body. Meanwhile the flesh will be manifested in our sins (1 John 8-10).
Transformation isn’t receiving something new from God either, because when we are born again, we received all of God’s blessings as well as everything that involves life and mercy.
Transformation, I guess you’d say, is to have a conscience according to God’s Grace.
Correct me if I’m wrong. Born again, we still have mindsets from our previous journey without God. Such mindsets hinder us from understanding some aspects of Christian life, and, all the worse, quite often we understand that they’re a part of Christian life. In Ephesians 2:3 Paul says that following our sinful nature’s desires and thoughts characterized us as children of wrath.
Le me put it in terms of a personal experience. I had been the city planning bureau officer. I asked God what I was supposed to do in the following years and I got an answer in Isaiah: “I will make you into a threshing sledge ... You will thresh the mountains.” I thought to myself that the answer would necessarily imply a new conversion, but I couldn’t see how it would be possible.
Two months after I was out of office, three questions came to my mind:
1 – “Where were you seating for the last three years?” “Room X, Desk X, Chair X.”
2 – “Who was sitting there before you?” “All city planning administrators before me”. Then I remembered that in 1967 my father had been the one in that chair—I was shaken.
3 – “Would you rather be your father’s image or my image and likeness?” When I answered I’d rather be God’s image, I realized that 36 years of life had just gone down the drain. It felt as if, at a single stroke, my entire past was thrown into a dump.
I regard that as a transformation moment, because I radically turned my back on my former way of life since then. I considered never being in office again, as this had been my father’s journey, but I was wrong. Today I’m in office again, now as the city administration bureau officer, but the way I deal with things differs, for the better, from that of the past. And it differs like water turned into wine.
What I mean is that such moments, as I see it, are continuous and broaden our hearts in understanding and experiencing the grace of God.
I’ve noticed they always happen through a clear understanding of the Word for a particular existential experience in the light of this Word, bringing about a change in our attitude—metanoia, I assume.
I can’t see that clearly in your writings on this website. As far as I understand, you, like a voice of the one calling in the desert, lead the individual from Law to Grace. Within your perception, where does what I tried to get across fit? Did I manage to convey what I tried or should I try again, more accurately? What could you tell me?
Please, my desire is really to learn with you, for I’m convinced that even as I talk, I’m listening.
It’s my honor to exchange e-mails with you.
A brotherly hug,
Grace and Peace!
Every spiritual transformation is the fruit of Grace and Truth meeting together in the human heart, an in the human heart only.
We’re transformed in ever-increasing glory by the Spirit when our faces are unveiled and exposed to the contrast of God’s likeness, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Metanoia is a continuous process. The “evangelicals” have made repentance into a guilt crisis—usually linked to a transgression act—, not a way of giving oneself over to that the truth that is increasingly revealed to us in order to bring about the growth of our understanding, which starts the continuous transformation process. It’s all about not conforming to the bondage to the world’s patterns, as Paul says in Romans 12:1-2.
Outside of God’s Grace no transformation exists, because without His Grace nobody can bear the truth for his/her own good and for life. Without Grace, truth smashes, distresses, troubles, and “neuroticizes”, but does not transform. Only when Grace and Truth get into us and kiss each other does truth operate in us the good of life. Otherwise, it only shatters us.
In order to dare show your face—that is, take the veil off—, the heart must be assured of God’s love already. Without this, every truth is terrifying and causes the individual to hide his/her face, as Moses did, so that we can’t “look to the end of the thing being done away”.
Truth, however, is only a transforming power when it meets us in our innermost selves. So, every transforming truth only comes from the inside to the outside, getting together the beings we still are and the beings we, in Christ, are called to be—the being of our truest potential, according to Grace and Truth.
In fact, transformation isn’t to become who we are not; it’s to become who we are and don’t want to be, even though this rejection is unconscious or the fruit of bluntness caused by spiritual ignorance.
Therefore, transformation is the path where we see who we are although we deny being, due to family conditionings, other people’s impositions, bluntness of our senses and perceptions that are conditioned to the persona we agreed to “be”. And all this is chosen in place of simply following the path of the-real-beings-we-are.
The “new creation/creature” isn’t a self to be “invented”. It’s my real self, who was killed by the “old self’s” impositions; it’s not-really-me but an existential falsification of me that “took over” through formatting and conditionings, whether the external ones or those that are neurosis in us.
However, my friend, transformation is the very experiencing of truth in ourselves, and which is applicable as we go on and discern our own existence in the light of the proposition of God’s love for us.
