Not long ago, a phrase popped into my mind that really grabbed me – “first life, then change.” This is the process God works in us first to make us alive in Christ, and then to transform us into the image of His Son.
I grew up reciting the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday. “…the third day He arose again from the dead”; I affirmed this statement with reverential gusto. But outside the confines of the sanctuary it had little meaning to me. I had never reasoned that God actually had power over death, my spiritual death. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know that I was dead in sin.
The summer before my seventh grade year, the death of Jesus overwhelmed me. It was the last night of church youth camp. The pastor graphically portrayed the crucifixion. My heart ached and tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized Christ died for me. Right then and there, I knew I needed Jesus. I prayed and thanked Him for dying for me.
I asked Him to come into my life to help me become the best person I could be. The irony is that my life got worse. Temptations and peer pressures got the best of me. I wanted to be God’s guy. I tried valiantly, but life kept spiraling out of control. The things I wanted to do, I couldn’t. The things I didn’t want to do, I did. I wondered, “Why isn’t God helping me be a better person?
Jesus wasn’t interested in making me a little better. He was not marketing the latest self-improvement program. That is what I was looking for, but self-improvement is not what I needed. I didn’t know that Jesus’ work is this: to take someone dead in sin and make him eternally alive.
The news that a close friend had taken a drug overdose stirred a sense of desperation in me. I was on the same path. Something had to change. What was I missing?
I started attending a Bible study in Atlanta. The message of Colossians 2 answered my heart’s cry. The Scripture was so clear that I wondered why I had never seen it before. Here was the verse that connected: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins” (Colossians 2:13).
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, God directed toward me. I was raised spiritually to walk in the newness of life. Until that moment, Paul’s words to the Colossians were meaningless to me. I had made mistakes, committed sins, but still I was basically okay — a good kid, just off track. My hope was that Jesus could help me get back on track and make me the person I wanted to be. The problem was that the “me” I wanted to improve was actually dead in sin.
Admitting my spiritual death lifted a huge burden. I no longer had to try to fix something that was unfixable. However, this admission was frightening. Death is final, the end. It is inescapable. No amount of human effort or ingenuity can reverse this sinister state. Mankind has tried, but to no avail. Dead is dead, and that is what I was spiritually. Control of my destiny was out of my hands. Life had to come from another source.
The Bible declares that God has power over death. That first Easter was a glorious, earth-shaking demonstration. This truth authored a belief inside of me that God could raise me to life. And He did. Resurrection is Jesus’ story, and through faith in the resurrected One it became my story.
Change wasn’t what I needed. I needed life. And so does everyone else. The Apostle Paul gave personal testimony to this reality. Prior to his Damascus Road experience, he lived to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law, trying with all of his strength to align his flesh with the ways of God. His hope was that obedience to the law would ultimately earn him eternal life. But he “found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death” (Romans 7:10).
There are thousands of people who are tired of the struggle to improve, or the fight to make life better. They’ve asked God a thousand times or more for help, but nothing changes. They are looking for release when what they really need is life.
God’s priorities for us are first life, then change.
For more information on this subject, a suggested resource is First Life, Then Change (CDFL).
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”Remember Who You Are
“Remember who you are.” I tell this to my kids all the time. They are probably tired of hearing it, but I think it is important. So every time they walk out the door, they hear it again. Here is the reason. Identity impacts attitudes, choices and behavior.Does God Love You? Even though God has made His love for us plain, many believers are not sure of God’s love for them. They know what the Bible says about God’s love. They’ve heard numerous messages that confirm this wonderful truth. Yet, still God’s love does not seem personal, and they wonder if God truly loves them.
"Come join us for a life-changing conference. UNITED October 15-17, 2021 https://basicgospel.net/united/ * Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://basicgospel.net/youtube * "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?" Galatians 4:8-9 * Sharon calls to say, "Thanks for Sunday Morning Live". She's having issues with what her church is teaching. * How do I handle guilty feelings for past mistakes? * I can't help but think that my marriage was a bad decision and that divorce may be in the future. What should I do?All Sermons by Bob Christopher and Bob Davis