AnOldSinner was looking into the mirror the other day. It was not one of those, “Gosh is that another wrinkle moments,” or “Boy, I still look good for my age moments.” It was one of those, “What do others see in me moments.” I know a mirror is not the best place to do one’s soul searching, but it is sometimes where such searching starts.
For a moment, let us step into the world of the supernatural. Instead of the mirror in which one washes the sleep out of his or her eyes, let us stand in front of a mirror to our lives. A mirror that would show the changes in whom we are as a person. Not the cosmetic changes, but the changes that Rascal Flatts sings about in their hit song “Changed.” Or, perhaps the changes Carrie Underwood signs about in her song “Something in the Water.” What would we see?
If you’ve never heard a sermon on change, you’ve lived a very sheltered Christian life. Most preachers will talk about change eventually, if not regularly. The change God brings to the life of a sinner. The change one makes to walk closer with the Lord. The change one makes when he or she accepts Christ as his or her savior. Change is a theme in Christianity, with good reason.
The question of course is what change? It seems preachers often gloss over that bit of the sermon. The preacher may stand at the pulpit with a bible in his hand and say softly, “Accepting Christ as your true savior changes you forever.” Another may stand there with his arms raised and shout, “Change! Yes, brothers and sisters, God will change your life forever if you’ll just let him in!” Yet, they never seem to get around to telling anyone exactly what that means.
It is likely there are many reasons why a pastor or other speaker will not detail exactly what sort of change one undergoes. A big one is that each of us is a sinner in his or her own way. The change or changes accepting Jesus Christ brings about will likely be different for each person. Yet, the Bible does give us some ideas.
The Holy Bible tells us of a number of people who were changed. In the Old Testament, Moses met with God, and afterwards he glowed so brightly he had to cover his face. Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, and changed from a persecutor of Christians to one of Christ’s strongest disciples. The Bible says Stephen had an aura of some sort around his face. Zacchaeus repented and pledged to make reparations to those whom he had cheated. In other cases, people who believed in Christ could walk when they never walked before, people regained or gained their sight, and others changed the way they lived when they accepted Jesus.
It is likely such significant changes do not happen instantaneously today. Yet significant changes are reported by some. One pastor in this writer’s church testifies that he tried many times to read the Bible, but he could barely finish the Creation Story. Yet, when he finally accepted Christ as his savior, he found reading the Bible fascinating, and he could read the Bible for hours at a time.
A lay prison chaplain of this writer’s acquaintance swears he began to read the Bible in prison. He found Christ, and his eyes were opened to God’s Word. He understood it like never before. Since then he has never been tempted to go back to the sins that resulted in multiple prison terms when he was younger. Yes, changes of such significance do occur today, but it seems likely most changes are much smaller and more gradual. Still, many pastors, and this writer, believe there should be noticeable changes in a person once he or she enters a relationship with the Christ.
It is completely appropriate at this time for a reader to be waiting to read a list of changes one should look for in Christian. A reader would have every right to think, “Okay hotshot, lay out a list of things I should look for in a Christian or someone should see in me as a Christian!” After all, if this writer or anyone else is going to claim accepting Christ as one’s savior brings about change, expecting that person to give some examples is only logical.
For the record, a quick internet search using terms such as characteristics of salvation or outward signs of Christianity will find plenty of articles and essays attempting to give such examples. Some will list Bible verses that define or illustrate Christian or Old Testament righteousness. Some will list a characteristic and provide several paragraphs of explanation. So, if anyone wants to read such a list, have at it. However, before doing so consider the rest of this essay.
The problems with listing changes one might notice in a Christian are at least twofold. First, unless one knew the Christian before they were saved, the observer will have no point of reference. Second, the fact someone does and says all the right things to portray themselves as a Christian does not mean they have really repented and changed. It may just mean they are a modern day version of a Pharisee. A Pharisee kept all the old laws, but for all the wrong reasons. The same is true for some today.
Now, it is completely appropriate for a reader to ask if there is a point to this essay. If one cannot know if another is righteous or has changed, why should the reader have wasted time reading to this point? That is a good point, and I hope I have a good answer.
This essay is not about everyone else. It is about you and me. We are the only ones who know for certain if we have changed since coming to Christ. Yes, it is possible to suspect another has not really changed, but it is impossible to know. On the other hand, those who are the least bit introspective should be able to look into the metaphorical mirror mentioned above and evaluate the change in themselves.
How do you think the person in the mirror would respond to the question, “What has changed about you since you were saved?” As alluded to in “Unsworn Testimony” two years ago, that is a question many who consider themselves Christian have a hard time answering. They think in terms of overt behavior such as church attendance or Bible classes. Attending church and studying the Bible are good habits, but are they really significant change. How many lawyers, insurance agents, and real estate agents attend large affluent churches? How many attend because of their faith, and how many attend because the church is a place to make contacts?1
Another piece this writer published earlier is “Seeking…an Excuse.” In that piece the discussion included hypocritical behavior that one could see in church, and use as an excuse to avoid becoming more than superficially involved in religion. Would the person in the mirror be guilty of any of the several forms of hypocrisy that are deemed tolerable if not acceptable in church? If so, have those sorts of behaviors diminished over time, gotten worse or remained the same?
The bottom line here is simple. The only person who knows what kind of changes have taken place in AnOldSinner, is this writer. I look into the mirror every morning, and AnOldSinner is staring back at me.
A friend who has known me since high school said not long ago he had never seen anyone change as much as I have. However, he cannot truly know how much my heart has changed. He can only see how I act. It is possible I am the best Christian chameleon in town. Only God and I know, and I have to pray that I am not lying to myself.
How about you? Have you changed? Really?
1. With all respect to the many insurance agents, real estate agents, and lawyers who go to church every week to worship and praise God, there are many who come to make contacts and be seen.
© sinnerswalk.com 2015