Truth, however, doesn’t fit in any kind of “set”: It needs to be lived out. Only in life, as we are on the way, we can experience truth. In the Christian world, we have “truth as a doctrine”, not as experiencing God in one’s own life. Regarding this, even the “systematizers” of doctrines as justification by faith, etc, couldn’t acquire truth psychologically and existentially, but in a logic, rationalistic way only. Therefore, it was a “bookish truth” only, daughter of Aristotle’s philosophy order; developed according to the same patterns and through the philosophers’ methods. Such truth can be a subject under discussion—in fact, foolish and unproductive—but never becomes the good of peace for the soul. This is proved by the fact that the “protestants” aren’t examples of quiet, soothed souls. To them, the doctrine of justification through faith provided the guarantee of eternal, eschatological salvation, but it never did any psychological good to the soul.
“What is Truth?”
That was Pilate’s question.
The disciple knows that the Truth deserves no answer, because the truth is the life and the way.
If the disciple know it already, then what will the Truth say of itself?
Truth can’t be found in a laboratory, a seminary, a book, or a beautiful thinking.
In fact, truth is on the way and in life, and there’s no other manner of accessing it. Therefore its way is hard, and places us before death, pain, loss and suffering.
Thinking that someone can reach truth just the way he/she came to a “logical conclusion” is a mere illusion.
No logic can lead anyone to truth. Truth happens along the paths of non-logic, and it spares no one the journey to find it if this is their purpose.
“What is truth?” was Pilate’s question to Jesus.
This question was left unanswered. In fact, Jesus would never answer it with a formula. No equation can explain truth. Neither would any “doctrine kit” fit it as a suitable wrapping.
Jesus didn’t teach the truth; in fact, He is the Truth. Therefore, knowing the truth is receiving a revelation about who He is. And this is only possible if our eyes are open to see His eyes.
Pilate’s question is foolish. Sophisticatedly foolish. To Jesus, it’s a similar question to “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus’ answer to “Who is my neighbor?” leads us where we don’t want to go, because the answer is a story. All the worse, in the story, the neighbor’s neighbor is someone in whom we reject the presence of truth: A heretical Samaritan, as every Good Samaritan was in the Jews’ eyes.
“What is truth?”
To Jesus, it sounded as if He were being asked, “Do you exist?”
“Do you say this thing of yourself, or did others say it to you about Me?”—Jesus had already provoked him about whether or not He was a King. But this question of Jesus’ carries the answer concerning everything, especially the Truth.
If he is the Truth, then truth exists. If He is the Truth, then truth doesn’t settle down as information from others, but only as a ”thing that comes of yourself”.
If someone earnestly asks Jesus “What is truth?”, the only possible answer is “Do you ask this thing of yourself?”, or even “for this reason I was born … to testify to the truth … everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Without Jesus, Jesus’ teachings aren’t the truth. Jesus’ teachings are only the truth because of Jesus, notJesus is the Truth because of the true teachings.
Jesus’ teachings will never lead me to truth unless I haven’t been introduced to Jesus and met Him in the first place.
Without Jesus, the teachings of Jesus as teachings of the Truth are blinding and brutalizing at the same rate they’re smashingly unbearable.
In this way, in order that we see that the Sermon on the Mount is not a Sermon on the Mount, we first need to recognize it, in ourselves, as the Sermon in the Abyss—because without Jesus, that’s where the Sermon on the Mount throws me into: the Abyss.
No, I don’t want Jesus’ teachings without Jesus! I’d only be more blinded and more lost! Moreover, they would only be good for revealing my own lie about being a Christian, because without Jesus, His teachings only prove that I’m not a Christian.
Jesus never called anyone for being taught lessons in Truth; instead, to “follow Him”—with all their lies.
Or wasn’t it the way He did in the Gospels?
“Follow me” is the call of Jesus that is the Way, the Life, and the Truth.
In this way, I go… Like Peter and the others went… full of doubts, lies, vanities, contentions, disputes, dissimilar understandings, different expectations, and a lot of foolishness.
Yes, they stumbled as they followed… just like us.
Who persuaded us that we’re any better than they were?
Peter proceeded on the journey even after betraying three times. And he betrayed many other times...
Did any of them “turn aside” from the truth?
Yes, but only the one who betrayed the Way.
All of those who remained in the Way—even stumbling on their own lies and deceits as they went on—eventually knew the Truth, since it only happens as a personal experiencing of “following”.
There are no courses on Truth. The course of Truth is Life.
“What is truth?”, asked Pilate.
The answer Jesus didn’t speak out was given through the subtleness of that “Do you say this thing of yourself, or did others say it to you about Me?”
It’s as if he were saying, “If you’re asking this as you look at me, which other thing could I tell you than ‘follow me’?—but this you don’t want. Though, only by walking with me would you see me, since my standing in front of you hasn’t revealed you anything but what you don’t know.”
Yes: Truth can’t be offered in a “set”, neither fits in a creed, nor in our dogmas.
The Truth is Jesus, but He established that knowing Truth happens as revelation as we follow the Way, and the method is Life—because the Truth is a Person.
