This past Monday and Wednesday the men in our church’s men’s ministry studied the words of the Apostle Paul to his young son in the faith, Titus. In chapter three of the letter that bears his name, Titus was instructed to encourage the folks entrusted to his care to not be like the world around them – foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating (Titus 3:3). He then reminded them of something very important with these words: At one time we too were… just like that (that’s the Dale Tedder Paraphrase).
Paul told Titus that, because of God’s love, the redeeming work of Christ, and the renewing and washing work of the Holy Spirit, the Christians in Crete were no longer like the world around them.
That fact, very naturally, brought up a very painful question in our discussion: What if we still are? What if we’re still like the world around us? One possible answer to that question was even more painful: No change in your life may mean that you aren’t in Christ… that you haven’t been redeemed, washed, and renewed.
Of course we’re all at different places in our relationship with Christ. Added to that fact is that we all walk at different paces with him. We won’t all look alike. Yet, if we can’t look back in our lives a year ago, two years ago, five years ago and see some sort of growth and some level of maturation in faith, love, godliness, etc., then we may well need to ask the question: Am I truly in Christ? Of course, only God knows the heart and this isn’t about others judging you. But it is about each person doing an honest assessment of himself or herself.
There’s no getting around the fact that true faith in Christ will result in a changed life. We can’t possibly remain the same.
About a year after I graduated from college I went back to school to visit with a few friends who were still there. I also returned to share with them the news that God had called me into ordained ministry and that I would head off to seminary soon. I was very excited. I was also a bit nervous. The reason? Well, I had not always lived the most godly life while in college. I knew it and I knew that my friends and fraternity brothers knew it.
What happened? Well, my closest friends thought my news was great and wished me well. Others laughed me out of the room. I absolutely deserved it.
I give glory to God, and God alone, that 23 years later I can point to real change in my life. And, as the old saying goes, while I’m not where I pray I will one day be in my faith, I’m not where I once was. I don’t know if I was the chief of sinners way back then, but I certainly was competing for the title. That fact makes these words from Paul all the more precious to me…
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15b-16)
If God could work in Paul’s life and in my life, then he can work in any and every person’s life. I praise God for the truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives.
So where are you now compared to where you once were? Do too many descriptions in the New Testament of the unbelieving world still describe you? Are you moving on to maturity with Christ, training yourself for godliness day by day. The progressive nature of growing in Christlikeness means that it will never end on this side of heaven. But faithfulness to Christ does require that we get started. We start with rebirth. We continue after that to work out our salvation in and with the power and direction of the Holy Spirit and grace of God.
Has your life changed? Would folks who “knew you when” see that change?
Truth and Joy,