THE CHRISTIAN ‘BEFORE AND AFTER’

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THE CHRISTIAN ‘BEFORE AND AFTER’

I’m always fascinated by ads from slimming centers and weight loss programs. Included in the ad is always a ‘before and after’ shot of the celebrities who gave their endorsement; and what fascinates me is how long the ad company must have taken to put that ad together. After all, they must have put together the ad concept and copy long before they started work on that person. How else would they know just which shots to take and from what angle? Then how long they must have waited for that person to achieve those results? And considering that advertising is a fast paced industry, that kind of patience is nothing short of remarkable.

Alright, I know I wasn’t fooling anyone. You all saw through my cynicism and could literally taste the sarcasm. Yes, I know those ads were probably done in a day, with the help of photo editing software. And yes, though the weight loss programs they offer could be worth their salt, the ad is probably not an accurate representation of the real process.

And in many ways, many Christians, young and old, and the people around them who are looking on, see the religion as being a slimming center. They think that once they go to church, they turn from sinner to saint in an instant. They go from have-not to have-all in the twinkling of an eye.

Make no mistake; yes, transformation does take place. Yes, some things do change in an instant, and remains changed for eternity. But there are other things that take time. Just like slimming centers change your will about slimming after you signed up for their thousand-dollar program, but take time to actually make you slim; faith in our Father changes your will to do good in an instant, but for you to actually become a saint, that takes a little longer. But unlike putting your faith in slimming centers, putting your faith in our Father changes the foundation on which you stand, and that goes a long way in changing you, your life and your circumstance.

Before you knew Christ, before you accepted Him into your life, you were rather like this.

“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.” Romans 7:15 [MSG]

“For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Romans 7:19

“The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.” Romans 7:23 [MSG]
You’ve tried, I’ve tried, we’ve all tried. But we cannot get a grip on our circumstance, we cannot get a grip on our problems, we cannot get a grip on our situation and in a desperate effort to get a grip on something, we lose ourselves. We start to think that just because we don’t see the provision and protection coming from our Father, we need to start looking for it on our own. We start to think that our Father is just a God who only wants to receive from us, but never give. We start to think that our Father’s provision and protection is governed by the ways of the world, that He somehow needs to use the channels that have been established in order to bless us; that He is a follower and not a trailblazer; so if we want to be protected, we’d better go invest in the lottery or take up 3 jobs or venture into industries we know our Father would probably not be too pleased with, else how is He going to channel His blessings to us?

I’ve had it said to me that gambling is really just opening an account so that God can credit money into it. But beloved, He who

“…created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

is not a follower, He is a trailblazer. He doesn’t follow the ways of the world. The world moves according to His ways. Consider how many designs man has taken from nature. Who’s following who? So when we put our faith in Jesus, when we entrust our care into our Father’s hands, we need to realize that we are entrusting ourselves into the hands of The One who invented the idea of novel ideas, the one who created creativity itself, so let us remind ourselves of the transformation that has been taking place in our lives.

“No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.
The Law never succeeded in producing righteousness—the failure was always the weakness of human nature. But God has met this by sending his own Son Jesus Christ to live in that human nature which causes the trouble. And, while Christ was actually taking upon himself the sins of men, God condemned that sinful nature. So that we are able to meet the Law’s requirements, so long as we are living no longer by the dictates of our sinful nature, but in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4 [PHILLIPS]

The first thing that happened when you accepted Christ, when you invited Him into your life, was that you have been lifted out of the old vicious circle of sin and death. That is instantaneous. That is eternal. And that is manifested from a deep desire to never want to sin again. It could be a conviction, it could even be a physical change which irks you away from the sin. But whatever it is, the sensation should be similar to not wanting to let someone down in the natural after knowing just how much that person has done for you.

The next thing that happened when you accepted Christ is that you are no longer accountable for your sins. Your sins have been placed on Jesus’ account, and counted as punished, paid for, and dealt with when God condemned that sinful nature on the cross. So now that you have been placed in right standing before God, this righteously qualifies you for all the things that come.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5

“But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” Romans 8:9-17 [MSG]

So are you going through hard times right now? Are there areas in your life that need change? Because of the instantaneous change in your status before God, because you are now moving as He is leading, because now you see God as who He really is, your loving Father, we know that our inheritance is coming, we know that He is seeing to all things. And as long as we continue to walk with Him, the things that take time will surely come. The good times will surely roll, for

“In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” Romans 8:18-21 [PHILLIPS]

And this is the foundation of our faith. This is what we build our faith upon. When others deride us for our actions, when they say that the things that we are led to do as we walk with Jesus are impractical, illogical, not a good reflection on our moral values as the world sees it, turn your eyes back on the fact that you, beloved child of God, are walking with our Father, a Father who says,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV]

For make no mistake, those very same people are actually looking on to see if there will be a wonderful sight when you come into your own by our Father’s hands. They are actually looking to see if they too can have a part in it. But because they are too much of the world, they dare not take the step of faith that you did, and so they will forever be looking on. Yet, when they see even a glimmer of success in your life, that is the time when they will rain down words of condemnation, deriding you for your faith. For in truth, they are jealous and afraid that you will actually get the success that you say you will because you follow the leading of our Father.

Beloved, “It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience.” Romans 8:22-25 [PHILLIPS]

And while we are waiting, while we going through the process of transforming our circumstance, our situation and ourselves,

“The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations. For example, we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonising longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart’s secrets understands, of course, the Spirit’s intention as he prays for those who love God.” Romans 8:26-27 [PHILLIPS]

We are not left alone. Anything we need, even if we don’t know how to ask for it, the Spirit does it on our behalf; for this is His role,

“…the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.” John 14:26 [AMPC]

So He will show you the way you are to go, tell you what you are to do along the way and teach you how to do each and every thing. Think of Him as your personal trainer and coach, guiding you through life’s trials and challenges.

Beloved, as we walk down life’s road, we are not alone.

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” Romans 8:28 [AMPC]

Our Father is a partner in our labor, and you are special in His eyes.

“For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was aware and loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren.
And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being].” Romans 8:29-30 [AMPC]

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

So when there are needs in your life, our Father will provide.

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:33-35

So give no ear to those who deride, for your right standing, your worth, your position is not given by them, but by God. It matters not what they think. What only matters is that you are loved, deeply, comprehensively and eternally by our Father.

While you are on this journey, while you are in the midst of your transformation, if ever the world makes you feel that God is far away, remember,

“…that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Beloved, you are on a journey. You are not standing still. Transformation is happening. It has been since the day Jesus stepped into your life. Somethings happen faster, somethings happen slower. But God does not do photo edits. You can be sure that when the transformation comes, it will be real, it will be permanent and it will fill you with joy, His joy.

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