Metanoia to Metamorphosis


Metanoia to Metamorphosis


The word “gospel” (old English God-spell) is a translation of the Greek word euangelion (eu-‘good’, -angelion ‘message’)

The good news that the Gospel proclaims, is the revelation of a truth that runs contrary to the religious traditions of men and “the basic principles of the world”. (Colossians 2:8) A basic principle of man’s religious logic is that God blesses those who deserve to be blessed and so religion across the world, in its multitude of forms, presents man with various requirements/works that he must fulfil to attain God’s blessing.

We could say the common feature of man’s logic is that God blesses ‘good’ people and good people are those who do good things (as opposed to bad/evil people who do bad things). Notice two things about this principle.

1.    People are defined by what they do. They have a works-based identity.

2.    God is defined as someone who agrees with our view of good and bad.


This belief system however is built on a lie; that man is able to make himself good. (doing to become)


God in His mercy, through the giving of the Law (Old Covenant), has dealt a fatal blow to this lie.

 “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life."  (Galatians 3:11)

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”             (Romans 3:20)


Man in his self-reliance and pride believed what we could call the ‘original lie’; that he, by himself, is capable of doing something to earn godliness.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”             (Genesis 3:4,5)

The lie here is that man can be like God through what he does. But God had already breathed His Spirit into Adam and shared His life with Him. God was the source of Adam’s life and identity. In believing the lie that he could source life and identity for himself, through his own efforts, Adam turned away from looking to God for his life and turned to look at himself for life.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”     (Genesis 3:7)

If man-made religion is man attempting to cover over his own falling short of the glory of God (Romans3:23), then man has continued sewing fig leaves together ever since!

·         Religion’s solution to restoring man to God’s presence is always to look to man’s ability. (Romans 10:3)

·         God’s immediate answer to Adam’s nakedness; to provide a covering from an animal skin (Genesis 3:21) declares that God always saw Himself and not man, as the solution to restoring man to God’s presence. Man would ultimately be restored to the covering of God’s glory; by the shedding of blood. In fact a lamb had been chosen (Jesus) as the solution, even before the problem appeared (1Peter1:20)


Man-made religion in all its multitude of shapes and forms, continues to point man to the wrong tree. It says in effect, “This is good and this is evil and now that you know this, you should do good, that you may become good.” The lie in this statement is that man can become like God merely by doing.

The Law, “Thou shalt not…” was given to man to show him that it is impossible for any man to become good apart from God. No man can be made righteous by his own efforts. (Romans 3:20).


The Gospel is the good news that God did what man could not do and what he did not deserve.

“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son…”  Romans 8:3

God reconciled man to Himself by the shedding of His own blood and gifted him the righteousness that he could not attain himself by doing good things.

“For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”    (Romans 5:17)

This message, that man’s salvation comes by God’s “wonderful grace” and not by man’s doing good (religion), runs contrary to both this world’s religious traditions and man-made philosophies.

“So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense.” (1Cor.1:23 NLT)

This message of Grace sounds the death knell for all religion, which is why the Pharisees persecuted He who was full of grace and truth (Jesus) and why the religious spirit of man (pride) has opposed the message of grace ever since. (Matt.20:1-16, Galatians 4:21-31)


Down the centuries man in his pride has struggled to accept His total dependence on the grace of God. Men from the beginning of the Church age, have sought to mix back in religious tradition and the basic philosophy of this world; that we become by doing, into the Gospel of Grace.

Paul warned the Galatians that to even mix a little ‘doing to become’ with grace, would change the gospel (good news) into no gospel at all. In Paul’s eyes the message of grace was the Gospel.