Only he who believes that love fits in a set of definitions can believe that truth is a “kit”.
Whatever concerns God has to be lived out in order to be mine. And it has to be first tasted as absolute personal contradiction and powerlessness until I abide by the laws of the Way, which, in fact, are one: “Follow Me…”
Therefore I really follow Jesus, as the first disciples did. I listen to everything they listened to, and even so I can’t accomplish all I know, because I stumble while following the Way to be able to know the Truth as Life.
There’s no other way. If Jesus is the Truth—as He actually is—, then I can’t think of knowing truth before knowing Himself.
And, in this way, I knew Jesus, and His teachings were only good for me to transgress in even greater pain, because I soon realized that my only truth was the fact of walking into the Truth blind alley: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Therefore, the true person is he/she who follows Jesus even while stumbling on his/her own words, but assured that He is the Truth, the Incarnate Word.
Christianity tried to give Pilate an answer, and, the Greek way, it developed Creeds, Dogmas, Theologies, Doctrines, and a Systematic for Truth which is nothing but an empty package.
So, we are “[on the side] of the truth” as long as we recite the creed and buy the right doctrines kit; as long as we sit down and say, “Now we know truth!”
Jesus has no doctrines or creeds. That’s why the Samaritan is Good in spite of his wrong creed.
To Jesus, Forgiveness is Forgiveness; Mercy is Mercy…
Therefore, He doesn’t call us to know, but to be and experience.
“What is truth?”
“Come along with me on the Way and Life will tell you the Truth”—I hear Jesus tell me. “Meanwhile, follow me, because by walking with me you will know the Truth, for this is the journey of Life.”
I remember that when I started preaching to pastors frequently, a group of Americans living in Brazil would always attend the lectures. It was the early 80’s. What impressed me the most was that apparently those American Christians agreed to everything I said, and even rejoiced in it. But, in the end, they would always come up with the same question: “You said why and what, but you didn’t say how.”
The point was that our outlooks and ways of thinking were entirely different. What they called “why” I called “meaning”. What they called “what” meant “how” to me. And what they called “how” meant a method to me, and I’ve never managed to believe in methods as truth, only as circumstantialities; and I tend to only value the place where the method bloomed spontaneously and where it’s put into practice in a simple, natural way, with no methodological impositions.
At that point I began to realize we’d never build up anything in common, as our viewpoints pushed us toward pretty different directions.
Well, today I believe that their way of thinking expresses very well the religious outlook, especially that of the evangelicals’, to whom the Truth can be studied.
Their thinking was objective. And to them, truth is a subject of study and rational learning. To me, though, truth is intangible, and only can be learned as an experience in your innermost self, in deeply intangibleness and a visceral way”.
Because of this, we looked at and appraised things from very different perspectives, which led us toward ever-increasingly distant poles.
At that time I was convinced that if automobiles or share market investments were the matter at hand, we could and should look at truth as something concrete—just the reality as it was, in that case. However, regarding the truth for life, I could never imagine that teaching the truth to somebody would ever be possible if the person didn’t experience it in his/her own life, as it’s always an inner process in the first place. And at times it remains in that realm as something that almost can’t be uttered, for the rest of the person’s life.
I’m conscious of my assuredness that truth must be tasted out of the self’s own passion for God, and that the very passion-in-faith is truth in itself, since to relate to The One Who Is isn’t exciting to most people. In fact, most wish God were a visible idol, or His Truth were written in Tablets of Stone (on the outside), and not on the inside, in the heart, wrapped up in mystery and total intangibleness, only available for tasting for a passionate faith.
For a human being, no truth exists that can be known as such, add meaning to his/her existence, and that doesn’t require being tasted and experienced by him/her.
It’s true that men have been on the Moon, but this tangible truth didn’t change a thing in anybody’s life, except for the astronauts who experienced that reality as an existential truth.
They themselves were never the same again.
We believe the information to be true. They, the astronauts, viscerally knew that truth as reality, and that reality as truth.
Such a synthesis is only possible in intangibility. Only inside you can taste truth as reality and reality as truth.
That’s why God told people never to make any image of Him. After all, God’s truth can only be known as an experience of God in your own existence, and such an experience only happens in the realm of intangibility, in the heart.
That’s why, too, I can’t believe in theology as an instrument for studying God or the Truth of God.
Such things simply don’t exist as things; therefore, can’t be studied. They can be experienced only.
God is spirit, and He is not looking for “studious” of His ways, but worshipers who follow His Way, which is as free as the wind that blows wherever it pleases. Therefore only those born of the Spirit walk on this Way comfortably, because to them there isn’t Someone to be learned, but to be followed only; and according to the witness the Spirit bears within our hearts.
Such a witness doesn’t happen without references. On the contrary, this witness of Truth in us makes, through Jesus, the Way explicit in life. However, the way, as we’ve seen in another text, is “how”. And the Way is only true as long as it happens in reality and in truth for the one who walks in it. And, as we know, it’s the way the walker walks, from the inside, that which actually is the way.
