Last week I introduced the topic of change, that after the gate (conversion) a new believer is going to start down the narrow path, and things are going to be different. I think it is important to alert a new believer to the fact that things will change; it is also important to tell them why.
So many people think of Christianity as a list of do’s and don’ts. Their view of God is that he is frowning in heaven, terribly afraid that someone, somewhere, is having a good time. So he has all these things we must do, and things we can no longer do, and the only reward he holds up is heaven — not a bad reward, but wholly inadequate for most people.
How much better to help people understand how fundamentally they were changed at the gate, how change in life is natural, and that they should embrace the change with all the implications.
What did you understand when you became a follower of Christ? Certainly you came to the gate understanding that you had sinned and therefore were separated from God. You acknowledged that you had done what God called you not to do, and that you had not done what he had asked you to do. In turn, what happened? Did not God bring you near to himself? Did he not begin to fill the emptiness in your heart with himself? In a word, things were “different.”
Did you know that before conversion, it was God who was drawing you to the gate? Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44). When you started to feel guilty over things you had done, things that previously produced no feelings of guilt, that was God working in your heart, making you aware of the seriousness of your sin. He was drawing you to himself by showing you your weaknesses. When you started to feel empty, when you started to feel that something significant was missing from your life, that was God. He was helping you see that you had been created for him, and without him there would always be a deep longing. In this, God was starting to change you.
What else happened at the gate, truths that a new believer may not understand?
- You were rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into God’s kingdom of light.
- You were justified. This is a legal metaphor by which you are declared innocent of all guilt and all wrongdoing in the law court of God.
- You were freed from all condemnation. Because God is judge and jury, and because he has declared you justified, there is now no condemnation for those who follow Jesus.
- You were redeemed. This metaphor is often associated with the slave market. If you were to redeem a slave, you would pay a price and freedom would be granted. The price was the precious blood of Jesus, and you were brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God, freed from the mastery of sin.
- You were sanctified, declared holy, separate from all sin. This is a metaphor from the sacrificial system of the temple. As you continue to walk down life’s path, you will do some things that are wrong, but as far as our basic relationship with God is concerned, you remain holy, a saint.
- You were adopted as a child of God. You were brought into a new family, with a new father, new brothers and sisters, a new home, and a new inheritance in heaven where it can’t be spent or lost.
- You were given God the Holy Spirit, who comes into you life and stays with you, encouraging and helping you to walk the path, guaranteeing that you receive your new inheritance.
And the list goes on. But the point is this: as you passed through the gate, God fundamentally changed you, and it just makes sense that the path you walk from here on out is going to be different.
Changed people live in changed ways.