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.” (Galatians 1:6)

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”  (Acts 20:24)

Paul also warned them that to mix man’s performance (Law) into the message of grace would result in the gospel becoming powerless to change a man from the inside out. He would be left merely trying to change from the outside in (behaviour modification). (Gal.3:5)

Those of strong enough will power to manage to keep rules and regulations (doing to become) can give the appearance of ‘holiness’, but Jesus was scathing of this ‘cleaning the outside of the cup while leaving the inside dirty’ (Luke 11:39). He pointed out that this type of ‘repentance’ produced men who were like the white-washed tombs of the day; clean on the outside but full of corruption and death inside (Matt.23:27)

The pure, undiluted, unmixed Gospel of Grace is a radical message and only a radical message can produce the radical change (heart change) that religion (outer behaviour modification) cannot produce. This is one way we can tell if the Gospel being preached is the Gospel or another; is it producing completely new men and women or merely religious men and women? (2Cor.5:17)


Jesus knew that a man’s outer actions are only changed when his heart (what he believes) is changed (Luke 6:45). Because He did not define men as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ merely by their performance, but saw all men as equally in need of the grace of God, He gave Himself freely to all men and for all men. His love for those whom the religious defined as ‘sinners’, was and continues to scandalise man’s religious pride.

The true Gospel is good news not just for the Church but for the world!


The gospel of the grace of God is the good news of the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is good news to the world precisely because the finished work of Jesus included the sin of the whole world. All sin has been paid for. 

“And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,”  (Hebrews 10:12)

God has reconciled the world to Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2Cor.4:19)


This message of reconciliation; that God through Christ, has now finished all the work that is necessary for everyone who wants to, to be reconciled to God, is good news for everyone in the world. This is why at the birth of Jesus, the angels declared that the news of His birth would be good news for all people (Luke 2:10).

It is good news precisely because it is not news of God demanding something of man, but news of what God has done for man.

Good news is either good news or it is not.

Other ‘news’ such as the trials and tribulations that befell the Israelites under the Old Covenant is also true ‘news’ but it is not ‘the good news’, not the Gospel. News that anyone who refuses the grace of God, His offer of eternal life through Christ, is choosing to remain apart from God for eternity, is also true news but not ‘good news’.

The good news is that God has provided a way for anyone who wants to be with Him, to be with Him today, as soon as they believe in what He has done for them. (Romans 10:9)

Grace is freely given to all men, but faith is needed for men to receive the wonderful truth, the love of God, His very nature, His Spirit, His life. But even this faith is itself a gift of God, for the Gospel itself carries the power to enable men to believe.

“So belief comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ”. (Romans 10:17. ESV)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)


What God has done for man is a past event. The Gospel is not “If you will do something for God (repent), only then will He do something for you.”

To infer that anything else is required of you but faith is not good news. That is the manmade religion that Paul declared to the Galatians that they were slipping back under.

“So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5)


We saw in our School of Grace study on ‘true repentance’ that the very word ‘repentance’ itself is not an accurate translation of the original Greek word ‘Metanoia’ used to describe the ‘change’ that the Gospel brings (Matthew 4:17). Unfortunately the poor translation of this Greek word into English as ‘repent’ has led to a diminished understanding of what true metanoia means.

Our common understanding of the word repent and repentance is that it means to feel sorrow or contrition for ones actions, with this remorse leading to a change of action. There is nothing wrong in itself with feeling regret/remorse over sin and a desire to change, but this does not constitute true metanoia, for we can feel guilt and remorse over sin and attempt to change our actions without any revelation of the true character of God, without a revelation of Christ.

Unfortunately this attempt to change ourselves by being ‘sorry enough’ to change, has led many into a hopeless cycle of ‘repenting’ again and again but never finding victory over besetting sin. The problem with this definition of ‘repentance’ is that it focuses on a change of action, but the truth is that our actions are only the fruit. The root is our belief system, what we are believing about God and ourselves.

