When I lose sight of my hope, I’m prone to believe lies. One lie I hear whispered frequently is that I’ll never change, that I can’t change. It’s a lie completely antithetical to the gospel – the good news that I could change, or rather that I could be changed. Why is it after more than twenty years after God called me to Him, I can still find myself despairing, believing that I’m stuck as I am? God’s word is clear that He is working to transform those He calls His own. He’s making dead people alive; He’s transforming His enemies into His children who share in the full inheritance of His Son; He’s replacing hearts of stone with hearts of flesh! Lord, I believe; help me in my unbelief!
In Acts 9 we see a wicked man–a man with murderous intent–completely and radically changed. Saul sees a light and hears the Lord call him. God changes Saul’s heart, gives him life, and makes him into a new man: Paul. We all know what Paul went on to endure for the sake of the gospel – imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, martyrdom.He changed in a way that most people, maybe all people, would have never thought was possible.
My conversion story, your conversion story, is the same as Paul’s. We were wicked and dead when God saved us and made us new. My conversion story is part of my favorite story, a small piece of God’s redemption plan of the world where He is restoring and reconciling and renewing.
Salvation means that we have been changed, and we are being changed even yet. Our affections are being ordered to love the things God loves. Our behavior is changing as we act more and more like Christ. We desire less and less glory for ourselves and more and more for God.
Christians who share the story of how God is at work in their lives are testifying to God’s goodness and sufficiency. When we have people over for dinner, I love to ask how our guests came to know Christ. What an encouragement to hear how God revealed himself to friends and saved them. He changed them and is changing them! We need to tell these stories of our conversion to remind us that God is working.
Our humanity means that we can grow and learn and mature; that we are not stuck as is until the day we die. One of my children frequently asks me, “Why do you always wear that dress or read when you wake up or eat that for lunch?” I couldn’t figure out why those questions bother me until I read this passage from Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him:
When we apply the term always or neverto other people, we speak an untruth. Human beings don’t alwaysor neveranything. We just aren’t that consistent. We frequently, we fairly regularly, we oftenor habitually, but we do not alwaysor never. As finite and mutable creatures, we cannot lay claim to these terms, either as pejoratives or as praise. They can only truly be spoken of God.
If I am truthful though, my daughter probably learned to ask those questions from me. I grumble as I am correcting one of the children for what seems like the millionth time for the same wrongdoing. I fail to see the little ways that they are growing and changing. I believe the lie that they cannot, will not change. In doing so, I deny that God has the power to work in them. I am rejecting the truth that they can trust him for salvation because of his steadfast, unchanging love.
We declare along with the writer of Hebrews that “Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, forever.” In Numbers 23, we hear God, speaking through Balaam, tell Balak, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Oh, what sweet news this is! When we are weary or defeated, A.W. Tozer comforts us that
Our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself. In coming to Him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood…Neither does He change His mind about anything. Today, this moment, He feels toward His creatures, towards babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son in the world to die for mankind.
One of my favorite parts of my church’s worship on Sundays is when we hear the testimonies of someone who is about to be baptized. The person briefly shares how God has changed their life and saved them. I tear up as I am reminded of the gift of my salvation and my hope in Him. Their story encourages me that God is at work in my community and church and that He is working in me yet.
Salvation, regardless of the details of the person’s life before Christ, is a dramatic story. It’s a story of change that we need to share with each other so that we wouldn’t forget who God is and how he is faithful to us. Truly, God is in the business of giving life, changing lives, and making all things new.
This past week I snuggled up with my four-year-old to read “Calico the Wonder Horse” before bed. Virginia Lee Burton’s picture book is often called a Christmas classic, but I’d put in it in the category of books to read year-round. Calico challenges and defeats Stewy Stinker and his posse of Bad Men when they are trying to steal from the town. Later when the town offers them an invitation they don’t deserve, they are confronted with their evil. Stewy Stinker is forced to stare at his sin, and the revelation of who he is breaks him. He becomes a changed man just in time for the town Christmas party.
My four-year-old thought it seemed too good to be true. “Can bad guys really change, Mama?” she asked me.
“All the time, baby. All the time.”
Written by Jessica Burke
Jessica is a member of the 2019 ERLC Leadership Council and a free-lance writer who previously served as a missionary and teacher. She currently spends her days as a homemaker and educator to her 4 children. She is married to her high school sweetheart, BT Burke, who is involved in jail ministry and church planting in a multicultural context. In her spare time, Jessica loves to read books, write, or to go for a jog around the neighborhood.