Monday, September 18, 2006

Anatomy of a Life Change

I'm not feeling well today so this is going to be short. I have a need to get this written down but I may have to tie up the loose ends later on. So bear with me.

From experience and from the testimonies I heard over this weekend: Many people come to Christ and it doesn't "stick". When this happens, the opportunity for reconcilliation goes quickly down the tubes due to the "fallen" being fearful of what the "faithful" will think or say. There are some solid truths that we who see ourselves as "faithful" would do well to remember. I offer these as a means to foster compassion, not judgmentalism.

Life change, such as a decision for the Lord, is not always good or complete. Sometimes, it can be a person's last ditch effort to connect and they have been told Christianity is the answer to all their problems. With no discipleship these people never learn to show Christ's love and often their expectations, both of their own faith or of those around them, leave them angry, bitter and in a place far from God that is harder to reach than they were in to begin with. Sometimes, life change is a flash in the pan, a show, and even a desperate attempt to grasp hope. Often Christians see them come in, pat them on the back, Go about our merry way, and watch them leave, wondering what happened to them. Salvation is NOT the end. It is imperative to involve new Christians in such a way that they are around people they can learn from. Look at Jesus. He called those disciples and immediately put them to work. Did they mess up? You bet they did, but they learned from their mistakes in a way that would stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Life change is not always visible. Some are seeking God, but have not left their old lifestyle. Their hearts can truly be for God in spite of the fact that they still sin. They can even love Him to the point that they hate what they are doing and may even try to share the knowledge they have even DURING their sin. Our pastor calls it "buzz witnessing" and yes, God is capable of using it. You see, those people Often, it is their perception of what their former friends, both christian and not, think about them that keep them from making a choice one way or another.

Life Change is not always permanent. The old way of life is often more of a draw than a person can withstand. We cannot allow ourselves to be shocked by their stories. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that they have to be "changed" to be a Christian. Certainly it will show with time, but it takes just that, TIME, and quite often, MANY FAILURES. We have to be ready to "go get" the ones who fall away and promise to stand with them. We must be there to say, "God has not given up on you!" And we must always remember that in spite of what we think, we are just as capable of falling into the same sin...or worse. ANYONE is capable.

To this last comment I want to add that life change is NOT ONLY not always permanent, but it RARELY is. Few who are left to their own can find their own way and I find it a RARITY indeed when an adult convert does not lose his way and fall over and over again, even with help. How often do we get to a place that we think we will be in for the rest of our lives only to have something come along and shake our little world off it's foundation. I'll add this to shake up the theory even more...I was saved when I was 8. When I was a teen, I rebelled and lived the wild life. In my early 20's I had a very real reconcilliation with God and recommitted my life to God. Then in my early 30's, well, I really don't know what happened, but it wasn't Godly. Was my salvation real? Yes. My heart has always been for the Lord, even in my ugliest moments. Do I expect to remain faithful to Him for the rest of my earthly life? I am much wiser than that now. I do expect to be more on my guard and watch more carefully what I put into my heart and mind. But I know that "there but for the grace of God go I".

Wanna know what called me back?

Grace. Unfathomable, unlimited, beautiful, grace.

The voice of One whispering "Beloved, come away with me," to a woman so stained and filthy that the mere use of the word "Beloved" sent me running out of fear.

A husband, who is my Hosea, who in spite of his own pain came after me and brought me home-to my family and to my God, then took all the blame.

A worship leader who followed the call of God to stop the music and say, "The love of God is so great, that when we sin, he calls us to repent, and we do, and he forgives us and picks us up and we go on our way. Then we fall again, and he calls to us, and we repent, and he forgives us and picks us up and we go on our way. Then we fall again...!" I don't know how many times he said it, but it was from God and it was for me. Each time he said it he built to a crescendo and added, "It doesn't matter HOW MANY TIMES WE FALL! HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE US, ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS REPENT. WILL WE FALL AGAIN? PROBABLY. WILL HE EVER TURN US AWAY? NEVER"

Yes, the time to choose will one day pass, but until that day, our creator longs for us, yearns for us. He will not stop wooing us till the end of our days.