What Jesus’ ministry and teaching brought about was a change of belief (heart), which led to a change in actions. Without the power of the Gospel to bring true metanoia, the best man can do, is his own willpower and self-discipline. He tries to change his actions, without a change of beliefs and the result is men who have only, as Jesus pointed out to the religious, “cleaned the outside of the cup” (Luke 11:37-40)            


Because sinful thoughts and actions are the fruit of wrong belief, you can try your hardest to do good and not evil, but even if by some miracle you stopped ‘sinning’, you would still not have the life of God within you, for what is needed is not a change of action but an exchange of natures (a heart transplant). The root of man’s problem is not what he does, but what he believes, for we are designed to be born of (to become) what we have believed. (Prov.23:7) You can prune a thorn bush back as much as you like but it will never become a fig tree because its roots are thorn bush! So it is equally fruitless to tell a man to be holy, if his whole life is being formed from a root belief that holy is something he is not. The answer to his problem is to change the root of his nature; to gift him a new heart, a new spirit. The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of this exchange which took place at the Cross; man’s sin for God’s righteousness.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”   (Ezekiel 36:26 27)


Yes true faith is seen by its actions (James 2:18), but those actions are the fruit of a changed heart, a changed way of thinking about God and oneself, a paradigm shift in thinking, not just a greater effort to change oneself fuelled by guilt and willpower.

The Gospel of Grace is that God has already done everything necessary for man to share His life and when a person hears and believes what God has done, they will find their belief system (heart) so changed, that God’s way of living life (fruit of the Spirit) becomes theirs, for when the root in a man is a mind led by the Spirit, the life he lives will be a fruit of the same Spirit.

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”  (Romans 8:6)


In other words the truth itself, about how much God has already done for us, is powerful enough to change the way we believe and so live.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17)


What the Gospel of Grace reveals is something radically different to what every religion and philosophy of the world has imagined, so radical that our natural religious mind cannot grasp it apart from a revelation of the Holy Spirit.

“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”[c] 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”   (1Cor.2:6-10)


What truth is revealed in the Gospel of Grace that has the power to change a person’s heart? Look again at Romans 1.v17.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

The startling revelation is that God is not requiring man to become righteous through what he does (doing to become/works righteousness). The Old Covenant pattern of man trying to become holy enough through his own obedience and discipline (the law of righteousness) to merit the blessings of God has been abolished. Our righteousness, a righteousness that is ‘of the law’ is no longer acceptable, as God’s gift of His own righteousness through faith in Christ, is ‘the end of the law for righteousness’.

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4)

You can’t have it both ways. Either we are made righteous by faith alone in what Christ alone has done (Grace), or we are made righteous by the things we do (Law).

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)


If you are trying harder to ‘do’ better’ to ‘become’ a better Christian, then you have not submitted to the power of the Gospel, the gifted righteousness of God. You may look holy and zealous in your efforts to overcome sin, but your very efforts to become holy are rooted in the same old lie, that you need to ‘do to become’, the lie that God has not united Himself with your spirit and remains aloof and apart from you. But what does the Gospel have to say?

It speaks of what God has done, not of what we are to do, that on hearing of the enormity of what God has done for us, our lives would become rooted in His love and being rooted and established in the love of God, His Spirit of love within us would produce the fruit of His life; His holiness, something that our best efforts can never produce.

“…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what isthe width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19


The Gospel of Grace declares that our hope is not that we would ‘do to become’ but our hope is nothing less than the living presence of Christ in us. In other words we are saved not by attempting to do something for God, but by resting in (believing), what God has done for us.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.  (1John 4:10)

·         Religion says “Get your life cleaned up for God”

·         Grace says “Jesus IS our life.”

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:3,4.


To see Grace through hearing the Gospel, is to see the radically generous nature of God and as our way of thinking about God changes (Metanoia) then we find our very lives are being changed (Metamorphosis) into the likeness of Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed (metamorphosis) into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2Cor.3:18)


So let us keep looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) that we may continue this journey of ever-increasing glory. Do not let any preacher pull the veil over your eyes again (tell you to do if you want to become) but keep your faces unveiled (don’t mix law with grace) so that you may contemplate the truth about the Lord’s glory; that Jesus has now done what He told His father He would; He has shared God’s glory with you.


“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22)


·         How would you answer someone who asked you “What is the Gospel?”

·         How much has your Christian life become about “doing to become”?

·         What is the power of the Gospel?



“If you want to know why there are so many downtrodden, defeated Christians, just look at the message they are being taught; saved by grace, transformed by will-powered performance modification.”  (Ted Nelson)