The walker’s way calls into existence the way under his feet!
The “outside” watcher—watching from the realm of tangibility—sees nothing but image and moving, and from much afar can appraise it to some degree. However, only the walking individual knows—even though in part—what he/she is actually experiencing.
Such being the case, he/she is only left with words, since nobody else will understand or believe him/her unless the person experiences it too.
However, the person to whom truth is a subject of study ends up sinking into indifference, because truth only brings about something when it is tasted and experienced by us as love, passion and faith. Otherwise it kills the soul. The letter kills!
But for the one who tastes it in his/her own life, little is left to study as truth, because, in fact, such a task is impossible. So, all the being’s energy is focused on living it out, in tasting it in life.
Where is truth?
Well, if you have to find it, mind you: it will be inside of you only, and you’ll only experience it as such if you live it out in the passion of faith, in Jesus.
Read John 8 and meditate on it.
In this reading, you’ll discern that you only experience truth as the exercising of a life that goes on in growing freedom, and always happens as a risk. There’s even the risk of knowing truth when it unmasks our own self-deceit and shows us that our freedom is still slavery in disguise.
Truth sets us free, but freedom is what brings about the growth of truth in life.
Without freedom, truth is, at best, an anatomy class where the body is dead. Just as faith without works is dead, truth without freedom is nothing but the arrogance of the doctrines.
The preachers of freedom usually don’t know anything about it, because if truth produces freedom, it’s freedom that causes truth to be life. And nobody can know truth if not in life, in the core of the being’s experience of existing amid all paradoxes. Therefore, knowing truth always hurts, and hurts a lot. In fact, it tears you apart entirely. And because the preachers of freedom aren’t willing to be torn apart, they talk about what they don’t know.
In existence, we know truth not as an intellectual understanding of it, but in the core of our beings.
Preachers of truth who don’t know it as freedom remain in bondage to all sin, especially the sin of stating that they know what they’ve never tasted because they never took any chances as an experience of freedom. Truth is freedom’s main existential fruit and its only experiential proof.
People stuck into the fear of living will never know truth, because truth takes place as a risk, as vertigo from freedom, and as a result from the person’s giving himself/herself over to life, to existence, with no fear of being, let alone be scared at his/her own face unmasked by the light from that which is.
If truth doesn’t settle down in the innermost self, it will not create freedom, but an ever-growing anxiety and ambiguity.
When I say “truth” I’m certainly not talking about doctrines, but about an assuredness that doesn’t need to be explained. To human beings, truth is existentiality.
That’s why those who know truth can never deliver a persuasive speech on it. The true persuasion of truth is the delivering action it performs in one’s being, even when it tears it apart. Therefore, the one who was hit and torn by it doesn’t have much to say about it, but he/she becomes brave enough to be because of it and despite it.
All the talk about truth isn’t ridiculous because it lacks good contents, but because it lacks trust in its real promise of liberation, which only manifests as such if there’s freedom as an expression of life in the existence of the one who claims to know truth.
Anxiety as an expression of existence is what reveals the most if truth has got into the core of a human being or if it only hit him/her as an “intellectual agreement” and not as a visceral covenant.
Anxiety disguises as orthodoxy and conviction, but it actually is nothing but insecurity about the truth, since whatever truth that doesn’t bring about liberation from fear isn’t liberation yet, because it hasn’t yet become an essential part of the self. This makes the “announcer of the truth” a priest of anxiety and fear. That’s why he has a need to be intolerant. In religion, anxiety creates uncertainty, and uncertainty brings about the orthodoxy of fear.
In this way, the more you talk about truth the more you deny it, since the one who announces truth as a speech is doing nothing but trying to save himself from his own uncertainty.
That’s why the religious are so insecure, and their insecurity make them so overbearing. People who are on the side of truth (real people) don’t have to prove anything, because their living in freedom is proof of their own conviction and faith.
So, to me, the “truth apologists” are the most insecure people. They spend their lives trying to prove to others just what makes up their own uncertainties and qualms. That’s why they’re so fragile, so orthodox, so intolerant and fanaticized by insecurity.
People on the side of truth don’t have to prove anything to anybody. They would only have to prove something if their lives themselves weren’t the proof and, at times, the counterproof, even though in the process of surrendering to truth.
Freedom is the only thing that proves that someone knows truth and freedom, because when you know truth in life, it sets us free for freedom, even if it’s the freedom to err in order to know truth as pain and, eventually, know it as peace.
Therefore I say: Sow me your truth by your doctrines and I, with no doctrines at all, will show you truth by my courage to live in freedom in spite of myself.
After all, the Truth is nothing but Everything. And this Everything is nothing but Jesus.
Think about it!